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3D Printing is the Prize for Middle School Design Class Contest
Camden 3D Design 2

Remember the excitement of being in school and taking a field trip? Not only do you get to get out of school, but it often creates a lifelong memory.

 A San Diego middle school teacher, Mr. Matt Davis, recently provided his students with a field into the future of technology. Mr. Davis teaches an elective class in CAD, computer aided drafting where students learn to create and design structures and objects through a computer program. He held a contest in his class where students competed to have their 3D design printed. The students used SketchUp, 3D modeling software that’s easy to learn and incredibly fun to use, to create their entries. The UPS Store, the first national retailer to offer 3D print services in-store, offered to 3D print the winning student’s design for the class. 

 The middle school class of 20 students visited The UPS Store in San Diego and received a presentation from Daniel Remba, The UPS Store small business technology leader, on the capabilities of the 3D printer and saw the printer live in action.

 We got in touch with Mr. Davis to ask him about his inspiration to hold a 3D print design contest

 What inspired you to have a design contest that involved 3D print?

This is the first semester we have had a CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) elective in our middle school. I talked with Daniel, since I knew he worked with 3D printers at The UPS Store, and he mentioned that we might be able to take a “field trip” to see a printer in action. Since it wouldn’t have been feasible to print all the students’ designs, Daniel had mentioned holding a contest and have the winning design get printed. I, as well as the students, loved the idea! 

 What were the components of the contest?

The contest was to design a tool or a toy with the following specs:

Dimensions of approximately 5”x5”x 5” 

Walls and all structures need to be a minimum of .04” thick  

One watertight shell with no inverted normals or bad edges 

There are no limitation on complexity or angles

What were the student’s reactions?

The students were so excited and eager to see a 3D printer in action. They were impressed and even blown away at the complexity of the designs that the 3D printer could print.  It was really cool in class, as students presented their designs, students would chime in with the “errors” or limitations as to why such-and-such design would not be able to be printed. Some really got it!

 Can you provide a list of the designs that were created from the students?

My students did get creative, here are a few of the designs:

“Funky” keychain

Toy Zamboni

Toy tractor

Toy bow tie


Toy sword

Back scratcher
Camdens Design2

How did you choose a winner?

The students presented and explained their designs in class, afterwards, every student was able to cast two anonymous “ballots” for their favorite design.  The winning design was a car waiting at a street light.

Will you be doing the contest every year?

If Daniel and The UPS Store, are willing I’ve love to hold the contest each semester. Our electives are a semester long so I will have a new group of student starting in January. 

Do you think 3D print is the wave of the future?

Absolutely! It is too practical–how can it NOT be the wave of the future? 

Do you predict other teachers will use this technology at this grade? Have you seen any examples?

Absolutely! Middle school students, as well as all ages, are eager to get their hands on new technology. Especially if they can have some say in what can be created or done with that technology. 

Any additional information you would like to include:

I’d like to thank The UPS Store for the opportunity to make designing come to life for the students, something they will never forget.  


 Students now have more access to create 3D printed objects. The UPS Store is testing 3D printing services in-store, in limited participating locations, to students, start-ups, small businesses and retail customers. The first six test locations are located in San Diego, CA,  Washington, DC, Frisco, TX (near Dallas), Menlo Park, CA (near San Jose), Lisle, IL (near Chicago) and New York, NY.

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