The Case for Project Based Learning in 3D

What is the best way to learn the physics behind bridges? By building one.

To build a functional bridge, it’s important to have an understanding in the basics of physics, Newton’s Laws, the properties of matter, and other factors that inform us of our physical world, but it can be challenging to see how they all work together at the same time. The best way to learn about bridges is to build a model of one – a perfect project based learning (PBL) activity. That’s just what students do in Glenn Couture’s high school classes. Explore Glenn’s PBL tips and access a roundup of 3Doodler K-12 lessons to bring PBL to your learning environment.

PBL to Engage Students

Glenn Couture teaches honors and AP physics at a high school in Norwalk, Connecticut. During the school year he guides students through a wide range of topics, including kinematics, the relationship between work, power and energy, waveforms, thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, electricity, and light.

Couture guides students to make models using 3Doodler pens

A key part of teaching these topics is taking abstract descriptions of how physics work and letting students explore them hands-on through PBL. Couture caps off many of his curricular units with  projects that enable students to apply what they’ve learned to a real-world problem. Students demonstrate their understanding of complex topics by creating their own 3D models. This application of difficult concepts ensures students build confidence, express creativity, and offers tools for visual learners.

3D Application in Chemistry Class

Couture used 3Doodler pens in a unique chemistry project to build models of a side-face molecule placement crystal.

A Doodled visualization of molecules in a crystal lattice

“In chemistry, solids form crystals,” he explained while showing off the cube, a helpful tool for visualizing the relationship between molecules in a crystal lattice.

With 3Doodler students have the advantage of creating a 3D model by hand, which they then use to study the stability of various crystal types.

“I sometimes find that students have difficulty taking a concept from 2D to 3D and vice versa,” Couture added. He feels that 3Doodler pens are the ideal tools to bridge that gap.

Jumpstart PBL with 3Doodler K-12 Lessons.

Doodle Wheelers (Force and Motion)

Recommended grades: K-2
Learn about: Simple machines, force and motion
Overview: In this activity, students explore the size of wheels and their effects on force and motion. Students will design and create one small-wheeled racer and one large-wheeled racer using clothespins and a 3Doodler pen.

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STEM: Earth’s Structure and Beyond!

Recommended grades: 3-5
Learn about: Structure of Earth and other planets
Overview: Students will create 3D models of cross-sections of planets and compare and contrast the structures and layers of them. Students will record their observations of the differences of cross-sections of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

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STEM: Bridging the Gap

Recommended grades: 6-8
Learn about: Physics, STEM
Overview: In this activity, students will work to design a bridge and test its ability to bear weight when spanning a gap of 20 cm using a 3Doodler and no other materials.

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3D Atoms

Recommended grades: 9-12
Learn about: Rutherford atom model
Overview: In this activity, students will work to create a Rutherford model of an atom in 3D with the 3Doodler pen. Students will study their models and identify the part of an atom. They will share their work and to demonstrate their comprehension of atom structure.

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Making Physics Physical

What is the best way to learn the physics behind bridges? By building one.

To build a functional bridge, it’s important to have a strong backing in the basics of physics, Newton’s Laws, the properties of matter, and other rules and facts that describe our world—but it can be hard to see how they all work together at the same time. The best way to learn about bridges is to build them. And that’s just what they do in Glenn Couture’s class.

Getting the Drop on Science

Couture teaches Honors and AP physics at a high school in Norwalk, Connecticut. During the school year he guides students through a wide range of topics that make up physics. These include kinematics, the relationship between work, power and energy, waveforms, thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, electricity and light.

Glenn Couture creates physics models using the 3Doodler Create.

A key part of teaching these topics is taking abstract descriptions of how physics work, and letting students experience them first hand.

"Small changes to the project can prove to be outsized challenges that send students back to the drawing board." Share

Getting through those disparate topics can take a good chunk of time, but Couture caps off many of the units with physical projects. These let students apply what they’ve learned in class to a real-world problem, demonstrating that they haven’t just learned information, but they have an understanding of how to use it.

We gave Couture a 3Doodler Create and asked him to come up with exciting ways he could incorporate it into his lesson plans. One of the first things he looked at was the classic “egg drop” experiment.

Extreme Packaging

“In the current rendition of the egg drop, the students are only allowed to use plastic drinking straws, any sort as long as there’s no paper on them, masking tape, and one raw, uncooked, uncoated, unpainted egg. The idea is to have the egg land without breaking,” Couture said.

When it comes to the actual design of the project, he has only one limitation: “It has to fit through the door of the classroom. I’ve had students come close with that depending on how many straws they’re using.” The eggs and their straw enclosures are then brought to the school’s roof and dropped 55 feet to the ground. Only those students who have eggs survive the fall receive an A.

A prototype of a Doodled egg cage.

Couture wants to attempt a variation on that project using the 3Doodler, with some new constraints. “This could be done on a smaller scale, directly in the classroom,” Couture said while examining a prototype 3Doodler egg cage. “I don’t think that it could work the full distance of 55 feet, but 16 or 18 feet would work.”

He envisions a second round of testing, while providing only a limited number of rods to students. This would add a component of “cost effectiveness” to the project. In the real world, engineers often have limited materials to work with, and need to find ways to balance competing goals.

“We had a chance to visit with the packaging engineers at a [cookie manufacturer] where they have to package things to be in trucks and things like that. So there’s that application of what they learn in the egg-drop, where they keep a product from breaking up, but we can also go bigger and look at the failed Mars Climate Orbiter of the 90’s where the probe was lost because of an error translating metric and imperial units.” Small changes to the project can prove to be outsized challenges that send students back to the drawing board.

Model Atomic Behavior

Other projects that Couture was able to develop during his time with the 3Doodler include more illustrative of processes in physics. He built a prototype model of a side-face molecule placement crystal.

A Doodled visualization of molecules in a crystal lattice.

“In chemistry, solids form crystals,” he explained while showing off the cube, a helpful tool for visualizing the relationship between molecules in a crystal lattice.

"I sometimes find that students have difficulty taking a concept from 2D to 3D and vice versa." Share

The 3Doodler offers an advantage for these models by producing long lasting models which illustrate the stability of various crystal types. Couture said that he would like to let groups of students work on different crystals and build up a collection of varieties over time.

“I sometimes find that students have difficulty taking a concept from 2D to 3D and vice versa,” Couture added. He feels that the 3Doodler is a unique opportunity to bridge that gap, as well as more literal ones.

Building Bridges

Another physical project that Couture’s students engage in is called “Quakertown.” Students create buildings out of folded paper that must withstand both the addition of weights and a mechanically shaken table to simulate both static and dynamic loads.

A Doodled Parker Truss bridge.

Students in his classes could one day create bridges using the 3Doodler to understand the how these complex structures operate, and compare the strengths and weaknesses of different designs.

"On the page, it’s easy to understand the X axis and the Y axis, but having it in 3D really helps you grasp the Z axis." Share

Couture put together a Parker Truss bridge, using a template from online. He chose the design because its gentle curve would be hard to replicate using other craft methods. However, Couture felt the 3Doodler was easily up to the task, especially after he had cut his teeth putting together other projects.

Teaching in 3 Dimensions

The last of the four samples he produced was a model of the orbitals which describe where electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom might be found.

A Doodled orbital model.

“On the page, it’s easy to understand the X axis and the Y axis,” Couture explained as he put the finishing touches on the model, “but having it in 3D really helps you grasp the Z axis.”

After spending some time exploring the possibilities of the 3Doodler, Couture describes himself as interested in finding even more uses for the tool. It opens up unique opportunities to explore the world of physics. And those opportunities extend beyond his own classroom.

“My wife teaches seventh and eighth grade science, and she’s interested in it too. They do a bridge project using toothpicks and glue. The problem with that is it takes so long for the glue to set but this is practically instant.”

New STEM fields are emerging all the time, and rising to those challenges will require a mixture of hands-on experience, creativity, and intuitive knowledge. Couture’s time with the 3Doodler has shown just a few ways that it can help provide just that.

Looking for more ways to bring 3Doodler into your classroom?
Check out our dedicated EDU section for classroom tips, lesson plans, and exclusive EDU bundles for educators.

A Model for Modernism

At a dinner party in 1945, famed architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was approached with an offer.

Prominent Chicago nephrologist Dr. Edith Farnsworth wanted Mies to create a weekend getaway along the Fox River in Plano, Illinois. The offer was for Mies to design the house as if it were for himself.

The result was the culmination of the unique take on modernist architecture for which Mies became an icon. With the launch of a new 3Doodler Create themed kit for the Farnsworth House, we take a look at the inspiration and architectural movement behind this stunning example of modernism.

A Higher Unity

While many modernist architects believed architecture should be used to socially engineer human behavior and guide occupants to higher ideals, Mies used his buildings differently.

Farnsworth House by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

His architecture still represented his ideals and aspirations, but instead of constructing in a way to carefully engineer a result, Mies instead focused on freedom of movement and use. With a minimal framework and expressed structural columns, his buildings offered and open space in which inhabitants could express their own spirit—something he saw as crucial to elevating the harmony between architecture and humanity.

"In its simplest form architecture is rooted in entirely functional considerations, but it can reach up through all degrees of value to the highest sphere of spiritual existence into the realm of pure art."-Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Share

Mies often reflects the industrial culture he saw as growing in the United States within his own architectural aesthetic, and uses this to offer occupants a flexible and unobstructed space.

His ultimate purpose was to join together natural elements with culture and construction. “We should attempt to bring nature, houses, and the human being to a higher unity,” Mies once said, and he reflected this ideal through designs featuring glass walls and few solid exterior walls.

Part of a Larger Whole

Constructed in a pastoral setting, the Farnsworth House is a clear culmination of the modernist ideals Mies sought to bring together in his designs.

"If you view nature through the glass walls of the Farnsworth House, it gains a more profound significance than if viewed from the outside. That way more is said about nature—it becomes part of a larger whole."-Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Share

The singular geometric form of the house is simple in the extreme, constructed of steel and glass with a minimal form. The one-room rectangular structure sits parallel to the Fox River, with a perpendicular cross axis directly facing the river and nature.

Elevated 5 feet and 3 inches above the ground, and with floor-to-ceiling glass as the outer walls, the Farnsworth House appears to be floating within the natural landscape around it.

The glass walls encircle an open floor plan with a core wooden block containing the toilet and kitchen—a wooden room nesting inside the larger glass rectangle. Each area of the living space—areas for sleeping, eating, sitting, and cooking—is suggested by the arrangement, but ultimately the inhabitant is free to decide the use of space as they desire.

An Icon of Modernism

To honor this National Historic Landmark and icon of modernist architecture, 3Doodler is pleased to present a unique Farnsworth House theme kit for 3Doodler Create.

The 3Doodler Farnsworth House Kit

In collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Licensed Project Kit includes detailed stencils created from the original Farnsworth floor plans, so anyone can create this modernist masterpiece in miniature scale. The kit also includes a visual step-by-step guide and four packs of ABS plastic to replicate the original structure. Learn more about the the making of this kit here.

The Farnsworth House Kit will be available alongside Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater Kit. Sign up for notifications on the release of these new kits:

Falling for Frank Lloyd Wright

The father of organic architecture turns 150 years old in June. The impact of interior designer, architect, writer, and educator, Frank Lloyd Wright can still be seen today.

Having designed over 1,000 structures in his lifetime, the work of Frank Lloyd Wright has made a lasting impact on architecture and design. In celebration of his 150th birthday, we are pleased to present a new 3Doodler Create Project Kit for Wright’s signature example of organic architecture, Fallingwater.

Celebrating 150 Years

With 532 completed structures over the span of a 70-year career, Frank Lloyd Wright has become an icon of American architecture. Twelve of his buildings are listed amongst Architectural Record’s hundred most important buildings of the century.

"We are all here to develop a life more beautiful, more concordant, more fully expressive of our own sense of pride and joy than ever before in the world."-Frank Lloyd Wright Share

Wright firmly believed that architecture was “the mother of all the arts,” and approached each design with this intensity of conviction. His aim to was to reflect the landscape, people, culture, and feel of America within his own designs and architecture.

With dramatic new shapes and designs, Wright developed what he called “organic architecture”, representing what he saw as the harmonious connection of the citizens of the United States with both each other, and to the land they call home. As such, his homes center around shared spaces such as the dining table, music rooms, and terraces to encourage a sense of community and closeness to both family and nature.

Fallingwater

None of Wright’s structures reflects the harmony between architecture and nature better than Fallingwater.

"The making of a good building, the harmonious building, one adapted to its purposes and to life, [is] a blessing to life and a gracious element added to life, is a great moral performance."-Frank Lloyd Wright Share

Constructed between 1936 and 1939, the residence was designed for the Kaufmann family in southwest Pennsylvania. Stretching over a 30-foot waterfall, the house is a shining example of Wright’s commitment to a unique architectural design that integrates family life with natural surroundings.

While the Kaufmanns had requested a house with a view of the waterfall, Wright wanted them to instead live with the water itself, and to make the falls an integral part of their everyday life. His organic design was detailed down to the colors, with only two distinct colors used in the final building, both tied closely to the materials used—the light ochre of the concrete, and Wright’s own signature Cherokee red on the steel.

Since Fallingwater first opened its doors to the public in 1964, over 4.5 million visitors have come to see Wright’s architectural masterpiece first-hand.

Recreating a Piece of History

To honor this National Historic Landmark and icon of organic architecture, 3Doodler is pleased to present a unique Fallingwater theme kit for 3Doodler Create.

In collaboration with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Licensed Project Kit includes detailed stencils created from the original Fallingwater floor plans, so anyone can create Wright’s masterpiece in miniature scale. The kit also includes a visual step-by-step guide and four packs of ABS plastic to replicate the exact colors of the original structure. Learn more about the the making of this kit here.

Celebrate Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th Birthday by recreating one of the most powerful pieces of American architecture. Sign up for notifications on the release of this new kit at the3Doodler.com.

Making Models True to Life

Creating scale models is all about detail. To create stunning replicas that remain true to the original takes careful planning and precise execution.

Cornelia Kuglmeier knows just how detailed a Doodled model can be. An artist and teacher with a passion for architecture, Cornelia has successfully recreated several detailed models of world-famous buildings. In addition to creating a scale replica of the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, she’s also worked on miniature versions of iconic Modernist architectural masterpieces like the Farnsworth House and Fallingwater.

Cornelia says that when using the 3Doodler to create scale models, all it takes to get started is an idea, a steady hand, and a lot of patience.

Not Every Building Has Four Plain Walls

“You can choose any type of building you like,” Cornelia says, “or invent a new one!” Style, period, or complexity of the structure aren’t as important as your personal interest and passion.

If creating a unique building of your own design, Cornelia recommends making a draft of the building using 3D software first. “Make sure you have all the walls, the roof and the floor,” she says. “Show every side to have a good idea on what it will look like when it’s finished.”

When creating a replica of an existing building, it may be easier to know how the finished piece should look—but this also means execution must be precise. Cornelia says when making models of famous buildings, she always begins by finding a floor plan. “This is crucial!” she says. The floor plan allows for better construction, even if your main concern is how the outside of the building will look.

"You need a stencil for every side of every element of your building. Walk around it in your imagination and count corners and spaces for every floor. " Share

In addition, Cornelia says it’s important to find photos, plans or drawings for every side of the structure. “I also hunt for detailed pictures that show decoration or any other special things,” Cornelia reveals, as often these small additions can provide the key to capturing the essence of the architecture.

Detail may also determine the size of the model. “The more detail you want to show, the bigger your Doodled building will be,” Cornelia explains. “If necessary, simplify forms or leave out details that are less important.”

With floor plans, reference photos, and a concept of size and scale, you can begin to create your stencils. “You need a stencil for every side of every element of your building,” Cornelia says. “Walk around it in your imagination and count corners and spaces for every floor. Not every building has just four plain walls.”

Plain Edges and Clean Corners

When recreating any piece of architecture, an awareness of materials can be just as important as understanding the structure. “Dots, short strokes, thin, medium or thick plain lines, checkered spaces, zig-zag or chevron patterns—all result in different surfaces which can mimic different materials,” Cornelia explains.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater

When creating a scale replica of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Fallingwater, Cornelia had to test a variety of techniques in order to achieve all the different textures which came from various construction materials and the natural environment around the house. The trick when creating a model is to experiment and test what your 3Doodler can do. “Choose what looks most similar to what you want to build.”

But precision is key when it comes to model building. “Plain edges and clean corners are essential to create fine rectangular buildings,” Cornelia says. “It helps to draw the outlines first and then fill in the spaces.”

For curved areas, Cornelia recommends finding something to use as a mould rather than attempting to Doodle free-hand. “Think about hot-airing a flat Doodled piece around a bottle, vase, or whatever you have that suits the size you need,” she says.

Time and Patience

When constructing your model, relying on a scaled version of the original floor plan can help ensure the form and shape are correct. Cornelia recommends working from bottom to top, and inside to outside, which is what she did when creating her scale model of the Farnsworth House, designed and constructed by Modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

“Try as much as possible to Doodle your pieces together at invisible spaces,” Cornelia says, “from the inside, from underneath, and so on.”

Farnsworth House by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Cornelia says not to be afraid to use outside materials to clean up stray strands, like scissors, knives or other blades. When building any structure, having edges fit together is key to recreating an accurate portrayal of the final building.

But most important of all, says Cornelia, is time and patience. Precision is vital, and mistakes do happen. Enjoy the process, and keep the final result in sight.

If you’re looking to try your hand at creating scale models, 3Doodler will be releasing both of these amazing buildings as 3Doodler Create Project Kits in collaboration with National Trust for Historic Preservation and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, so that anyone can re-create these eye-catching structures themselves.

Tiny Doodles Breathe Life into Tiny Spaces

Breathing life into an otherwise static scene is a challenge faced by every designer, architect or engineer in their daily work. “How can I convince my client that this town layout, building, museum or gallery will be enjoyed by real people going about their everyday business? And how can I bring hallways, auditoriums, and city streets to life with little more than an uninhabited scale model?”

To answer this question, Nikka Francisco, undergraduate at the Savannah College of Art and Design and 3Doodler design intern, takes us on a tour of a gallery teeming with Doodled life.

Blank Space

The gallery was created as a part of a course in 3D Design Form & Space, essentially a foundation course in how to think in 3D. The aim of the course is to think in different ways about installations and sculpture, creating models for presentation to others. Students have struggled to show how their ideas would work in reality, which prompted me to think a little differently, adorning the walls with the works of American Artist Alex Grey, and filling the gallery with a series of unique Doodled people.

Thinking Differently

Most of the time people purchase small sculpted models, but I wanted to make this my own personal work, even the people inside the gallery. The other problem with pre-made sculptures is that you can’t really change them – they are fixed and they aren’t designed for your specific space or experience.

Using the 3Doodler, things happen that you don’t always expect. You can’t always control the way the plastic flows, but that lack of predictability can often be more realistic. In some parts of the gallery it looks like the people are actually in motion, reacting to things, and it gave a better sense of relationship between the person and the artwork they were looking at.

All the right moves and all the right places

I didn’t plan out who would go where at the start. Instead I Doodled a small army of people and then placed them in different parts of the museum, in positions that fit best, moving them around until it felt right. On placing the people inside, it started to feel like an actual gallery, and that the space itself was possible.

You have the two people in the lift peering out through the glass; your typical gallery poses – some people striding by, while others sit and stare at a painting for hours; and then those taking a time out out in the Cafe. Most of the people actually look like they’re dancing!

When I presented the work the reaction was surprise, but positive surprise.

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