Cool Schools: Students Design Inventions In 3D

9:17 AM, Mar 28, 2013   |    comments
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ARLINGTON, Va. (WUSA9) -- Engineers of the future can not only design their inventions they can manufacture them in 3D.

A little machine called a 3D printer at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington works more like a piece of high tech manufacturing equipment. Design whatever you want on a computer-aided drafting program called Mastercam and it makes it come to life. Plastic tread the size of a weed whacker string is fed through the machine. Then, Jeb Berger explained, "The platform heats up so the plastic will melt. Also this extruder will heat up so the plastic will melt."

Layer by layer it builds your design. Students are working on this windmill for a competition called "Kid Wind."

Katie Heaton told us, "We made the ribs in the wings, we made the nose cone, we made the gearbox itself."

The more electricity the windmill generates, the better the students do in the competition.

"The judges come to talk to us, they ask us about our background of wind knowledge, then we actually go into the wind tunnel where it will be tested," shared Katie Heaton.

The limits of their imagination are also being tested.

Cassidy Nolen, the design teacher, said, " I'm starting to hear kids talk in terms of 'oh Mr Nolen I need to make a blank.' It isn't 'I need to find,' 'you need to help me,' 'you need to do this' 'you need to do that.' Students are grabbing the keys to Mastercam making the parts they need and building them."

They're not buying it, they're building it, and in the process they are building a career.

Katie Heaton told us, "I plan to be a biomedical engineer when I grow up so it was a nice start to have the experience to build this thing."

By the way, the team of seventh and eight graders came in second in the statewide Kid Wind competition. If you have a Cool School, send an email to

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