EXCELL in STEM at UNH Manchester

Its been about two months since the EXCELL in STEM program took place on the Manchester campus of UNH but it was such a great time that I still wanted to share it with all of you.  The activity that I ran introduced students to 3D printing and design.  We had both middle school and high school students in attendance, and both were awesome to work with!

The design that we chose to work with is called a penny trap and credit for both the idea and the design goes to Laura Taalman.  I have been following Laura’s work for a while at her website http://mathgrrl.com/hacktastic/ and had the opportunity to meet her this summer at Brown’s ICERM conference.

penny trap
Penny Trap

The students designed the penny traps using the free online cad software called Tinkercad. This software has a very small learning curve so it is great to use while introducing students to 3D design. It also has the ability to export a .stl file ready to be printed.

Designing Penny Traps in Tinkercad

Once the designs were complete the students were off to send them to the printers.  We have four M3D printers that the university purchased through Kickstarter last spring.  So far they have been great albeit a little bit slower than most printers.  However, just like Tinkercad they are very user friendly and designed for “plug and play” applications.

Starting the M3D Printers

Once the penny traps are half way through being printed it is time to insert the penny so it can be trapped inside.

insert penny

In the end each student was able to take home their own penny trap to show off a 3D printed object.  They all seemed to enjoy the day and hopefully learned a bit about STEM as well.

Evolution of the Golden Cantor Comb and Fractal Arc de Triomphe

Hello, My name is Dr. Donald Plante and I have always been interested in visualizing mathematics through the use of models.  With the advent of 3D printing this has recently become much easier to do.  No more nights glueing 400 cubes together to make a level 2 Menger sponge!  Now I can design and print one in much greater detail in a matter of hours instead of days.

I just attended a conference held at Brown Universities ICERM called “Illustrating Mathematics”.  Many topics were discussed that involved cutting edge methods for creating 3D prints of various mathematical models.  This has inspired me to start a blog of the same name to show off some of my own work.

I have been inspired by Henry Segerman’s work with 3D printed fractal formations so I attempted to create my own in Tinkered.  To start off simple I wanted to show the evolution of the classic cantor set.


This was printed in PLA to show the continuous transformation of the line segment [0,1] into the 4th level of the Cantor set.  I also made the the dimensions of the overall rectangle match the golden ratio and printed it in gold to give the comb some style.

Next, I wanted to see if I could model something a little more difficult so I set my eyes on the evolution of the Cantor Dust fractal.

Evolution of the Cantor Dust fractal
Evolution of the Cantor Dust fractal

This was also made in Tinkered but printed in ABS on a Lulzbot Taz 5.  The evolution from the original square goes down to the 4th level of the fractal.  It starts with one cube and ends with 4^4=256 cubes.

All 256 cubes

I also included arches in the transformation to give it the look of the Arc de Triomphe.  Like the golden Cantor Comb I scaled this fractal’s main arch to have similar dimensions to the real Arc de Triomphe.

Fractal Arc de Triomphe
A look inside the Fractal Arc de Triomphe