3-12, Art, Creative Thinking, Education, Parenting, Student Products


For today’s entry into this year’s Gifts for the Gifted series (every Friday in November and December) I am recommending the 3Doodler.  This 3D printing pen has come a long way since I first received the Kickstarter version around a year ago.


If you know a child who loves to create, then this could be a fabulous gift.  At $99 you can currently get a great deal – the pen plus 50 strands of plastic.  Although $99 may sound like a lot, it is significantly cheaper than a 3D Printer.  Also, a computer is not required in order to start making your designs.

image from http://www.jebiga.com/3doodler-3d-doodler/
image from http://www.jebiga.com/3doodler-3d-doodler/

The 3Doodler works somewhat like a glue gun.  You stick the plastic in one end, and it heats up.  As you squeeze the button, the melted plastic comes out and you can direct it into the shape you like.  The plastic cools relatively quickly, but I wouldn’t recommend touching it with bare fingers for about 30 seconds.

Because of the heat involved, the 3Doodler is not suitable for young children.  I had students as young as 9 using it in my classroom last year with supervision, but would not suggest it for anyone younger. My daughter, who was 11 when we received it, used it with dexterity, but we both accidentally touched the hot part a couple of times. Using it also requires some perseverance and self-control that come with maturity, as it takes some practice to develop the techniques that will allow you to form the designs you imagine.

Since its Kickstarter campaign, 3Doodler has added a few more accessories, which include a stand, a pedal option that allows you to control the pen with your feet, and a set of different nozzles.  It is also available in many more retail stores.  In addition to purchasing it online, you can find it at Michael’s and Best Buy plus 10 other stores in the United States.

I would suggest that beginners start with some of the stencils provided on the 3Doodler site.  The community offers many ideas, but don’t get too caught up in making what is already posted.  Be creative!

For more ideas for creative gifts for children, you may want to visit my Pinterest Board or check out my previous posts from this year: Osmo, Circuit Stickers, and Shell Game.

Art, Computer Science, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Education, K-12, Problem Solving, Student Products, Teaching Tools

It’s What You Make of It

Since many people are returning to school during the next couple of weeks, I thought I would re-visit and share some of last year’s more successful projects in case you want to try one.  Monday’s post was on the surprise “You Matter” videos that I asked parents to make for their children last year. On Tuesday, I wrote about the Global Cardboard Challenge.

Almost exactly a year ago, I predicted the trends in education for the 2013-2014 school year.  I was re-reading that post today, and laughed at my addition of maker studios almost as an afterthought at the end of my post.  Anyone who has been reading education blogs and magazines will know that maker studios are becoming a huge trend, and that they are not limited to schools.


The truth is that many people are recognizing that there is a hunger in our youth to create and that the process of making is a deeper learning experience than regurgitating facts from a lecture.

There is not one right way to bring a maker studio into your school. Many schools are integrating them into their libraries or obsolete computer labs.  Some are incorporating the design process into their entire curriculum.  But, just like the Global Cardboard Challenge, you can still make a huge difference by starting small.

Last year, I realized that an empty classroom next door could be transformed into a maker studio.  I applied for a grant from our school’s PTA.  My GT classes named the room B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters) and it basically became a testing ground for all of the new materials we purchased.  You may not have the luxury of an empty room, but a station in your classroom would work just as well.

Some of the items we purchased for our space were:

We also had a green screen that had been given to the school.

I didn’t know how to use any of the above until my students helped me figure them out.  Last year was really just time for us all to explore.

This year, I am starting an after-school Maker Club to involve more students than the ones in GT.  One thing I learned from last year is that I need to narrow my focus.  So, the Maker Club will have 4 main themes this year: Cardboard Challenge, Video Creation, Programming, and Electric Circuits.

In addition, the GT students who were exposed to materials last year will be challenged to find ways to incorporate them in our Cardboard Challenge and other projects throughout this year.

Eventually, I want B.O.S.S. HQ to be accessed by all students in the school, but I’m still working out the kinks on that.

My advice to a teacher just beginning would be the following:

  • Read Invent to Learn by Gary Stager and Sylvia Libow Martinez
  • Try the Global Cardboard Challenge
  • Add a station to your classroom that involves creating.  Little Bits are great, and the company offers educator discounts. Chibitronics and MaKey MaKey are also relatively inexpensive ways to start.
  • Make the mantra, “Think, Make, Improve” (from Invent to Learn) part of your classroom theme.
  • Celebrate the “growth mindset” so that students understand they will learn even when things don’t go as planned.  Rosie Revere, Engineer is a great book to reinforce this.
  • When you are ready to “go bigger”, enlist the help of the community.  You can find experts who can teach your students different skills, people who are willing to donate supplies (Donors Choose is great for this), and you might want to visit maker spaces and maker faires in your area for ideas on the type of inventory and organization you need.

If you search for “maker” on my blog, you will find many other posts I’ve done regarding this topic.  You can also visit my Pinterest board of Maker Resources here.  Two of my favorite online resources are Make magazine and Design Squad.  The online Maker Camp from Google and Make also has lots of ideas.

Art, Creative Thinking, Education, Fun Friday, K-12, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Videos

3 Doodler Remote Control Plane

Remote Control 3Doodler Plane image from: Makezine.com
Remote Control 3Doodler Plane image from: Makezine.com

In January, I posted about my acquisition of the 3Doodler from a Kickstarter project.  My students used it with varying degrees of success in our Makerspace (B.O.S.S. HQ) this year.  Some were frustrated immediately, and some went to that center any time they had the chance.  I’m trying to encourage them to expand their thinking about what they can accomplish with it.  The other day, I ran across a post on Makezine.com that featured a remote control plane that someone built using a 3Doodler Pen!  What I particularly like about the story is that it shows the process of building it and testing it – and gives reasons for its somewhat shaky flight.  This is a great little video to show students T.M.I. (Think, Make, Improve – recommended by Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez in Invent to Learn).

5-8, 6-12, Art, Creative Thinking, Education, Fun Friday, Parenting, Student Products

What Could You Do with a 3Doodler?

Triplane created with 3Doodler featured on the 3Doodler blog
Triplane created with 3Doodler featured on the 3Doodler blog

Really, what can you not do with a 3Doodler?!!!  It’s Phun Phriday, and I am here to tell you that the 3Doodler is PHUN, PHUN, PHUN!!!!!!

I did a search of my blog posts to find out when I first wrote about this invention.  It was February of last year.  That was when I decided to back the Kickstarter for 3Doodler.  I have been waiting since February for this gadget to land in my mailbox.  (In all fairness, the Kickstarter site nailed the expected arrival date of December perfectly.)  Considering my husband and daughter told me that my one-word resolution for this year should be “patience,” I think waiting nearly 10 months to get a product this fun totally proves that I have no problem being patient.  Add on to that the time that I had to wait to use it once my daughter got a hold of it, and, well, I’m practically the patron saint of patience;)

The 3Doodler is basically a fat pen that allows you to make 3D creations limited only by your imagination – and patience.  You feed plastic in one end, push the buttons on the pen, and the heated plastic comes out the tip.  You can choose to make the plastic come out fast or slow.  There are tons of different colors of plastic, including neon and glow-in-the-dark.  The plastic cools and hardens very quickly once it comes out of the pen.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

3D printing is a big trend right now.  (See our Donors Choose project going on right now for a Makerbot printer.)  3Doodler has advantages over other 3D printers in the following categories:

  • Cost: At $99 for the pen plus 50 strands of plastic, the 3Doodler is way more affordable than regular 3D printers, which can cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
  • Time: Most current 3D printers take a long time, often hours, to print out even small creations.
  • Simplicity: Most 3D printers require some software knowledge so the user can program the design; 3Doodler requires absolutely no programming or computer knowledge.
  • Freedom:  Without hardware and software restrictions, new ideas can quickly be imagined and created.

Of course, there are some cons to the 3Doodler as well:

  • Heat: 3Doodler is recommend for ages 12+.  I am guessing this is due to the amount of heat generated to melt the plastic.  However, the only part that you need to be wary of is the very tip of the pen.  My daughter just turned 11, and I had no qualms about letting her use the pen with my supervision.
  • Precision: It takes some practice to make things look exactly the way you envision.  Even then, you will not have the machine-precise product that you would get from a standard 3D printer.
  • Planning: If you plan to use more than one color, think ahead.  Once you feed a plastic strand into the 3Doodler, you can back it out if some is still sticking out.  However, no matter what, some of that color will be left in the pen.  If you don’t want to waste a lot of plastic, you might want to get a sense of how much is still waiting inside so you can use it all.
  • Patience:  Yep, there’s that word again.  Since 3Doodler was a Kickstarter project, they are only shipping to backers right now.  According to the website, if you want one (and were not one of the original backers), you will need to wait until March of 2014 for delivery.

Personally, I think the pros far outweigh the cons.  I can’t make anything like the tri-plane at the top of this post, yet, but I’m just getting started!

If you decide to buy a 3Doodler, there are plenty of stencils and ideas to inspire you on the Community portion of the site.  And, here is a link to the FAQ section.

Let me know if you get one!

Art, Creative Thinking, Education, K-12, Student Products


Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 7.31.53 PM

Oh, wow.  That is all I can say.  It’s Fun Friday, again, and you are not going to believe this super cool invention called the 3Doodler.  You may have heard of the revolutionary 3D printers that are taking the world by storm.  The only problem is that they are somewhat expensive (though smaller, less pricy models are starting to be introduced into the market), and it takes a little know-how to create designs to be printed.  The 3Doodler solves those problems.  ANYONE can use it, and the only limitations are your imagination and how much plastic you can afford to buy to make your dreams come true.  3Doodler is a project on Kickstarter, which means that it is not for sale, yet.  But the funding needed to start production was $30,000 – and they have already received over $1,000,000,000 in pledges.  If you head over to the site now, you can make your own pledge at one of the various price points.  Depending on how much you pledge, you could have your very own 3Doodler by December.  Can you imagine what your students could do with this?