University Commons space provides layers of 3D learning
The New Technologies Studio is one of many collaborative spaces within Millikin University's new University Commons. The studio is a space where students use technology to connect to the wider world and engage in Performance Learning activities.
Millikin students, faculty and staff use the Studio to learn about and explore new and emerging technologies, such as virtual/augmented reality and 3D Printing.
This fall semester, Dr. Kyle Knust, assistant professor of chemistry at Millikin University, is leading an honors seminar course on 3D printing, with classes held in the New Technologies Studio and the Leighty-Tabor Science Center. The course covers all topics related to 3D printing technology, including 3D scanning.
"We have many different majors — music, science, arts — so it's a topic-based seminar, and our goal is to learn a little bit about technology," Dr. Knust said in a recent interview with the Herald & Review. "Later in the semester, there will also be an infusion of entrepreneurship."
Dr. Knust added, "Before you can print anything on the 3D printer, first you have to learn to model it. So what we've been doing is developing our modeling skills. We're creating a 3D model using a symmetry tool."
Throughout the semester, students are learning computer-aided design software and engaging in hands-on opportunities with a variety of 3D printing technologies. Many students from different majors are enrolled in the course who are learning 3D printing for the first time.
"The students print their designs and it may not work the first time," said Dr. Knust. "If it fails, they have to go back and discuss what kind of change they need to make to allow the print to be completed. One of the things the students have learned is that it's not just one-click print – the technology is still developing. There's a learning curve associated with it."
3D printing is an emerging technology that is continuing to grow and gain interest in a variety of fields. However, the process it takes to make a print can be long; even a small project can take hours.
Nikki Wiltjer, a sophomore music major from Tinley Park, Ill., wants to be a speech pathologist, and her idea for using 3D printing is to make a working model of human vocal cords.
"One of my goals is to be able to create an instrument that works like vocal cords do, to show people," Wiltjer said. "At first, modeling in 3D space can be hard because everyone is used to drawing on two-dimensional space. You have to think about everything from front to back and side to side. Watching the project come to life on the printer is great because you watch it develop from the bottom up."
The New Technologies Studio is also a place for faculty to learn how to make the best pedagogical use of new technologies in the classroom as well as a place where all students have access to equipment and can explore creative and entrepreneurial ideas.
"There seems to be application for 3D printing in several different majors," Dr. Knust said. "Earlier in the semester, the students presented on an application of their interest. A theatre major discussed how 3D printing is being used for lighting design, and a future cardiologist discussed how we might print heart valves in the future. It has a lot of application."