Moraine Valley hosts inaugural high school 3D printing design competitionAs part of the Technology Challenge Final hosted for high school students at Moraine Valley Community College on May 5, 12 teams competed in a unique rapid prototyping or 3D printing engineering design contest, where they created a catapult.

Schools within Moraine Valley’s district that have 3D printers were tasked in the fall with designing and printing a rubber band-powered catapult that could launch a ping pong ball. Each team had eight attempts to toss the ball onto a 10-foot and 15-foot bullseye. Accuracy, innovation of the design and engineering were considered in the judging.

This competition was the brainchild of Chuck Bales, Moraine Valley associate professor/coordinator of mechanical design drafting technology/CAD. He, along with two Moraine Valley students, were judges. A team from Reavis High School finished first with a Dr. Seuss-like creation, according to Bales. A team from Oak Lawn and Shepard high schools followed in second and third place, respectively.

“Seven high schools have at least one 3D printer so that was the genesis of the whole thing. This captured the whole engineering, designing, manufacturing, testing cycle,” Bales said.

Bales searched for similar 3D design competitions hosted in a college district for multiple high schools but hasn’t found one. He said this inaugural event was successful, and he wants to host it again next year.

“I think it went really well. The kids had a blast and were excited to actually compete. They worked on this in their classroom for months, and now they saw what other teams did. There was suspense in how they’d perform and see the ball fly,” Bales said. “We want to continue having this competition every year, but maybe design something different.”