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Pine Tree students learning tricks of trade with 3-D printing

By Reese Gordon rgordon@news-journal.com
April 28, 2014 at 11 p.m.


Students at Pine Tree High School may no longer have to order senior class rings from a catalog.

Freshmen in Allen Morris' STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) class are using a 3-D printer and computer software to design their own class rings.

"The rings are being printed in wax and then will be metal-casted," Morris said. "They should be finished in the next couple of weeks. I am amazed by what my freshmen are able to do."

The district purchased the 3-D printer being used in Morris' classes in March for $2,000, he said.

"I carved it out of my budget and said this is what we are going to do," Morris said. "I started looking at the 3-D printer 10 years ago when they were something aerospace companies were using. When we got it, I told my freshmen I didn't have time to fool with this so you guys take care of it. And they did."

The students had the printer working within minutes."

"Somebody can have a thought, print it out and have it in their hand by the end of class," Morris said. "I have a girl designing a model of the human heart on the computer. That model is two-dimensional on screen but will print in three dimensions."

Pine Tree High School senior Travis Pinkston said Monday that he is using the XBOX gaming system sensor to produce a three-inch plastic cutout of himself.

"I found out we could do it that way by researching online," he said. "Right now, I'm getting the details so we have better detail of the person or object we scan. Then we pull it up in the 3-D editing software, and we edit anything we don't want, like text or background. After that, we print it."

Pinkston said he has also created a plastic model of the Nintendo character, Mario, by first creating a clay bust.

"I made it from clay and then I took the sensor and scanned it with details," he said. "I finished editing and then went and printed it with the 3-D printer."

Morris said his students are exceeding his expectations with the technology they are exposed to.

"This is new," he said. "I know of no other high schools in the area to have a 3-D printer. Travis is doing things I haven't thought about yet. He's teaching me. He's on the cutting edge. My assignment to the students in the pre-engineering class was to research 3-D scanners and come back to me with what they thought we should get. Travis found a way to do it for less than $100. And that is what the New Age student does. They look for their own solution instead of using somebody else's."

Pine Tree High School Principal Cindy Gabehart said she has been highly impressed with the students' innovation.

"They come up with ideas and solutions that we never thought of," she said. "It's pretty neat and I'm excited to be a part it."

Gabehart said Morris has been instrumental in showing students they can achieve their career goals through skills learned in high school.

"This kind of technology opens up the world to what you can accomplish and opens the eyes of students to see what all is out there," she said. "We are trying to get across the idea that you can get to where you want to go from here."

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