The Mount Desert Island Regional School System in Maine is using a state grant to launch a new 3D printing initiative focused on accessibility and ecological impact.

The Filabot Full Recycling initiative is funded by a $35,322 Teach With Tech grant from the Maine Department of Education (DOE). The initiative is focused on transforming the district’s use of 3D printers for curricular purposes in ways that are more economical, ecological, and innovative.

The school system said the initiative is “creating new opportunities and ways of engaging in innovative educational practices in environmentally and economically conscious ways that foster interdisciplinary collaboration, improve engagement, increase student motivation, promote the growth in critical thinking skills, and stimulate thinking about ecologically sustainable practices in a high-tech world.”

The initiative came about as the school system realized just how expensive and wasteful 3D printing can be in the classroom environment. The school system explained that a single spool of filament will print 20-30 five- to six-inch tall models. Each spool can cost between $19 and $32, which makes errors – a natural part of learning – and the inevitable production of waste byproducts costly.

The new initiative will allow the school district to make filament from discarded 3D printed projects otherwise destined for landfill, printing waste, and recyclable plastics that can be used in every school.

The Teach with Tech grant has allowed project leaders to purchase the equipment needed to establish a complete recycling system. Besides producing savings in the schools’ budgets, the new system will “also allow the kids to make mistakes” without having to worry about the cost of those errors and promote sustainable practices. The new equipment can produce recycled filament in any color and in 1.75mm and 2.85mm thicknesses.

The goal, the school system explained, “is that no school will buy filament whatsoever and to have a place where plastics can be recycled instead of put into a landfill.” The recycling and production process will serve all of the school system, and once it is fully operational, the new system will save the school district an estimated $15,000 a year on filament costs.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs