In order to ensure that 3D printing technology is fully adapted into the future of manufacturing, it’s essential that we educate students of all ages about the mechanism and magic behind the technology. That’s why the founder of, Gauthier de Valensart, decided to head into the school of his two children in order to share a hands-on 3D printing experience with all of their classmates.

Now, obviously, it would be quite difficult to teach all of the students how to create a 3D model in one class, let alone supply each of them with a 3D printer. In fact, de Valensart only had a budget of 50 euros, one Ultimaker 2 3D printer, and the Doodle 3D application. With 25 kids between the ages of five and seven in attendance, it would be quite difficult to offer them a truly hands-on experience with 3D printing technology. So, in order to provide each student with an engaging and fulfilling experience, de Valensart developed a unique lesson plan to make each student familiar with the art 3D modeling.

The father and 3D printing filament expert started off by experimenting with different formulations of salt dough, and along with baking paper and a handful of child-safe, plastic kitchen syringes, allowed the two classrooms to experiment with 3D modeling. Essentially, the kids would hone their 3D modeling skills by extruding the salt dough from the syringe, which was then microwaved to solidify the “3D model”. For the lesson plan, de Valensart used the following in addition to the Ultimaker 2 and Doodle 3D app:

Equipment for 3D printing session at school

  • 60ml seringues
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 cups of flour
  • Double the quantity of water used normally : 2x ¾ cup of water
  • Baking paper

Note: As for time in the microwave, de Valensart suggests heating the dough in 10-second intervals at 800W to ensure that their are no problems.

3D printing at school with salt dough and syringe

By allowing the students to experiment with the salt dough before putting them on the Doodle 3D app, they were able to hone their 3D modeling skills. After their salt dough models were finished and microwaved into a solid “3D object”, the students took around two to three hours each to recreate their salt dough model on the Doodle 3D app via an Apple iPad, which was then 3D printed on the Ultimaker 2.

To better gauge the importance of teaching young students how to 3D model, we spoke to tech evangelist and 3D printing education expert Deepak Mehta about experiments such as the salt dough one.

“3D modeling skills are very important for the next generation to be able to leverage digital fabrication tools to actively solve the long tail problems, they face,” said Deepak Mehta, a pioneering 3D printing education expert. “Being able to get your idea into the computer using 3D modeling tools is an essential skill, just as Word, Excel and Photoshop. Realizing that they can imagine something, model it on the computer and get it 3D printed, feels like a superpower to most children, but enables them to empower themselves to solve their own problems, rather than waiting for corporations to do it for them.”

The ultimate goal was to give the students something to take at home that they had created themselves. Well, in reality, they had two reminders of their innovative lesson by the end of the event, the salt dough object and a small 3d printed object. By extruding the salt dough themselves, they were able to experience the mechanism of an FDM 3D printer while also learning valuable 3D modeling skills.