Teen teaches kids another dimension in technology at Westport Library
Updated 11:09 am, Tuesday, August 11, 2015
As easy as he makes it look, becoming skilled on the 3D printer had its challenges for Demetri Dassouras, too.
The 13-year old Norwalk middle schooler first came to the Westport Library’s MakerSpace three years ago, not knowing a thing about the cutting-edge technology. But recently he’s been teaching a class of youngsters not only how to not the printers, but how to navigate the software that allows them to design their own creations that could then be “printed” on the device.
“When I first saw the MakerSpace being built, I saw the printers and they looked interesting,” Demetri said, “so I tried them out and I liked them.”
“At first it was a struggle,” he said, “but then I progressed as I came every week. I learned more and more and now I’m a teacher.”
Demetri and the library provided a free training classes in Tinkercad software for elementary-age kids earlier this summer.
“It’s fun to just like create models and do what you want to do with the program,” Colin Chaple, 10, of Westport, said a one of the recent sessions.
What can be created is limited only by imagination, the students learned.
“I like to make castles, spaceships and cool battleships, like cool ships and boats,” explained Noel Villepigue, 9, of Weston. “I like it because it’s really cool and you can make stuff out of your imagination. You can pretty much make anything.”
“At first it’s pretty hard,” Demetri said, “but once you figure out the controls it’s pretty easy.”
Fortunately for the students, he was able to make it much easier. Pacing the room like a veteran instructor, Demetri, along with the adult supervisor and MakerSpace intern Margaret Pastel, brought their learning and attention to the children learning a new world of computer skills.
“It’s a skill that’s going to take them to the next level,” Pastel said. “But what I think is more exciting, is they have a role model who is showing them what they can do when they get to be his age.”
“Yesterday I was at Yale for a tour of the college,” Demetri said, “and I got to see the Barr Medical Center there … It was interesting. It was pretty cool.”
“I want to go into bio-medical engineering,” he said, using 3D printers for that purpose. “I want to make prosthetics.”
“Tinkercad stands for tinkering and Computer-Aided Design,” Pastel said. With this program, she said, students can create their projects at home and download them into files. “And so once they design things, they can print them here.”
“It’s kind of like it has a building concept and the fact where you actually can print it out and make it your own, is pretty cool,” said Andrew Derwin, 10, visiting from Memphis, Tenn. “And there’s a bunch of different stuff you can use.”
“It’s not really hard to learn it,” he said. “Some people might have difficulty with their very first thing, but it’s not very hard once you do it.”
Based on how articulately the students discussed their work, the lessons seemed to sink in.
“I got it seven-seven, but it’s not outlined,” Noel explained to Pastel.
“Make it smaller,” she said, “or whatever you want.”
“Nah, I just gotta move this thing,” he said.
“Whatever you want,” she said. “See what I mean about using the bigger screen. It’s easier to move … Unlock that transformation.”
“It gets a little complicated sometimes,” Noel admitted, “like when it’s really hard … You have to get it at an exact angle and you have to make it at the exact right time (and) you have to always do the bottom part first because if you don’t, it’ll malfunction.”
In the end, however, the students seemed well on their way to mastering the technology.
“And the more they do this here,” Pastel said, “the more they meet people with similar interests, and you have informal tutoring.”
“And it just opens up a whole new landscape for people.”