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Picture of Candy Casts

CREATOR(S): Leilani Roser, Diane Brancazio, Josh Verdejo, MIT Edgerton Center

Math, Social Studies, English, Science, Grades 3 - 12

Lesson Overview

In this activity, students will learn the manufacturing process of casting and molding as well as 3D design. Students use Tinkercad to design and create molds for pourable candies and figurines. The molds are typically quick to print, minimizing 3D printer time. The casting process has multiple hands-on steps extending the activity beyond 3D printing.

Giving students the chance to design their own mold is a perfect opportunity for students to practice process engineering by spotting steps in the candy making process that need improvement. And, working with the positive and negative versions of a molded 3D object help people to develop spatial and geometric awareness.

Simple prompts for 2-3 hour projects can focus strictly on making functional molds, allowing first-time Tinkercad users to focus on learning and using Tinkercad. High school students and/or students who are already skilled with Tinkercad can be assigned complex, higher-order-thinking prompts that require additional time for intense research, collaboration, design, and sharing. Consider the example of these two math prompts and one science/engineering prompt:

Simple: use simple geometric solids to recreate the school logo as a printable, moldable design

Complex: design a process for making 100 candies per class per day, with budget constraints

Complex: (extension of above) identify stages in the process where bacteria could enter the candies - design solutions to prevent contamination

This project is structured to follow the Engineering Design Process (EDP), a process that helps designers in any discipline create solutions to problems. While there are many ways that people solve problems, designers often use the EDP because it offers a clear roadmap for them to follow as they work towards a solution.

First, designers Define the challenge they are facing, then Learn more about the problem and Explore existing solutions. It’s tempting to skip these first few steps and head straight into brainstorming, but don’t! When designers take the time to understand the problem clearly, they come up with much better solutions.

The Design phase is where brainstorming happens. Designers brainstorm multiple possible solutions, then develop a few of them into more detailed plans. Encourage your students to plan at least 3 of their potential ideas before choosing a design direction and starting to Create a product based on their design. If they hit any roadblocks trying to create their first design choice, they’ll be able to revisit their alternate design plans and choose a new direction - without starting from scratch.

Designers then take time to Observe their design and see how they can Improve it. We strongly recommend that students have an opportunity for at least 2 Create-Observe-Improve cycles. When students feel they have to “get it right the first time” they are less willing to take risks and be creative. By repeating the cycle, they have a chance to fix flaws and adopt successful ideas from classmates, and in fact, they’re practicing what professional designers really do.

A good design cycle builds in time for the designer to Reflect on their product and the process of making it, looking for learning habits and insights that will help in future challenges.

When the work is complete, designers are ready to Share. They bring their work into the real world, by posting, publishing, presenting, or exhibiting what they’ve made- even giving or selling if appropriate! For students working through a design process, a real audience helps students connect their learning and work experiences to the world outside the classroom. For Makerspaces and Maker projects, in particular, this is hugely important for building confidence in every student and a sense of community among Makers.

To help students work through this process, be sure to build in planned “stops” at each step for students to record their thoughts and progress as they work through product iteration cycles.

Essential Question(s)

How is the molding/casting process used Making products we use in our lives? How is it possible for factories to make so many of the same thing?

How can the design process and 3D modeling tools be useful tools in learning manufacturing?

Time Required:

1-2 Hours design time + 1- 3 hours class time for melting, pouring, unmolding

Skills Practiced:

  • The Design Process
  • 3D modeling in Tinkercad
  • Symbolic Communication
  • Mold-making process
  • Casting/molding and releasing process

Materials Needed:

  • Sketch paper and pencils

  • Tinkercad

  • 3D Printer and filament

  • Food-safe, fast set, Silicone molding compound (e.g. “Easy Mold” by Castin’ Craft. A one pound kit costs ~$30 and can be used to make about 12 - 16 molds for 1.5” square candy)

  • For candy: Colored candy melts or chocolate suitable for melting

  • Lollipop sticks or popsicle sticks

  • For non-edible figurines: hi-temp hot glue, candle wax pellets, crayons, or plaster

  • Electric skillet and/or pot, slow cooker, or chocolate melter

Step 1: Define

Context

Designing molded candies or figurines is an engaging way for students to learn a manufacturing process while practicing 3D modeling. The activity can be done in an assembly-line fashion or with individuals carrying out each step of the process.

Molded candies or figurines are easily made with pre-made candy or wax chips, removing the need to follow a multi-ingredient recipe. That way, kids can focus on creating unique molds and troubleshooting their design, instead of worrying about troubleshooting a given recipe. (That said, silicone molds are also suitable for molding hard candies like lollipops, which can be a worthwhile challenge for high school chemistry students.)

Challenge:

Students create a mold for creating reproducible candies or figurines, following a theme that the teacher assigns. (E.g., school logo, personal symbol, etc.) Students will fabricate their work using Tinkercad, 3D printers, and silicone molding materials.

Criteria:

  • The designed item meets the theme and design requirements set by the teacher
  • The designed item has at least 2 of the following features:
    • Legible text
    • 1 or more pictures
    • Meaningful shape (other than circular, square or other)

Constraints:

  • The molded item can be unmolded without breaking
  • The molded item shows all desired details from the mold
  • The designed item follows size constraints:
    • Area of design must fit within a 1.5” x1.5” (4cm x 4 cm) square
    • Maximum height/depth of design must be < ¼” (7 mm)
    • Print time < 25 minutes

Student Product / Technical Learning Goals

A custom-designed, fillable mold of a 3D printed item.

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