Photo: Easton Prenger and Brooklynn Roder, of Mater Dei School in Sioux City, hold 3D prints of their customized gingerbread house designs next to their constructed houses.

Jessica Van Holland’s seventh grade Pre-Algebra class at Mater Dei in Sioux City was served a tasty assignment of creating 3D gingerbread houses this past December. Each year, there is a section in this class dedicated to scale units and drawings. Because it was around Christmas, Van Holland thought it would be fun to tie in the holidays with the unit assignment.  

“I had an idea to use a software program and design something online, and then build it in class,” explained Van Holland. “I asked Tabitha Rees, my co-teacher, to do a little research, and she found the free program Tinkercad. Then we discovered that the AEA loans out 3D printers, so we were set!”

Van Holland said that they checked-out the 3D printer from Northwest AEA, and Amanda Beyer, instructional technology consultant from the AEA, came out to the school and set up the 3D printer for them. She demonstrated how the printer worked; how to load and unload the filament; and some basic troubleshooting. 

“Amanda made it very easy to understand, and we were able to get started right away. We were able to check-out the printer for two weeks at time, and we could extend our time if needed,” Van Holland stated. “If we had questions about printing, Amanda always responded.”

Van Holland said that students were “highly engaged” (even choosing to work during study hall and at home!), and she hopes that some students will take an interest in exploring careers like architecture, drafting and engineering because of the assignment. 

“Using the 3D printer allowed them to see the innovations that are happening in our world and how those innovations are impacting our lives,” said Van Holland.