3D printing chess pieces at Blue Sky Academy

It was early on a weekday morning. I was alone in my classroom planning a lesson when one of my students burst in. He excitedly asked me to play chess. I accepted his challenge and followed him. My class of 7 year olds were waiting. All of them were excited to watch me play the reigning champion Tim. The chessboard and pieces were laid out on a classroom desk. I went to move my pawn and saw a pencil eraser. One of my pawns was missing. Tim told me he lost it. Then I went to move my rook. There was a tiny ball of crumpled up paper. Tim said he lost his rook too. His chess set was missing some vital pieces. Each time I moved I had to remember if the eraser or the crumpled paper ball was my pawn or rook.

Where can I find these replacement chess pieces without buying a whole new chess set? Would if I could make them for him? I had been researching 3D printing. I could 3D print the rooks, pawns, and any other pieces that Tim needed.

I told this story to Harley. He’s the Director of English & IT at Blue Sky Academy (BSA) where I work. He agreed that the school should have a 3D printer. He knew someone who could help us build one. A couple of weeks later I found out the school would be getting two 3D printers. John Stack flew from California to Vietnam to help us build them. With the help of BSA staff (and students!), we spent about a week building the 3D printers. John taught a 3D printing workshop for the students. He explained the basics of how a 3D printer works and answered their many questions.

“If we have a big enough 3D printer, can we build a house?”

“Did this 3D printer come from a factory or was it 3D printed?”

“Can you print metal?”

“Can I print something?”

“How long does it take to print?”

The students were staring in amazement at the 3D printer. I could see 3D printed wheels turning in their heads. They could make anything. One student wanted to make a dragon. Another wanted to make a knight. Someone wanted to make a car. One student wanted to make a hamburger.

When the workshop was over I looked online for a rook. Someone had uploaded their model of a Staunton chess set to Thingiverse. I downloaded their rook model. I watched the 3D printer build it layer by layer. It took about 45 minutes to print. The first replacement piece for Tim’s chess set was complete.

I’ve discovered many interesting things while researching the world of 3D printing. Here’s what I’ve found in no particular order:

The Blue Sky Academy 3D Printing Team:

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