Jackie Tan Teaches Future Makers with SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids, Part Three

Part Three: 3D Tech Squad Takeover and Sharing a Legacy

A note from one of the Jackie's students
A note from one of the Jackie’s students


Jackie Tan is a Maker Lab teacher at South Tahoe Middle School in South Lake Tahoe, CA. After discovering and falling in love with 3D printing, she is in the process of creating a sustainable Maker program at her middle school, and is utilizing SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids to do so. Read Part One  and Part Two of her story.

“So let me tell you what else I’m doing,” Jackie said as I listened intently, beyond excited for her Maker Lab’s future. Jackie has a lot of plans in the works—she wants to build something sustainable before she retires—but her biggest project involves the entire school. With the help of local philanthropic groups, she has recently received funding for three Maker carts, mobile carts with 3D printers, filaments, and more materials of invention, for classroom teachers around the school. There will be one cart per grade level.

While Jackie prepares to purchase the three Maker carts, she has created a 3D Tech Squad, made up of thirty-one students from all grade levels. Members of the 3D Tech Squad  will learn how to change filament, upload files to printers, remove models from plates, and so on, so they can support the teachers with the Maker carts. These students and teachers will all learn SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids so they can work on the next aspect of the project: teaching everyone at the school how to be Makers.

Dodo bird, duck, and grappling hook prints
Dodo bird, duck, and grappling hook prints


“In social studies, [students] will be modeling artifacts they’re learning about in class. In language arts, they’ll be modeling characters or other artifacts from stories they read. In math, they’ll be modeling manipulatives and games. And in science, they’ll be modeling the things they use in experiments,” Jackie said. It’s a huge project aimed at spreading the Maker mentality to the entirety of the school’s population. “I’m going to have a separate 3D printer in the principal’s office, because he wants one. He’s fascinated by [3D printing], which is great because if he’s fascinated he’ll excite other people,” Jackie told me. “So I’ll teach him SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids and let him start modeling.” She plans on rolling the principal’s 3D printer into the school’s front hallway, so the entire student body can see the prints running every day. “I don’t want printing to only happen in the Maker Lab,” Jackie said. “By January, we should have nine printers on campus, four in my classroom and five outside of my classroom.”

Now that she’s discovered 3D printing, Jackie has devoted herself to the Maker community. She runs workshops and gets support from teachers in Sonoma County, CA, and also attends the reMAKE conference every summer. “I just learned about Flashforge Finder [3D printers] at the conference, then two weeks later I had the opportunity to buy them, and they’re just fantastic,” Jackie said over the sound of her 3D printers printing away.

An 8th grade soldering project
An 8th grade soldering project


“We have a lot of growth happening right now and some really excellent management choices being made by our principal, which is really opening up communication between all the departments,” she said. Teachers can sometimes feel isolated in their classrooms, and Jackie sees Maker as something can be the glue that holds the teaching curriculum together; educators can teach STEM across the curriculum and she has a way of sharing it.

“I want the means to share everything I know with other teachers. We’re now setting up pathways to offer professional development at elementary, middle, and high school levels,” said Jackie. “I want to make this a sustainable program within the next four years. Huge, right?”

It’s gargantuan. By the time her current sixth graders get to eighth grade, Jackie expects them to be knocking down her door for the chance to create in the Maker Lab. She only has room for two classes of twenty-five students, fifty in all, but it’s a pretty good problem to have.

Jackie's students using power tools.
Jackie’s students using power tools


Jackie also pushes for girls to join her in the Maker Lab. “Any time I have the choice, I always make sure that girls make up at least half the class. In my regular electives, they don’t quite make up half, and in one of my eighth grade electives, unfortunately, the numbers are very low for girls, which is hard on them,” she said. “But our goal is to very quickly have classes always be 50/50, and represent our student population.”

I asked Jackie if she had any advice for other educators thinking about entering the Maker community. “Don’t be afraid to start!” she said. “Find people who are a step ahead of you. In the Maker world, we want to support other people. Anything that’s taken me a long time to figure out, I would love to help someone figure it out quickly, and that’s the Maker mindset. We’re all about sharing.” She went on to say, “I want to help teachers [get into the Maker community]. If teachers want to get in, we have to support them in figuring out where the network is for them to get the help they need. Twitter is a good place. I’m only just building my network on Twitter right now.”

6th grade prints.
6th grade prints


By the middle of December, over 115 of Jackie’s students received their first 3D printed parts. Jackie is currently saving up some of her favorite prints, which she calls her “all-stars” to inspire her future students, the future Makers. As Jackie’s program and network grow, we hope to see her methods and passion spread. It takes a lot to build a sustainable program like the one Jackie is using SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids and her 3D printers to construct, but she is a Maker. And she’s going to make something amazing.

Thank you to Jackie Tan for taking the time to talk about her experiences as a teacher, a Maker, and with SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids. She is on Twitter at @stmsmakerlab. All images courtesy of Jackie Tan.

Sara Zuckerman

Sara Zuckerman

Sara Zuckerman is a Content Marketing Specialist in Brand Offer Marketing for SOLIDWORKS and 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS.