3D Printed “Marshmallow Challenge”

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Have you ever done the Marshmallow Challenge? Chances are you’ve done something similar at school, or if you’ve ever been to a team building workshop it’s a pretty popular creative exercise. Basically teams must build the tallest freestanding structure they can in 18 minutes using 20 sticks of spaghetti, a yard of tape, a yard of string and 1 marshmallow on top. Tom Wujec has been running these challenges for many years and presented a great TED talk if you want to find out more about the challenge and what can be learned from it.

Well now I’ve put my 3D printing twist onto the challenge, running what turned into a very competitive series of workshops for the Intro to 3D Printing course at my university. Teams were given a selection of materials we had readily available for model making (20 paddlepop sticks, 1 paper plate, 2 paper cups, a few drinking straws, a length of masking tape and a length of string) and given a very simple brief – build the tallest freestanding structure possible during the 2 hour workshop. The catch:

Teams were each given an UP Plus 2 3D printer and laptop with Solidworks, and could print as much as they wanted to help build the structure.

Now that makes things interesting! These are first year students only new to CAD and 3D printing, so what can they both design and print in such a limited time? Do you print lots of small things, or 1 big thing? How can you tweak the 3D print settings to get things printed as quickly as possible? What do you do when your print doesn’t work? It turns out that this challenge can teach you a lot about 3D printing, and how to rapidly test, prototype and build without wasting any time like in the normal 6 week projects.

As you can see from the photos, the results are very impressive! The winning team built a structure up to 249cm, which basically meant they used all the materials end-to-end and could not go much higher even if they had more time. This team 3D printed small little rectangular connectors for the paddlepop sticks, and with a lot of delicate balancing, managed to get their structure stable at the very last second. Much much higher than I expected when I set this challenge! They were in a very close battle with the team that came second for the day, reaching 238cm with a slightly different connection method where they used 3D printing to connect the paddlepop sticks to the cups. What you might notice with the top 3 teams is that 3D printing was used for small connecting elements that could be quickly printed, whereas some of the other teams (eg. 4th place who I only have a photo of part of the structure) were 3D printing much larger bases and simply ran out of time to push their structures quite as high.

All of the students were very involved and motivated by this task, it’s something I will run again in future classes and 3D printing workshops as a way to push the limits of the 3D printers and break them out of being so precious about what comes off the printers. It also gets them thinking about how to combine 3D printing with other methods of prototyping, you don’t necessarily need to 3D print every part of your design as it’s quite a slow process, particularly for FDM machines. Feel free to make your own twists on this challenge in the classroom, and I’d love to see your results! Maybe the 3D Printed Marshmallow Challenge will be the next big thing?

– Posted by James Novak

June Events

20160617_3D Workshop School

It’s been a busy month for me and 3D printing even though it’s meant to be the mid year break from uni! Above are some photos from a full day 3D printing workshop I ran for a local high school in our new 3D printing lab, with a handful of students all being exposed to CAD, 3D printing and 3D scanning for the first time. By the end of the first session each of them had their first small design 3D printing over the lunch break, which just shows how quickly young kids are able to pick up this technology. We were also able to demonstrate for the very first time one of our brand new chocolate 3D printers, the Choc Edge. Yes that’s right, a chocolate 3D printer! I’m sure it won’t be long before everyone has something like this on their kitchen bench, but for now if you want to see how they work, come along to our Gold Coast campus open day on July 24th where we will have 3 in action for your sugary delight!

20160621 Innovation Brisbane

Last night I was really privileged to be a speaker at an event called DRIVEinnovation, hosted by the Brisbane West Chamber of Commerce. As the name suggests, the discussion was all around innovation, and how businesses can better adopt new technologies and keep up with the rapid changes across all industries. I was part of a panel with Ty Curtis from local augmented reality company Activate Entertainment, and Sam Forbes from cloud services company 6YS. The questions were certainly challenging in the short time-frame (how do you even begin to describe how to innovate in just a few short minutes?), but it’s really great to see such an active council asking these questions and building a community of very talented people. There were even some virtual reality and augmented reality demonstrations (that’s me in the right photo looking at a human skeleton with augmented reality). If you’re in the local area, it’s definitely worth following the Chamber through email or social media as these events happen every few months.

Coming up next week, and running over 2 weeks, are some intensive workshops at Griffith University for teachers. The workshops run in 2-day blocks, costing $180 (which also allows you to bring a student for free), and are on the following topics:

  • InDesign (beginner and advanced)
  • Photoshop (beginner and advanced)
  • 3D Animation (beginner and advanced)
  • Games Design (beginner and advanced)
  • Hand Lettering
  • 3D Design
  • 3D Printing (beginner and advanced)
  • Design Modeling Techniques

I will of course be running the 3D printing workshops, and there will be 2 levels of workshops each week: Workshop 1 is for beginners to CAD and 3D printing, where people will get to build a functioning product assembly. Workshop 2 is for more intermediate users who have some experience with CAD and 3D printing, and we will be combining this knowledge with 3D scanning to create wearable devices. If you’re interested, get in touch and I’ll pass on details to the administrator organising the event.

– Posted by James Novak

Spreading the 3D Printing Bug

20160528_3D Printing Workshop

Another weekend, another 3D printing workshop. This is my third year at Griffith University as a lecturer, and my third year running these weekend workshops on 3D printing for local school teachers to help answer their questions, teach them CAD, and get them hands-on with some 3D printers so that they can take this knowledge back to their schools. Definitely a great feeling to turn a few more people into fellow 3D printing geeks like me!

Within an hour of running the group through the basics of Solidworks, everyone was printing their first little key ring designs, all unique, and for them a really exciting moment to see their first design being produced on our Up Plus 2 printers in our brand new 3D printing lab. I couldn’t drag them away while their parts printed out! But I don’t blame them, I still love watching the printing process.

We then moved onto some more complex designs for some lattice chess pieces after a suggestion from one of the teachers, and eventually found our way to creating some designs around a 3D scan of an arm.  Combined with an analysis of what’s happening in the world of 3D printing, some of the theory, and the future careers some of their students may be interested in, I’m quite sure this was a very big day for everyone!

We will be running some more comprehensive workshops at the beginning of July over 2 weeks (during the school holidays), so keep your eyes on my blog for details when I confirm details with the uni. Teachers can even bring 1 student for free, so this should be a lot of fun.

– Posted by James Novak

3D Printing Around Queensland

Another great chance to talk all things 3D printing today on ABC Radio Brisbane! It’s great that these sorts of programs are highlighting the opportunities 3D printing offers in my local Queensland area. Not only did I get another chance to talk about my work and of course my 3D printed bike FIX3D, but you will also hear from Alex Kingsbury from the CSIRO, Associate Professor Travis Klein from the Queensland University of Technology, Daniel Flood from The Edge (part of the State Library of Queensland), and another graduate like myself from Griffith University – Sarah Deasy who runs an online business selling 3D printed items called Ask for Oompa. Quite an interesting mix of opinions and experiences around Brisbane.

This is quite a light-hearted conversation, great for those without too much experience with 3d printing that would like to know more about what’s happening and how to get involved. Of course you can always leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction as well 🙂 Enjoy.

– Posted by James Novak