High School Students Print Massive Replica of Lake Sturgeon in 3D

From rapidly producing prototypes to replacing a gameboard piece, 3D printing is used for a diverse set of purposes.

It’s used in high-tech manufacturing.

“Additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, is one of the most effective ways to produce complex prototypes and parts. You can obtain highly detailed physical replicas of your CAD designs by using 3ERP’s industrial-grade 3D printing technology,” according to rapid tooling manufacturers at 3ERP,

However, it an ever-widening net, it’s increasingly used in less practical applications as well. Recently, students in Miami used it to create a giant Lake Sturgeon.

Preparation to Land the Giant Plastic Sturgeon

For three months, students as Dade County High School (DCHS) designed, printed and assembled parts for a six-foot replica a giant sturgeon that was donated to the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute.

DCHS teacher Nick Wilson teaches advanced mechatronics, which combines robotics and mechanical electrical and computer engineering. In September, Wilson assigned three students to supervise the build, with two others assisting. The students reportedly worked alone on the project.

Wilson described the process, saying the students brainstormed an organic design, learned new tools in 3D software and finally assembled it through a lot of trial and error.

The Conservation Institute Goes Fishing

GIS Analyst Sarah Sweat, of the Conservation Institute, learned about Wilson’s mechatronics class via her husband, an English teacher at DCHS. Last year, she asked Mr. Wilson and his class to design and print models of small insects and crustaceans for her Georgia Adopt-A-Stream program.

Based on the successful completion of that project, Sweat came back this year with a much bigger ask.

A Fishy Story

The Lake Sturgeon is an endangered species native to Tennessee that nearly went extinct by the 1970s. The Aquarium started introducing farmed juveniles in the river system in 1998 and has released about 220,000 of them in the state’s river system since then.

Despite these efforts, few people have seen a Lake Sturgeon outside of the Tennessee Aquarium. The life-size model was commissioned to raise awareness for the continuing plight of this remarkable fish.

Sweat remarked that Lake Sturgeon grow up to eight feet long and can survive 150 years. Juveniles released by the Aquarium are about eight inches long, but visitors can touch and interact with them, becoming part of the conservation effort with their entries fees and participation.

Sweat expects the majestic Lake Sturgeon produced by Wilson’s students to add emphasis to her fish story and help raise awareness for future conservation efforts.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.