Author: Kevin Fredericks, Washoe County Libraries
Computing is powerful. In today’s world, products can be designed, prototyped, tested, and manufactured without a single drop of ink on paper. On the other hand, if you have ever enjoyed a Pixar film like Finding Nemo or Toy Story, you have experienced the level of artistry that is possible with computers. When the power of computing is combined with the power of human expression, our world can be transformed in beautiful ways. So, when I was considering how to design new coding courses for the Washoe County Libraries, I decided that 3D modeling would be a great fit. Having students program their own 3D objects would instill a creative joy while being a springboard for those interested in design-oriented careers. I felt I had found a suitable course for the Washoe Libraries which would be creative, relevant, and challenging. Perfect!
NCLab includes a 3D Modeling course based on PlaSM, a popular open-source modeling program that uses the fundamentals of Python, a quickly-growing, and very useful programming language. Students using the self-paced “gamified” courses in NCLab are getting an excellent introduction for the programming challenges of the future while having a lot of fun. I highly recommend the NCLab courses for educators looking to combine the joy of creativity with the math comprehension and logical thinking that naturally arises from computing. NCLab runs from an Internet browser, so it is very easy to set up in a classroom setting.
After an enthusiastic phone conversation with John Crockett of the Sierra View Library, we had booked a prospective date for a course, and to my delight, he was also ready to buy a 3D printer, so the students could print their models at the libraries! The Washoe Libraries understand their role in providing excellent resources to our communities. Having a 3D printer on site was a pipe dream I had scribbled on the edge of my notes, but the addition 3D printer propelled the course from being a fun class to being a wondrous place of learning. For these students, the computer is now a tool that blends seamlessly with the real world. As they saw a few lines of code become a beautiful sculpture, smiles burst on to their faces and I could see that they were excited for the next challenge.