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3-D Modeling Debuts at BHS

Great ideas are taking shape in Ron Zanella’s Engineering courses, thanks to the recent addition of two new 3-D printers acquired as a result of a $6,000 EITC grant.

The new 3-D modeling technology interfaces with the school’s CADD software, Autodesk Inventor, to produce actual small scale 3-D models from ABS plastic materials, the same plastic used in the construction of LEGOS.  “I wanted my Engineering classes to be able to actually begin creating the things that they were drawing,” says Mr. Zanella.  “This is what the engineering and manufacturing industries are turning towards, and now Burrell students can experience it as part of their high school curriculum.”

Mr. Zanella is planning several design/build projects for Engineering I this year.  “As we get into the year, we are going to do more complex parts, and then we will do assemblies where we print out multiple parts and see if we can make them go together.”  In Engineering II, he is combining robotics design with the CADD/Modeling technology to have students identify and redesign robotic components.  “It is problem-solving to the max,” says Mr. Zanella.

He says that Burrell is one of just a few local districts to feature 3-D modeling technology, and it reflects a continuing trend toward more high-tech innovation in today’s high school industrial arts classrooms.  Mr. Zanella agrees that his curriculum is evolving as a result of the technology.  “This is the first year we dropped technical drawing, because it is a dying art – nobody does it anymore.  It is all on the computer now,” he says.

“Even our Manufacturing classes that were traditionally woodshop are using CNC and laser technology.  We do a lot more designing now.”  He adds that his classes are beginning to attract a more diverse range of learners – including more college-track students – because of the engineering/design components infused into the curricula.

Burrell assistant superintendent, Dr. Matthew Conner, applied for the EITC grant through the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County.  The 3-D printers arrived at Burrell toward the latter part of the 2012-13 school year, and the technology is being integrated into the curricula this year.  “This new, innovative technology is something that students should become familiar with in preparation for entry into real world,” says Dr. Conner.  “Much of the future of manufacturing is headed in this direction.”

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