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Emily Pitman puts the finished touches on her dress using the Google Tilt Brush

Middle School art students create with 3-D technology

By: Morgan Sexton
Contributing writer

Emily Pitman put on a helmet and took two remote controls into her hands. With the press of a button, Emily was transported from her classroom to digital art studio where her imagination was the only limit. After an hour, the sixth grader had designed a floor-length dress made entirely out of pink fire. She stepped around her dress and removed her helmet. When she emerged back into her classroom, her creation was on a computer screen for the whole class to see.

Emily’s story sounds like a futuristic fantasy, but Wayne County Middle School students are using 3-D technology to learn and create nearly every day. Art teacher Juliet Perkins uses Virtual Reality (VR) software and 3-D printing to expose her students to what she believes is the industry of the future.

Perkins’ students use their artistic expression to design three-dimensional objects in free programs called Google Blocks, Google Tilt Brush, and TinkerCAD. Once their masterpiece is complete, they must convert their creation into a printable file and send it to the 3-D printer. Many students also learn to do routine maintenance on the printer.

These immersive projects are fun for the students, but Perkins knows that these design and technical skills will give the kids an advantage as they search for future careers.

According to Perkins, factory jobs are changing rapidly. 3-D printers are able to build objects in dozens of materials, including plastic, metal, and even chocolate. This means that manufacturing is likely to become driven by 3-D printers in the near future.

“Introducing this technology to students at a young age will allow them to be competitors in the job market once they graduate,” said Perkins. Her students have been creating decorative items like trophies and paperweights, as well as functional keychains, dog tags, screws, and bolts.

Perkins enjoys watching her students create and print their own designs. She notes that most students create gifts for friends, teachers, and other important people in their lives.

“It is really quite sweet that they think of others in this process,” added Perkins.

When the students aren’t creating their own virtual designs, they are able to travel on field trips through Virtual Reality. Many students have walked through VR art galleries and zoos. Several colleges have also begun offering VR campus tours.

“This technology is always changing and improving,” said Perkins. With her programs and printer, she plans to ensure that her students will remain ahead of the curve in this high-tech world.

kid holding 3d printed skull

Alex West enjoyed the creative process of designing a deer head using TinkerCAD

girl changing filament on 3d printer

Delany Lester changes the filament in the 3-D printer

girl with google tilt brush

Emily Pitman puts the finished touches on her dress using the Google Tilt Brush

boy with 3d printed car

Emory Turner shows off a vehicle he designed

teachers with students

Juliet Perkins (center) and Kara Hardin (left) guide Jessie Stephens (right) as he enters the virtual reality

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