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lost what do we need for our little guys to start

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What ages?  What grades?


Nothing motivates like a project.  Have them ask their parents what would be useful to print.  A soap dish maybe?  Something practical.  The numbers on the mail box.  A coaster for drinks.  Something to hold something that needs holding - some kind of fastener - is the most common.  Knobs.  Ask them what broke in their house and is small (preferably under 2 inches in all dimensions so it doesn't take as long to print).


Then for software, I hear tinkercad is really good for beginners.  They can design on their ipad or iphone or mac or pc and then open it on the mac and convert it to STL on your communal mac.  


Before they do that step though I recommend you review the designs for overhangs.  ONLY AFTER they have made their first design they need to read this article and make changes/redesigns:



Let me tell you they will be so proud of the thing they make even it's a simple wedge or cylinder.  It will be a cylinder that they designed!  To their exacting specifications.  It will be like no other cylinder in the world!  (well similar but slightly different for sure).  ?


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If you also have a Windows computer, I would suggest DesignSpark Mechanical. This is a limited and free version of the commercial SpaceClaim, and only requires registration. It is provided by the big electronics distributor RS-components.


This is very easy to learn, but quite professional, and very well suited for technical designs with geometric shapes (=based on straight lines and circle arcs).


Go to Youtube and search for demo's and manuals, to see if it appeals to them. There are a lot of good tutorials.


But it only exists for Windows...


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Blender could do the trick as well. It's free, open-source with a massive community currently working on the next version. You can find many resources online teaching you the basics, and even some books written in dead-tree form.


It can be used to design objects to your exact specifications of size, and it can also go to the next step of animating. Just look at the movies that the Blender Foundation made using only Blender.

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