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Teens Use 3D Pens to Create Book That Visually Impaired Children Can "Read"

Imagine “The Grinch” without the image of Whoville. What about “Make Way for Ducklings” without the ducklings? Now imagine a 3D drawing bringing them to life for those who haven’t experienced them visually.

A group of Springfield teens is creating a tactile book from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 29, at the Library Station for blind and visually impaired preschoolers of Shining Stars Early Childhood Center in Springfield.

On Giving Tuesday, Dec. 3, the preschoolers will get to hear but also “read” the raised illustrations of the book that the teens created using a 3D printing pen called a 3Doodler.  

It’s part of a nationwide event on Dec. 3 that combines Giving Tuesday with what the 3Doodler manufacturer calls International 3D Printing Day for “3D Giving Day.” Students worldwide will get to experience similar tactile books, while other groups will use 3Doodlers to make books for libraries, schools and other institutions that serve those with visual impairments.

The event is coordinated by the 3Doodler company and the University of Colorado’s nonprofit Build a Better Book Project. It works with school and library Makerspaces to engage youth in the design and fabrication of inclusive media – picture books, games and graphics.  3Doodler provided 12 pens for the Library project.

Most 3D pens work by feeding plastic through the pen, which then melts it before it comes out of a nozzle at the end of the pen. The pen heats up to a different temperature depending on the material you put inside the pen. When it leaves the pen, the melted plastic is soft and malleable, but within a few seconds it solidifies, creating a solid, stable structure.

“3D Doodler's generous donation of a classroom set of pens will give our teens the opportunity to experience what it is like to be an engineer, said the Library Station Youth Services Manager Phyllis Davis, who will present the book to Shining Stars on Dec. 3. “In addition to helping the preschool children at Shining Stars experience the stories adapted, we hope to help our teens develop important 21st-century skills and to inspire them to consider future stem-related careers."

Kathleen O'Dell is community relations director for the Springfield-Greene County Library District. She can be reached at kathleeno@thelibrary.org.

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