While practical uses for a 3D printer have been expanding for years, their value increased exponentially with the onset of the COVID-19 health crisis when those most familiar with the units began churning out respirator parts and other medical elements needed by area hospitals.
Students at the Hazleton Area Academy of Sciences (HAAS) are the recipients of a new 3D printer thanks to Cabot, which donated $2,500 toward the purchase of a new machine.
Though classes are over for this school year, the new 3D printer will be ready to go with their STEM curriculum when classes resume.
HAAS principal Marie Ernst credits Cabot, Deb Tierney of the Northern Tier Industry Education Consortium (NTIEC) and Melissa Turlip of Commonwealth Charitable Management (CCM) for helping her identify a critical necessity to which Cabot’s donation could be applied.
With a student body of about 530, ranging from grades 9 to 12, as many as 30 students in a class often found themselves backed up at the existing printer with projects that can easily take up to 24 hours to complete. “I saw such a need and frustrated kids,” Ernst related. “A second one is going to make such a big difference.”
Computer science teacher John Berta explains how the printer will be used for making basic robot parts in conjunction with anatomy and physiology classes. “They’ve already done things like creating hands and joints and adding hydraulic tubing to make the fingers move,” Ernst explained. “Scientists are making artificial limbs, and that’s a real world application that can be so helpful to the kids.”
The school is fortunate to have Berta, Ernst noted. “This teacher is amazing – very hands-on,” she stated. “He’s good at fixing things too, and you do run into problems with the printers. He and the students get in there and troubleshoot. Problem solving is part of their work.”
HAAS is part of the Hazleton Area School District and one of four high schools. Student applicants must exhibit strong STEM skills for acceptance. “They have to show me what they know, and they have to really have an interest,” said Ernst, who expressed her gratitude to Cabot.