3-D printing helps special education classrooms in Boise

Posted at 8:32 AM, Nov 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-27 22:01:06-05

BOISE, Idaho — Education students at Boise State might not have had previous knowledge or interest in 3D printing. Still, the ability to individualize assistive technology has made drastic improvements in the day-to-day for the students they serve.

“I'm going into special education, and I’m seeing all these needs students have, and I have all these ideas to help them but no idea how to design or implement those types of things," said Boise State senior Maggie Dillon.

That’s where the Maker Lab comes in.

Education students at Boise State currently working in local high school special education classrooms saw and need, and printed a solution. For Maggie, she designed and printed an assistive device specifically designed to make an important component of every school day stress-free: lunch.

“The student I’m focusing on, her independence is really important to her, she has fairly significant disabilities but making it through the lunch line without having to take someone with her makes all the difference," said Dillon, "she just wants to eat lunch with her friends."

The student Dillion has in mind with this device has trouble gripping her ID card and leaving space for it to slide through. The beauty of 3-D printing is the assistive technology can be individualized for each student’s exact needs.

“We went through a couple of different prototypes of ways handles that would allow her to do that we ended up landing on something that looks like this, she likes the color purple and monkeys and something that would make it look less like an assistive device," said Dillon.

On another printer, Joseph Fritz is assisting another need in a special education classroom, one that he couldn’t find on Amazon.

“My student has specific needs where he is very particular about what he uses in the classroom, so pens and pencils and markers; he needs kind of a guide to write; otherwise, he holds it from the top," said Fritz.

" I actually looked on the internet on places like Amazon for marker grips, and they had some kind of stuff but not specifically for Expo markets, which are really commonly used in classrooms."

Plus, the high school he works at has their own 3D printer, so he can send the files directly to the school for future use.

“Work together, have them print it, so they have access at their own area," said Fritz.

The students say providing the assistive tech allows their students to access information and opportunities their same-age peers do.

"This wasn’t something that was possible even 10 or 20 years ago," said Dillon, "we really at Boise state, especially the Ed department, want to learn how to utilize what's happening in technology to create more opportunities for these students that didn’t exist before."