Build Your Own 3D Printer

High-school science projects from Mississippi

I spent time recently in the science and engineering classes and labs at the Mississippi School of Mathematics and Sciences in Columbus, Mississippi, which I wrote about here and here, and my husband Jim did here. I watched students tuning up their robots, which they had programmed to fight like sumo wrestlers, conduct search-and-rescue operations, and lift small objects.  I listened to a lecture on wave theory from physics teacher Jed Leggett, himself a graduate of MSMS, who also helped students with the projects presented in the videos below.

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Here are some short videos I took of the students in the electronics lab demonstrating their projects. Paul Rosenfeld of video team edited the videos. Five are from seniors, who are new MSMS graduates and will be heading off to college in the fall. One video is from a junior who will be returning to MSMS for his final year. They're all offered to give a sample of the kind of work the school is encouraging.

The first is from Donely Gunn, a senior from Columbus. He is one of two students whom Don Bratton, a biology and chemistry teacher at MSMS, took to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Los Angeles CA. Don Bratton said via email about Donely’s project, “Wind Turbines for Developing Worlds,” that “Donely designed, developed, and tested a small vertical-axis wind turbine capable of charging small electronics. Part of the turbine (the turbine blade) was 3D printed and to increase the sustainability of his project. Donely then set out to build an affordable 3D printer that could be used in the developing world to print the part."

In this video, Donely describes that his first idea was to make a small wind turbine, a product that could power things like cellphones, and that he imagined would ultimately help the economies of third world countries. Then, he decided to better that idea by making an actual inexpensive 3D printer for third-world countries, which could use online designs and readily-available products, like plastic bottles, to mold other elements necessary to make their own products, including things like small wind turbines. There is more about Donely here:

Donely Gunn is headed to Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, to study engineering. He is the winner of a Gates Millennium Scholarship.  


Next is the other student who went to ISEF, Austin Li, a senior from Greenville, Mississippi. He will attend UC Berkeley to study chemical engineering. For his ISEF project, emails Mr. Bratton, “Austin was investigating how new processes affected various properties of cast iron.” His project there was titled:  “Novel Process for Observing Phase Transformations in and Strengthening Cast Iron via Controlled Cooling."

The project Austin demonstrates here  here is his Arduino LED Cube, which he built from available online supplies and designs and then programmed to appear to shoot fireworks.


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Deborah Fallows is a contributing writer for The Atlantic and the author of Dreaming in Chinese.

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