The maturation of 3-D printing provides some interesting opportunities for the classroom. This technology permits us as instructors to cheaply create physical models that our students to manipulate providing another way of interacting with the material. These models are particularly helpful when exploring concepts that are intrinsically 3-dimensional in some way as students often struggle to visualize 3-D concepts in their heads. The 3-D printing technology can also improve accessibility for the course especially if certain features of the models are considered from their initial design.
Below is a library of models that I have developed mostly for use in my Physics 132 course. This second-semester course for life science majors focuses on the big questions of “What is Light?” and “What is an Electron?” and covers the topics of quantum mechanics, optics, electricity, circuits, and magnetism.
All images link to TinkerCAD allowing others to copy, edit, adapt, and improve these models. For those models which are photographed, we have a classroom set for students to use and share during class. The *.obj files are also shared on our LMS so students can print their own copies if they wish.
The following are prints of the electric potential for different charge configurations and can be used either “right side up” to represent positive charges or “upside down” to represent negative charges. They are particularly helpful for showing the connections between electric potential and electric field.
Printing them at low resolution is actually a benefit as you will get lines of equipotential!
Magnetism is inherently 3-D and students often struggle with visualizing and manipulating the quantities associated with magnetism. Ideally model manipulation will help. The arrow tips used in these models are all different and consistent across all models:
- Magnetic fields are square-sided arrows
- Forces are cones
- Electric currents / moving charges are hemispherical tips
These uniform tips are designed to help students with low vision quickly recognize the different quantities.