Students spread 3D-printing skills with seniors

Seniors at a local home got an unexpected Christmas gift, thanks to a group of industrious students – a series of 3D printed tools made by the kids, designed to make their lives easier.

Many Faces Education Centre students and staff unveiled the project shortly before the Christmas break began. One student, Hunter Fox, used 3D printing to build items seniors living in Flin Flon’s Jubilee Residence could use in their day-to-day lives. Some residents came to Many Faces Dec. 17 for a demonstration and to pick up some of the items, which included cookie cutters, cane clips, grocery bag holders, pill dispensers, shoe racks, phone speakers and others - more than 40 items in all.

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“We printed out about 30 cane holders, we’ve made really unique cookie cutters for Christmas time. Other things people were looking for that will assist them include speakers for their iPhones that the phone sits in, button and zipper pullers, bag holders so when you go to the grocery store, toothbrush holders, pen and pencil holders, there’s shoe racks, there’s jar openers,” said Many Faces teacher Daniel Dillon.

Each of the items was built from the ground up using the on-site 3D printer at Many Faces, using plastic filament to create each piece. The blueprints for each item were found on Thingiverse, a website containing thousands of printable plans.

Before firing up the printer, students asked the residents what they may need or want.

“I requested something to clip my cane to because it’s always falling on the floor,” said Jubilee resident Gordon Wells.

“Now I mount the clip to the wall and I clip it to the wall and it’s out of the way. It’s as convenient as all get out.”

“Most of it has been very useful. With these clips, they can be used in our storage rooms to hang brooms on to,” added Donna Giest, another resident.

“One of the issues was, when canes fall on the ground all the time, how can we keep that from happening? We printed these things and they can be clipped on anywhere,” Dillon said.

“They’re all things that will assist people at the Jubilee Residence, using the skills and knowledge of the kids that they’re developing in class to help over there.”

Giest requested a simple phone amplification device – a plastic polygon that can increase sounds from a phone speaker once the phone is lowered into it – and other small items.

“I have a phone and tablets and stuff and that thing really, really works. I have a Bluetooth speaker but that amplifier, it’s nothing but it really, really works. I can just stick my phone in there and I’ve got music,” she said.

“My daughter has a daycare and the kids love to work with Play-Doh, so I got some cookie cutters made. They love to make shapes. They will have a ball.”

The process of 3D printing itself was an interesting sight for some of the residents, most of whom had never seen it in the past.

“I had seen it on TV once before. I found it mind-boggling,” said Wells.

Once the items have fulfilled their use, they can be crushed and pulverized back into plastic filament and reused.

The students carried out the project in conjunction with the 3% Project, a Toronto-based group advocating for sustainability and climate change awareness for students. Since the items can be reused and recycled, the project fits neatly with the group’s mandate, along with encouraging independent and critical thinking in students.

“The whole goal of the 3% Project is to get youth to look at issues that are local to the community and how they can address those issues,” said Angelina La, a facilitator with the project.

“This is the only team of students I’ve been working with who have been using 3D printing and using to bridge that gap between students and the elderly.”

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