Students at Camelot Education’s Chester Upland Academy Design Their Own Paths in 3D Printing Program
Camelot Education’s teachers and staff are always looking for new and innovative ways to approach their students’ education. Camelot’s Chester Upland Excel Academy is using 3D printing to teach students technical and creative skills, and their designs are beginning to gain recognition nationwide.
Daniel Peticca, executive director of Chester Upland Excel Academy, said he and his team talked about the program over the past few years and finally developed and refined it in the last year.
“Our testing and data coordinator, Sean McGoldrick, knew more about it than I did, and he really spearheaded the project. Our students started designing small objects like name tags and Christmas ornaments. The class became so popular with our students that we eventually bought four machines so we could expand the program. We now have 6 3D printers.”
The process of 3D printing or what is technically known as additive manufacturing, is the process of making three-dimensional objects from a digital computer file. The printed object is created through adding successive layers of material until the object is formed. Objects can be made from plastic or other materials
“Students have been creating smartphone cases, ornaments, signs, vases, all kinds of things,” Peticca said. “They were creating objects for family members and friends. Some were very, very nice. We decided to put more investment behind it and began displaying student designs on social media. People started requesting items to be made for them. We produced a name tag for the superintendent of Chester Upland School District, and Chester police officers have bought several personalized wall plaques. Our students started doing turnover chains for school athletic teams; Chester High School, Williamsport High School, Pierce College in California, Springfield High School, South Philly Sharks, Chester Panthers and the Cavilers from South Carolina all wanted items designed and made by the students. We actually got kind of swamped with orders – we’ve had incredible outreach from the community. Understand, the students were designing and working on these projects on their own time, not on class time, so they’re very dedicated! One supporter of the program wanted a special item designed for her sister’s birthday. They were going to Las Vegas, so the students made a replica of the old ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign, and put the sister’s name on it. She loved it.”
According to Peticca, at first the students could only produce objects in one color. McGoldrick learned how to manipulate the equipment so that students could print objects in up to three colors.
Camelot’s Chester Upland Academy offers two separate programs at one school location in partnership with Chester Upland School District in Pennsylvania. The accelerated program serves high school students who have fallen behind in credit accumulation and are at risk of not graduating from high school. Camelot’s Chester Upland Academy pairs block scheduling with longer class periods to accelerate learning and close the gap with grade-level peers.
Nydia Young, one of the students involved in the 3D printing program, has been designing and making smartphone cases, key chains, and other items. “I like the fact that it brings out my creative side. It’s taught me to be patient to get your final product.”
Her classmate, Antre’vis Hardy also remarked on the level of patience he’s learned from participating. “I like making my own jewelry and designing my own things but you have to very patient. I have helped design multiple things for other students and staff, and every piece is unique.”
Next school year, the 3D program may be offered as an elective course. McGoldrick said almost all of the students at Camelot Education’s Chester Program have taken part in the program on some level, and at least 35 percent of enrolled students are proficient enough to transfer files and set up the printer on their own.
“They see this is an up and coming field, and taking part in the program gives them an actual idea of entrepreneurial pursuits,” McGoldrick said. “If this technology had been available when I was in school, I definitely would have been interested in it. My students all want to design their own projects and make things for their siblings or parents who have been really enthusiastic about it. On any given day, there are at least 20-25 students working on projects. This is what we’re about at Camelot Education; helping our students to find their own paths in life, to find something they’re really interested in doing as a career and going for it.”
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