Devon Gardens Elementary Grade 4 student Koen Lavender

Meet your makers

North Delta Maker Lab imagines the future with 3D printing and laser cutting.

Photos by Boaz Joseph, The Leader

At a summer camp last year, teacher Brooke Moore got a chance to be a student alongside kids introduced to 3D printing at Delta’s first Maker Lab in Ladner.

“Before I participated, especially with the 3D printing, I was thinking, ‘we have enough plastic junk in the world. Do we really need more?’”

But Moore made a mental 180-degree turn when – and she admits it sounds trivial – she 3D-printed a pencil topper.

“I went from consumer to creator,” says the District Principal of Inquiry and Innovation at the Delta School District. “That’s what got me all excited about this tech-maker stuff.”

Moore now supervises Delta’s two Maker Labs.

The newest one opened at North Delta Secondary during spring break, when more than a dozen elementary schoolers got a chance to see the technology, including several 3D printers and a laser cutter that etched their names on pieces of wood.

“That’s the first thing they do,” said Kimball Andersen, a laser cutter operator and VP of engineering at Zen 24/7, a North Vancouver innovation company that advises schools about new technologies.

The kids were shown the results of the growing field of 3D printing: Plastic toys, figurines, vases, tools with moving parts, even a titanium spinal implant (made off-site).

The kids also modelled themselves – they were scanned with a camera and watched as the software translated slices of their image onto a growing plastic bust inside a 3D printer about the size of a microwave oven.

Nearby, one student was making adjustments on a laptop computer.

“We’re making eggbots – robots that decorate eggs,” said Siana Berar, 8, a Grade 3 student from Sunshine Hills Elementary, referring to the students’ week-long project to build a robot that involved elements of robotics, 3D printing and laser cutting.

There’s a wide variety of materials that can be used for 3D printing, said program advisor John Biehler, who has been involved with 3D printing since 2009, well before it approached being affordable or mainstream.

Among them are plastics (various types), metals, ceramics, wood, bio-materials (for medical applications) and food – chocolate is popular in some circles.

Biehler brought along two small figurines of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti – made of about 80 per cent plastic and 20 per cent copper by volume. Copper flakes were added during production.

Currently, consumer 3D printers – with varying features – can range from $200 to $3,000.

The plastic they use is fed from spools, making for clean production and little waste.

Just five grams of plastic are needed for small figures (for weight comparison, a raspberry is about a gram.)

The North Delta Maker Lab will eventually have six 3D printers, eight laptop computers (with a few extras from outside the lab), an electronics work bench (for soldering), a Sherline mill (a high-tech lathe), a 3D scanner, filament and boards (consumables) and some robotics equipment.

“The plan is for Delta teachers to take over summer school maker courses, summer maker camps, and even some potential after-school programming in the Maker Lab,” said Moore.

“We are open to community groups’ use of the space. The lab is (also) available for Delta teachers to book their classes into.”

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