By ELAINE ALLEN-EMRICH
Community News Editor
ENGLEWOOD — For 10-year-old Bradley Baker, operating a 3D printer was better than playing video games.
The Englewood Elementary School student spent time with a few of his peers and 3D mini-camp printing teacher Don Musilli, who is owner of the Englewood Incubation Center, Inc., 1398 Old Englewood Road in Englewood.
“This is my first time using a 3D printer,” Bradley said. “I saw them at school but never got to use one. I really wanted to learn more about it. It sounded fun. I made a mustache.”
During the week, Bradley, Atticus Randall, 11, another Englewood Elementary School student, and Lachlan Carter, 8, a Vineland Elementary School student all worked on the 3D Printer and Digitizer.
They learned how to make their own designs on the computer and printed them out to take home. Lachlan shared his new-found talent with family members by making them gifts. Lachlan printed a four-inch shape of the state of Florida and then overlaid the words “Gators” on it for his brother.
“I liked making a weird cube because you can fidget with it,” said Lachlan who made more than a dozen trinkets. “We get to choose what color we want, too.”
The boys also made plastic replicas of fireworks, saw blades, small-scale houses, cubes, stars and other experiments during the recent camp.
“They don’t always come out the way you want, so you try again,” Atticus said. “It’s fun. As you get better at it, you can ask to make things like a claw. That’s what we have going on one of the printers right now.”
Musilli said these students already know how to use computers.
“They play Minecraft (a video game where players build a variety of blocks in a 3D-generated world), which is similar to using these 3D computers,” Musilli said.
“The problem is, these games are generally played individually. Even if players are on the same game, they might not be in the same location. What’s great about the 3D mini camp is that the kids who are used to working along are now mixed together to do projects. They get that interaction, which is so good for them to brainstorm and actually speak to each other.”
In 2014, Musilli introduced the first 3D Printer and Digitizer to Englewood Elementary School. Another was purchased for the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) class at North Port High School. Another came to Venice High School and then Lemon Bay High School. Musilli worked with all other elementary schools in Englewood. They all have them.
Musilli also helped build a robust 3D printing program at LA Ainger Middle School in Englewood. They are also at local libraries and at the Englewood Boys & Girls Club.
Musilli said most elementary school-aged students know more today about how to program a smart phone or tablet than their parents, so this level of technology will be easy and fun for them to adopt.
“The value and possibility of introducing young students to 3D Printing as a way to get them more in touch with making products they can design themselves,” Musilli said. “We’ve gotten away from making key chains and are making more substantial designs. The hope is students take this skill set through middle and high school and into college and hopefully come back to our area and set up their own product development company.”
This week, Musilli is working with teens who are advanced in 3D printing. He said learning 3D printing isn’t just for students. Musilli is doing a session with several local teachers later this month.
“It makes sense for these teachers to have a better understanding of the importance of 3D printing,” he said. “We are working on a 3D printing operation that can make a house that can sustain up to 220 mile per hour winds. It’s real. It’s just a matter of educating people about how much this industry can impact our lives.”