Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to: 

  • connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
  • share ideas about learning and human development;
  • spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy. 

Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing. 

Michael Ulku-SteinerHead of School 

 

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An old friend, a new dimension

This Wednesday at 2:00 in the Upper School Learning Commons, alumnus Noah Katz will return to install DA’s first 3D printer. All are welcome to share in Noah’s expertise and learn what might be possible with our newest learning tool.

Noah, who earned a BA in creative writing at UNC-Chapel Hill and has interned with NASA, the White House, and Vanity Fair magazine, reconnected with DA this fall as his parents enrolled their latest exchange student (Argentinian 11th Grader Shai Rozenblum) in the Upper School. Along with Learning Commons Librarian Shannon Harris, Noah is excited to bring a powerful new technology to our students.

Writes Lee Hark, with tongue halfway in cheek, “I asked Noah to build us a printer that would be big enough to 3D-print a life-sized version of someone’s head, which he has done. And I have decreed that my head will be the first one printed. After being displayed in the Learning Commons for a time, it will be placed in the archives.” [Click here to see a 1-minute demo of the app Noah will use to create the Harkian Head].

Hark continues in a more serious vein: “This is an exciting venture for us, for many reasons. First, it allows our students to experiment with this technology in a space that is rapidly expanding what it means to be a “library.” Second, this is a great example of the kind of learning our students will increasingly be doing — it’s physics, chemistry, computer science, and art all in one. Third — and most importantly in my eyes — it has facilitated a connection with an alumnus who is out in the world, doing great things. Talking with Noah about 3D printing is fascinating! There isn’t a question he can’t answer about…various polymers and such.”

I asked Noah why we ought to bother with a 3D printer. His answer:

As an educational institution I think DA has an amazing opportunity to expose students to new and amazing technologies/scientific methods that they might never otherwise see, just as they probably can't do gene sequencing or advanced chemistry on their kitchen tables. 3D printing has only recently become available to the public in a big way, and it's changing the face of manufacturing by enabling individuals to take the power of an entire factory into their own hands. Now is the best time to expose students and faculty alike to the early phases of a technology that could grow to be as large and important as personal computers. The best part is that anyone on campus will be able to design and print their own physical materials, turning ideas into reality. From models of aircraft engines to molecules to sea turtles to technical gadgetry and accessories for complex lab tools, the ability to create intricate, unique objects without ordering them from a far-flung corner of the world could change the way people at DA think about the process of making itself.

I also asked him what we might make with our powerful new tool:

The Rostock Max v2 is a highly capable delta 3D printer that takes inspiration from the same technology used by high-speed robots in the manufacture of computer chips and circuit-boards. This machine is capable of using a wide variety of rigid materials. Its build volume is one of the largest in the industry, able to cover a cylinder one foot wide by fifteen inches tall. Starting with basic PLA (recycled sugarcane and pine trees mostly) plastic, one can create working hand-tools with moving parts, models of human faces captured and transmitted with smartphone apps, replacement parts for other machines/objects, models of virtually anything from buildings to animals to organic systems, art objects, custom-designed awards, robotics and automation components (Science Olympiad?), musical instrument parts, prosthetic limbs, and even clothing (with significant time, slightly different materials, and design investment). 

The range of possible things to print is as open as you want it to be. New filaments are always being developed and modifications can always be made. Already, libraries of 3D printable objects exist online for anyone to use - offering up hundreds of thousands of models for printing. Suites of free design software exist as well, ready to help people create or re-design virtually anything.

Whether or not you can join the fun on Wednesday afternoon, stay tuned for an interesting chapter for the makers in our midst. 

Posted by Michael Ulku-Steiner on Monday December, 1, 2014
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