Brandin Perkins: Turning Ideas into Reality
By Brandy Esham
It seemed like just an ordinary day of teaching Electrical Motor Control for Maysville Technical and Community College’s Brandin Perkins, but a question from one of his students turned that day into one of new beginnings. While explaining the process of electrical motor control, a student raised the question if a 3D printer would be a good example of electrical motor control. Brandin was thrilled at the connection his student had made.
“That would probably be one of the ultimate examples of electrical motor control,” Brandin told his students.
3D printers may be the ultimate example of electrical motor control, but in 2013, they were hard to find and expensive. Brandin didn’t want to wipe out his entire budget to buy one 3D printer. As he looked around his classroom at all the spare materials lying around, the thought came to him: why not just build our own?
With only a small kit consisting of mostly brackets, an open source guide downloaded from Wikipedia, and a handful of eager students, Brandin constructed a 3D printer. Then, another challenge came when he and his students had to figure out how to wire the machine to the circuit board and how to upload the firmware to the printer in order to bring it to life. Without any clear outline on how to achieve this, the team turned to the Internet for help, reading guides and asking questions in technology chat rooms.
After about five weeks of what seemed like a lifetime of trial and error, the printer was complete and working like a dream. Of course, the first prints were a learning process for Brandin and his students. Learning about the different types of filament, the material 3D printers use to print, recognizing a bad print early in the process in order to correct it, and even determining how long a print would take, some can take a few hours while others can take close to 30 hours, were learning experiences for everyone.
Once they had some experience, Brandin and his students were printing valuable tools, not just for themselves, but also for other professors at MCTC: a double helix for a science class, a pie symbol for a math class, and decorative vase pencil holders for co-workers, and more. Brandin’s prints quickly became a recognizable staple at MCTC. Brandin also started using the 3D printer in all his classes, and he realized it was such a powerful and well-received teaching tool that he was going to need more printers.
In the summer of 2016, with the price of 3D printers finally coming down, Brandin came across an affordable option on Amazon, the IIIP 3D Printer for only $199. Brandin was able to buy three for his classroom. Brandin’s determination to provide 3D printers for his class stems from the benefits his students are receiving from the devices.
“The 3D printer has the ability to permeate every class I teach to some degree or another,” he says. “Now I can take someone’s idea and give him or her their idea in their hand. I’m doing that to show them you can literally turn your ideas into reality with a little effort, determination and a lot of curiosity.”
And that’s what is taking place in all of Brandin Perkin’s classes: students are discovering new things about electricity and 3D printing. But even more importantly, they are learning about themselves, their potential, and their future.