Mar 24 2022

3D Printing Brings Burgh Buses — and Creativity — to Life

Business-savvy fourth and fifth grade students with an interest in 3D design create tokens to sell on their club website. This one went viral.

At West Jefferson Hills School District, fourth and fifth grade students in the district’s TJ3D club are making light of newsworthy events in Pittsburgh from the past couple of years. Using design software and 3D printers, the club is creating Burgh Buses, small bus-shaped levels.

The idea stems from multiple bus-related incidents in Pittsburgh, including one in which a city bus fell into a sinkhole and another that needed a lift from a collapsed bridge downtown. In both instances no one was injured, and the students created their designs as a response, showcasing the city buses’ inability to remain level.

The club, which uses its profits for 3D printing materials and new projects, was created as an opportunity to do more with 3D printing, says Adam Gebhardt, an art teacher in the school district and organizer of the TJ3D club. “We had gotten some basic 3D printing technology in the school, and it was always hard to cram that into the regular curriculum,” he says. “We started a club so that the kids could dive a little bit deeper into the 3D printing technology.”

The students in the club, all just 10 or 11 years old, have come up with incredible designs. Most recently, Gerhardt shares, they conceptualized and designed from scratch a lightsaber with a plastic locking mechanism.

The 3D printers also maintain students’ interest in art and creative projects. “Part of why this stemmed out was because I started to see kids who were losing interest in art in fifth grade,” Gebhardt says. “But some are super into programming or 3D design — things like Minecraft — and those kids are the ones who really latched on to this and are taking it to another level.”

WATCH NOW: 3D printing and other STEM devices help students with disabilities.

In addition to the students in the club who work on 3D printing and design, there are students who handle sales for the club, learning skills for running a business. The club also has a LEGO division and a new branch dedicated to charity work and donations.

For the next few weeks, however, it will be all hands on deck to pack and ship the Burgh Buses. In three days, the club sold more than 650 of the levels, with more orders coming in from all over the country.


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