Students at the Illinois School for the Deaf are going to be able to take advantage of the services of a 3-D printer in the near future.
The device arrived this week after an employee at the school’s IT department came across an online competition sponsored by MakerBot, a company that designs 3-D printers, which can create objects of almost any shape or geometry.
Sheila Stephens, the high school principal at ISD, says the employee, Lana Shea, worked with high school sophomore Lillie Brown and asked her to come up with a creative idea on how the school could use the device.
“Many of our students have hearing aids and cochlear implants. With the exception of the ear mold portion of the hearing aid, everything else about the hearing aids and cochlear implants is generic. Lana and Lillie thought that one way the printer could be utilized would be to create a skin for the implant or hearing aid. Students could create their own and could actually be printed on the 3-D printer. It could kind of contribute to their identity somewhat,” says Stephens.
Stephens says the plans for usage of the printer don’t stop there.
“Our science teacher, CAD teacher, graphic design and web production teacher all have ideas on how they can incorporate this into their curriculum. We need to prepare our students to be competitive in the workforce, just like any other school does. This is just one way we can get closer to that. We know that technology is the future and if our students aren’t prepared then they are not going to be competitive out there,” says Stephens.
Jill Bruington, the ISD Career Technical Education principal, says spools of materials, which is the equivalent of an ink cartridge for a paper printer, and a full year of service will be provided free of charge by MakerBot. She says she’ll work on getting grants to further fund the use of the printer.
“I had seen 3-D centers in the past and have several grants that I administer at ISD. I just hadn’t quite figured out how to include one of those and now we have one through the contest. The teachers are excited about how to incorporate this and have the students get their hands on it,” says Bruington.
Four other schools were winners in the online contest, including Lincoln Park High School in Chicago.