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Smithfield 7th graders clean community, thanks to 3D printing

A 7th-grade class will create 3D printing handheld hydraulic claws that will serve as trash collectors.
Credit: BioLife4D
A rendering of the 3D printer recreating layers of a human heart.

SMITHFIELD, Va. — One group of local students have a 3D printing mission: to provide a helping hand at home and pick up the trash.

Ellen Peterson, a science and technology teacher at Smithfield Middle School, is leading her 7th-grade class through 3D printing handheld hydraulic claws that will serve as trash collectors.

Once completed, about 40 students will test the devices on school grounds before venturing out into the community to clean up litter, garbage, and other items.

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“I want my students to see an application of the technology we are exploring.  As a science teacher, my students often ask me, ‘When will we ever use this?’ As a technology teacher, I want to make sure I show our students that 3D printing isn’t just an educational activity, but is set to make a real impact in people’s lives,” said Peterson, who is working with 3D printing pen maker 3Doodler on the collaborative effort.

3D printing is used in so many capacities like rockets, shoes, medical solutions, and even buildings. This project is encouraging the students to consider possible job opportunities.

“We see this exercise as a pathway towards potential future career opportunities,” said Smithfield Middle School principal Matthew Johnson in a press release. “But one must think locally before they act globally. That’s why we’re picking up the trash and trying to make our hometown a better place first.”