Amelia Earhart — A 3D Printed History

28 Apr Amelia Earhart — A 3D Printed History

Did you know that the La Porte County Public Library visits area senior living communities and nursing facilities? These visits provide enrichment to those who can’t necessarily make it to the library. Presentations include a number of visual objects, like photos or props from lesson kits.

In March, the library’s presentation was on Amelia Earhart. This presentation included a 3D printed copy of a Smithsonian artifact: Earhart’s flight suit. Creating the model was simple. Anyone can print one of the Smithsonian’s growing 3D collection. After downloading the model and editing the size, I was ready to start the four hour print. Layer by layer, the 3D printer brough Earhart’s flight suit from Washington, D.C., to La Porte, Indiana.

The first layers to be printed was her left shoulder. While the printer buzzed and zipped, laying filament and cooling it quickly, I read more about Earhart and her accomplishments. I found out that the first time she saw an airplane–in 1908–she wasn’t that impressed with the “hunk of wood and wires.” Her interest grew while she was a nurse during WWI at Toronto’s Spadina Military Hospital. She spent a great deal of her free time near the shores of Lake Ontario watching pilots train. Years later, she took flying lessons and bought a plane soon after. Her first plane cost $2000, part of which was bought with an inheritance from her grandmother. It was bright yellow and she named it the Canary.

As the 3D printer finished completing the right side of the flight suit, I found images of her meeting with President Coolidge after she had flown solo over the Atlantic. Earhart also met the Roosevelts and become close friends with the First Lady, which inspired Eleanor to sign up for flying lessons. When people asked Earhart why she insisted on flying, she told them that she did this because she believed that a woman should! Women were just as capable as men, she demonstrated, and she did so in the 1920s and 30s. She was daring because she believed women were daring.


By the time the printer added the last layer of the filament to the print, I had learned that the search for Earhart after her disappearance over the South Pacific was the most money the Federal government had ever spent on a search and rescue until that time.


I shared all of this information in my presentation while , we looked at pictures of Earhart and passed around the 3D model, running our fingers over the wrinkles in her suit, feeling the layers of the print as we felt the layers of this daring woman’s life.

You can learn more about 3D printing and design at the library. If you would like to have library visits provided to your senior living community or community group, or if you have any other questions about library services, feel free to visit any of our seven locations or call (219) 362-6156 to speak with a librarian.