3D Printing Resources

We posted about 3D printing in 2015, but if, like me, you are new to the 3D printing game, a refresher course could be helpful. Not to mention, there are also some additional resources worth highlighting. All resources are free unless otherwise marked.

So enjoy some resources for getting teens engaged in making and learning with a 3D printer!

Printable files


Thingiverse is a classic destination for printer files, but it’s still one of the best free resources for prints out there.

My Mini Factory (also an iOS app)

Much like Thingiverse, My Mini Factory provides free files for 3d printing. The education section (linked above) offers great manipulatives! 

NASA 3D Models

Models of NASA spacecraft and other technology, in addition to models of lunar and Martian landscape, asteroids, and more

Drawing programs


One of the great free all around web-based design tools. Requires creation of an account.


Another free web-based tool, with the possibility to download software. Pairs well with Google Suite, which could make account creation easy in schools that use Google emails.

Sculptris (Windows/ Mac download)

Shape virtual clay into 3D sculptures that can be printed.

Mobile apps 

Makers Empire 3D (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac)

Makers Empire offers easy-to-use mobile design software, lessons, and daily challenges. The app is free and downloadable for computers (not just mobile devices), and a paid school subscription with advanced teacher and education options like a grading dashboard is available.

Trnio (iOS, $.99)

Create 3D scans from photos! While this probably isn’t for true beginners because files usually need to be cleaned up and adjusted before printing, it’s a cool way to get to the next level of 3D printing and great to give motivated teens a challenge.

Qlone (iOS, Android, free but exporting files requires payment)

3D modeling app that exports to a variety of flie types. 

Lesson plans

Many lesson plans come from companies selling printers, so they recommend their own tools, but most can be adapted to use the tools and software you prefer.

Thingiverse Education

A classic for a reason. This is, to my knowledge the largest lesson plan database for 3d printing out there.

Ultimaker Lesson Starters

These lesson ideas are a great starting point for programming or collaboration with teachers. 

Makerversity DIY 

Several standalone activities that would make great library programs, but could be built into a larger curriculum as well. Includes the printer files needed to make designs.

Dremel Digilab Lesson Plans

Lessons for Elementary through High School illustrate STEM concepts. While the Digilab partners with for paid .stl files that go with each lesson, but lesson ideas could be built upon for use with other files if desired.

Learn By Layers (requires purchase of curriculum bundles)

This curriculum does require purchase, but it’s very comprehensive and sequenced, starting from true beginner lessons and systematically moving up to advanced design challenges. Includes assessments.

Inspiration/ Other

Functional Print Reddit

Seeing the functional designs from others could inspire teens to move beyond toys and trinkets and into the world of more functional printing.


If your teens are motivated to work with materials beyond what your printer can handle, consider having them design their object and send it to Shapeways.

NIH 3D Print Exchange

Scientifically accurate print files for prosthestics, neuroscience, heart disease and molecules. Teens might not have use for many of these prints because many are quite technical, but this showcases the potential applications of the technology. 

Reader vs Reader: The Supervillain and Me

Welcome to Reader vs. Reader (anyone have any wicked name suggestions???).  Two librarians who have read the same book will discuss it critically.  They may agree, agree on certain points, or completely disagree.  RvR will challenge your reading comfort zone and dig deeply into the text to find potential problems or subtle brilliance.  And maybe both.  

In July, Andrea and Jenni Pam both read The Supervillain and Me by Danielle Banas

Reader vs Reader: The Supervillain and Me

Never trust a guy in spandex.

In Abby Hamilton’s world, superheroes do more than just stop crime and save cats stuck in trees—they also drink milk straight from the carton and hog the television remote. Abby’s older brother moonlights as the famous Red Comet, but without powers of her own, following in his footsteps has never crossed her mind.

That is, until the city’s newest vigilante comes bursting into her life.

After saving Abby from an attempted mugging, Morriston’s fledgling supervillain Iron Phantom convinces her that he’s not as evil as everyone says, and that their city is under a vicious new threat. As Abby follows him deeper into their city’s darkest secrets, she comes to learn that heroes can’t always be trusted, and sometimes it’s the good guys who wear black.

The Quick Reactions:


thumbs up
Jenni:  As a superhero story, definitely thumbs down. There wasn’t enough action or world-building. As a high school contemporary romance, thumbs sideways. It’s okay, but not a standout title, IMO. Andrea: I don’t know that it was really supposed to be a superhero novel, but more of a realistic base with superheroes. For me, it was a fun “beach type” read.

Snippet of our conversation (Warning: spoilers everywhere!):


Passive Escape the Room

Today we have a guest post from Aaron Volner at Sweetwater County Library System talking about his passive escape the room program.

“Hey, why is there a hippo in that box?”

These are the words that began one of my most successful passive programs.

I had recently rearranged my teen area, which included finding a new home for the clear plastic display cube. Up to this point, I had been fairly lapsed about keeping it up to date since it was in a position where it generally got ignored anyway. However, in the cube’s new spot I decided I needed to be better about keeping something in it. Without much thought, I grabbed the hippo puppet, stuffed it in the cube, and put a speech bubble on it that said, “Help! I’m trapped in a plastic cube!”

Little did I suspect that this hastily thrown together display would spark so much interest. Teens kept coming to the desk asking about the hippo. Why is the hippo there? How do we get him out? What are we supposed to do to save him?

Finally, the interest hit a critical mass and I knew I needed to do something more with the hippo to capitalize. To that end, I elected to resurrect a character I had created for a previous program and send my teens on a grand adventure through the library.

The Teens’ Nemesis

Reginald Mysterio, business tycoon, and wizard of the highest order had tormented my teens during my weekly Monday Madness program before. Sealing their snacks behind a magic barrier and challenging them the recover the 12 gems of power he had scattered throughout the building. A series of riddles cleverly hidden in various locations throughout the building drew them onward until his seal was undone.

With Reginald’s return, the stakes were increased a bit. This time, I decided, his aim was to siphon my soul and imprison me within the body of the hippo if the teens didn’t recover the 10 runes of power he had hidden throughout the building. (Thankfully, they all wanted to do that).

The teens get really into the idea of putting this guy in his place. The cool and arrogant manner in which he explains his plans in his letters gets them riled up enough to really attack the clues once the program gets going.

An Active Hunt or a Passive Escape Room

The great thing about the Reginald Mysterio programs is that they provide the riddle and puzzle solving fun that makes escape rooms so enticing but without the need for a dedicated space. If you have a library, paper, and some envelopes, you can do these programs with no other space requirements.

These are also versatile enough that they can be done as either an active or passive program. When I did the first one, I played it as an active program that the teens had to solve in order to get their snacks for that week. (The snacks part wasn’t the best idea, actually, but I’ll get to that later). The second episode with the hippo was very much a passive program, with the clue hunt simply waiting for the teens to go engage with it while they were wandering the building.

How To Do It

Now we get to the part that you’re all the most interested in, how to actually execute these programs! I’m going to do a rundown of each episode, how I set it up, what methods I used for hiding the clues, etc. I’ll include the computer files so you can see how I wrote and set-up the actual clues themselves, and I’ll also give some tips and suggestions based on what worked and didn’t work when I ran them.

Episode One:  The Nefarious Seal of Reginald Mysterio (more…)

Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak in the Age of #MeToo

It’s hard to believe, but Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak will turn 20 years old next year. Ever since its publication in 1999, this book has been equal parts lauded and hated. Among the many accolades it received are the Golden Kite Award, Best Books for Young Adults, a Printz Honor Medal, and National Book Award Finalist. Yet, it has also seen its fair share of controversy and consistently appears in the ALA’s list of most frequently challenged books. It was made into a movie in 2004 and adapted as a graphic novel earlier this year. It has been translated into sixteen languages and sold millions of copies worldwide.

In the age of #MeToo, Speak is arguably more relevant than ever. The story of Melinda dealing with her trauma and finding her voice is the story of so many other victims, and the symptoms of PTSD are portrayed in a realistic way. I have read this book over and over again since I first encountered it in a graduate school class in 2004, and each time I read it, it resonates with me even more deeply. Although I was initially skeptical of the graphic novel adaptation when it came out, Emily Carroll’s illustrations drove the story home even more for me.

Publishing has come a long way in the nineteen years since Speak made its debut. Once a taboo subject and relegated to the “problem novel,” sexual assault and its aftermath are more present than ever in YA literature. That’s as it should be, but even at nineteen years old, Speak is still deserving of a place in every #MeToo display, bibliography, and conversation.

Photo Editing Apps

Whether you’re trying to edit photos for your library social media or doing a program with the teens, here are some great free photo editing tools to use.


  1. Snapseed
    This is one of my personal favorites to use. I love the editing tools that lets me play with things like contrast, brightness, color curves, healing, and more. They even have brush options that allow you to just edit certain parts of the pictures. Some of the tools may be advanced/aren’t a simple one-click option, but if you’re looking for a professional-style they’re awesome.  
  2. Photo Lab
    filter via Photo Lab

    If you’re looking for some creative filters this one is fun. Some of them were a hit or miss, but a couple were really cool. There aren’t any editing tools beyond filters though. I’ll also admit, the ads on the free version are pretty annoying.


  3. Aviary (full name is Photo Editor by Aviary)
    This one is nice for easy editing. Has all the basics like contrast, brightness, and warmth. The filters are okay, nothing super special though. This would be a great one to use if you’re just looking to do some quick edits to make pictures better before posting. 
  4. PicsArt
    This is another I ended up really liking. It has a nice selection of editing tools, special effects, and stickers. The editing tools have a lot of the same options as Snapseed. Between the tools and beauty features, you can hit a lot of those same points. Much like Photo Lab some of the artistic features can be a hit or miss. Not everything is available in the free version, but there are plenty of free options to play around with.

  5. Color Story
    This is another solid performer. It is disappointing to see so many of the filters need to be purchased. The filters that are available for free are pretty straightforward, non-artsy ones. There is still a good range of editing tools though to help with those simple/quick edits.


Bonus Apps

  1. Photogrid: This is my favorite app for making collages.
  2. PocketBooth: This one isn’t free and looks like it’s $2 – $3, but it’s an awesome app to use to make photo booth style photos/strips. The teens always have a blast using it at events.
  3. Green Screen by Do Ink (apple):Pretty simple and effective app for doing green screen pictures and videos.