Review by Galen McQuillen, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2016

3D Slash

Minecraft-like 3D modeling (and printing) made super easy for all ages

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Creativity

Subjects
  • Arts
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
2-12
Common Sense says (See details)
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Pros: Simple, Minecraft-inspired design tools are familiar to some users and easy to learn for others, especially with the great tutorials and examples.

Cons: Designs are exclusively composed of cubes, which makes creating very complex designs a bit challenging, and the teacher dashboard is limited.

Bottom Line: This may be the fastest, cheapest route from idea to 3D printing out there, if you don't mind low-res, pixelated designs.

Design thinking, rapid prototyping, and learning by creating are hot topics in education right now, and for good reason: These practices all promote curiosity and experimentation, skills that strongly predict academic performance and persistence. 3D Slash is a shortcut to classroom experiments that hone these skills. For engineering, science, or physics classes, there's no shortage of ways to integrate this tool, but creative teachers can come up with compelling uses in math, social studies, and English classes (do a quick search for Minecraft-based lessons for some ideas; most of them will work here, too).

If nothing else, use this tool as your gateway to getting connected with 3D printing. This could be the first tool to use at school if your building has one, or you might investigate ways to get access through your local public library or a local makerspace. In general, 3D printing is a great way to show your students how ideas can quickly translate from digital designs to real-world creations, which could inspire students to get more creative in their everyday work.

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3D Slash is a web- or desktop-based 3D-design environment that lets users build virtual models and save them for use in other 3D environments or with 3D printers. Using simple controls to add and delete elements, students sculpt designs from cubes of various sizes, adding colors and pictures for more unique visual touches. If this sounds a lot like Minecraft, it is: The developers have specifically cited the popular building game as inspiration for this product. Like Minecraft, 3D Slash is incredibly easy to use, and it's a breeze to start building surprisingly complex creations. 

There are plenty of tutorial videos, workshop assignments, and example designs to help get users going, plus advanced features such as a more robust desktop app and API for experts. For teachers, a dashboard lets them keep track of a whole class and favorite projects for them to work on. 

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One of the biggest hurdles to bringing design tech (especially 3D modeling) into classrooms is an initial steep learning curve. This takes time away from whatever physics, engineering, or other curricular content teachers want to cover in lieu of teaching complicated software tools (such as AutoCAD, Blender, or SketchUp). 3D Slash removes that software hurdle by simplifying the elemental palette to cubes only, giving creations a charming, low-fi, pixelated look that's probably plenty for most primary or secondary classroom purposes. 

3D Slash's tutorials and workshops are very well done and easy to follow, which makes integrating the tool into your classroom even easier, letting you get right to the rich problem-solving, rapid-prototyping, and design-thinking exercises. The teacher dashboard could be a little more useful, but it gets the job done for monitoring students. It also might be nice to have some of those more detailed engineering resources available for supplemental help; it's great that this tool lets students dive in right away, but it would be nice to have features that help them go deeper.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The Minecraft-inspired editor is easy to use and plenty addictive. A large variety of premade creations will keep kids interested in browsing, hacking, remixing, and adding their own designs to the library.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

This tool skips the steep learning curve for digital design and gets right to the creating, saving instructional time and energy for actual engineering concepts. Linking to some background information might be helpful for future updates.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The site's built-in help tools go a long way to getting students creating immediately. There are full workshop assignments along with the usual video tutorials, plus ideas for extension and real-world applications.


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