Saturday, October 1, 2016

CTE goes to college

Kenny Bouwens and devices that "will change the world."

On Wednesday, September 28, members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Program at the University of Richmond got a glimpse of the excellence of Goochland’s Career and Technical Education Program.

An overview of 3D printing was presented by Kenneth “Kenny” Bouwens, who teaches video, photography, and engineering at Goochland High School. He was named by the Virginia Technology and Engineering Education Association as its 2016 their annual High School Teacher of the Year. Bouwens is graduate of the State University of New York at Oswego, where he earned a master’s degree in technology education. He beginning his seventh year as a public educator and his third year with Goochland County Public Schools.
Osher students ask lots of questions of Kenny Bouwens (in tie)

Bouwens translated a technology that seems like magic to those who went to high school in the last century into simple terms. “Basically, a 3D printer is a hot glue gun on a track that moves it back and forth over a base.”

Software slices the finished object into layers that are translated into instructions for each pass of the glue gun over the base. “The printer head moves left and right, front to back, and up and down in basic applications,” explained Bouwens.

He brought two GCPS printers for the demonstration. As he spoke, the printer head of the smaller unit dutifully applied layer upon layer of a plastic filament on the base. After about 38 minutes, it stopped having printed a circular gizmo with free moving “ball bearings” inside a lip. (See photo.)

Applications of the technology are limited only by the imagination, said Bouwens. Currently, 3D printing creates buildings from cement; confections from molten chocolate; auto parts from carbon fiber; and, perhaps most amazing of all, custom made replacement body parts like ears and prosthetic limbs from medical grade plastic.

Some 3D printers come with software for their own parts, making them self-replicating. offers downloadable software for an amazing array of stuff. Computer aided design (CAD) software makes 3D printing work. Downloadable programs are generally not editable.

Filament, the stuff that is melted to create the finished product comes in many forms. A recyclable plastic is the least expensive. Some printers have more than one head that can use different filaments to create an end product. Objects with protrusions use dissolvable support material. Bouwens said that the units do not draw a great deal of current and have HEPA filters to control fumes.

Some units have cameras that are used for remote monitoring of printing operations that can take more than a day to complete.
Designs for 3D projects may begin with drawings or scans of physical objects that can “print” exact replicas, for perfectly fitting artificial limbs. Scanning software is available for iPads.

“The reality check is that 3d printing costs more than conventional manufacturing and is slower,” said Bowens. But, it is a less expensive way to make a prototype that can be tweaked before manufacture on a large scale, or a single object.”

Speaking to an audience that included many grandparents, Bouwens contended that a simple 3D printer, which costs about the same as a Play Station, is a more educational gift. “Give your grandchildren one of these and they can change the world,” he said.

Bruce Watson, Director of CTE, who just happens to be married to Peggy Watson, Director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, celebrated Goochland’s great CTE program. Goochland students, he explained use 3D printing technology in the robotics program to create prototype parts to see if they fit. If so, they are fabricated from metal, if not, back to the proverbial drawing board.

Architecture students design simple houses that they then 3D print to bring their work to life. “We are giving our students skills to prepare them for jobs that don’t exist yet,” Watson said.

“And they’re doing this in Goochland?” an Osher member was heard to ask. Yes, we are!

1 comment:

Pat said...

Very cool! Good article. Thanks.