The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School STEM program believes that the best way to learn 3-D printer technology is to build a 3-D printer.
That was the idea behind a series of weeklong workshops the school recently held around the state, including in Harrisburg. The full-time students of PA Cyber who participated in the program come from the Ephrata, Red Lion Area, Lampeter-Strasburg, Shippensburg Area and Susquehanna Township school districts.
The midstate workshop was held at PA Cyber’s Swatara Township office. Other workshops were held in Pittsburgh and Allentown.
Joe Cilli, who runs the online school’s STEM program, said each of the 24 participating students purchased entry-level 3-D printer kits for a discounted price of $200, which they assembled and were then able to keep. The students followed an instructional video Cilli made, piecing together the printers and getting assistance along the way.
“I’m there to guide them on how to build it, but they’re putting together a machine that many adults struggle to build,” Cilli said in a recent email.
The model they used is the Printrbot Play, an all-metal-body 3-D printer just released this summer, Cilli said.
Cilli said students in PA Cyber’s STEM program take advanced classes and participate in extracurricular activities such as a Raspberry Pi computer workshop and the Cyber Patriot computer security competition. Participation earns points toward the honor distinction of receiving a STEM certificate at graduation, he noted.
“The program exposes students to hands-on STEM opportunities where they meet peers from around the state with an interest in science and engineering,” Cilli said.
He added that the 3-D printer workshop is available exclusively to students pursuing the STEM graduation certificate.
Headquartered in Midland, Beaver County, PA Cyber serves K-12 students throughout the state.