Introduction: Makerville: the 3D Printed Town

Hello everyone. I teach Engineering at Boyd J. Michel, III Technical High School in Hagerstown, Maryland. I also spent 7 years as a middle school CTE teacher and have tried a lot of fun projects with students in the past. This project is a fun introduction to 3D design with specific criteria in mind. this project also gives the students a brief introduction to different architectural styles. In this project, students will utilize Tinkercad to design a unique building for the new town of "Makerville". Each student will design and 3D print a specific type of building that must meet certain design requirements. Teachers and students can then create a physical model of the town complete with all of the students 3D printed building designs.

This project can be done with large or small classes or even with a combination of classes to have a large number of different designs. There are 41 spots for buildings on the map. I designed this project for middle school students but the other great thing about this project is that is can be differentiated based on age level. This project could easily be done with elementary students crating less complex models with more basic design criteria or high school students creating more complex models with more advanced design criteria.

As I have listed in the last step of the project, the Makerville town could become a thematic focus for many different design challenges that students would really enjoy doing. Overall this is a really fun and engaging project and it can lead to some other really engaging projects if used correctly.


For this project you will need:

  • 3D printer/s
  • Filament for the 3D printer
  • A larger piece of cardboard of foamboard to create the physical map. The map is about 20 x 40 inches all together.
  • Markers, tape, paint, etc. that can be used to create the map.

The resources linked to this instructable are as follows:

  • 3D Town Project Introduction: Use this to introduce the project to the students
  • Makerville building Needs: Share this with students so that they can see the location and design requirements for each type of building
  • Town Hall STL: 3D print this as an example.
  • Makerville Map: A map complete with street names and addresses. You can use Canva or another app to edit.

Step 1: Project Introduction

Use the 3D Town Project introduction slides to introduce students to this project. Explain the criteria and expectations for the project. Also explain to students how you will decide who designs each type of building. Will you let them choose? Will it be randomly selected? Will you choose?

If students have never used Tinkercad before, it is recommended that you have students work through some of the basics of the program before starting this project.

This would be a good time to talk about some different architectural styles as well. Show students some examples of drastically different styles to get their ideas going.

Step 2: Brainstorming and Research

During this step of the project, students should:

  1. Select (or be assigned) the building that they will design for the project.
  2. Review the requirements of their chosen building on the Makerville Building Needs document. Share this with students.
  3. Research architectural styles that they could possibly incorporate into their designs.
  4. Create concept sketches of different design possibilities.

Once students have created different concept sketches, they should show their work to the teacher an explain the choices that they made in their designs. Questions to ask students could be What architectural style did you use and why? What influenced your design choices? How did you meet the criteria for the building?

Once the teacher approves one of the design ideas students should move on to the next step.

Step 3: 3D Tinkercad Design

In this step of the project, students will design their building in Tinkercad. Students need to be aware that the building have specific size limits and the 3D printers being used will likely also have size limits. So using the ruler and paying attention to dimensions in Tinkercad is crucial to success on this project!

It is also a good idea for teachers to make sure that students have a basic understanding of how 3D printers create an object and for teachers to set forth design requirements based on the classes 3D printers specs. For example you may want to tell students that any part of their design must have a minimum thickness of 0.1 inches to ensure print quality. Or you may want to limit the amount of support material that can be used to make 3D printing easier. All 3d printers are different so the teacher will have to decide what these requirements might be.

Once students have finished their 3D designs, they should check their work with the teacher. The teacher should look for anything that does not meet the requirements or anything that could potentially cause printing issues/errors. If no changes are needed, students should submit an STL file to the teacher for 3D printing.

Students should also seek feedback on their design from their peers. Encourage students to make constructive comments and redesign as needed.

Step 4: Physical Model

At this point of the project, the class is likely waiting for their parts to complete 3D printing. During this time the class can create the physical map. Choose how you will mark the roads and building locations. I used a large board to create the map. I laid out the roads with painters tape and painted the entire board but you can use whatever you have available. An example of the map (with different road names) I created in shown in the picture attached. You can also see a few building examples in this picture.

Once the map is laid out and all student pieces are finished printing. Have students place their designs onto the map at their correct address. Once all building are completed and placed in the town, that is it! The Project is finished!

Step 5: Project Extensions

Here are some possible extensions to this project:

  • What other things does the town need? Docks for the river? A park? Have students design things to make the town more "complete".
  • The Makerville Town could become a theme for numerous different design projects and lessons. What other design challenges can you use that relate to the Makerville town? Below are some ideas but I think there are many many more possibilities.
  • Robotics: Students could design a robotic street cleaner that could navigate the streets of the town.
  • Electronics: Design street lights for the town powered by solar, wind, or hydro energy sources.
  • Structural: Design a bridge to allow vehicle to cross the river and boats to navigate the river.
  • Design: Design rubber band or balloon powered boats to navigate the river. Or design barges to carry large loads of materials.
  • Graphic Design: Have students design billboards for the town advertising companies in the town or the town itself.
  • Technical drawing: Students could create orthographic views of their building designs on paper.
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