A Magnetic Collaboration between CBMS and the Learning Innovation Hub

It all started with an idea for unique laboratory experiment in Biochemistry and Cell Biology (CBMS337 and CBMS837) unit in the CBMS department. Students would fish one protein from a complex protein soup from a cancer cell to learn about the principles of how antibodies work. Even better than this, the lab would use for the first time cutting-edge magnetic beads to complete the lab on time: the lab would normally take over four hours but it was allocated only three hours.

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The 3D printed racks.

There was just one problem: a crucial part of the experiment needed a special magnetic rack to separate and hold the beads to the side of a tube so that they could be washed and manipulated. These simple-enough racks retail for around $300 a piece and up and the unit required 16 of them. The lab budget for this unit was good, but not that good. How could I solve this problem and give the students a great, fun and useful experience while not breaking the bank?

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What happened next was a great example of a collaboration between a science department and the Learning Innovation Hub. Luckily Michael Rampe from the Shared Services Team and their 3D printer were on the scene. Within hours of meeting for the first meeting we had produced a prototype rack from plans found online at a 3D printer community site called Thingiverse. Shortly afterwards we had sourced the magnets and glued them to the rack creating a working rack for about 7 or 8 bucks (90 cents in ABS plastic and 6 or 7 bucks in magnets).  Michael went into production mode and after producing and assembling 16 racks we were ready for the lab. So, instead of spending $4800 commercially for 16 racks, we spent about $112. To put this in further perspective, the printer itself (Flashforge Creator Pro) is only worth around $1500 if you shop around so we saved more than 3 printers worth of cost! A few weeks later we were done: the students thoroughly enjoyed the experiment and got great results (pics). The racks survived being used by over 90 students without a failure, a testament to the racks’s designer (a graduate student in a genome sciences biotechnology lab going by the handle acadey*) and our choice of ABS plastic. Seeing we were on to a good thing, we then decided to start printing pipette holders to go with the racks…. who knows, one day we might be able to print a whole lab!

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Students in action with the racks.

Although Paul had previously worked at Autodesk, creator of 3D printers and software to control them, he had never actually programmed one to create anything before. It cannot be overstated how crucial it was to have an expert in-house to make his vision a reality on the time-frame needed. Paul didn’t have weeks to play around with a 3D printer getting things just right, he needed to spend his time creating a great learning experience for the students. Luckily, this collaboration played to both of our strengths and ended up producing an amazing and enduring product for the students and Macquarie University.

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To contact Michael and his colleagues for any and all ideas for using 3D in learning and teaching from scanning, 3d printing, web delivery  or other emergent ideas, email the Shared Services Team at lih-sst@mq.edu.au

This was a joint collaboration between Michael Rampe and Paul Jaschke.

Michael Rampe works as a Senior Learning Designer in Macquarie University’s Learning Innovation Hub. His varied career has revolved around three main themes: video, education and communication. Michael is also researching the educational use of videos from a socio-semiotic multimodal perspective as part of his PhD candidature in Linguistics at Macquarie University. His research bridges multimodal analysis, multimodal genre, social semiotics, educational video production methods and workflows and the development of 3D interactive digital media technologies within the education context.