St. John Valley

Fifth-grade student engineers help local soap-making business

MADAWASKA, Maine — A team of three fifth-grade girls came in second place at the 2020 Maine 3D Printing Challenge and Expo for their creative project in making soap screens to help a local business owner in the community.


On Saturday, March 7, Madawaska Elementary School teacher Gina Jandreau took fifth-grade students Dasha Danilichava, Lucy Hartivgsen and Hailey Thibeault to the competition at Kennebec Valley Community College to compete and give a presentation on their project. 

Jandreau’s team was one of only three of the 38 total registered teams asked to do a special presentation on their creation before the judging took place. 

The team created a soap screen to help local soap maker and business owner of Nutritious Skin, Julie Rayder, using the school’s 3D printer that Jandreau obtained by writing grants. 

“She is so creative and her students are shining,” said Gisele Dionne, assistant superintendent of Valley Unified. “But what’s neat is the connection with a local business. The entrepreneur spirit of this project is awesome.” 

This fifth grade all-girls team demonstrates their engineering through a verbal presentation at the 2020 Maine 3D Printing Design Challenge and Expo at Kennebec Valley Community College March 7. (Courtesy of Gina Jandreau)

In the last four years, Rayder has worked at perfecting her art of soap making, becoming an administrator for an international Facebook group and produces her own YouTube videos for a shared channel with 9,000 subscribers about different soap-making techniques. One of those techniques is her innovative screen lift swirl where she uses a screen to create her design.

Rayder has developed another new technique to make larger batches of soap but didn’t have access to screens to fit her needs. 

“So I thought what a great and engaging way to have my kids partner up with a local business and possibly make a difference,” Jandreau said during the presentation in Kennebec. 

While the team made successful screens for Rayder and learned about the complex soap-making process, Rayder was able to create different soap designs using all-natural colorings. 

“Being able to get custom-designed decorative screens for soap design is such an abstract and unique market,” Rayder said. “Because of its exclusivity, it is not readily available for soap makers who desire to make soap using this technique.”

Rayder said before she was able to get 3D printed screens made, she would cut up plastic baskets, use wire baskets and anti-slip rugs to get the desired design. She added that getting custom-made screens “opens up the worlds of possibilities.” 

Rayder approached Jandreau and her team and asked if they might be able to help. The students used what they learned in their 3D engineering design program to come up with designs for Rayder.

“Mrs. Julie Rayder has a new technique to make soap,” student Danilichava said during the presentation. “It’s called the ‘Lift and Pull.’ She can’t buy screens at any stores and she knew we had a 3D printer and asked if we could make some screens for her.” 

Rayder was part of the educational process as she went to the school and spoke with the students about what she needed for her soaps and showed the girls the technique she had made on YouTube. 

“Our next step was to plan an idea. We tried selecting some promising solutions,” student Thibeault said during the presentation. 

Julie Rayder used these swirl screens printed off by Gina Jandreau’s all-girl team using a 3D printer. (Courtesy of Julie Rayder)

Thibeault went on to list the different design solutions the girls came up with. Danilichava came up with a rabbit design for its cuteness. Hartivgsen chose to make a star so that the beams would make the design more intricate. Finally, Thibeault came up with a lobster design because it is Maine-themed and they are a “big treat.” 

The team each created their designs within Tinkercad — a 3D design app — and then printed them off. The students then had to test out their designs and evaluate their quality. 

Hartivgsen said she had to adjust her screen because the points of the star weren’t all touching the circle around it. Thibeault on the other hand, had a slightly more successful printout. 

“The lobster soap screen, as you can see, printed out well and there is no need for improving,” Thibeault said. 

Danilichava also had some connectivity issues that were fixed by way of a 3D pen. 

After a few trials and errors with different designs and soap batches, Rayder and the team “got it right.” 

“I think that the students were able to see that there are so many different niche markets in our world today,” Rayder said. “They can make a difference or produce something that is marketable or helpful to people and businesses within their community. You can be creative and produce something incredibly unique and that is a very rewarding experience.”

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