They’ve been touted as the high-tech tools that will change the supply chain and manufacturing model around the world. 3D printers are the wave of the future and the Downtown Boxing Gym is proud to have three of our own. We’ve added them to our science, technology, engineering, art and math curriculum, thanks to a generous 3-year STEM 2035 grant via Community Connections of New York (CCNY).

“We applied for the grant to take our STEAM Lab space to the next level and equip our students with the tools they need to succeed,” says Michael Mroz, one of the boxing gym’s academic coordinators. “There’s a huge craze with 3D printing. So far, the kids have responded really, really well to it. It’s a lot of fun.”

What exactly is a 3D printer? The devices use the same concept as a typical 2D printer you might find in your office. But instead of paper, 3D printers use a thin plastic filament, 1.75 millimeters thick, which is put through an extruder. Similar to a hot glue gun, the machine heats up and melts the filament into a thin, tiny fiber, which then goes into the motion of whatever you tell it to do. As an example, Mroz said students have printed their own Downtown Boxing Gym boxing-gloves key chains.

“Now they know how to take an image from online and print it, downloading it to the computer,” he says. “What I’m starting to get them to do now is learning CAD, or computer-aided design. I’m teaching myself, too. It’s really cool.”

The students are currently focused on creating 3D designs and CAD drawings of different geometric shapes. For printing projects, they’re being asked to come up with something that would only take an hour-and-a-half to make but would solve a problem. Students have created things like toilet paper holders and eyeglasses holders, Mroz says.

After they get more experience with CAD and familiarize themselves with the way 3D printers work, he wants them to do their own research into devices they can make to solve real-world problems. For example, what kind of device could the printers make for someone who’s missing a limb? What could they make that would help solve a problem in their own neighborhoods?

With the addition of the 3D printers, the STEAM Lab has become more popular than ever before.

“When I turn a machine on and it starts printing, students will sit in front of it and be calm and quiet like I have never seen before,” he says. “There’s so much interest, I have to break up the groups on various days to accommodate everyone who wants to get in.”

For now, students are using a free version of Tinkercad. The plan is to eventually buy more sophisticated CAD software via future grants or donations.

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