3D Planets Workshop


When PARI got its first 3D printer over a decade ago, our educators set out to find a way to combine it with space science.  With some practice, experimentation, and some help from our friends, 3D Planets began a few years later in 2015.  

3D printers are still a big thing and we’re excited to offer our next round of 3D Planets programs and camps.

What a kid learns in 3D Planets

Planetary Geography

What is the surface of another planet like and how do we find out?  Is the surface of Mars like the surface of the Moon?  What about other planets and moons in our solar system?

We explore the geography of other locations in our solar system to discover craters and volcanoes, rifts and valleys, ancient rivers and glaciers, and more.  We’ll learn about the spacecraft that have visited them and how they collected the data we use to study them.

Systems like latitude and longitude apply to more than Earth, and other planets have north and south poles.  Planets vary greatly across different regions of their surface just like Earth too.

Three Dimensional Spatial Thinking

How do we work with multiple dimensions when all we have is a flat surface?  Can we learn to move things about in our head and change their size and shape as we learn about an object?  How are round planets represented on different types of maps?

3D Modeling and Printing

Data about the surface of other planets can be represented in a computer, but at first all it looks like is a bunch of numbers.  We’ll guide participants through the process of transforming data into a model in the computer that is an accurate representation of a place far beyond Earth.
The software we use will be the same used by professionals in the fields of 3D design and animation and the skills learned will allow all sorts of creations to be brought to life.
Not everything that can be imagined and created on a computer screen can be printed into a real object.  Each type of 3D printer has its own set of capabilities and limitations.  Understanding these and choosing how to turn a model from an image to a real object can be a big challenge.

Communicating Science to All

Not everyone takes in information the same way.  Not only do different people learn in different ways, but the senses someone has available to take in information about the world can vary among us.
As the example we explore, people with sight loss or impairment cannot take in information about the surface of another planet simply by looking at a picture or a map.  Instead, a 3D printed tactile model can allow someone to form a picture in their mine using their sense of touch.  
How to people use their fingers to help them learn about the world do this?  How should an object feel to be used this way?  Does everyone read words in Braille or are there other methods?  Participants will have to think about these questions when designing their model so what they create can serve as a tool that is accessible to more than just sighted people.  

How Your Child Can Join a 3D Planets Workshop

You’re probably seeing this page because an organization near you is hosting a 3D Planets Workshop and has invited you to participate.  You’ll get the dates and location from the host organization, but here are the basics you need to know.


If you have been invited to attend by a host organization, there is no cost for your child to participate in a 3D planets workshop that is hosted through this program.  The cost of the program is covered jointly by PARI, the host organization, and a grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.  There are other occurrences of 3D Planets that might incur a cost.

Location & Dates

Your local workshop will be hosted by an organization in your area.  They have probably already reached out to you to tell you they will have the program available soon.  To get the specific dates, times, and locations, please contact the host organization.

Typically workshops are scheduled to take place during school breaks, after school, or weekends.  Sometimes a workshop is hosted in partnership with a school and they will excuse an absence to attend.

If a scheduled portion of the workshop takes place during a mealtime, meals will be provided as part of the workshop.  Snacks are also served.

Required Commitment

A 3D Planets workshop takes about 21 hours of instruction time.  This is typically spread over three to four days.

A participant should be able to attend the entire workshop.  Material is presented sequentially, and each step is essential to the successful completion of the workshop.  If a participant misses a day, they will be unable to complete the workshop.  If your child cannot all of the scheduled sessions entirely, they should wait for a future offering of 3D Planets.


3D Planets is designed for middle school aged students.  If your child is currently enrolled in 6th grade through 8th grade, this program is right for them.

Participants do not need to be top performing students or already have an established interest or strength in STEM areas.


Registration will be handled by the organization hosting the workshop.  Please follow their instructions to make sure you are ready to go.  Spots are limited, so make sure to sign up as soon as you are able.

Funding for a limited number of 3D Planets workshops is available each year.

3D Planets is made possible by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the supporters of PARI, and our 3D Planets hosts.