What do a growing student, a 3D printer, and the color purple have in common? You guessed it, a St. Albans City School Makerspace project completed by a student to help their feet have a comfy resting place. Just in case you didn’t guess it, let me back up and explain a bit. Ava is a 3rd grade student at SACS who uses a wheelchair to get around. She is also a growing student who needed a footstool for her feet as the foot pedals on the wheelchair are too high. This footstool needs to be a custom height to support her correctly and that is where the 3D printer joins this story. Armed with the dimensions of the footstool, a love of purple (maybe pink but purple was the closest color the makerspace had in stock) and a mind ready to learn the 3D printing software, Ava came to the Makerspace ready to create her footstool. Now, while this story has a happy ending, there were a few bumps in the road.

When Ava first arrived in the makerspace, we realized the footstool dimensions were in centimeters but the 3D software works the best in millimeters. No fear, Ava is doing multiplication in math class and is ready to do the conversion. Once that was figured out, Ava had to decide the thickness of the stool and then how to add legs to make it the most stable. Creating a 5th leg in the middle of the stool was a key decision in helping the footstool perform well. At this point we had a sketch ready and Ava went on the touch screen chromebook to create her design in the 3D design software Tinkercad. Tinkercad allows users to 3D model by combining different 3D shapes. Ava had to learn the software, how to add rectangles on top of each other and how to align the shapes to make sure the legs were evenly spaced. Finally, with the specs all correct and everything aligned, Ava got to personalize the stool. She added a star and other shapes to the side and made sure they would print well.

And now for the moment we were all waiting for: setting up the 3D stool to print on our 3D printer. With the filament changed to purple and everything ready to go, we checked the time it would take and it said 30 hours. We were excited to test the limits of our Lulzbot 3D printer as this would be the biggest print we would have undertaken in the 3 years we’ve had it. This made us take a step back and do a prototype print where we shrunk the image down to doll size with a print time of 45 min. Once the prototype printed well, we gave ourselves the thumbs up to start the 30 hour print. As you can see from the picture of Ava using the stool, our print was a success (and on the first attempt). What you can’t see is all the thinking, problem solving, perseverance and patience it took to get to the final product. The Makerspace provides an environment for students to practice these skills and create custom products, so they move from consumers to producers. The staff at the Makerspace want to thank Ava for taking on this challenge and being willing to put in the hard work. What do you think will happen next in the Makerspace? Stay tuned...