Science Research Students Take on Ambitious 3D Printing Project

Science Research Students Take on Ambitious 3D Printing Project photo
While 3D printing has become increasingly popular in recent years, students in the Amityville Union Free School District will be getting a unique experience with the technology. Middle and high school students in the Independent Science Research program will be taking part in a nano 3D printing project in partnership with Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Teacher Alexis Charles and students drafted a proposal that was accepted by BNL to use its nanofabrication facility. The project required Ms. Charles to visit several times over the summer to be trained on the machine because she will be the one allowed into BNL’s “clean room.” Students will dictate the procedure to create a microscopic structure to grow cells.

Students involved in the project include John Hermann, Randy Jerez, Keiry Martinez, Maurice Pettway, Keniese Price, Rene Santos, Trea’von Smith, and Z’Dhanne Williams.

Amityville’s science research students work closely on other projects with Farmingdale State College biology professor Dr. Andrew Michaelson, and from him they learned about two dental procedures that have a high rate of failure. Indirect pulp capping has a 10 percent rate of failure, and direct pulp capping fails at 20 percent, which Ms. Charles explained is high for such costly procedures. 

The students are looking to grow dentin cells, and if their project is successful, it could revolutionize the procedure and increase the rate of success. Dentin cells are the part of teeth sensitive to hot and cold. The cells would be grown in vitro — outside of the mouth — which is why a small structure is required. Students will design the structure using computer assisted drawing software.

Ninth-grader Rene Santos said that creating the structure will pose some challenges because of its small size. Once it is made, it has to be carefully dried as an air gun would blow it away. Additionally, it will require a high-powered microscope to see. 

Ms. Charles said that in order to have the proposal accepted by a panel of three BNL scientists, it had to meet two standards. It had to contribute merit to the scientific community and also be feasible to make on the available equipment. Scientist Ming Lu has joined the project and is providing support to the group, such as giving students tips on how to overcome common problems encountered when designing an on object of a microscopic scale. 

In preparation for the upcoming project, the science research students have already had some experience designing objects using CAD software. They have learned about the difference between 3D printing and nano 3D printing, the latter using a gel to create a microscopic object as opposed to a plastic filament that builds layer by layer. 

“This type of project isn’t what the average ninth- or 10th-grader does,” said freshman Randy Jerez. “It’s a blessing to be in a group like this at such as young age, and to be able to make a difference in the dental industry.”

Ms. Charles said that the project has attracted students with many different interests, and that there is a place for everyone to contribute. Some are interested in the scientific and medical aspects, while others want to contribute their creativity and imagination to the design process. 

She added that the group is hoping to have the project substantially complete so they can compete in next year’s Long Island Science and Engineering Fair.