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Rivermont sudents put STEM skills to test (QC Times - Bettendorf News)

3D STEM Printing Rivermont Collegiate Image 1

Rivermont Collegiate sixth-grader Ben Bergfeld envisions his ideal workplace having a rooftop swimming pool where he could relax or take a swim over his lunch break.

Last week, Ben took his daydream to the next step when he designed the multicolored skyscraper using 3D software and printing during Jenna McAdam’s science class.

“It’s just something cool I thought of,” Ben said.

McAdam received the school’s 3D printer earlier this month, and her 22 sixth-grade students each created their own building model with the architectural features to withstand earthquakes.

McAdam handed out laptops, introduced the design software Google SketchUp and discussed the basics of designing solid structural foundations before letting her students get to work.

“They have very big imaginations at this age, and I just let them go,” she said.

Cory Satterfield, a structural engineer at Shive-Hattery, visited McAdam’s class last week and presented various technical features of earthquake-proof buildings.

Drawing a few blank stares as he handed out documents from an American Society of Civil Engineering textbook, Satterfield explained how he basically designs buildings to withstand any seismic or wind pressures.

“I’m trying not to make it too difficult, but unfortunately it’s difficult in nature,” Satterfield said. “Anytime they’re exposed to science, technology and engineering (often called STEM), it allows them to think about things differently, and hopefully this will lead them in that direction because there is always a need of people in these fields.”

This week, McAdam planned to put her students’ creations to the test by placing the building models in a dirt-filled plastic tub before simulating an earthquake.

“If they stay up, they have a pretty good design,” McAdam said.

Complete with windows, support beams, stairs, various entrances and chimney stacks, Angela Jones' miniature office building model she imagines standing in New York City took an hour to produce in her classroom’s printer.

“I always imagine something from a computer as being flat, but with a 3D printer you can make whatever you want look exactly how you want it to,” Angela said.

Michael Cumberbatch said he had only seen a 3D printer in the newspaper before experimenting with it in science class.

“If there’s an earthquake, mine won’t fall over,” Michael said. “And I’m thinking of maybe being an engineer when I grow up. It sounds pretty cool.”

As her students researched various architectural styles and watched their imaginations come to life, McAdam said this technology has allowed her students to gain skills they might use in the workforce.

“There’s a career in building buildings, and this is just the first step on that career path," McAdam said.

(Originally pubished in the Quad City Times on November 26, 2014. By Jack Cullen)

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