By Kayla Vestergaard – Logistics Manager at Addditive
Addditive (3D’s for 3D Printing) is an NU student-led program to teach 3D printing to high schoolers. It began last spring, when the Social Enterprise Institute (SEI) and American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) dreamt of teaching students how to 3D print prosthetics for those in need. Inspiration for this project came from e-NABLE, a non-profit working to create free 3D printed arm and hand prosthetics for individuals needing upper limb assistance across the globe. In February 2018, founder Jon Schull spoke to SEI members at Northeastern about the continuous progress e-NABLE has made in recent years. They have created a growing global network of volunteers, numerous improvements to prosthetic designs, and have enabled an increasing number of people with upper limb functionality. These accomplishments helped inspire Addditive, our 3D printing program in Roxbury.
The first step for students is to learn the basics of design, coding, and teamwork before any ABS-plastic hands can be printed. Transforming your design into code for the printer and getting to know temperamental plastic are key, but a deeper understanding of the design process is necessary to create something that is actually useful. In Addditive, students are introduced to design thinking with discussions around existing innovative products and their design process, and then break off into groups to highlight problems they would like to see solved. The problems can be anything, really – we just want them to begin to break the habit of brainstorming with solutions already in mind. Next, to better understand the selected problem, discussions are held and sketches are drawn. Tentatively, brainstorming begins. And, as creativity abounds when you’re having fun, the classroom mood is light and supportive, with the motto “no idea is a bad idea” emphasized. Although the first print is something simple, like a die, students’ final individual projects will be to create something small that is personally useful.
The long term goal is to build up students’ skills so that they can build prosthetics. This semester, we’ll have students attempt to print an arm extension as a group project. Classes will be once a week starting mid-October at Dearborn STEM Academy in Roxbury: a newly-rebuilt school for students grades 6-12, determined to foster a love of math and science in students and raise their state testing scores. Nearly a decade ago, this Boston Public School was marked as underperforming. In the years since, they have made a major effort to revamp the educational environment for students. Their new GE Brilliant Careers Lab is packed with 3D printers, a welding station, foam laser cutters, and more exciting technology tools, and the work to build a gleaming state-of-the-art school is matched by the work of educators to realign and redesign curriculum to make learning more relevant and fun. Addditive will play a tiny role in its fruition by printing project parts for 9th grade engineering classes to help the teacher demonstrate MCAS-required physics concepts.
In the Spring and Summer 1 Semesters this past year, Addditive ran its program at the Youth Development Initiative Program (YDIP), an after-school tutoring program for students from various Boston high schools. This year, we’re super excited to go to Dearborn and spread a love for design and tech among the future generation. Our long-term goal of a prosthetics program will initiate more meaningful change, and hopefully inspire Gen Z’ers to explore ways to better others’ lives through technology.
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