North Hall Middle School student Nathan Greene worked all summer on a project and finally saw its completion with help from North Georgia Technical College.
Nathan, an eighth-grader in Kathy Mellette’s directed studies class, had a summer project to collect arthropod specimens. Though the actual collection and display became a family affair for the Murrayville residents — involving brother Brennan (the bug catcher) and parents Bill and Amy — the modeling part was intense and complicated.
“A lot of the students chose modeling clay, toothpicks, nuts, bolts, marbles, marshmallows and things like that,” Nathan said. “But I wanted to try a 3-D model on the computer.”
As president of his school’s Programming Club, Nathan was well-versed in searching out applications and learning how to use them on his own. But writing computer code is one hurdle; implementing it is another.
His father Bill thought to connect with NGTC’s engineering technology instructor Elwin Northcutt. After confirming the equipment was there, he handed the phone to Nathan.
“I was very impressed with what Nathan had done by himself and thought that it would be a great learning opportunity for him and for my students,” Northcutt said. “The technology is still new, and we’re working through the process of writing the code, compiling the rendering, and transmitting it to the 3-D printer.”
“What I drew was a model of a cave spider,” Nathan said. “Actually, it isn’t really a spider. It is from the scorpion family; it has a vestigial tail.”
NGTC student Chris Anderson worked with Nathan to compile a program in Solidworks and Makerware to send to the Maker Bot Replicator 2 printer. Together, they calibrated the equipment. Though the actual printing took an hour, Nathan and Brennan spent time analyzing the mechanics.
“The plastic extruder moves on X and Y axis (side to side and back to front respectively) while the plate is on the Z axis (up and down),” Nathan said.
Each time the printer finished a layer, the plate dropped a tiny fraction of an inch and the next layer was put on making it look as if the cave spider was rising bit by bit as it was being created.
When asked how many students had completed a project on this equipment at the college, Northcutt confirmed Nathan was the third.
Nathan offered a heartfelt “thank you” to Northcutt and Anderson.