Introducing 3d Modeling

Looking at Prototype Do 2. Design it: 3D Model, I see that using a modeling programs like Tinkercad are suggested. I like this idea as many of my students are working virtually on Chromebooks and we have access to 3d printers and lasercutters at school.

How are students being introduced to this program so they are able to model their prototype solutions? I would like to build up their skills before they need to use the program for their own creation. I am working with mostly high school seniors.


Sometimes the best way to learn something is just to try it out with a small activity. I think that’s especially true for teenagers who are often pretty adept at working with new tech.

If you wanted to give them some experience first, I’ll provide some instructions you might consider using or adapting (below). We did this activity at the Jacobs Institute a while back and everyone was asked to design a small tchotchke in Tinkercad that we later 3D printed for everyone. I created a die which was more complicated than I expected but it was a lot of fun. This idea could work really well for you too since you have access to a 3D printer. Actually printing something can help students get excited. Just ask students to send you the final .obj file and you should be able to load that into your printer.

One important note: These directions were written for our team with our printer. You may wish to alter steps 1–4 to include your Tinkercad class code so students can be connected together as well as step 7 depending on your printer.

TinkerCAD Team Demo Instructions:

  1. Go to
  2. Scroll down a little and click “Start Tinkering”
  3. This will prompt you to create an Autodesk account. This is super useful! Autodesk is the larger company that owns amazing programs like Maya, AutoCAD, and many others. If you ever plan on using any of these programs in the future, I would recommend creating an account with a .edu email address for possible discounts.
  4. If you already have an Autodesk account, just sign in!
  5. Click the Create New Design button
  6. On the upper left-hand corner there is a funny looking randomly generated name for your new design, if you would like to change it, just click on it and retype a new name! Otherwise you can go back and change the name anytime in your personal drive under the properties menu (the gear/settings button by each of your designs).
  7. The first thing we are going to do is edit our grid size. We are going to do this so we can mimic the size of our 3D printer so you can get a better idea of the workspace. The Dremel has a print plate size of 26 cm by 16 cm, so for the width we will put in 260 and for the height we will type 160 because their standard units are in mm. (Note that this is the MAXIMUM workspace size. Your creations should fit comfortably in the center so that I can fit more than one person’s creation on the space when it comes time to print. Also keep in mind that the larger your design, the longer it will take to print! A 50x50x25mm design will take about 45 minutes to print.)
  8. Now that we have a properly scaled workspace, it’s time to Tinker! On the right-hand side of the screen, you will see a menu of several basic shapes. Use the next couple of minutes to explore that menu as well as the other options TinkerCAD has to offer (Text and Numbers, Characters, Connectors, etc.).
  9. Once you have a good idea of what you want to build, click on the shapes you want to use and drag them to the workspace.
  10. If you are on an Apple laptop, one finger clicking and dragging will control the movement of the shape itself. However, two-finger touch and drag will let you zoom in and out, and two-finger click and drag will let you change your perspective.
  11. If you click and drag any of the squares around the shape, it will augment the size of the shape and change its dimensions. You may also simply click the number by a specific side of the shape and plug in new numbers to change dimensions as well! (Note that the units are still in millimeters!)
  12. Clicking and dragging the arrows around the shape will change the shape position in the workspace.
  13. You may also rotate any object by dragging the tick marks that are in a circular formation around the object.
  14. Once you are done tinkering with that part, you may lock it in place by clicking the lock editing button within the object menu.
  15. If you haven’t noticed already, most objects/shapes can also be treated like holes, so instead of selecting the object as a solid, you can select it as a hole to create engravings or designs.
  16. If you ever want to delete, undo, redo, copy, cut, or paste an object, the keyboard shortcuts are identical to the ones we are already familiar with!
  17. The next two tools are very important when creating a singular solid object. The first is align. Once you have selected two objects, you have the option of aligning them in a variety of ways. Click the align button in the top right corner of your workspace and Tinkercad will give you different alignment options, once you are satisfied with your alignment, click the group button to merge the objects together and then lock them in place.
  18. Now that we have gone over the main tools within TinkerCAD, the rest of the time is open for you to explore and create your invention! Once you are finished make sure you click the export button and save your creation as a .OBJ file.

Many thanks. This saves me a bunch of work creating something similar.