Teacher Background


Lesson Plan

Student Journal


Grade 4-8 | 5-6 (45 min) Classes

In this lesson, students will learn about 3D printing: What it is, how it works, and how it is used in the aerospace industry. After 3D printing the nose cone and fins they choose, they will build and launch the Orbis rocket. They will discuss the pros and cons of using 3D printed pieces for the rocket.


Targeted Performance Expectation(s):

Common Core Standards - English


Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.

ISTE Standards

1.1 Empowered Learner

Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving, and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.



The production of a three-dimensional object by depositing materials in layers, also known as 3D printing


To force or push out


The layer of material covering solid rock (planets, moons, and asteroids) and consists of dust, sand, soil and rocks


A type of 3D printing (creates three-dimensional objects layer by layer) that uses a plastic polymer that hardens upon contact with ultraviolet light (laser)


A type of plastic that melts when heated and hardens once cooled

Teacher Background

3D Printing Basics

3D printing is the process of taking a digital model and making it a physical model. It is an additive process. The object is built by adding layers of melted material on top of each other. The layers fuse together to create a physical model. 3D printing can be used to print toys, tools , even prosthetic body parts.


3D printers use thermoplastics. These are plastics that melt when you heat them and turn solid when you cool them back down. There are two main types:

          ● ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene): a composite of rubber and hard plastic

          ● PLA (polylactic acid): softer, easier to mold, easier to recycle, but less sturdy


Not all 3D printers use plastic- some use metal or even chocolate! If the material can easily melt and quickly cool to a solid, it can be used.

3D Printing in the Classroom

3D printing in the classroom is truly exciting! Students can dream and create with 3D printers providing a hands-on experience to give them a better understanding of the engineering design process. Students are active in this process, from conception to creation. When something goes wrong, students can identify the mistakes and then improve on their designs, thus helping them to hone their problem solving and critical thinking skills. 3D printing also helps the kinesthetic and visual learner.

3D Printing in Aerospace

3D printing in aerospace allows the creation of unique parts quickly and cost effectively since the production of these specialty parts is usually very limited. 3D printing can create complex parts that are very light weight and can be easily altered as needed. Additionally, production time may be decreased compared to traditional manufacturing methods.


3D printers are even more useful in the space industry where the creation of parts often requires even more specialized tools. If working in space, it could take months for a resupply mission to bring replacement parts. This is not simply inconvenient but could make living / working in space unmanageable. In fact, astronauts on the ISS have had a 3D printer on the space station since 2015.The first 3D printed item was a wrench, but recently they printed a custom-made splint to protect a jammed finger. When a medical emergency happens on the ISS, the astronauts have only the materials on board and the ability to 3D print supplies can help to get them the care they need. Currently, NASA is working on a way to use regolith (the sand and rock on the Moon’s surface) as a 3D printing material and sees the 3D printing of habitats for the Moon in the future.


Each Student Needs:

Estes Orbis 3D Bulk Pack (STL Files included!)

Estes Rocket Engines (A8-3, B4-4, B6-4, or C6-5)
Plastic Cement (can share)
Fine Sandpaper (can share)
Hobby Knife (can share)
Masking Tape (can share)

The Class Needs:

Estes 3D Printing Slide Presentation

Estes Lifetime Launch System
3D Printer and associated printer filament
Colored Markers or different colored sticky notes (Enough for a class discussion)


Paint/Primer for rocket design (Enough materials for each student)


Lesson Plan

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Student Journal

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