One of the greatest things about making is that makers come from all different countries around the world and are all different ages.

A month ago, when we launched this blog, we held a contest looking for projects and lesson plans. (we’ve got some posted right now if you haven’t taken the time to check them out).

We received stuff from all over. One of the projects sent to us turned out to be from someone just leaving middle school behind.

Rhett Pimental is a 14 year old student who will be entering high school this fall. Rhett lives in rural Wyoming and sent us over an excellent project that provides a lot of the basic background information that people need to get acquainted with a 3D printer. The first thing that you need to do is go over to gdocs and check out his project.

Rhett was also kind enough to respond to a few questions that I sent over to him:

You obviously know a lot about 3D printers. How did you get involved with the technology?

I think that I probably saw all of the cool things that people were making on Instructables and Makezine. At the time, I thought that I would never have the opportunity to use one since they were very expensive and seemed quite complex. However, things worked themselves out: I found, and I built, tested, fixed, and used a PB Simple for my middle school. Last spring I purchased my own PB Simple. The great thing about building a 3D printer instead of just purchasing an assembled one is that you know exactly how it works and how to fix it. Anybody who can make it through the process of building a 3D printer will always be able to fix, upgrade, and teach others how their 3D printer works.

Does your school have a 3D printer? Do you get an opportunity to use it? What is it used for?

Mr. Opps, my awesome middle school technology teacher, was kind (and brave) enough to allow me to build the Printrbot Simple Kit that he purchased. Since I was a complete beginner, it took many early mornings and a couple of months to complete the Simple and start getting high quality prints. During that time I was able to learn all about 3D printing and how the Simple worked. Mr. Opps has plans to use the printer for teaching CAD, prototyping student’s inventions, and probably making a bunch of random stuff. (my comment: Mr. Opps sounds like a pretty smart, forward thinking kind of guy – Clarence)

Do you have a printer at home? What kinds of things have you made with it? Do you have a project file or two (.stl) that you could share with us? 

As I mentioned above, I bought my own Printrbot Simple so that I could print stuff during the summer and in high school (and stop wasting Mr. Opp’s filament on random junk). This time, the printer went together more easily and I was printing in a couple of days as opposed to a couple of months. I have only had my printer since spring, so I have been testing the limits (which I am yet to find) of my Simple. I have scanned and printed all of my family’s heads, printed whistles, gear contraptions, and some gifts. In the future, however, I plan on using my printer for project enclosures and parts, fixing various things around the house, and upgrading the printer to make it bigger and better. Eventually, I would like to experiment with other filament materials (wood, brick, conductive). I have designed many things in CAD, but my favorite designs are those that others have made and shared on Thingiverse. Here is a link to my Thingiverse page of things that I have collected.

Are you involved in making in any other way? (electronics, arduino, programming)
To get to the point, I love making stuff. As well as 3D printing, I am also interested in electronics, Arduino, programming, origami, and pretty much any other technology that assists in the process of making. I am taking a class on welding next year, so hopefully I will be able to add metal to my projects soon.

Why did you decide to write this lesson plan? Why did you feel it was important enough to take the time on?

Well, to be quite honest I was pretty interested in the thought of winning some stuff for my 3D printer. I enjoy writing, especially non-fiction, and thought that it would be fun to make animated photos and experiment with photography. In the past, I have written a few Instructables (member icecats) and thoroughly enjoyed that process. I had fun, and before I knew it, I had 12 hours into the lesson plan. 

What do you see as the future of technology like this? How do you think it can be used?

3D printing is a technology that has been around for a while, but has only recently become cheap, practical, and efficient. Judging by how many new printers there are on the market (and more daily), I would say that 3D printing is definitely on the right track to becoming an essential technology to many levels of users. Currently, I can see the importance of 3D printing in an industrial setting- instead of designing a potential product, sending it to an expensive manufacturer for a sample, waiting a few months, and then reiterating the product and repeating the process, manufacturers can cut out the middle man and design, build, and test their product all from there desktop. Now more then ever, makers and people with less access to big machines and expensive resources can create and sell their own products using 3D printing and websites like Kickstarter. Besides industrial applications, 3D printing seems very promising in the medical industry (prosthetics, organs, etc.), and may even become a standard household product for the average person. Overall, 3D printing is a very promising technology that we are yet to reach the limits of. 

With people like this growing up surrounded by technology, the future looks pretty bright.