3-D Printer Makes Ceramics Class Easier for Disabled Students

A ceramic 3-D printer helps disabled students overcome physical limitations.

by Kristina Hernandez, Redlands Daily Facts, Calif. / February 9, 2016 0
The 3-D printing lab at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, where Charles Stern and Esther Ericsson print ceramics. Pelle Sten, Ziggy Creative Colony/Flickr CC 2.0

(TNS) — REDLANDS, Calif. — A new 3-D ceramic printer at Redlands High School will help disabled students mold and create art.

Educator Timothy Colbert got the idea to bring the machine to the campus after meeting Johnny Morales, an 18-year-old RHS senior enrolled in Colbert's advanced ceramics course.

Born with a condition that limits use of his right side, Morales was often in need of assistance when using the school's potter's wheel for class assignments.

Colbert turned to Google to discover ways to help move Morales' arts education forward. The printer seemed like the best idea.

Said Colbert, "At the time I didn't think I wanted to prolong his situation because it wasn't always going to work out for him, so while using some other tools, I found out about Jonathan Keep who is a ceramic artist from England that has been doing research to build ceramic printers. With Johnny in mind, I was looking at all the different resources available and knew that through this idea of adaptive technology, my hope was it could help our kids with similar situations in our studio."

Using Keep's design as a blueprint, Colbert approached RHS administration and asked permission to bring the printer to the campus.

Once approved, Colbert began ordering parts from various websites to create the printer from scratch.

After some hits and misses with materials and coding, the printer was up and running. And so, Colbert and Morales went to work tweaking the machine for further use.

"It took us a week to order all the parts and by the time we were done, we had a three-page invoice and eight different vendors who were involved with it," Colbert said. "We started the process in October and had the machine put together in December. We were excited to put it together but then we had to figure out the firmware and that took us a few weeks.

"I had to give myself a crash course in 3-D printer firmware... and had to check every setting and align it correctly multiple times until it worked. In about two weeks, we finally got it going," he said.

Colbert plans to formally introduce the printer to other students in the coming days, and hopes the school continues to support his ideas of incorporating STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and maths — into his classrooms through additional ideas. In the future he wants to see students use the printer for metal forming and to create jewelry. He also has another proposal out to bring another printer to campus, this time specializing in resin printing.

In the meantime, Colbert is enjoying watching Morales create and has high hopes for his future.

"This has been a fun way for (Johnny) to incorporate those core subjects within the arts and hopefully this leads to other opportunities for him and RHS like maybe a maker space for students to come in and make things. I want to use this whole thing as a process for using technology coupled with traditional studio practice," Colbert said.

Added Morales, "My hope is the kids that probably deal with my same situation can feel comfortable working with clay and not worry about doing something they think they can't do. I'm interested in this (idea) very much and knowing that I can do it now is exciting."

©2016 the Redlands Daily Facts (Redlands, Calif.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.