3D-Printed Instructional Resources for the Study of Dimensionality and Symmetry for Development of Spatial Orientation

The D’Arcy laboratory develops 3D printed measuring tools that foment three dimensional spatial coordination; these didactic resources are designed to support the study of dimensionality and symmetry.

We design and fabricate tools that aid conceptualization of dimensions such as width, height, and length. These are optimized for middle school visually impaired students in order to provide a reference point for mapping environment, a basis for the study of geometry, and a foundation for understanding symmetry.

Symmetry is a fundamental topic in inorganic chemistry for fingerprinting materials, predicting atomic structure, and understanding physical properties. The D’Arcy laboratory utilizes the power of 3D printing for enhancing teaching strategies via novel custom didactic tools.

Student tools are developed in partnership with Missouri School for the Blind middle school educators who select target instructional foci that drive our collaboration efforts.  Our main goal is increasing student access to concepts and skill sets in science and mathematics.  We meet regularly with teachers and students to imagine, discuss student and teacher feedback, and refine the prototypes that are developed and 3D printed onsite at WashU.

Our partnership with the Missouri School for the Blind in St. Louis is an example of how materials chemistry leads to creative and successful collaborations that can directly impact classroom instruction and facilitate learning.

A 3D coordinate measurement tool provides rapid access for quantifying dimensionality because the point of origin (x=0, y=0, z=0) remains static while making a measurement. Differentiating between width, height, and length is easier since no object manipulation is required; tactile Braille rulers are easily read without having to hold an object. The exploration of dimensionality through this tool catalyzes the development of spatial orientation in students.
A 3D coordinate measurement tool is comprised of a square base, fabricated with our CNC Shopbot, and characterized by a scribed grid surface that serves as a tactile 2D guide; both metric and imperial unit based grids have been fabricated.
A 3D printed tactile Braille ruler provides a Cartesian axis for measuring an object’s physical dimensions. The 3D coordinate measurement tool is comprised of three orthogonal rulers that snap into place. Alignment between ruler markings and scribed grid provides tactile continuity that facilitates measuring of both small and large objects. A vertical ruler is the third axis and contains a sliding guide that also simplifies making a measurement.

Our collaboration with Missouri School for the Blind was picked up by Make Magazine and published online on August 17, 2016.