Teaching with 3D printed terrain models - how to get started

Wednesday 1:30pm-4:00pm Appleby 3
Afternoon Mini Workshop


Chris Harding, Iowa State University

This workshop will touch on the main aspects of how to integrate 3D terrain models into your teaching. I will talk about 3D printing hardware (especially of low-cost 3D printers) and the best software to use to create 3D models (https://touchterrain.org). I will showcase several large (400 x 400 mm) 3D terrain prints and show how they have been used in geoscience education. Finally, we will collectively brainstorm possible approaches towards developing lesson plans with 3D printed terrain models for your class room or field trip.


By the end of this workshop, participants will:

  • Know the basics of how plastic filament 3D printing works and what's involved in owning your own 3D printer
  • Be able to generate a 3D printable model of any terrain worldwide using the opensource TouchTerrain web application
  • Have gained hands-on experience with many different, large 3D printed terrain models
  • Have developed and initial plan for how to incorporate 3D terrain prints into their own teaching

If at all possible bring a laptop with an internet connection, so you can run the TouchTerrain web app.


1:30 Welcome and introductions (Who are you, what do you teach, what do you hope to get out of this workshop?)

1:40 Introduction to 3D filament based printing technology (incl. live demonstration)

1:55 Detailed walk through on how to use the TouchTerrain web app to create high-resolution (and free) terrain models
      (Participants with laptops are encouraged to follow along!)

2:15 Break

2:25 Quick look at live 3D printing

2:30 Look at examples of large (400 x 400 mm) 3D printed terrain models I have created of the last years 
        (includes giving away some terrain models!)

2:50 Examples of teaching with 3D printed terrain (geology curriculum), some using the 3D printed models shown earlier

3:05 Break

3:15 Participants develop ideas for how to incorporate 3D terrain prints into their own teaching

  1. Split into 3 - 5 groups, guided be similar backgrounds and/or teaching interests
  2. Brainstorm possible applications for teaching: didactic purpose, setting, area/data needed, limitations (20 min)
  3. Quick presentation to the whole group, consider technical (3d printing) requirements and practical feasibility 
  4. Closing thoughts  

3:55 Fill out workshop evaluations

4:00 Adjourn