3D Printer Clubs and Student Leadership Opportunities

Pamela Jayne July 14, 2017

3D printer clubs are a great way to introduce teens to new technology and software, while also introducing problem-solving skills. Teens already proficient in this software can be great student leaders for these clubs.

Student leadership for the clubs were chosen based on their current skills in 3D printing and computer science. Once chosen, teens were brought together for a brainstorming session and created the outlines and design challenges for the club meetings. Student leaders were invited to run the programs themselves, based on the outlines created in the meeting.

The 3D printer clubs allow for teens to experiment with this technology. The first meeting allows for the teens to learn about 3D printing and what it’s being utilized for currently. Teens experiment within Tinkercad to get used to the software and how it works. In the following meetings, design challenges are introduced, which first help the teens gain confidence in using the software. Towards the end of the club meetings, design challenges are introduced to strengthen problem-solving and research skills, especially with the challenge of creating an invention that solves a real life problem. Time must be taken to research the field in which their invention will cover, and determine the market and pricing for their item.

Type: Active
Age: Middle school
Optimal size: 11-20
Estimated cost: $100+
Planning time: 2-5 hours
Frequency: Weekly

Learning outcomes

3D Printing Club:

  • Increased ability in the 3D design software
  • Increased ability in designing within a 3D space
  • Increased confidence in abilities regarding new technology
  • Increased confidence in problem solving skills
  • Increased confidence in ability to create on their own
  • Develop an interest or increased interest in STEM
  • Develop an interest or increased interest in STEM careers
  • Increased ability to receive constructive criticism

Student Leadership:

  • Increased ability in the 3D design software
  • Increased confidence in problem solving skills
  • Develop an interest or increased interest in STEM
  • Develop an interest or increased interest in STEM careers
  • Increased ability to give constructive criticism
  • Increased ability to interact appropriately with other teens, especially within a learning environment (Increased interpersonal competence)
  • Increased ability to plan for future events
  • Increased confidence in leadership abilities
  • Increased confidence in collaboration skills


Student Leadership:

  • Selection of students can be done through recommendations or application process. Must display some skill in 3D design or computer science.
  • Select a day and time for the brainstorming session, so all of the student leaders can meet each other.
  • During the brainstorming session, have the teens talk about their experience with 3D printing and design, in order to determine who many need additional training with the software.
  • Students leaders work together to create an outline for the club meetings, and think of design challenges that are appropriate for the age group and skill set they will be working with. This will require some prompting and organization from you. You may also need to help steer them in a direction which emphasizes the time limits in place and skill set required for certain projects.
  • Once they’ve finished, ask for volunteers to run the club meetings using this created outline.

3D Printing Clubs

  • Before the program:
    • Make sure you have enough computers for everyone, or be prepared to pair them up/work in teams.
    • Make sure you have a Tinkercad account already, and have made yourself a teacher.
  • Have the teens introduce themselves.
  • Show/explain how 3D printers work, and what they are being used to create. This can include things like houses, medical advances, cars, and fashion.
  • Have the teens create a Tinkercad account. If under the age of 13, have the teens use your teacher code to create an account.
  • Teens should start with the Tinkercad tutorials, in order to get used to controls.
  • During the next club meetings, introduce different design challenges.
    • These can include:
      • Design a keychain.
      • Design a flower.
      • Design an invention that helps squeeze all the toothpaste out of the container.
      • Design an animal figurine.
      • Design an invention that solves a real world problem (invention must not currently exist).
  • At the end, try to have a culminating event that allows the teens to share their ideas with their parents or the general public.


Since this project was grant funded, the funder has provided a tool which measure the change in attitudes towards STEM.

General feedback from teens who participate and those in student leadership positions.

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