Blog: Bright Ideas

Behind the Major: 3-D Modeling & Printing

We believe that, among other things, innovators are visionary: they imagine things that don’t yet exist. That’s part of why 3-D Modeling & Printing is such a welcome member of the Galileo Summer Quest roster. By tackling an innovative technology, campers don’t just build their skills with the major’s hardware and software; they practice the core traits of an innovator and turn something intangible into a hold-in-your-hand reality. To better understand this fascinating major, we talked to Lance Akiyama, Galileo’s science curriculum manager and the brain behind our 3-D Modeling & Printing major.

What do you love about this major?

This major makes 3-D printing accessible to a rising 5th grader, which is one of those "we're living in the future" moments. I love that feeling, and the faces of camper's families when they see the cool things their kids made. 3-D printing can feel like this big, complicated tech phenomenon, but we've found the right tools for campers so they can feel confident in what they're doing.

What's new and exciting with this major this year?

We have a brand new fleet of 3-D printers! The last model we used was from 2014, and 3-D printing technology has advanced a lot in the last four years. Our new printers are faster and more reliable. We're using the FlashForge Finder, which is the perfect entry-level printer for our campers and families who are interested in starting a new high-tech hobby.

What will be the most exciting thing for campers? The most challenging?

It's pure magic (or technological advancement) to transform something that was on your screen into a real, physical object within a few hours. It's kind of mind-blowing. However, learning how to make things that will print out successfully can be tricky. Fortunately, we use a very kid-friendly program,, and we just revised a few of our lessons for 2018 to better support campers to understand how to create successful 3-D models.

How will campers practice the Galileo Innovation Approach in this major?

This major creates ample opportunity each day at camp to put the Innovator's Process into action. Campers generate ideas and design by sketching their ideas on paper, then create their first draft in Tinkercad. Then they actually get to test if their 3-D model looks right by printing it out! When it's done, they evaluate what went well, and what didn't, then redesign their 3-D model and try printing it again. And of course, they get to share all their prints with their friends and family after camp.

From envisioning something that doesn’t yet exist to reflecting on what is and isn’t working in a design, Galileo Summer Quest inspires campers to trust their own vision and create change in the world. Campers don’t just learn about 3-D modeling and printing—they learn to think of themselves as innovators. That impact is profound, and we can’t wait to share it with you this summer.