3D printing center enhances visual arts at Altoona

3D printing center enhances visual arts at Altoona

3D printing-centered learning spaces are becoming an increasingly popular way for students across Penn State’s campuses to explore innovative technology, while also gaining skills for their future careers. The Penn State Altoona’s Center for Additive Manufacturing and Printing (CAMP) is no exception, and visual arts students have been using it frequently to elevate their artwork.

“It gives us more mediums to use; it’s not only paper crafts and painting,” said senior and visual arts major Emily Wagner. “We use different machines. We can take our ideas and print them.”

Although the campus founded The CAMP in 2015, a couple of classes have been working with 3D printing since 2002. Through the center, 3D printing has become accessible to the entire campus community.

The CAMP is located in the Doing Better Business 3D Printer Lab in the campus’s Robert E. Eiche Library. Funded and supported by Doing Better Business and the campus’s engineering and visual arts studies programs, The CAMP provides a variety of 3D printers that allow the campus community to explore and understand how this innovative technology will change the future.

Using the space, visual arts students create various types of artwork, including jewelry, sculptures, and vinyl decals, some of which they display at the annual campus student art exhibition.

“Often it’s the case that there’s no physical way of manually sculpting the objects we conceptualize,” said Rebecca Strzelec, professor of visual arts. “For example, 3D printing allows one to build objects within each other. Something like a chain link or objects that move, to build those with traditional tools would take some big feats of engineering.”

The CAMP has significantly enhanced student learning and engagement. Strzelec has found students regularly work in the center outside of class time.

“When students choose to work in The CAMP when they’re not in class it means they’re truly engaged. It’s meeting them intellectually and creatively in a way they weren’t getting elsewhere,” said Strzelec.

students design 3D models on computers

Visual arts seniors Emily Wagner (left) and Josh Weyandt develop their 3D designs through computer software.

Artists today need to be multifaceted problem solvers, which means having experience with many diverse tools and modes of making.

Some visual arts students, like senior Josh Weyandt, plan to pursue careers which will leverage their knowledge of 3D modeling. One such field is video game creation, where Weyandt aspires to work in character design.

“Video game creators will make a character in a computer-aided design program,” explained Weyandt. “Before they send it out for the expensive molding process, they will 3D print a character in their office and ask themselves if it is what they want exactly.”

Strzelec said, “These students use the tools they have learned here and parlay them into working at libraries, art centers, camps, and running businesses. They’re able to piece together what they learn from this degree and make a living by creating—or assisting people in creating—visual art.”

Submit lab and classroom software requests for spring by Nov. 12

Submit lab and classroom software requests for spring by Nov. 12

For instructors teaching a spring 2019 class in a Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) lab and/or technology classroom, please submit software requests by Wednesday, Nov. 12.

Instructors need to submit software requests through TLT Learning Applications and Technologies (LAT) course software request form. Software from previous semesters may be removed from computers if it is not currently requested by an instructor for the spring semester. Before submitting a software request, please review LAT’s Software Installation Policy.

For all lab and classroom computers, Windows computers will remain on Windows 10, and Mac computers will stay on High Sierra (10.13.6). Please ensure each software request is compatible with these operating systems.

TLT currently manages 646 labs across Penn State’s campuses. It also equips and supports general-purpose technology classrooms that are available for scheduling through the Registrar’s office.

For more information, please contact tlt-lat@psu.edu.

The Bluebox is Penn State’s next step as a leader in learning space innovation

The Bluebox is Penn State’s next step as a leader in learning space innovation

The Bluebox doesn’t look like a traditional classroom, and it doesn’t function like one either.

As a high-tech experimental learning space, it’s not meant to, as it is anything but traditional, and in coming semesters more rooms like it are slated to launch across Penn State’s campuses. Designing and implementing the spaces comes as part of the University’s ongoing efforts that have helped make it a worldwide leader in educational technology.

The Bluebox, launched in 2016, is designed to increase student engagement and support active, collaborative learning pedagogies. Its design, along with its versatile nature, is the latest manifestation of decades of Penn State’s educational research around active learning. This research has shown time and again that a more dynamic and flexible learning space yields positive results when compared with the increasingly outmoded classrooms and lecture halls that many still define as the essential standard for university classes.

“Traditional classrooms are set up for students to sit in rows and listen to a professor at the front of the room, and this setup is not conducive to teaching with the idea that learning is an active and interactive process,” said Sarah Ades, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology who has taught a class in the Bluebox.

Everything you see in the Bluebox is there (or not there) for a reason backed by science, student and faculty experience, or both—which is what really makes it stand out in the experimental education field.

“There are reasons for everything we do, and a science that has gone into how this room looks and functions,” said Jennifer Sparrow, Penn State’s senior director of teaching and learning with technology. “The space itself is a laboratory in some ways. It’s a classroom designed to help us develop new understandings about classrooms and how to improve them with the technologies we have today.”

The studio combines easily movable and adaptable furniture and whiteboards with higher-tech educational tools, like several displays that allow for wireless projection, and can be quickly reconfigured to accommodate a professor’s or class’s needs. To keep pace with evolving research and technology, it is designed to undergo more structural changes every semester as necessary.

Instructors can use or not use whichever classroom components are appropriate for their learning outcomes. Some prefer to use all of the screens and modular tables available, while others have found that clearing out everything except the mobile chairs and whiteboards works best for a particular teaching session.

“More traditional classrooms, they limit flexibility,” said Sparrow. “The intent here was to bring an experimental classroom into play that really allowed faculty to think differently about how they taught, and to provide them with a unique support structure that would help them with whatever they might need.”

The robust support structure serves as one of the classroom’s most unique multi-faceted components. Instructional designers, technologists, and a research team dedicated to continuously evolving the space and helping instructors use it in the best ways for the classes they’re teaching and the results they’re hoping to achieve are available to help faculty using the space.

“We are really unique in this full concierge level of support,” said Sparrow. “Spaces don’t transform learning, great teaching transforms learning. Penn State provides the scaffolding needed for faculty and students to be successful.”

The instructors who teach in the Bluebox meet monthly as well to discuss how they’re using the space, what is working well, and how the space and learning experience can improve.

The Bluebox is the first room of its kind at Penn State, but it certainly won’t be the last. The space has served so far as a sort of litmus test for how the University will proceed in its future classroom designs and updates.

“These adaptive spaces are important for education,” said Ades. “There are many ways to design adaptive learning spaces. Research is important to evaluate what works best, to maximize their value. The same as a lecture hall with fixed seats that can only face front are difficult to adapt to an educational style other than lecturing, new spaces with designs that don’t work aren’t good either.”

The University is taking findings from the Bluebox, combining them with its ongoing scientific research, and using the information to help plan for how spaces will be redesigned across the Penn State community.

“We’re always asking ourselves, ‘How do we lead in learning spaces instead of just being a keeper of facilities?’” said Sparrow. “And we have a mechanism in place for how we’re going to do this.”

If the Bluebox is any indication, it’s likely the demand for experimental learning spaces will be high. By its second semester of availability, the Bluebox was completely filled, and the university had to turn away interested instructors heading into the Fall 2017 semester.

“We plan to grow these experiences, and demand will push development,” said Sparrow.