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County's engineering classes going 3-D

Students using advanced printers

Posted: March 8, 2013 - 12:10am  |  Updated: March 10, 2013 - 12:00am
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Photo by Jim Blaylock  Lakeside High School students Ben Santiago (left) and Alex Bondar prepare their CO2 cars for a race in their technology class.
Photo by Jim Blaylock Lakeside High School students Ben Santiago (left) and Alex Bondar prepare their CO2 cars for a race in their technology class.

Students at a couple of Columbia County high schools are now producing their lessons in 3-D.

Greg Shouse, Lakeside’s engineering instructor, now has a large 3-D Touch printer, while Marcus Cooper, Evans’ engineering instructor, has three smaller Cube 3-D printers with another, larger one on the way. The items were purchased with funds from the Perkins federal grant through the county’s Career Technical Agricultural Education Department.

“We have advisory boards that help us figure out what we need to teach the students from industry,” said Julie Kenny, Columbia County’s career technical agricultural educator. “That group is all engineers, and they tell us where to go, and help us out with that.”

The high schools’ new 3-D printers create plastic objects on a relatively small scale. The printers can produce standalone items, such as a piece for a chessboard, or components to be assembled for larger projects.

In keeping up with the latest technology, Cooper said the schools are on the right track.

“We’re running the latest and greatest software; our computers are up to date,” Cooper said. “As far as staying on the cutting edge, we’re there.”

First-year students at both schools get an introduction to the 3-D printer, but it is the second- and third-year students, such as Lakeside sophomore Alex Bondar, who get to translate theory into production.

Bondar, who was 13th in the nation last year in the high school CO2 car competition, is using the 3-D printer to produce wheels for this year’s model and replacing the propulsion tanks on his submersible with propellers.

“The computer program basically shows you the print of what it will look like and you can edit the size to how you want it, and then when you’re ready, hit ‘build,’ and that basically tells you how dense you want it (up to a half-inch), how fast you want it to print, basically the average cost it’ll be for the plastic and average time it will take,” Bondar said.

Though there are a few differences between the two schools’ printers, the operation is basically the same, working along the lines of an inkjet printer. Both start projects with 3-D modeling software on the computer, download it to a flash drive then insert the flash drive into the printer.

“It takes like a cartridge of Weed Eater cord,” Cooper said. “It’s ABS plastic, and it melts it. And instead of squirting ink on a paper or on a 2-D surface like paper, it squirts it out and it moves on an X-Y-Z axis until it builds the part. And the resolution is incredible with some of these.”

The engineering classes are also called pathways, which can lead to individual American Design Drafting Association certifications at the end of the third year.

“During the completion of the third year, the state administers a certification test and they become certified apprentice draftsmen,” said Cooper. “That’s cool.”

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