Creating 3D Prints from Scans & Photos Quickly and Easily.

We recently had our 1st graders each create a 3D-printed ruler as a part of a science unit on measurement. Finding a method to create the rulers that wouldn’t require a large time investment was a concern. Using the tool OmNomNom to extrude a black and white image into a OpenSCAD script, which will then become an .stl file, ready for 3D printing. The really exciting thing about this method is that it forces students to change the OpenSCAD script variables to adjust their model, driving home the relationship between the code and the physical object. Students gain an understanding that code not only changes the object on their screen, but also the final object in ‘real life’!
A note on logistics: this was a class of 1st graders, so the image editing was done by a teacher between classes. Students created their paper rulers, we then scanned and edited the photo and came back to the next class with the new black and white images for students to process through OmNomNom and into OpenSCAD. In the future, we’d like to find a way where students could do the image editing as well, but found it just a bit too time-consuming and troublesome. After students created the makerware files, we then printed them on our printer. Printing this many objects did take some time, but we loaded an SD card with the files and had older students unload and start the next print as they noticed the jobs finish.
Below you’ll find a step by step walk through on how to turn a scan or photo into a 3D-printed object.


Use these instructions to create a 3D printable file from a scanned image, using Pixelmator, OpenSCAD, and MakerWare.

Edit the image

You can use your favorite image editor, in this case we are using pixelmator for the mac.

Rotate the image if needed.

If needed, rotate the image.

Crop the image as needed.

Crop the image so only the desired area remains.

Use levels to adjust the image

Your goal is a nice black and white only (2 color) image. Most image editing software has a levels feature.

Apply levels

In Pixelmator, drag the levels on the image.

Adjust levels as needed

Notice the resulting image – high contrast, only black or white.

Export as jpg

Save the .jpg

Export as jpg


Open the image in OmNomNom


Drag and drop image to open.


Keep size



For this project, we will use 2 levels with a width of 443×165

Export as Logo

Export as a logo

The object will open in OpenSCAD

Hit F5 (on some macs FN+F5) to see the preview

Editing variables

reduce surfaceheight to 2

Editing variables

To make getting the proper size simpler, we will remove any border by changing the baseWidth multiplier to 1 instead of 1.2

Preview and render the model

F5 to preview, then F6 to render. Rendering might take a while.

Prepare to wait

By a while I mean 10-15 minutes.

Export as STL


Prepare (slice) your file for your 3D printer

In this case we’ll be using a MakerBot Replicator 1 Dual and using MakerWare to slice our model.

Scale object as needed

In this case, the ruler is approximately 7.75 inches, so the setting the X value with uniform scaling on will result in the proper size.
Final scaled object. Click Make to export your file.

Export to file

We use a raft to make removing the object easier. Be sure to adjust your settings for your specific 3D printer.

Print and enjoy!

9 Must Have Chrome Extensions

One of the great features of Chrome is the countless extensions that can add extra features. Here are the extensions I couldn’t get by without.


Buffer Chrome Extension

I love twitter and use it in primarily two ways: to share resources and have conversations. Often, I’ll find links in bunches and at unusual times. Rather than deluge my followers with 10 link tweets in the middle of the night, I use Buffer to space my tweets out and post at times that the majority of my followers are online. I’m generally very wary of any tools that auto-tweet (spam) on my behalf, but buffer is different in that every tweet is mine — I’m just time shifting the tweet to a better time. I highly suggest you check this one out if you are a heavy social media user.

Evernote Web Clipper

Evernote Chrome Extension

Evernote is amazing. It’s become my digital brain, where I store reference materials and notes. The easiest way to get a web page or pdf into Evernote is through this extension.
Evernote Web Clipper


LastPass Chrome Extension

Too many passwords? Don’t fall into the trap of reusing the same one everywhere. Use LastPass to remember your passwords. The form fill feature alone is a huge time saver as it’ll fill your saved information (address, email, etc) with one click.

My Chrome Theme

My Chrome Theme Chrome Extension

I’m a heavy Chrome users user, and a different theme for each user is the easiest way to tell them apart. Create your own theme with this extension.
My Chrome Theme

Pinboard Tools

Pinboard Tools Chrome Extension

When Delicious went south, I switched to Pinboard as my bookmarking service of choice. This extension is an easy way to add a bookmark quickly.
Pinboard Tools


Pocket Chrome Extension

Pocket is a read it later service. I’ll click this extension when I have something I’d like to read but don’t have time to now, and it’ll be added to my Pocket account.Then, when I have time I’ll use the Pocket iOS app and enjoy some longer reads.

Read&Write for Google Docs

Read&Write Chrome Extension

This is a fantastic extension that helps in the writing process, particularly by reading back text in a Google Doc. I’ll often catch writing mistakes by listening to Read&Write. Anything that helps improve my writing is a must have for me!
Read&Write for Google Docs

Turn Off the Lights

Turn Off the Lights Chrome Extension

YouTube is full of great videos, but it’s also full of some not-so-great ones that always seem to be recommended on the side of the videos I watch. YouTube comments are notorious as a display of the depravity of the human race. Especially when teaching or presenting, I don’t want those distracting aspects on display, so I’ll use Turn Off the Lights to black out everything but the video itself.
Turn Off the Lights

WAV Player for Gmail

WAV Player Chrome Extension

The voicemail service at my school is able to email messages as a .wav file. Before this extension, I had to download the attachment and use an application or OSX’s quick look to listen. Now this extension adds a player in the email, no download needed.
WAV Player for Gmail

Those are the extensions that work for me. I’d encourage you to try them out, but also to look through the Chrome Web Store and find extensions that work for you.

Did I miss any must have extensions? Please let me know in the comments!

STEM in Action – Functional 3D AppleTV Mount Designed by an 8th Grader

This AppleTV Mount was designed by an 8th Grader to solve a real-world problem. AppleTVs are relatively cheap and offer some amazing features, so we wanted to add these quickly and simply to our AV systems in classrooms. We wanted to mount AppleTVs directly to the projector, and neither velcro or double-sided tape could handle the job. Fortunately, we have a MakerBot Replicator 3D printer and a brilliant motivated student to create this:

So now around 25 AppleTVs are mounted throughout campus using this mount and a long zip tie.

If you need a mount, and have a 3D printer, feel free to download and print the design!

AppleTV Mount by Unsolved Cypher or grab the .stl file here.

AppleTV Update Eliminates The Major Issue with Widespread School AppleTV Deployment


Apple released an update for the AppleTV this week that resolves the largest issue in using AppleTVs in a school. As covered here before, the AppleTV is a relatively cheap and powerful device that has many Interactive Whiteboard manufacturers scared. Previously, the only way to limit access to wirelessly project using the AirPlay feature was to set a password. Once the password was entered into a device, that device could “hijack” the screen from anywhere, as long as it was connected to the same network.

Now, an update is available which enables a simple fix. When “Onscreen passcode” is turned on, a 4 digit code will appear on the screen when attempting to AirPlay. Upon entering this code, the user will successfully connect. This forces the device to be in the same location as the screen, and eliminates headaches of the possibility of a projector being controlled by someone on the other side of campus.

At only $100, it’s easy to connect one of these to every projector and have simple wireless projecting in place for every teacher.

4 Reasons Why Every School Needs Google Apps

Why Not? day 52/365
Recently a good friend asked me for some details on why Google Apps is a good fit for K-12 education. As I thought over all the reasons why Google Apps works for education, I actually had hard time picking a place to start. To me, it’s become a platform – a digital foundation – that the communication and creativity of our school is based upon. I seriously couldn’t imagine going back!

So, here’s just a few reasons why I believe that every school should make the switch to Google Apps.

1 – Collaboration.

As one of the “4C”s of 21st Century Skills, it’s essential that collaboration is a friction-free, common, everyday activity for our students and faculty alike. The tools of Google Apps are focused on quick, powerful yet simple collaboration. There’s not a better email system, with a powerful organizational system like labels, built in chat and Google+ style Hangouts, interesting experimental Labs, and countless other details. Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) is a fundamental tool. Watching students work on the same document, at the same time is amazing, and Google Drive quickly becomes a tool students and teachers simply can’t survive without.

2 – Ubiquitous.

These tools are available on any computer or device with an internet connection. The same apps are available at home as used in school. Remember the switch from .doc to .docx files? I sure do! Never again will we have to deal with incompatible versions of documents. USB drives aren’t needed, as files are available anywhere. With more colleges and businesses using Google Apps, as well as being a fantastic tool for personal productivity, it’s likely that our students will use these tools later in life.

3 – Cost Savings.

Google Mail and Drive have rapidly replaced the need for Exchange servers and Microsoft Office. For many schools, Office licensing can be the largest software licensing fee budget item. While it might not have every feature, I’d estimate that 90% Office – the key features – are available. Sometimes, a lack of a feature is a feature in itself. Honestly, the world would be a better place without some powerpoint features like custom animations and transitions!

4 – Security and Up-time.

Moving to the cloud can be a scary process. It’s hard to not feel a loss of control. But compare the numbers. Can your self-hosted or current email system compete with the track record of Google? Honestly, I trust the resources of Google – the same resources used by BBVA, a financial services company of over 110,000 employees  – to be more secure and dependable than anything I can host myself.

These are just a few of the major reasons why I can’t imagine “doing technology” in K-12 education without Google Apps. Take a look at the creative ‘hacks’ at  or the massive collaborative projects such as this presentation made by 140+ teachers, and it’s quite clear that this is a tool with far too many benefits to ignore.

When considering Google Apps, a few common mistaken sticking points seem to surface again and again. Dr. Henry Theile has created a superb overview answering the common objections to Google Apps Dealing with the FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. that anyone considering the switch should investigate.

Google Apps for Education is a easy decision after you consider the facts. Going Google is the way to go.

iPads and the Transformation of the Second Grade Classroom


Recommended Apps

Comic Life
Students created comics as part of a “How To” tutorial building project.


Reading came alive when students used the new trailers templates to create book trailers as a book report.


By creating videos to explain their understanding on topics, students were able to offer insight into their thinking processes.

Students quickly learned to adjust the difficulty settings to meet their individual level.


Too Noisy
A simple way for students to monitor noise level. Really effective when projected for the class to see.