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Montclair, N.J. is Putting 3 MakerBot 3D Printers in Every School

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Dive into the early history of Montclair and you’ll find an image that sums up what’s going on in their schools today. The township sits on a ridge of the Watchung Mountains about 300 feet above sea level. So it’s no surprise that the name Montclair is derived from the French for “Clear Mountain”. Embodied in the meaning of that name is the climbing, striving spirit of the Montclair Public School District.

You may have heard of one school or another 3D printing but you’ve probably never heard of an entire school district doing so. Through Montclair’s Board of Education and the support of Josh S. Weston, former CEO of ADP, the Montclair School District received twenty-seven MakerBot Replicator® Desktop 3D Printers. By taking advantage of MakerBot’s Buy Two, Get One offer, eighteen new printers were purchased and nine refurbished models were donated for free.

 All eleven schools in the Montclair Public School District will be 3D printing with MakerBot. That’s seven elementary schools, three middle schools, and one high school. After the 3D printers are distributed in early January, each school will have three MakerBot 3D printers. Previously, 3D printing for Montclair’s students was less comprehensive. It consisted of after-school workshops in one middle school for 7th and 8th grade students as well as classes for 10th, 11th, and 12th grade STEM students during the school year.

Overseeing it all is Lynn English and Dan Taylor. She’s the Director of the Weston Science Scholars Program, which is a partnership between Montclair High School and Montclair State University. She’s also a Chemistry and Geoscience Teacher at Montclair High School. Dan Taylor is the STEM Director for the Mount Hebron Middle School as well as the Science and STEM magnet for the district. This paramount project is about more than filling-in gaps with wider access to 3D printing.

To understand the profound impact 3D printing will have in Montclair, you have to envision the journey each student will take from elementary school to high school. From an early age, students first learn 3D printing technology and take on simple printing projects. In middle school, students progress to learning CAD software, creating their own designs, and testing those designs through iterative prototypes. For example, 7th and 8th grade students in those afterschool workshops designed both a practical item, like a book holder, and a creative item.

In high school, the projects become advanced. For example, Montclair High School’s 10th-grade STEM students were already collaborating with an engineer every two weeks to design, 3D print, and soldier parts for building drones. Another project would include 3D printing E-nable hands for children that need them.

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Here’s the end result. By the time students go to college, they can immediately start working on projects relevant to their majors and future careers because they are already proficient in CAD design and 3D printing. That is a tremendous advantage over students who don’t have this experience. In fact, students that go on to attend Montclair State University can walk to the business school and possibly collaborate with entrepreneurs in the MakerBot Innovation Center there. Who doesn’t want real-world experience before you’re in the real-world?

Given the number of 3D printers to distribute, English, Taylor, and the Montclair District will be training two teachers at each school. Training for CAD will be in early January and for 3D printing in early March at the Picatinny Arsenal. Those teachers will then go on to train others at their school. To ensure consistency and quality, English and Taylor will work with educators at Montclair State University to develop design standards and rollout more training. Also this summer, the Montclair Public School District will offer 3D summer camps for students in the month of July.

Under the aegis of the Department of Defense, the Picatinny Arsenal is helping teachers in the Montclair School District get up to speed on 3D printing. Their own program promotes STEM learning from Eastern Pennsylvania to Brooklyn as a means of building up a talent base for new engineers in the coming years.

Within the six square miles that makeup Montclair, there is a real belief in the cumulative power of 3D printing. The township is becoming a leader in 3D printing for K-12 schools. For English, Taylor, and the school district, MakerBot’s user-friendly 3D printers and expertise are a key ingredient to setting students on a steeply rising-incline to success. By learning with 3D printing from elementary school to high school, these students can reach new heights and open up new vistas for their careers. And that’s what it’s all about.

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