Neat non-FRC 3D printing projects for a class?

With my students are all stuck at home, I’ve been thinking of engaging things they can do. I think the most valuable thing my Intro to Engineering students can learn is how to do CAD, since we have several computer-controlled machines in the lab at school, that we’ll presumably return to at some point. While we’d normally use Inventor at school, I’ll probably switch to OnShape since computers at home vary. I typically do a laser cut mini sumo robot in this class, with students working in pairs. But, working from home, I think it will have to be individual.

I was thinking students could design things, and then I could print them all myself at home, and film and/or photo the prints, so students can see this is not just a virtual model on a computer screen, it’s a real thing now. And then whenever school resumes, I could distribute the prints to the students. I think running the prints would keep me entertained as well.

My trouble is, what should I have them design? I was thinking they could all make a different piece of some larger thing, or something with a standard format where they all fit together, or something with a certain theme. I think in any case there needs to be some standard design/size guidelines. I’d like the project to incorporate some creativity and customization so that I’m not printing a bunch of the same thing, but I’d also like it to involve some degree of precision measurement and design, and not just a CAD free-for-all of randomly sketching and extruding things.

These are students in grades 9 through 11 who are stuck at hone and have limited experience with Autodesk Inventor, but do have some experience with Vex robots. There are about 60 students total. I don’t mind printing nearly 24/7 but realistically I think 1-2 parts per student is the max I’d want to do.

So, long story short, what should I have them design? Any ideas @mpirringer

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Rubik’s cube parts are pretty cool, and there are designs that work. Just a warning, pieces might be small but the thing may be larger than you thought.


My go-to is usually simple but functional objects, especially when they have to interact with something that’s not printed (like most of the things you’d print for a robot). I imagine a handful of students will already have a personal set of calipers, but they’re not strictly required to get the concept.

Prints don’t have to be very complicated for students to get a lot out of them. Much like a robot, some careful planning at the beginning saves a lot of headache later. A 2.5D part is always better than a 3D part as long as you aren’t sacrificing functionality.

One of the projects my student create is a chess set. For beginners, this can be standard pieces. For more advanced students they are only limited by their imagination. For example my students created a Star Wars set, a Peanuts set and the set pictured. I use this for both 3d printing and laser cutting/engraving the boards.


Whoo boy. Chess sets. I’ll have to introduce you to my dad, who once spent a few weeks getting paid to 3D print a chess set, next time we’re at the same event. (That would be… OCR replacement event or Beach Blitz or similar, I think.)

Actually, that’s a pretty good idea. As a class, print a chess set (or two, or three, or one per student). Have a mini-competition for creative design.

Love the chess set idea. Give them a theme, assign pieces to students, and let em go wild.

I was thinking accessories for a _______. Gives everyone a solid framework to build around but their creativity can run wild with how they support the product. Maybe it’s a phone case or a GoPro mount. Whatever the kids are using these days.


Accessibility stuff can be fun - “can you open a door without gripping it?” And similar.


Foosball players. The next part would be having another class design the rest of the table.

I’ve always wanted to build a robot cart with a built in foosball table.





My favorite thing about printing is the ability to design parts that can’t be manufactured in any other way. I’d look into the Emmett gear bearing and similar one piece designs, their ease of use and functionality, while not exactly FRC grade, really highlights how amazing additive manufacturing is.

You have plenty of suggestions I see. We do something similar in summer camp - only there we have 3rd-6th graders currently and the team members run it. Due to time considerations we limit size. We have them use inventor (you know inventor for students is free a lot of ours have a copy on their home computer). We leave the rest up to them with some school specific limitations (no weapons or depictions of such). So what we usually get is a lot of key chain and necklace things - anything from first letter first/last name to names to some other depictions like a tardis look alike.

Now it depends on what you are after and how you want to restrict or guide it. Some of our team members in off season can use our 3D printers and mine at home for a project as long as it gets approved. Its usually a reward for extra effort. The longest of those was last year the senior who wanted to do a 400:1 compound planetary gearbox. Unfortunately he found out that even though on paper everything looked great he did not design room in for fingers to properly align and put that thing together so it kinda ran - poorly as it was misaligned.

Guess it depends on how many students you have and how much printing you want to do. The 3rd-6th grade campers usually did 10g a piece things - the 400:1 gearbox was a little over 2kg of Nylon and almost 2 kg of HIPS. Point is set some parameters and a filament budget and then turn their creativity loose. Now depending on what printer you have and slicer you use you can have them download the slicer and slice the part and it will tell them how much filament and how long it takes to print. And they learn slicing at this time too

Which ever you decide - I hope you will share