A middle-school student at the Next Generation School in Champaign, Ill., creates a 3-D object with a classroom 3-D printer. Students in grades K-12 can "print" 3-D objects from computer-generated sources right in the classroom using a rapid prototyping or 3-D lithography process. The process is based on a research project that was headed by Nicholas Fang, an assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and developed at the Center for Nanoscale Chemical-Electrical-Mechanical Manufacturing Systems (NanoCEMMS) at the university. NanoCemms is a National Science Foundation Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center.
The process uses UV sensitive monomer to do a form of 3-D printing called microstereo lithography. The students use a video projector with a UV output to create incredibly thin polymer layers (on the order of 400 nanometers) and build objects layer by layer. The activity demonstrates the basic challenges of nanoscale engineering.
The 3-D printing process has already been used by hundreds of students in Illinois at all grade levels to turn mathematical models into objects that they can touch and feel.
Nano-CEMMS provides a wide range of human resource development activities targeted toward increasing both the diversity of students involved with the center and educational opportunities at the K-12 and undergraduate levels, as well as providing graduate students with teaching experience in an emerging field. To learn more about the center, visit the Nano-CEMMS website. [Research supported by NSF grant CMMI 07-49028, awarded to John Rogers. Date of project shown in image: 2008-2010]
Credit: Joe Muskin, University of Illinois