Interview with a Build Master

Q: What is a 3D Printer?

A: Okay, a 3D printer is basically a machine that squirts out plastic. The one that we built kind of looks like two triangles put together with threaded rods. The motors—well, one motor to control the movement going up and down is the on the left upper corner of the 3D printer, and another one is on the right upper corner of the 3D printer. Another one is way far in the back, and it controls the moving of the hot bed. There’s another motor that controls the extruder moving it right and left. There are two gears in the extruder to push the filament through the hot end. It heats it up first, and then it pushes it out onto the hot bed.

Q: What can you do with a 3D printer?

A: You can print 3D objects by putting one layer of plastic on top of another, and that will soon build up to make a really cool thing—like a coffee mug, or a little toy, or a robot. Who knows? But you have to program it to make different things.

Q: Why are you building one?

A: We’re building one because it seems like a really cool idea for kids to do by themselves (with a little bit of help) to actually build a 3D printer. It’s helping kids do hands-on stuff. It’s helping kids learn.

Q: What’s it like building a 3D printer?

A: All the work is very fun because I have a sense of achievement once we actually accomplish something—like getting the whole frame together or finishing the extruder or something like that.

Q: Have you learned anything so far?

A: Well, yeah, I’ve learned a lot of stuff. For example, I’ve learned how it’s very important not to drop or bend the smooth or threaded rods, because then they might not work. Why won’t they work? Because if you’re trying to get a threaded rod about a half inch big though a hole about a half inch big, it’s going to be tricky, but if there’s a bend in it it’s going to go in and get stuck and you won’t be able to use it.

Q: Has it been harder or easier than you thought it would be?

A: I thought it was going to be really easy, but it’s taken us a long time. I didn’t realize that we would have to cut the threaded rods, or organize and count up all the parts of the 3D printer. The very beginning was the very hardest for me, because it seemed like one of the hardest jobs—actually counting up all the parts we needed to get—that was super-hard.

Q: How is the team organized?

A: Well, the team is organized into different groups. There’s a blog team, a BOM team (BOM stands for bill of materials), and there’s a maker team. There’s a build team, and an accounting team, and a membership team.

The maker team actually does the making. The blog team puts up blog posts, and they made this website. The accounting team—they count up all the money and make sure we have enough money to get all the parts. The BOM team makes sure we have all the parts we need by that day, and if we don’t they’re going to call and try to get an order in. The membership team is in charge or who’s bringing snacks on what day, and if somebody wants to join, they have to say, “okay, so-and-so wants to join so they can be on the maker team” and if someone wants to leave, they can say, “one of you makers, do you want to take so-and-so’s place in the blog team?” and they are just in charge of who’s in the club. These are just examples. The build team—I am on the build team. My partner and I—we count up all the parts of the 3D printer, plan the build schedule and make sure we know what the other teams are doing.

Q: What do you look forward to the most about this project?

A: What I look forward to the most is actually getting the 3D printer done! Why? Because it will be awesome—we can create stuff for the team members, and it will just be fun, and awesome, and cool, and I think lots of people will have a sense of accomplishment because a 3D printer is a BIG thing, and we’re just little kids! I mean, some of us are older and some of us are younger (we’re in 2nd through 5th grade), but kids that young can build a 3D printer!

Q: Thank you for your time!

A: Yeah, thank you!

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