3D Printing Gifts

Creativity at Christmas: 3D Printing gifts this Holiday Season

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A combination of digital technology, the World Wide Web, and Personal Computer has given rise to a new type of Maker Movement that is rapidly growing in popularity. Public organizations around the country have embraced the chance to create and make, with libraries, schools, and museums identifying rooms that they can transform into a Maker Space.

See Also: Gift Ideas that ignite Curiosity, Wonder, and Imagination

Until now I haven’t had the opportunity to engage in this type of space, but since gaining access to the 3D Printer I’ve been able to engage in the hype and I can say that I’m hooked. Having problem-solving my way through some of the technical challenges and learning curves that exist with 3D Printing, I’ve now been able to explore an idea I had last year – 3D Printing gifts for the children’s Christmas Stocking.

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While making an object that can be printed requires some patience and technical knowledge, there are ways for parents to explore this idea without getting into the weeds. For a start there might be public access to some type of Maker Space in your area that offers 3D Printing workshops. If this isn’t an option you could explore some of the online 3D Printing services. Shapeways appears to be one of the more popular options, but it looks like Staples have jumped on the bandwagon and also now offer some type of service.

The car was a free download to test out the printer. The cubes was my first attempt to create something I had made from scratch. The bottom is hollow so they can fit inside each other.
The car was a free download to test out the printer. The cubes was my first attempt to create something I had made from scratch. The bottom is hollow so they can fit inside each other.

Now, there’s a couple of options for 3D Printing gifts for the Christmas stocking. The first is to visit one of the many online libraries where you can download 3D printable object (Thingiverse is my favorite and they’ve already got a number of Christmas tree ornament options available). The other option is to create the model yourself, which I think is more in line with the whole making and creating concept – so in case you’re interested in this idea, which is kind of the main gist of this article, I’ve offered some suggestions below. I think you’ll need some comfort with digital technology, but you’ll be happy to hear that you don’t necessarily need to make a drastic purchase as the software is free and you can outsource the printing to one of many online 3D Printing companies.

3D Printing for Parents

LEARN HOW TO 3D MODEL – To model you need a 3D modeling program. Blender is a FREE 3D Modeling and Animation software.

  • In my opinion it’s one of the best open source applications on the planet (open source means that the software is available for anyone to use, modify, and share for FREE).
  • Blender comes with a steep learning curve, but comes with a fantastic online community that has created a variety of forums, websites, and video tutorials to support beginners.
  • If you don’t fancy Blender there’s a few other options such as Google SketchUp. Whatever you choose they’ll be some type of challenge to overcome, but it’s so worth it once you see your creation begin to print.

KEEP IT SIMPLE – As I’ve said there is a few learning curves to 3D Printing, so even if you’re super good at modeling in a 3D environment, my suggestion is to start by keeping the models simple and not too complex.

  • My first 3D Printed gift for the boys was a collection of different size cube objects that can stack up or fit inside one another. Nothing crazy!
  • The more complex the model the more likely it is to have problems in printing.

SEND OFF TO PRINT – Like Vista Printer, who I used to print our Holiday Cards, companies like Shapeways offer 3D printing service, so you don’t even need to purchase a printer.

  • The only thing to consider is that many of these companies charge by ‘volume’ of your shape so you need to spend a little more time learning how to size your objects and make sure they’re not bigger than they actually need to be.

BUY A 3D PRINTER – Yes, 3D Printers are no longer super expensive, though they’re still not as cheep as your standard HP Printer.

  • M3D is the model I’ve begun to explore and I absolutely love it (though it’s software is currently a little buggy with Macs).
  • M3D was funded through a KickStarter campaign and only costs $350. What I like most about this printer is the SMALL build area, which for most people is a negative, but I like it because it means I can’t be tempted to build something really big and spend lots and lots of money on filament (the 3D Printer equivalent of Ink).
  • In regard to this article it’s the perfect size to print small stocking fillers such as toy cars, planes, trains, etc. Also it doesn’t run on propriety software so you have the ability to model in the application you’re most comfortable using so long as it exports as an STL file (the most common 3D Print friendly file).
My research led me to the M3D Printer. Negative - buggy with Mac, and some tecky knowledge needed (though perhaps less than others). Positive - Affordable, Quick Prints, and cheap filament (equivalent to Ink), and ability to use any software that exports to STL file.
My research led me to the M3D Printer. Negative – buggy with Mac, and some tecky knowledge needed (though perhaps less than others). Positive – Affordable, Quick Prints, and cheap filament (equivalent to Ink), and ability to use any software that exports to STL file.

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Gift Ideas for Young Children

Creativity at Christmas: Gift ideas for Young Children (UPDATED)

Below are some of the items on our Amazon list. I doubt Santa will be able to bring everything, in fact somehow I know for sure that he won’t, but having a big selection can help out come birthday time.

See Also: Making Christmas Cards: Lessons Learned

The DadsforCreativity Christmas List

Our Christmas list will ignite wonder, creativity, and the imagination

NEW ADDITIONS

K’NEX Hyperspeed Hangtime Roller Coaster – $30-75
K’NEX has a variety of sets that will engage creative thinking skills during their setup. This particular kit challenges the little ones to create a Hyperspeed Hangtime Roller Coaster, and comes with a blaster motor that sends cars flying through twists and turns while hanging upside down! See K’Nex

Sphero BB-8 Droid – $149
There’s a few different toy robots making their first Christmas appearance. Some are sold out, but lucky for us the Sphero BB-8 Droid is still available. These toys are designed to introduce children to computer programming, and might be a little too much for the younger children to play on their own (but I’m sure Daddy will love playing with them). Most also work along side a mobile app, so you need to consider this before making the purchase. See BB-8


OSMO – $99
The OSMO game system works in conjunction with an iPad, and offers apps that foster creative thinking by bridging the real and digital realms. The game system includes all OSMO offerings, including puzzles and activities that engage young children in drawing, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Visit Osmo

A puzzle solving game is one of the offerings in the OSMO Game System
The OSMO system comes with a little camera that follows the child’s progress through the activity.

Tiggly $20-$30
Like OSMO, Tiggly works in conjunction with the iPad, providing shapes that children use to engage in the interactive experiences offered through the Tiggly apps. Tiggly targets young children, and is helpful in introducing them to the interactive nature of mobile devices while also introducing them to shapes and form. Visit Tiggly

Snap Circuit Jr. SC-100 Electronics Discovery Kit – $30
There are a few electronic discovery kits on the market at the moment. This one doesn’t brake the bank and it’s 30 components allow children to create 101 different electronic projects. The pieces include snap wires, slide switches, an alarm circuit, a music integrated circuit, and a speaker, that all easily snap together on a plastic grid. Visit Snap Circuit

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Lego Motorized Mechanisms Base Set – $160
It wouldn’t be a Christmas without some Lego under the tree. Any boxset will offer an opportunity to engage Creativity, but the education sets with power supply allow young children to investigate motorized machines, calibrate and capture wind, and study gearing mechanisms. Visit Lego Education

Makey Makey – $49
Makey Makey turns the whole world into a keyboard. It’s a simple invention kit that allows young children to tinker with simple electronics and computer programing. One of it’s most known images shows some banana’s serving as a controller for a computer game.Visit Makey Makey

LittleBits Electronics Base Kit – $99 (NOW $69 on Amazon!)
LittleBits has been gaining traction as part of the Maker Movement, where educators looks to integrate tools that allow children to create and make. Like the Snap Circuit it introduces the basics of electronics with a set of tools that easily snap together, but LittleBits connect via magnets and come with a little more freedom to explore and play. Visit LittleBits

Magnetic Tiles – $50 – $100
When I reflect on the toys that Arthur has played with most it, his magnetic tiles are high up on the list. He’s built nearly everything imaginable over the years and now his younger brother is getting involved. It’s time to add to the set! See Magnetic Tiles

The magnetic tiles have been one of the most popular toys in our household and find their way into a variety of different games and imaginary worlds.
The magnetic tiles have been one of the most popular toys in our household and find their way into a variety of different games and imaginary worlds.

MindWare KEVA Contraptions Playset $45
All young children like to create and make. Most seem fascinated with cause and effect, and usually enjoy initiating some type of chain reaction. I haven’t got a lot of experience with the KEVA blocks, but this particular set has got my interest with it’s 200 wooden planks, ramps, and paths that are used to create some type of contraption. I heavily suspect this will be one of the items making its way down the chimney come Christmas Eve.

Stay tuned to this page as I’ll be updating my list as we get closer to the big day.


 

CE_FREEMOVIEV3COMMENT BELOW for FREE FILM on Creativity in Education

Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance. is a documentary film that explores Creativity in education. To gain FREE access, simply comment below and we’ll follow up with a link and password.

 

 

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Capturing Wonders with our Mobile Devices: 3 Question Interview with Phoneographer Bea Leiderman

There are many cool things that parents can do with their children using smartphones – one of them is Phoneography – the capturing and editing of photos with a phone. In this 3 Question Interview, we introduce the OlloClip – a tiny camera lens that connects to a mobile device and helps capture unique perspectives of our world. When I talk about the potential of this little gadget with parents and educators, I usually go straight to a Bea Leiderman’s work, which is full of inspirational images that engage the curiosity and wonder that can be found in nature. Bea’s work has been shared in a number of her digital books that are available on iTunes. I asked her to provide some advice on Phoneography and how we might use this activity to engage creative thinking skills at home.

How do you take such awesome photos with a device like the iPhone?  

The iPhone has a very powerful camera. I started taking photos with the iPhone 4. Now I’m using an iPhone 6 and I can see the difference when I look through my iPhone library. Each new iPhone has produced crisper images with better color reproduction. But, my macro shots do have outside help. I use the Olloclip lens, and I have also gone through a series of those. 

It takes lots of patience to get macro shots in focus with the iPhone and the Olloclip. I have to get very close to the bugs. So, I have to employ one of two strategies with the fast ones. I either move faster than they do, or I wait and wait and wait until they get used to me and let me get close enough. Keep in mind that I have to get my lens about an inch away from my bug or everything will be blurry.

I find the best times to photograph bugs are early morning and close to sunset. The light is soft enough that it does not glare off wings, eyes, or shells.

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Copyright – Bea Leiderman

What ‘technical’ advice can you offer parents on how to capture that perfect image?

While I don’t take bugs out of their environment, I do work hard to make them look beautiful and interesting. Working with something as small as an iPhone gives me the opportunity to find a good angle. I like showing bugs’ faces. Some look silly, some look serious, and some look surprised to be having their picture taken.

Bug pictures are not for everyone. Still, I think taking good pictures involves many of the same principles regardless of what you are shooting. Make sure what you want to showcase is clearly visible, so look for an angle where the background is not cluttered with distracting stuff.

Copyright - Bea Leiderman
Copyright – Bea Leiderman

How might Phoneography help cultivate creative thinking skills at home?

“Put your device down and go outside to play.” Has anyone heard this? Devices and the outdoors are not mutually exclusive. When kids take pictures of what they find when exploring the outdoors, they create a record for themselves. They also have the opportunity to observe and explore well after the weather has turned stormy. Photography teaches kids to observe, to look closely. With a bit of guidance, kids can make beautiful art with a camera.

When I share my bug photos with kids, I call attention to details that might not be noticeable when they see the bugs in the wild. With pictures, kids can notice all kinds of details and take their time comparing, making inferences, generating hypotheses. Kids could even write a book to share their findings with people all around the world. An app like Book Creator would be the perfect tool for the task.

Little kids love nature and exploring. They are also fascinated by the “ew” factor. I have been writing books for kids that showcase my pictures and are written in accessible language with the hope that the books will encourage parents to explore with their children to help keep the love of science learning alive. I have a big camera with a big macro lens, but I do all my work with my iPhone and my Olloclip because these are much more affordable and easier to use. So, anyone can do what I do.

 Go outside. Find the beautiful bugs in your yard and other green spaces around you. You don’t have to go on a safari to a far away place to discover amazing creatures. Have fun and don’t stop learning.

Click here to view the full interview, or check out one of Bea’s four Digital Books, Calling Nature: Macro Photography and the iPhone, which shares more advice on how to go about working with Macro Photography with mobile devices and is available for free from the iTunes Store.


If you liked this article and interested in capturing video, check out another DadsforCreativity 3 Question Interview with Lego Animator, Alex Kobbs.


FREE FILM for parents and educators

We believe the first stage in counteracting the imbalance of creativity verses content, starts at home. Help us share the word on Facebook and Twitter.

Anyone who shares or contributes content via the comments below* will receive a FREE download to Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance.

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Introducing young children to Computer Science: 3 question interview with Professor Jeremy Sarachan

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In June I was at the New Media Consortium Summer Conference, meeting great educators from around the world. During the Idea Lab (my favorite event of the conference), I stumbled across a strange table that had a banana (or at least I think it was a banana), attached to a wire that plugged into a computer. Yes – I knew what it was – the Makey Makey Kit, which is one of the more popular Electronic Invention Kits, which are proving to be a great way to introducing young children to computer science, by connecting everyday objects to simple programs. Jeremy Sarachan, who among other things has studied the use of ‘cool’ tech in education, shared his experience using these types of kits with middle school students, and I asked him to offer some advice to parents who might want to explore this device with their children outside the classroom.

What do you consider the value of introducing electronic or computer science starter kits (like Makey Makey) to young children?

For some kids, their highest level of creativity emerges in using these tools. Digital technologies often require kids to incorporate other skills—drawing, crafts, and writing—and so they find connections between various techniques. Technological tools [like Makey Makey] also appeals to kids by bringing together both artistic and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills and hopefully, will encourage adults to stop placing these skills/experiences at two ends of a spectrum, instead allowing kids to see how the various topics they are studying (including content from other disciplines) can be brought together. It also allows them to communicate their ideas and feelings in new ways, and gives them an outlet for expression.

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Many parents might find electronics or computer science type activities intimidating, what advice can you offer to those with little knowledge in this area, but who want to introduce their children to these subjects?

Three things to consider.  

One, some kits are really quite easy–like the Makey Makey, and this provides parents an opportunity to get over some of their fears of technology. 

Second, one needs to trust their kids and allow them to experiment, and more importantly, let them lead the way in exploring and finding new technologies. Parents will often know less than their kids, and that’s okay. I had tried to introduce my daughter to block programming with both Scratch and Mindstorms and it didn’t take hold (and I didn’t push it). She found Blocksworld, and entirely taught herself–one day, she just showed me the coding she had done–I hadn’t even known she was doing it.

Three, if neither one or two works, multiple opportunities exist in many communities–perhaps at a local science museum or college–where your child can explore new technologies with other kids —and then let them teach you!

What type of starter activities do you recommend to parents who have recently purchased an electronics starter kit like Makey Makey?

Scratch is an old standard now.  Its block programming format has been adapted in countless other software interfaces. For work on the screen, Blocksworld and Minecraft are great. Blocksworld allows for block programming; Minecraft for 3-D building, although there are now multiple books and online learning opportunities for kids to learn about coding mods (modifications to the Minecraft world–from adding new tools to changing the weather and beyond).  App Inventor (and online Android app creation site) is another easy and free opportunity for preteens and beyond. For building in the real world, the Hummingbird Robotics Kit offers a more flexible and easier interface than the standard Arduino systems and (although I’ve yet to order a kit), Little Bits is an up-and-coming option.

If you’re interested in technology check out another 3 Question Interview, with award winning educator Jonathan Nalder who shared 3 mobile apps for Creativity.


FREE FILM for parents and educators

We believe the first stage in counteracting the imbalance of creativity verses content, starts at home. Help us share the word on Facebook and Twitter.

Anyone who shares or contributes content via the comments below* will receive a FREE download to Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance.

If you choose to comment via social media be sure to sure to include reference to @dads4creativityor share from our Facebook page. We’ll follow up with details via a private message.

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