For anyone new to 3d design, Tinkercad is the perfect entry level program. It’s free, web-based, and contains lots of tutorials. As a teacher, you can create classes and assign projects that you can oversee through a dashboard. I’ve used it with students from 2nd grade through 12th, so it’s quite a versatile tool.
I had no experience with 3d design when our school got its first 3d printer, so I have great empathy for anyone starting from the beginning. Tinkercad is very user-friendly, but it requires some adjustment if your brain has had as little spatial reasoning practice as mine did when I first began. That’s why I think these Tinkerhunts from HL Modtech (Mike Harmon, @HLTinkercad) are pretty genius. In the first one, he gives kudos to his student, Kingston, who first gave him the idea for these three-dimensional virtual scavenger hunts. Each video (21 as of today’s blog post) introduces the Tinkerhunt for that week, and includes a link to the project in the video description. Students can click on the link (or you can post it as an assignment) and they can then search for the objects within that week’s design. Mike has his students post the locations of the 5 hidden items in the comments, but you can come up with an alternate method that works for you.
This idea is good because it can help students to get familiar with the Tinkercad tools, while also seeing a variety of ways that they can be used. It will give them practice while hopefully inspiring them to create their own designs. Mike also includes some tutorials in the video descriptions, like this one for “Unicorn Dude.”
While Tinkercad can be a means to an end for 3d printing, it doesn’t have to always be used that way, as Mike’s Tinkerhunts demonstrate. It’s excellent for creativity, reinforcing Design Thinking, and practicing spatial reasoning. For more ideas on ways Tinkercad can be used, check out this post that I did last August.