The Johannesburg school that’s going to build its own 3D printer


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Linden Hoërskool, an Afrikaans high school in Randburg, has a computer studies teacher named Morne Oosthuizen. And he wants a 3D printer.

But instead of buying an expensive, off-the-shelf model, he’s going to have it built. And it won’t be built by factory workers, or commissioned by a local company that makes 3D printers. Nope, Mr. Oosthuizen wants his students to build a 3D printer. How better to get today’s children excited about technology than putting it in their hands and turning them into tomorrow’s geniuses?

He’s passionate about letting his pupils get hands-on with the new maker-space type technologies: the Raspberry Pi, 3D printers, Arduino controllers, and more. One of the class’s recent projects was a model house built with integrated lighting, which required the students to program a controller from Siemens. Around the same time that project took place, some of the children went to the FADA gallery at the University of Johannesburg, where the Agents of the 3D Revolution exhibition took place. The pupils immediately saw the benefits of the technology, realising how it could’ve helped their automated house project, and Mr. Oosthuizen started doing the sums.

Now, he wants to start raising funds so that the students in his computer class can get hands on with 3D printing, from start to finish. That’s why, for the school’s Geek Week this year, he asked the guys from House4Hack to get involved and show off what’s possible. H4H members showed up with proper, working examples of home-built electronics. An FM radio transmitter built using a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino controller. An Android-powered gaming machine that runs on a piece of kit called a Cubie – basically, a Raspberry Pi on steroids. 3D printers of various designs, built by members of H4H. The kids were given a brief introduction to what H4H stands for, and how their curiosity can get them started on a new hobby that will teach them important skills for tomorrow’s wired world. After that, they roamed the classroom looking at the demos and asking the kinds of questions that could probably end up with their parents footing some future 3D printing bills.

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With the interest ignited, Morne now wants to start raising funds so that the school can buy enough parts for a 3D printer or two. His first choice? Something based on the RepRap Morgan. With the kids now having a full understanding of what the printers can do, and why they’re cool, he wants them to build it and gain valuable, practical experience. Even the art kids, who were mesmerised by the printed 3D works at the FADA exhibition, are interested – it’s a new way for them to get creative, using their computers.

Once it’s built he says he wants to challenge other schools to do the same. To raise the funds and build their own printers. With their own working model, he says, Hoërskool Linden can even print some of the necessary parts to help the other schools get their started.

 

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