It is often claimed that we won't see the true potential of 3D printing until the current (or possibly the next) generation, who are being educated of the technologies' benefits from an early age, get to the point when they are being employed to professionally design products from scratch. The theory goes that these young guns will not be bound by the drawbacks of current manufacturing processes and their creative brains will be allowed to design a product for end-use rather than design for manufacturing.
A story out of Florida Polytechnic of a thirteen-year-old, who has used 3D printing to create a product that helps those with handwriting difficulties, suggests that the theory has some weight.
Christian Herman asked a group of Kindergarten teachers what challenges they face with pupils and a common problem was the handwriting abilities of students at that age because of the varying levels of muscular developments. Armed with the problem Christian decided to create a solution and set about putting together a pencil grip that attaches to a regular pencil.
The first prototype was modelled with clay and then Christian moved onto CAD models and 3D prints in PLA using his schools 3D printer. Those harder material prints proved unsuitable for a product that was designed to improve comfort when handwriting but the young inventor was not deterred.
Instead Christian got in touch with Florida Polytechnic whose MakerBot printers were capable of using a flexible filament that would be perfect for the product's needs:
“My mom and I did some research and learned Florida Poly has the biggest Makerbot 3D Printing Lab in the country,” says Christian. “The lab team was really welcoming and excited to help me perfect my product.”
Working alongside Florida Poly’s Chief Information Officer Tom Hull and Instructional Design Engineer Scott Johnson, Christian was able to use the school’s 3D printers to develop a pencil grip to begin testing with kindergarten students and teachers. “It was a lot of fun having someone from the next generation of innovators on our campus, utilising Florida Poly as the great community asset that it is,” says Tom Hull. “Christian is bright and driven. We simply provided him with the tools he needed and let him do his thing.”
His thing seems to be working as Christian’s pencil grip won first place in the engineering category at the Polk Regional Science and Engineering Fair in February. Next, he’ll compete in the 60th Annual State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida at the end of March. And Christian’s aspirations don’t end with the state science fair. He has a provisional patent on the pencil grip and is working toward a full patent.
The thirteen-year-old's ingenuity is matched by his entrepreneurial spirit as he has launched a Kickstarter campaign for pencil grip, which has not only had praise from the teaching community but occupational therapists too, who say it is also a perfect solution for elderly people who may also struggle with handwriting.
“I’m really grateful to Tom and Scott at Florida Poly for their guidance and support,” says Christian. “My experience at the University really helped take my invention to the next level and has reaffirmed my interest in pursuing a STEM career one day.”