6 Jun 2017

Deaf young adults are turning their design ideas into 3D printed reality, thanks to Council libraries.

A group of six students at van Asch Deaf Education Centre Sumner have become skilled in 3D printing following a course taught by Christchurch City Libraries Learning Specialist Danny McNeil at the centre last December. An interpreter from the centre worked with him. 

A Van Asch student with her 3D printed creations.
Van Asch student Kirstin Reid with her 3D printed creations.

The students aged 17 to 20, who are either deaf or hard of hearing, loved the course and are now using their knowledge and enthusiasm to design and produce 3D printed work of their own.

They’ve made mementoes for themselves such as badges and bookmarks, and prototypes of fun education resources which they hope could be used by deaf children around the country. At the moment they are prototypes, but van Asch teacher Glenn Dolby says it’s possible they could be mass produced in the future.

They include brightly coloured robots that can be used to teach primary school children colours, and fun toy hearing aids that can be put on toys to help remove the hearing aid stigma some young people experience.

Mr Dolby says the course and their work since has “broadened their dreams and their ideas of art”. “It’s given them a taste of what computers and printers are capable of. One of the students is now studying design at Hagley College. For them to see their ideas go from the computer to something tangible in their hands is quite powerful.

“Christchurch City Libraries have been a great resource for us, and the way Danny ran the course in a hands-on way showing them how to use the tools was fantastic. He’s a very open, approachable guy and he picked up some simple (sign language) signs very quickly. He was definitely a very important step in teaching these students.”

Mr McNeil says it has been inspirational to see what the students can create with the skills they’ve learned.

The project shows how important libraries are within their communities: “We have been involved every step of the way with this exciting and potentially life enhancing story.

“Libraries help provide access to emerging technologies in the form of sharing knowledge and facilities, and that’s worth celebrating.”

As well as providing training and technical help, staff at Te Hāpua Halswell Library are using library network 3D printers to produce some of the students’ designs, with the costs being met by the school.

The van Asch centre also has a small 3D printer of its own with more limited capability.