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How Stratford students used a 3D printer to fix classroom heaters

Ingenuity: our students have plenty of it. When broken knobs made it difficult to change the temperature on some classroom heating and air units at Stratford STEM Magnet High School, they knew just what to do. They went to class and fired up the 3D printer to make replacements.

Students made replacement temperature control knobs using a 3D printer. (The replacement knob is on the right.)

Engineering teacher Erik Boczko sent us this article:

In a recent update NASA officials described how future manned missions to Mars would include an onboard 3D printer to manufacture any needed parts during the mission. This strategy is already being played out at Stratford STEM Magnet High School today.

While many of the classrooms at Stratford have been updated to a digital programmable control panel, several of the classrooms have legacy heating and air conditioning units whose temperature settings are under analog control via the turning of a dial. In passing conversation, it came to the attention of the engineering department that many of these knobs have been broken or gone missing and that there is a critical shortage of these items.

The sophomore students in the Technological Design Department are always asking for design challenges so when this opportunity presented itself they were more than game. Two students working together as a team used calipers to carefully measured one of the few remaining knobs and then modelled the part in Autodesk Inventor 2013. This process took two class periods and a lunch break to complete.

A prototype was printed on the uPrint SE/plus 3D printer in less than an hour and tested for functionality (see photo). The prototype passed with flying colors, and multiples are currently being printed to replace and restock the dwindling supply.

This type of assignment in which students measure and model an object is a standard part of the Technological Design course. However with the availability of 3D printers this standard assignment now concretely demonstrates the real world applicability of the engineering design process and creates a stronger sense of community within Stratford.