“The best part for me? The endless possibilities. The more we use our 3D printer, the more applications we think of.” – Mike Santolupo, John Paul II Secondary School
Mike Santolupo is an instructor at John Paul II Secondary School in London, Ontario, where all students have the opportunity to 3D print one of their designs. For more than 10 years, he has been pushing his students to do more and better design work, knowing that the professional grade Stratasys printer in his shop can make quality models to match their creativity.
As the 3D printing industry develops, so do the teenagers’ skills. Students in architecture, engineering, industrial design, urban planning, interior design, gaming, and animation are all designing for additive manufacturing at John Paul II.
“We need a robust industrial printer to manage the number and size of our student projects,” Mike says. “The printer is running all the time. A hobby printer couldn’t possibly keep up – they can handle only little parts and occasional use.”
Mike has an extensive background in CAD and traditional fabrication methods. He’s seen the shift from drafting table to digital design, then 2D to 3D. He began working at John Paul II in 1991, and says there is nothing like exposing students to the latest tools – through hardware, software, and even field trips.
“If given the right tools and opportunity at an early age, students will engage quickly and be motivated to keep learning. They are so tech savvy. They get it quickly. When they get the ideas out of their heads and hold parts in their hands, it’s so much better than looking at a rendering. It’s powerful.”
Mike has experience with Stratasys uPrint and Dimension printers, known for their longevity and workhorse qualities. He hopes his school will one day have a full working design studio with F-series printers.
Paving a career path with 3D printers in the classroom
Mike’s students think 3D printing is the way things are made, accepting that additive manufacturing will be part of their career path. Past students return to say how grateful they are to have worked at such a high level, preparing them for post-secondary study and giving them an edge in finding work. Mike even received a call from a recruiter from Apple, who asked him to recommend CAD sculptors.
Cimetrix, now Javelin Technologies, as well as the printer manufacturer Stratasys, have supported Mike’s efforts in the classroom and benefited from his leadership in educational applications of 3D printing. Mike contributed a variety of student projects to the Stratasys curriculum, including a drone design for senior level students.
“Everyone truly wants me to be successful. They want me to use the machine to its fullest potential. I’ve received advice, service calls, even donations. In return, I’ve shared my knowledge with Javelin and Stratasys so they can put energy into how best to involve young people at the high school and even middle school level.”
Advice for other educators
Mike’s advice for teachers beginning to work with a 3D printer is to think of themselves as facilitators.
“It’s ok to start small, as long as you set up an environment for success by using the highest-level products. You’ll see your students are more than capable. You and your students will learn together, have success, and gain confidence.”
He also notes that educators have to be wise when budgeting for print material.
“We try to limit mistakes, but students make mistakes. Things don’t work. Designs fail. That’s the point, really. 3D printing can validate your design but also make it obvious that it won’t work. The benefit is knowing that before you invest in tooling or manufacturing.”