GSCI 104 – Spring 2014

GSCI 104: 3D Printing, Fall 2013

In the JMU 3-SPACE Classroom, students will have the opportunity to experience an interactive DIY/maker environment that will help them succeed in future STEM courses and an increasingly technological society.

In 2013-14, JMU 3-SPACE Classroom will be the home of a new 3D-printing course in the General Education Program of James Madison University.   The pioneer students in these initial courses will set up hardware and software, design and build test models, push the geometric limits of the 3D printers, and become 3D-printing ambassadors to the community and the rest of the university. In future semesters the JMU 3-SPACE Classroom will be available to all university departments for courses that utilize hands-on 3D printing in all or part of their syllabi.


Syllabus for GSCI 104 in Spring 2014
Safety information handout
Safety protocol quiz
Assignment 1 – Tinkercad
Journal, Portfolio, and Final Project
Outreach choices


3D printing is an additive manufacturing process whereby objects are built up from plastic filament, liquid resin, layers of powder, or even bio-compatible and edible materials. Desktop 3D printing is today’s printing press, putting rapid prototyping, customizable products, and individualized medical appliances in reach of the general public. Literacy in basic 3D modeling and manufacturing is an essential skill for future STEM success in this country. In this course students will learn how to be “makers” by using various types of 3D modeling software, printing actual physical objects that they have designed and modeled themselves, and participating in educational outreach in the university and the community.


Focus on science and mathematics as ways of knowing, rather than on specific knowledge or theories produced by science and mathematics.

A major focus of the 3D printing class will be showing students that they don’t need to be “taught” to “learn”. The course will have a definite DIY mentality in which students find their own ways of knowing and doing, rather than following previously forged trails of knowledge.

Adopt a minds-on or hands-on approach to investigating science and mathematics as ways of knowing.

This course will involve student-centered interactive learning rather than a lecture format. Everything the students do will be hands-on, creative work, including designing personalized 3D models for themselves and creating equipment for future semesters in the 3D-printing clssroom. Students will learn to be “makers” rather than “consumers” of knowledge.

Involve doing science or mathematics through observation and/or experimentation.

In this course it is the investigation of technology (the “T” in “STEM”!) that the students will experiment with and observe, rather than any specific science or mathematical topic. This exploration of technology is a cornerstone of future success in any STEM discipline.

Use problem-solving logic and techniques.

3D printing is a new technology and thus can be a fiddly, breakdown-prone process. In much the same way that a mechanic needs to use problem-solving and logic to determine why a vehicle is not running correctly, the students in this class will need to solve mechanical problems logically. In addition the students will learn how to operate in 3D modeling environments that involve a surprising amount of logical thinking and problem-solving techniques.

Promote extensive student participation.

This will be a cornerstone of the 3D printing class. Students will learn for themselves with the instructor only as a guide, with almost no lecturing at all in the course. In addition the students will participate as ambassadors to the university and local communities, hosting visitors and field trips as well as participating in outreach to other departments who could be interested in utilizing the 3D-printing classroom in the future.

Emphasize the formulation of scientific questions and hypotheses.

Students will have to make hypotheses about how various 3D models and designs will print in reality and/or fit the uses for which they are intended, and then test and refine those hypotheses.

Include the collection of data through measurements and quantification.

When designing a 3D object that is meant to serve a particular real-world purpose, students will need to collect and use careful spacial measurements. The process of turning an abstract design into a real-world object requires many quantification procedures.

Encourage the use of library and computer-based sources of information.

Students will research current 3D-printing topics using online resources.

Encourage the communication of results and conclusions through reports, models and/or discussion.

Students will create objects that are used for display and practical purposes in future courses and outreach, communicate results and potential classoom uses to other university departments, and make presentations and posters about societal and policy issues that surround 3D printint technology.

Be conducted in small classes to facilitate non-lecture formats and greater interaction among students and between student and teacher.

This is a necessity in the 3D-printing classroom, as students will be arranged in groups of 2 or 3 with a computer and 3D printer in each group for maximum student contact with the technology that is the focus of this course. This configuration takes up significant space and as such, class size will be limited. In addition the fact that one instructor will be assisting with multiple stations that involve technology means that class size needs to remain small.


Recognize the interdependence of applied research, basic research, and technology, and how they affect society.

3D printing technology is not new to manufacturing, but it is new to the general public. Students will investigate ways that 3D printing could be a “disruptive technology” or a “second industrial revolution” in our society by changing the scale and accessibility of manufacturing, challenging ideas of copyright and patent, and changing the landscape for future STEM opportunities.

Illustrate the interdependence between developments in science and social and ethical issues.

The recent mainstream popularity of 3D printing has brought certain ethical issues into the headlines, and we will discuss their future implications, for example the possibility of widely available 3D printed plastic guns and weapons, as well as the very idea of ownership of a “thing” or “design” or “idea” in designed or printed form.

Use graphical, symbolic, and numerical methods to analyze, organize, and interpret natural phenomena.

The creation of 3D-printable files requires various 3D modeling tools ranging from simple online software to more sophisticated CAD programs and even basic computer programming and algorithms. Students will explore a wide variety of 3D modeling applications in order to learn how to be active producers and designers of customizable “things” rather than just passive printers of previously designed objects.

Formulate hypotheses, identify relevant variables, and design experiments to test hypotheses.

As pioneers in the 3D printing landscape at JMU, students in this course will develop test models to investigate the tolerances and geometric limits of the 3D printers we have in the classroom, as well as the slicing software that determines the way that the 3D printer makes each object. In addition, students will design parametric models that are adaptable to different situations and variables, and therefore useful for experimental design.

One Response to GSCI 104 – Spring 2014

  1. interested in the course

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