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DCA unlocks students' imagination with 3D printer
Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Donelson Christian Academy has built a reputation on providing individualized instruction through its small class sizes. For many private schools, the lower student population results in fewer resources and fewer opportunities to delve deep into advanced subjects. DCA is actually able to provide greater learning opportunities because of programs made available as a result of its new 3D printer.

Many experts have predicted that 3D printing will be one of the fastest growing trends in technology. 3D printing transforms a digital file into a three dimensional solid object by laying down successive layers of material. The objects can range from simplistic items to extremely complex mechanisms that could not be produced with traditional methods. To date, very few schools have access to 3D printers.

Engineering schools were the first to widely utilize 3D printing technology. This singlediscipline approach prevented many students from experiencing newly developed learning opportunities. DCA is in the process of designing and implementing coursework that integrates 3D technology into classes that will impact a much larger portion of the student body.

DCA is the first private school in Tennessee to provide 3D printing technology to its students and faculty. The newly acquired Z450 3D printer opens the door for students across multiple disciplines to create objects and illustrate principles that were previously not possible.

Dr. Danielle Garrett, DCA Science Instructor, stated, “We believe it is important to embrace available technology so we can push our educational program to higher levels. The 3D printer is one example of how we are launching a new phase of growth and development in student learning. DCA is looking forward to the exciting programs we will be launching next year.”

Students will learn how to design art projects using Rhino, a 3D design program, and then print their creations with the Z450. This process allows computer assisted artwork to break free from the computer and exist in the real world. Because of the new 3D printer, DCA is able to offer its students an Honors 3D Design class.

Additionally, the science department will incorporate the 3D printer into their curriculum as well. Principles of physics will jump off of textbook pages as class members design their own four-wheeled vehicles to explore slope, mass, time, velocity, and acceleration.

Designing tests that demonstrate aerodynamics allow students to experience education at a deeper, more meaningful level. In many ways, the possibilities of this new technology are only limited by the imagination of teachers and students.

The 3D printer also allows classes to explore concepts and models that cannot be created with standard modeling kits. Simple and complex machines can be created and customized into actual working products. In some of the most advances courses, the topics covered are on the nanoscale level that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Molecular and ionic bonding in chemistry can be tangibly visualized as various molecular geometry and crystalline structures are built through the use of the 3D printer. This level of learning cannot be experienced in most classrooms across the nation.

The printer allows the student to see educational concepts using multiple senses and learning styles. This multifaceted learning approach ignites the imagination and deepens the love for learning.

While Donelson Christian Academy has been a leader in technology integration across all grade levels and subject areas, the school is focused on developing new and exciting methods to educate students and prepare them for success in life. The 3D printer is an example of DCA’s ongoing commitment to embrace resources that will unlock students’ imaginations and develop life-long learners.

Founded in 1971 and located in Nashville, Tennessee, Donelson Christian Academy serves approximately 800 students from preschool through twelfth grade from the Nashville and

Wilson County region. The mission of DCA is to serve Christ by assisting parents in providing students with a challenging, college-preparatory education taught from a nondenominational biblical worldview that develops the whole person into a Christ-like leader in the home, church, and community.