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      Teachers build 3D printers

      Calumet High School computer technologies teacher Mike Roland is constructing a 3D printer at Michigan Techâ??s week-long 3D printer workshop.

      Twelve teams of teachers from across Michigan are taking what looks like a jumbled mess of wires and glorified K'NEX pieces and building their own printers to use in their schools.

      â??The kit really went together pretty easy,â?? said Roland. â??Michigan Tech has done a great job of spending the time trying to make sure that the directions were clear and that anybody could really sit down and do it.â??

      Square One, a non-profit organization that provides funding for K-12 STEM programs in Michigan, donated $11,000 of equipment for the workshop.

      Executive Director Karl Klimek said the goal is to open doors for students to be inventive.

      â??They have basically assembled these devices, they understand these devices, and now the potential for student creativity, student design, project-based opportunity is limitless, absolutely limitless,â?? said Klimek.

      â??We build the printer, we know how it all goes together, we know what happens if it breaks,â?? Roland added. â??We bring it to the kids, they start printing out stuff. If stuff goes wrong, we can help them through the process of figuring out how to fix it, and give them some independence.â??

      Much like any other printing, 3D printing works by computer software telling the machine what to do. Plastic filament is strung through the machine to a heated end, so it works essentially a lot like a hot glue gun. The difference between 3D printing and regular manufacturing is that there is no waste because it works from the ground up. After a few minutes, you can have any product you can dream up.

      Roland said Calumet High School is already planning to build another printer using the one heâ??s making this week.

      Klimek said he hopes teachers will be inspired and see that the possibilities are endless.

      â??There is a desperate need to empower more teachers like these with opportunities that are not prescribed,â?? he said. â??Teachers donâ??t need more cookie-cutter ideas. They need to be released in their creativity and their innovative capacity.â??