Engineering’s Bock soars to first place in additive manufacturing competition

Gabrielle Barone
June 27, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Initially, Randall Bock simply wanted to make a rocket for his son’s sixth birthday party. Now Bock, instructor in engineering design and agricultural research assistant at Penn State, has launched his interest in 3D printing and rockets into first place, winning the Stratasys Learning Center of Excellence 3D printing competition and earning printing technology valued at a total of $5,000.

When first learning how to use three-dimensional computer-aided design technology, or 3D CAD, Bock’s goal was to create everyday items like clips, hangers and hooks. Eventually, this turned into doing something more; rocket creation. As a boy, Bock had been interested in rocketry, and he thought that making rockets for his son’s upcoming birthday party might foster the same interest.

Actually creating a product that he was happy with, however, wasn’t as easy or as quick as Bock had hoped. Creating a functioning rocket, he said, meant he had to learn how to design a model rocket and how to use a 3D printer, then actually create and test the printed rocket.

“It took 10 design revisions until I was happy,” Bock said.

Though it was more complicated than he had anticipated, Bock said he enjoyed the design thinking process and thought it would be an interesting idea to introduce in his EDSGN 497: Solidworks Fundamentals course.

Bock believes including hands-on 3D-printing coursework in classes provides students with educational experiences that add to their competitive job skill set.

Stratasys, a 3D-printing company which sponsored the lesson plan competition, seems to have a similar educational policy, according to Gina Scala, Stratasys’ director of marketing, global education. Stratasys has been in business nearly 30 years, according to Scala and has built an educational team focused on putting 3D-printing technology into the hands of educators and students for the purpose of teaching and learning and preparing the workforce of tomorrow.

“Our educational goal is about preparing for tomorrow, preparing the future, shaping lives and getting that technology in as many people’s hands in as much of a meaningful way as we can,” she said.

Bock said that three-dimensional design has become a core competence in the design and engineering industries, with far-reaching impacts. 

“It is completely disrupting and rewriting the conventional design process,” Bock said.

After testing the project in class for two semesters, Bock thought his students’ enthusiastic reactions indicated a good opportunity to submit his lesson plans to Stratasys’ yearly contest for the most inventive and well-executed 3D-printing lesson.

“The purpose of the competition,” Scala said, “was to identify learning centers of excellence where class activities were truly impacting innovation and best practices were being showcased.”

Using these principles, five judges narrowed a pool of 100 applicants to a list of the top five prospects, which included Bock.

Scala said because of the competition’s focus on aiding education and innovation, judges chose Bock’s design due to its thoroughness and completeness. Judges appreciated that Bock’s process included designing, printing, iterating, assembling and testing the outcome of the rocket.

"The judges liked that this was a full 360-degree lesson. It was impactful for students because the end result was something tangible. They could hold the results in their hands,” Scala said.

As a Stratasys Center of Excellence award recipient, Bock received two MakerBot 3D printers, allowing him the opportunity to expand his additive manufacturing lesson capabilities.

“It was a great surprise and an honor to be selected at the national level,” Bock said.

Still, Bock thinks the most important thing about winning is that he can use his idea to help others.

“The best part,” he said, “is that the model-rocket project content will be packaged and shared for other educators worldwide to apply to their teaching and learning.”

  • Students building 3D printed rockets

    Students in Randall Bock's course, EDSGN 497: Solidworks Fundamentals, built rockets from 3D-printed pieces.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 25, 2017