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Taking art to the next dimension

By Tammy Scileppi

At the start of this year, hundreds of students from around the city and New Jersey were asked if they could design anything, what would it be?

But this creative assignment, organized by the Rego Park Green Alliance, went beyond the academic and pushed the young designers into the realm of cutting-edge technology when their creations were made using a 3D printer.

“It’s exciting to see this technology in the hands of kids,” Yvonne Shortt, executive director of RPGA, said. “We would like to expand the use of this technology to students and communities throughout Queens.”

After 12 to 16 weeks spent learning this real-world technology in a classroom setting, participating students created unique designs, using 3D printing, which they eventually fabricated into actual objects made of plastic.

This is the second year of RPGA’s Creative Challenge in 3D Printing and Design contest.

About a dozen teams from six different schools and after-school programs teamed up with creative partners, like Woodside on the Move and Divas for Social Justice, and shared what they learned with the Queens community.

This year, students were divided into 20 teams during the learning phase of the challenge, and the actual challenge question they were tasked with was to design pieces and create miniature objects that could fit into little 2.7-inch clear plastic capsules – the kind used in coin-operated toy vending machines. The kids were then asked to come up with a company name and branding surrounding their products, mimicking real workplace-type project goals.

The challenge culminated with a fun-filled expo held at PS 175Q in Rego Park earlier this month, when students shared their imaginative creations.

As the challenge drew to a close, elementary school children were actually able to fabricate their own original items – everything from puzzles (made of plastic) to beautifully designed miniature castles complete with furniture.

The recent two-part expo began with a live challenge round.

Using CAD software — similar to what architects and designers use — students were asked to design an outdoor bench that was fun, creative, and functional, and had one hour to complete the project.

And those miniature items designed with 3D printing were presented during the second part of the event, where judges gave out 3D designed and printed awards to the winners.

“This year, there are some really gorgeous pieces,” Jenna Boldebuck, an industrial designer for RPGA Studio, said. “Some teams have really gone above and beyond creating small works of art.”

Shortt said the challenge demonstrated the capabilities of 3D printing and also helped spark creativity and ideas for residents.

“So, a team like Kemora, which hailed from PS 206 in Rego Park, was able to design their own toys, then got to see them materialize in front of their very own eyes,” Shortt said.

The expo also ensured that students had an opportunity to interact with other students they might not normally have an opportunity to meet, she said.

“Each student had to walk around and look at other students’ work during the education expo/judging; this allowed kids to learn from each other,” Shortt said.

And the Queens winners were:

For craftsmanship – Mini Magic Team of Rego Park’s PS 206;

Kids Presentation Award went to VIV Team, made up of Flushing’s PS 175 kids;

For branding – Dominatorz from Woodside on the Move’s after-school program;

For collaboration – Sci-Topia Joint Team from PS 206 and Freehold, N.J.

And the People’s Choice Award went to PS 175.

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