Category Archives: Student blog

Student ideas about 3D printing in college education

The posts below are student ideas for future college classes and departmental uses for 3D printing. If you are interested in helping to develop any of these courses or projects, please contact us and let us know!

Introduction to Entrepreneurial Work 101: Create your own business

Course Description:

In this course students will take what they have learned in their business classes and apply by creating their own business using the 3D printers. The business must be designed around something they can market that is made on the 3D printers. The item/items must be original and unique, but easily made on a 3D printer. (Do not design a business that produces something that is nearly impossible to manufacture, for example items larger than 3in x 3in, because it will not print on the 3D machines. Examples could include, custom cell phone cases, jewelry, organizers, the possibilities are endless. This class is designed to be a fun and innovative way to use all of the classes and material taught in the business school. Be creative!

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BIO 490: Environmental Benefits of 3D Printing

Making things at home on a 3D printer uses less energy and produces less carbon dioxide than producing it in a factory and shipping it to a warehouse.  Making the items on a basic 3D printer took 41 to 64 percent less energy than making them in a factory and shipping them to the U.S., according to a study cited at Kurzweil.

Class title: BIO 490 Environmental Benefits of 3D Printing (8 week 1 credit)

Class description:  This class will allow students to become familiar with basic 3D printing, including safety procedures and the software and hardware involved.  This course will focus on the environmental benefits of 3D printing including the Filabot system.  Students will learn how using recycled material to 3D print every day objects is much more eco-friendly than the normal manufacturing process.

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“Like any language,…”

“Like any language, technology is best learned early in life.” Carolyn Mathas

In order to tap into the creativity and passion that lives within children, it’s essential to introduce unique activities into the classroom from an early age. Students in 3rd to 5th grade are amazingly creative; they have the wildest ideas, and their minds know no  limitations. That’s why I think it’s the best age to introduce them to the realm of 3D printing. But in order to do this, teachers need to learn how to  operate these relatively simple machines.
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3D Printers Are Easy To Use

I’m certain the IDLS majors ( and the College of Education in general ) would benefit tremendously from learning how to 3D print. They’d be able to show and teach their students how to use the technology of the future, thus planting a fruitful seed in their minds from an early age.
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Plant A Fruitful Seed For Their Future

Anatomy Modeling

BIO 295 (6 Week Course/1 credit hour)


Today’s anatomy students have little reference beyond the images in textbooks. 3D printing opens a world of possibilities for rapidly modeling a part of the human body that can be held in the palm of one’s hand in a matter of hours. 3D printing and modeling can also provide future medical technicians the skills necessary to print prosthetic body parts and perhaps someday functional replacement organs. 3D printed anatomic models provide students an intimate relationship with the anatomy of the human body and convey skills necessary to interact and operate on it.


Cadaver models are increasingly expensive and difficult to use given certain ethical restraints, so they are not ideal, especially for undergraduate anatomy training. 3D printing provides for infinitely replicable models with virtually no ethical restraints. Furthermore, introducing medical students to the discipline of 3D printing will leave them better prepared for a future where 3D printing and precise rapid prototyping is a critical element of modern medicine.

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3D Printing in the High School Classroom

As 3D printers are becoming less and less expensive, more are showing up in high schools across the country.  This is an icredible opportunity for high school students, but who is ready to teach them?  Teachers who have experience with these 3D printers have a competitive edge over those who do not since they will not only  be able to teach students how to use them, but also use them for their own purposes.

The College of Education at James Madison University currently offers secondary education preparation for Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, English, Foreign Language, History and Social Sciences, Mathematics, and Physics.  In addition to teachers preparing for STEM education, 3D printers can be useful to all subject areas.  A course offering skills in 3D printing would be increadibly useful to all secondary education students, as every subject can use them to enhance their future classsroom.


The world of biology involves life of all sizes.  The most difficult for students to understand are the microscopic lifeforms invisible to the human eye.  Yes they can use microscopes, but if you remember your first time using a microscope, you’ll remember it wasn’t exactly an HD view of cell walls.  Many 3D models already exist online and could still be produced by teachers to meet their students specific learning needs.  Students also can be taught about the medical breakthroughs of 3D printing, such as prosthetics and printing live cells.

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Using 3D Printing and Design within the Robotics Minor

Utilizing the 3D printing machines and technology would greatly impact and benefit the Robotics Minor at James Madison University.This may be the most applicable class you could take in a robotic minor, being able to integrate all the objectives of the minor with hands on experience by building the robot yourself. For example, students will have a greater understanding of robot control systems, sensors, motion, circuits, and the overall design of the robots, while being able to design and develop every part of the robot control software. They will be able to take what they learned in the classroom and apply it to real-life application.

In addition, using 3D printing allows the students to be creative and develop further investigation and exploration of robotic systems. 3D printing has the potential to create new robotic technology by combining the digital modeling with the physical manifestation.


In fact, other universities are already implementing this sort of technology into their curriculums. The Southern California Institute of Architecture has developed classes on how to create complex robotic designs and movements through 3D printing. Students are using their machines to make robotic arms that are based on a molecular structure. They are able to create a large number of similar pieces for the robot and bond them together, making the structure synthetic and custom-made.

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Biochemistry to 3D Printing

CHEM 360: BIOCHEMISTRY 3D PRINTING (1 credit hour)
Prerequisites: CHEM/BIO 361 or equivalent.

3D Printing has become a significant step in learning and discovering in science, and other institutes are getting ahead about this. JMU, therefore, should develop its education system by offering this CHEM 360 (Biochemistry 3D Printing) course.

Course Description: This course is a one credit elective course for students who are interested in advancing their knowledge in the Biochemistry. The course provides students an opportunity to put their knowledge into the touchable 3D objects, which will help them to have a better understanding about the concepts in Biochemistry. The focus of the course is to build the 3D organic and inorganic molecular models that can be applied into learning the chemical reactions in living systems.

Course Objectives: Students’ success will be determined according to the following abilities:

  1. Students are familiar with the softwares used in class (Thinkercard and Autodesk 123D) , and are able to create their own 3D printed models.

  2. Students know, and are able to follow the safety rules while working with mechanics in the class.

  3. Students are able to apply the printed models in describing and learning the concepts learned in the lecture class.

  4. Students complete the final project, which is printing their own molecular kit.

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Set Models and 3D Printing

3D printing is a new and upcoming technology.  Many professions can utilize 3D printing technology; even set designers have found 3D printers to help with model making.  In order for JMU to stay competitive with other theatre major programs at other schools, they need to keep up to date with the rising technology of 3D printing.

Kacie Hultgren, a Broadway set designer, is already applying this technology in her work.  Kacie talks about and promotes the use of a Markerbot printer for set designers.  The Markerbot printers help Kacie make scale models efficiently and cost effectively so that others can visualize her designs.  The following video demonstrates Kacie’s use of 3D printing in the set design industry.

Kacie’s work is also mentioned in an article on Stage Directions where they discuss how she has “solved tricky design problems, like spiral staircases or complex forced perspective, using 3D CAD. Once the CAD drawing is complete, making a model piece is simply a matter of hitting “print.” “

For more in-depth information on 3D printed set designs and models, read this article from Colin Winslow Designs. One of the benefits the article discusses is the capability to print the same design multiple times.  This is method is low cost and saves time for set designers.  The don’t have to spend time making a model by hand or going to a third party to have the model made for them, because they can print it themselves.

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CS 361: Programming 3D Objects

Course Description:
This course is an introduction to 3D object modeling and 3D printing for Computer Science students. Students will have opportunities to code scripts to render 3D models. The class will focus on learning different 3D modeling software and printing their products. Topics include “drag and drop” software like Tinkercad, scripting languages using OpenSCAD, XML-based formats using X3D, and Ruby programming using SketchUp Ruby.
Prerequisites: CS 159 and CS 240
3 Credits


  • Students will learn the process of 3D printing (Week 1)
  • Students will learn how to safely use the 3D printers (Week 1)
  • Students will learn current and future applications of 3D printing (Week 2)
  • Students will become familiar with Tinkercad (Week 1-2)
  • Students will learn to use scripting languages to design 3D graphics with OpenSCAD (Week 3-5)
  • Students will learn to use XML-based formats to represent 3D graphics with X3D (Week 6-8)
  • Students will learn to use the Ruby language with SketchUp Ruby (Week 9-11)
  • Students will design, code, and print a final project that demonstrates their understanding of 3D object modeling. (Week 12-15)

Class format:
Classes will include lectures to learn the course content as well as in-class labs where students can create and print objects. In-class lab assignments will be based on tutorials for OpenSCAD and 3D printing curriculum.

Programming Assignments (PA):
PA0: Create and print a useful household object using Tinkercad.
Tinkercad is an online, easy-to-use tool for creating digital designs that are ready to be 3D printed into physical objects.
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