3D Desmos Designs

About a month ago I wrote about how I use Desmos Des-man to introduce an algebra graphic art project. I have done this project for several years now, but this time, I added a special twist… After making a design in Desmos, the students used Creo Parametric to create models of their designs which they 3D printed!

Step 1: I taped four sheets of graph paper together so that students would have a large work area. They chose a theme and started drawing. The only requirements I gave: there had to be at least one image per group member with at least 8 equations (at least 2 quadratic and 2 absolute value) and 2 inequalities

Step 2: Students divided up the drawing and started determining the equations. Some students physically cut their image apart so they could work on it at home.

Step 3: Students took turns inputting their equations into one Desmos calculator. This took a bit of time since the students could not all be the same calculator at once. Most of the groups would save the Desmos image as a PDF to google drive, and then share that file with their group members.

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Step 4: All of my students take an Engineering class where they learn how to use Creo Parametric. I also took a PTC STEM Certificate Program this past semester where I learned the basics of 3D modeling. I had each student start with a basic rectangle and they uploaded their Desmos image to the rectangle. Then they traced the outline and extruded the lines. That’s it! Some students who are very comfortable with Creo decided to add special features and colors.



Step 5: I printed the designs using our Stratasys uPrint machine and the students created 3-Dimensional Displays to showcase their work.

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Some groups did not complete a 3-Dimensional Display, so I will be turning their designs into magnets!

My students were so engaged in this project and so proud of the models they created. It felt so natural to have them continue working with their Desmos designs and turn them into actual 3d prints. One aspect of the project that I didn’t stress with the students this year was the scale of their models. Next year I will have students determine a group scale, so that each component of the image fits together better.

I feel very lucky to have access to a 3D printer at school, and I will be looking for new ways to bring 3D printing to my students naturally. If you have any ideas, please share!

Update: I shared this project during Twitter Math Camp 2015. Here is a video of my presentation:

11 thoughts on “3D Desmos Designs

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  4. Heather, you mentioned for students working in a group they would save a PDF version to their google drive and share the pdf. How exactly does that process work? Does another student open that PDF in desmos and can now add to it? My initial thought was have each student create their own desmos “file” to do their part of the overall picture. Then when finished, they use one of the student files and copy paste into it. The final file they are using could be shared with each other using the share link option if they are working on something on their own. They would need to keep sharing the new url with each other that has the most up to date version. This seems clunky but I can’t think of a streamlined way. What am I missing?

    • Hey Jamie,
      I think both ways seem clunky but I also can’t think of a better way. Basically I have one student start the process. That one student starts the desmos graph and inputs their equations, then saves it as a PDF to their own google drive. Then they go to google drive, and share it with the next member of the group. This new student opens up the PDF which brings them to the Desmos calculator, where they can input their equations, and the process continues.

      I don’t believe your way will work easily because I don’t think you can copy and paste equations from one desmos calculator screen to another. I have tried, but can’t figure out how to do this, so it might be a waste of time to have all students type in their own desmos file if they can’t actually copy and paste it. However, if you can figure out how to do this (maybe by utilizing the folders?) then your way would definitely be easier!

      Let me know what you end up deciding to do and how it goes!

  5. Heather,
    You mentioned your students shared by saving to PDF in their google drive and sharing that. I’m not seeing that option and maybe desmos has changed. My first thought was each student creates in desmos what they had on paper. Verify their equations matches what they thought they would be and matches their rough draft sketch. Then pick one student to have the “final” version. Everyone use the share link option to send to that student. They can then copy and paste over their equations into one desmos graph. Am I missing another option to make it easier? The bottleneck seems to be what you mentioned, entering all the equations into one graph.

    • Testing it out and we found it works, sort of. You have to copy and paste one equation at a time. If you had a certain color picked for an equation you have to reapply the color. You can’t copy over a folder. You need to recreate the folder and then start copying and pasting each equation. So kind of a pickle. By having a group enter their equations separately we speed up the process of making sure the equations they came up with do what they expected. But then you have to copy and paste over into one file. If a group just uses one desmos file, they need to take turns entering their equations in, fixing any errors then passing off to next person.

  6. What a great use of an awesome resource you have in a 3D printer! It’s great that you are giving your students the opportunity to create something tangible using math. I can also see many possible extensions for this type of project, with the restrictions you give on the equations they have, or how much they need to do for the 3D modeling. Either way, I really like this project that gives students a creative outlet to use their imagination while learning some math. Thanks for some good ideas!

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