Can you build a 3-D printer? Senior Sean McLain can


Brianna Bert, North Staff Writer

With growing fascination in STEM careers among high school students, senior Sean McLain has applied his interest in building hands-on items and computers to compose a 3-D printer from scratch during his after school free time.

A 3-D printer is not like a normal printer, it doesn’t print essays. It builds items, slice by slice to create a physical object.

McLain decided to build his own 3-D printer because the school printer was always broken or jammed, and it was cheaper than buying a new one. All he started with was a simple kit, no instructions, and a lot of ambition.

“The world of 3-D printing was different and mysterious to me,” McLain said. “Not having instructions allowed me to learn a lot about 3D printing beyond the basics I already knew.”

Starting by printing simple objects such as an Apple Watch charging dock, a miniature husky and a 3-D Nintendo 64 logo, he progressed to printing more complex objects like a skateboard, a homemade Gameboy and all the parts necessary for constructing those objects.

McLain loved making the Gameboy because of the complexity and challenge that it took to create it.  

“I call it a Gameboy, but it really plays a multitude of original ‘vintage’ Nintendo games that range from classic Gameboy games to console games,” McLain said.

The Gameboy runs off a small computer about the size of a credit card that McLain coded himself with the help of experts that have published coding on the internet. He tweaked the code in order to customize his device.

Although it took quite a while for him to create his final product, McLain was satisfied with everything he was able to learn including managing the software.

McLain enjoyed seeing his hard work in action by actually playing games on the Gameboy.

McLain is saving up to buy a newer and faster 3-D printer because his is currently out of commission. Unfortunately, his printer’s quality was not high enough to conduct the level of printing he wanted to achieve.

“I could repair it, but that takes a lot of time,” McLain said.  

Despite his printer being broken, McLain boasts many other hobbies like flying planes and discipling elementary school children at his church during his free time. McLain still plans to focus on STEM activities and careers by studying either computer or electrical engineering this fall at the University of Oklahoma.