The University of Northern Iowa's Additive Manufacturing Center (AMC), located at the TechWorks building in Waterloo, just completed hosting a three-day camp for Cedar Valley students interested in STEM. Panther Park 3-D was one of many camps offered by the STEM program at UNI. Focusing on a "Jurassic Park" dinosaur theme, the camp granted students the opportunity to broaden and develop their STEM interests and skills with an immersive 3-D printing and design experience involving dinosaurs. For many of the students, it was their first inside look into the world of 3-D printing.
After receiving a tour and gaining a basic understanding of the center's main 3-D printers, kids at the camp engaged in activities all throughout the metal casting process. With help from staff members, students began by customizing and designing their very own dinosaur fossil molds using 3-D design computer software. Once finished, designs were saved and each was sent to the facility’s ExOne S-Max Sand Printer, where the students could watch their virtual creations come to life. When printing was complete, the kids were shown how to properly excavate the printer to extract their 3-D molds. Students began to notice similarities between excavating the printer and actual fossil excavation as they dug up and cleaned their parts with brushes. Concluding the process, campers poured metal into their printed molds to take home when finished.
Students also received some first-hand experience with several other 3-D printers and equipment in the AMC and were able to compare and contrast each of them. Students gained knowledge in robotic sand milling, fused filament fabrication (FFF), digital light processing (DLP/SLA) and wax printing. In addition, they were exposed to virtual reality applications and scanning objects with a Romer absolute arm laser scanner.
To end the week, students prepared PowerPoint presentations to show their parents their favorite parts of the camp and what they had learned.
"My favorite part was pouring the metal,'' said camp participant Levi Schwestka. His twin brother, Jack, said his favorite part was working with the SLA Resin printer because of how smooth it printed.
Altogether, the camp was a great learning experience. When asked what she hopes students will have taken away from the camp, UNI STEM camp director, Teena Coats, answered, "A fun experience and to have gained some knowledge about the additive manufacturing process… and maybe even learn a little bit about dinosaurs along the way."