In a Jam: A problem based challenge for Sports Medicine – SCOPES-DF

Lesson Details

Age Ranges
Fab-Safety.1, Fab-Modeling.1, Fab-Fabrication.1, Fab-Design.1
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Original Lesson Here

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Brian Purvis
Brian Purvis
Brian is the former Manager of Instruction for the GE Brilliant Career Lab, a curriculum centered mobile FAB Lab that served Boston area public high schools.  Previously he led the Gilbert Innovation Hub, where he leveraged his 18 years as… Read More


In this lesson students will reflect on the “Everyday in the life of a Biomedical Engineer” by solving a design challenge based on creating a custom finger splint for an athlete using TinkerCad and a 3D printer. In doing they will familiarize themselves with an new application of digital fabrication, learn the design process, learn how to use CAD software, and finally create a custom object via a 3D printer.T


What does a Biomedical Engineer do?

Biomedical Engineer

Conduct research, along with life scientists, chemists, and medical scientists, on the engineering aspects of the biological systems of humans and animals. Design and develop medical diagnostic and clinical instrumentation, equipment, and procedures, using the principles of engineering and biobehavioral sciences. Research new materials to be used for products, such as implanted artificial organs. Develop models or computer simulations of human biobehavioral systems to obtain data for measuring or controlling life processes. Adapt or design computer hardware or software for medical science uses.

Related careers include those listed below:


Physicians who treat diseases, injuries, and deformities by invasive, minimally-invasive, or non-invasive surgical methods, such as using instruments, appliances, or by manual manipulation.

Synthetic Biologist

Develop usable, tangible products, using knowledge of biology, chemistry, or engineering. Solve problems related to materials, systems, or processes that interact with humans, plants, animals, microorganisms, or biological materials.

What You'll Need

Teacher Preparation

Supplies, facility needs, prerequisite skills and knowledge including prior completion of the TinkerCAD tutorials and basic knowledge of 3D printing a file, student types, period length etc. classroom management

Facility Needs

Class set of internet enabled computers (Chromebooks will work), 3D Printer with generic splint file (included in attachments), pre-printed generic splints for each table, two colors of small post it notes, and writing utensils. Technology needs include a projector/TV with appropriate connection to a computer. The ability to stream video via YouTube.

Materials List

Markers, Easel pad (1 sheet for each team), and small sticky notes in varying colors

Digital Fabrication Software & Equipment

Tinkercad (3D modeling) and 3D printer

Design Files attachment

3D TinkerCAD Files

The Instructions


See below.

Step One: Engage – Introduce students to the following challenge: “You are part of the medical team for a major sports franchise. As it turns out, one of the most challenging game injuries for trainers to treat are jammed fingers. While not a major injury, they can often have major impact on a players performance, and can easily be reinsured. in the past, splints have been used to provide stability and protection to the injured fingers, but often a cost of discomfort because they did not fit the athletes unique hand size. Being the newest hire on the training staff, you have been tasked with discovering if the new science of digital fabrication might be able to help address this challenge. Over the course of the activity you must: 1. Learn the basic design requirements of a splint 2. Learn how to adjust a splint design via the TinkerCAD software 3. Measure a the finger of an athlete (choose another participant or yourself), choose the most appropriate splint design, and modify it to fit the athlete’s unique finger size 4. 3D print your custom splint


(Introduce students to a splint, and share ideas to develop a new design.)

15 minutes



  • Computers and TinkerCAD
  • Example of 3D printed splint
  • Ability to connect to the internet
  1. As students enter the classroom, the instructor will have the 3D printer producing the generic splint file.
  2. The teacher will organize students into teams of 2-4 people.
  3. As the 3D printer continues to print, the instructor will introduce the activity and pose the question: “Imagine that you jammed your finger. How would the 3D printed splint on your table meet your needs? In what ways does the design not meet your needs?” Student should use the sticky notes to record these positives and negatives on different colors. These comments should be posted in two designated areas, preferably on opposite sides of the room.
  4. Students are asked to read the posted comments as they post their ideas.
  5. The instructor shares that “3D printing has a unique power to allow customization of projects.”
  6. The instructor introduces the above challenge so that students can begin to think about their task.



See below.

Step Two: Explore, Prepare, and Explain – (Provide context about making a splint and introduction to CAD software.)


  • Ability to connect to internet
  • Computers and TinkerCAD

Explore and Prepare

60-80 minutes (Time dependent on student familiarity with TinkerCAD software, internet speed, and the instructors desired amount of time for students to explore the “Gallery”)

The instructor tells the students: “Imagine if when a basketball player jammed their finger during a game. Now, imagine the player was fitted with a personalized splint before the end of the game. Over our coming time together we are going to learn about design with 3D printing and discover the power of creating our own custom medical instrument.”

  1. The instructor tells the students that “their first step toward making their own 3D prints is becoming familiar with the software.”
  2. The instructor leads the students in signing-up for Tinkercad online. a. tinkercad.comwww.tinkercad.comThe software is web based, free, and saves automatically to the cloud so it can be accessed on any internet connected computer.
  3. After signing up for Tinkercad the students are directed to complete the six tutorial exercises under the “Learn” tab.
  4. After completing the six tutorials students are encouraged to explore the wide range of designs other “makers” have created under the “Gallery” tab.



See below.

Step Three: Explain –

15 minutes

The instructor starts class with a challenge:

  1. “Today we will be creating custom splints in Tinkercad that fit your smallest finger and your thumb.”
  2. The instructor shows the students how to search under the “Gallery” tab for splints.
  3. The students “Copy and Tinker” a splint of their choice.



See below

Step Four to Step Six: Elaborate – ​(Collect measurements, innovate, and notice connections to careers.)


  • Rulers (one per student or pair of students)
  • Thumb drives
  • Computers and TinkerCAD
  • Ability to connect to internet


Step Four: Elaborate –

30-60 minutes (time dependent on student familiarity with measuring and TinkerCAD software)


The instructor should become familiar with downloading completed files from TinkerCAD, rename them according to a convention, and save the .SVG file to a flash drive before class starts. (Choose Design Download for 3D Printing on the TinkerCAD menu)

  1. Students are given a ruler and asked to make the necessary “real-world,” measurements (of their fingers) in order to adjust the Tinkercad version of the splint to their specific measurements. Students should use the measurement system commonly used in their classroom. Often metric for science and math, U.S. customary for subjects like English. Students should be advised to make sure that the scale is the same on both their ruler, and in Tinkercad. (Please note: students can adjust the scale under “edit grid” near the bottom of the Tinkercad workspace.)
  2. As students finish, the classroom teacher leads the effort to show students how to download their files when finished with Tinkercad, rename their .SVG file for school/class/student, and save them to a thumb drive. (Note: Students may need more time to create a 3D rendering, and space to iterate.)



See below

Step Five: Evaluate –

15 minutes (students will need 15 minutes to evaluate, but because of print time factors for the splints, it is best to occur at the beginning of a session after the instructor has already printed the custom splints)

  1. The classroom teacher brings finished files to the BCL instructor for printing.
  2. The instructor begins printing student designed splints. When their splint finishes, the student tests the splint and uses the post it to critique their effort much like they did with the initial splint in the initial activity. “What works about the splint?” “How could the splint be made better?”
  3. Please note: 3D printing will occur outside of class hours. It may take 45-minutes to 2-hours to complete each 3D design.




  • (Fab-Safety.1): I can safely conduct myself in a Fab Lab and observe operations under instructor guidance.
  • (Fab-Modeling.1): I can arrange and manipulate simple geometric elements, 2D shapes, and 3D solids using a variety of technologies.
  • (Fab-Fabrication.1): I can follow instructor guided steps that link a software to a machine to produce a simple physical artifact.
  • (Fab-Design.1): I can be responsible for various activities throughout a design process within a group under instructor guidance.

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