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Five 3D Printers for Five Schools

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This summer, we asked Thingiverse users to put on their thinking caps for five Summer STEAM Challenges, which called for 3D printable designs in science, technology, engineering, art, and math. At the same time, schools across the country made their cases for why their school needed a 3D printer.

The STEAM challenge winners each received a MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer of their own, plus the chance to give one to a participating school.

These five deserving schools have big plans for their 3D printers, and we’re so excited to see what they make.

1. The Make it Float challenge winner, David Choi, sent a MakerBot Replicator to Lincoln Park High School, in Chicago, IL. Lincoln Park piloted a 3D printing and physical computing program in which students train to teach others, and this year, they’re going to roll out the curriculum to 1500 students.

2. Citrus Hills Intermediate School in Corona, CA, was chosen by the Light it Up challenge winner, German mechanical engineering student Christoph Queck. The school has just welcomed technology teacher Leanne Edwards, who has a background in 3D modeling, and will use its MakerBot Replicator to supplement her curriculum in design, science, math, and history.

“This really allows students’ designs to come alive and their excitement to grow exponentially as they see their hard work come to fruition,” says Edwards.

3. Catch the Wind winner Mike Blakemore gave a MakerBot Replicator to Almaden County School in San Jose, CA. The middle school has been running successful 3D printing electives with a borrowed printer, and plans to use their new MakerBot Replicator to devote a whole 12-week period to 3D printing design and creation.

“More students will have a chance to create more than one iteration of a prototype, which is an especially important part of the design thinking model,” says Mary Beth Gay, the Director of Technology at Almaden County Schools.

4. See the World challenge winner Chris L. sent a MakerBot Replicator to the residential Illinois School for the Deaf, whose students plan to customize and 3D print cochlear implants and hearing aids with the help of their expert audiology, design, and IT staff.

5. Build a Castle winner Will Webber chose Georgia Connections Academy, a virtual charter school that wants to build a mobile 3D printing lab to travel around the Peach State and bring hands-on STEM experiences to their community of 4,000 students.

Nearly 90 schools entered for a chance to receive a 3D printer, and the recipients were chosen from this list of 10 finalists.

Thanks to all who participated, and congratulations to the winning designers and schools.

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7 Life Skills You Can Teach with a 3D Printer

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Learning traditional subjects with 3D printing teaches students practical lessons, like modeling in 3D design software, but it also helps kids develop crucial life skills.

As Randy Asher, the Brooklyn Technical High School principal, says, “It’s not about teaching the tool, but about using the tool to teach.”

Brooklyn Tech, the largest high school for STEM subjects in the United States, incorporated six MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printers into its curriculum in 2012. Now the school has over 20.

Asher knows that students with access to 3D printing learn how to create a 3D model, how to orient a print, and how to level the build plate. He knows this hands-on approach helps them gain a fuller, lasting grasp of science, technology, engineering, and math concepts.

He also knows that the skills a student needs to achieve success in school, work, and life go beyond the classroom, and that these skills can be gained through the use of 3D printing in the curriculum. Here’s our roundup of the top seven:

1. There are many ways to learn.
Students can learn about history, for example, from a book or a documentary, but a 3D printer transforms this topic into a tactile experience. Students can interact with 3D printed models in real time, stimulating their imagination and deepening their understanding.

Teacher Heather Calabro of Mid-Pacific Institute of Hawaii showcased this when she asked her ninth graders to pretend they were a person involved in World War II and had them design an artifact related to that historical figure. The artifacts came together to form what Calabro calls a “biographical timeline” that gave both students and visitors a different understanding of the past.

2. Think critically to solve problems.
Identifying pain points and then iterating until you find a working solution is a process taught across schools and disciplines. At the all-boys Browning School in New York, students use 3D printing to learn engineering concepts and design basics.

Jeremy Sambuca, the former director of academic technology at Browning, says:

We’re in a society where winning and being perfect is going to get you into a good college. And with engineering, those concepts are very difficult because your product is not always going to come out perfect. Allowing the boys to troubleshoot their way through it is making them better problem-solvers.

Hands-on practice in real time helps students become invested not just in learning the design process but in making it a habit that stretches beyond class assignments.

3. Resilience builds confidence. And confidence is important to succeed.
Going through multiple iterations of a design allows kids to fail early and often. Sambuca says that using 3D printers to learn the design process is “making [the students] more resilient. So that they can build confidence in themselves knowing that, hey, it’s OK to fail.”

3D printing helps students to see failure as an opportunity to persist and succeed. Empowered to control a project themselves, students necessarily form a sense of leadership, ownership, and pride. Check out how Browning uses MakerBot to empower their students.

4. Competition can be healthy.
Eighth graders at A. MacArthur Barr Middle School in Nanuet, NY, use 3D printing as part of their yearly CO2 drag race, led by technology teacher Vinny Garrison. Students create lightweight race cars, learning the principles of engineering and design — and the principle of healthy competition. They use their 3D printers to design faster moving wheels.

It’s a project the kids look forward to all year, and one they remember, says Garrison.
Check out how 3D printing gets kids across the finish line.

5. Collaboration is necessary.
Brooklyn Technical High School’s civil engineering club designed a hydroelectric dam that harvests kinetic energy from flowing water with a 3D printed turbine, then converts that energy into electricity. To accomplish this smoothly and successfully, they distributed tasks such as project leadership, design, and photography according to each student’s strengths.

6. Communicate clearly.
North Carolina fifth grade teacher Kelly Hines says her students learned communication skills just by having a 3D printer in their classroom, because they had to explain the printer to curious classroom visitors.

7. Have empathy for others.
The 3D printer also unearthed empathy and social awareness, Hines told teacher and author Vicki Davis. When her students saw the Robohand and other prosthetics, Hines says, they saw their MakerBot Replicator as a tool for becoming more aware of the needs of others, and learning how they could help.

Any lesson plan will teach math and science concepts. But when students have access to 3D printers, they can pick up skills they will use on the job and in life.

To teach your students life skills with 3D printing, try starting here.

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The Oregon Pint Runneth Over

Posted by on Wednesday, August 19, 2015 in Uncategorized


With roots in Portland, North Drinkware founders Nic Ramirez, Matt Capozzi, and Leigh Capozzi wanted to showcase the things that they — and most Oregonians — love about their state, specifically craft beer and lush mountains. Like all great ideas, their custom-made pint glass with a replica of Mount Hood in the base now seems obvious.

The Kickstarter community thought so too: North Drinkware’s Oregon Pint reached its $15,000 target in five hours and fifteen minutes, and the campaign went on to raise more than $500,000 by the time it closed in March 2015.

Kickstarter’s project rules call for “explicit demos of a working prototype.” So the North Drinkware team combined 3D technologies with the old-school craft of glassblowing to make a physical proof of concept.

They took 3D data of Mount Hood, the state’s highest peak, from the United States Geological Survey, and mocked up a digital model of it in the base of a pint glass that they had designed themselves. Then they 3D printed the completed glass design on a MakerBot Replicator to develop the plaster molds that shaped the first glasses.

“By using a MakerBot, we were able to do five iterations for almost nothing, versus, if we had made five graphite molds, it would have cost $20,000,” said Ramirez.

With overwhelming backing in place, North Drinkware needed to go into production on a scale much larger than anticipated. “We got to the point where we imagined we would be in five years in five days,” he said.

Scaling up quickly can uncover pain points in manufacturing, and North Drinkware needed to invent some processes as they went. For example, sometimes a glass needs to be ground at the lip after it’s been flame-polished. In this instance, the team designed a 3D printed fixture to hold the bottom of the glass and keep it level as it’s ground. One more flame polish, and that glass is ready to be shipped.

The first Kickstarter backers received their Oregon Pint glasses in May.

Aside from finding harmony between an age-old craft and emerging technologies, North Drinkware built a new kind of local operation with both handmade and manufactured elements. They also created six new jobs, giving back to the community in a way they hadn’t expected.

To get started, they say, “Kickstarter was the big accelerant. To get to the proof of concept, MakerBot was critical.”

And next? Eventually, they plan to offer glasses with a signature landmark in other states, including Washington, Vermont, California, and Colorado.

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Innovative Patients Help Themselves

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A missed connecting flight in Chicago meant that the Arkansas leg of my 11-week, 22-state Listening Tour was unfortunately restricted to listening. I called in to a meeting with the EAST Initiative, which provides students with 3D printers and other technology to learn through projects that serve their communities.

And at the Innovation Hub, a makerspace in North Little Rock, I missed meeting Mike Kelley, a member who came by to use the MakerBot Replicator Z18 to take care of himself.

Kelley has a denegerative spinal disorder. He was at the Innovation Hub that morning to print a 3D model of his cervical spine, the section just below the neck. He started with a recent CT scan, which takes a lot of two-dimensional pictures, and found free software online that converts those slices into a 3D printable file. A network engineer at Cisco, Kelley had never used a 3D printer before, but he likes to make things in his shop at home, and he quickly got a handle on the MakerBot 3D Ecosystem and created a replica of his upper spine.

Kelley plans to bring the model of his spine to his next doctor’s appointment. In the meantime, friends can now see how his bones are worn down, and they seem to understand better that he’s hurting. “For a guy that will be 52 later this month, I think I’m very healthy,” says Kelley, who is a competitive weightlifter. “People don’t realize that sometimes I’m just sucking it up and getting through the day.”

The model also has helped Kelley come to grips with his own condition. He considers himself a visual person, and he had trouble deciphering the CT scan. 3D printing, he says, “brings back that mechanical approach to things.” Doctors have more practice reading CT scans, but 3D printed models are more clear, and can lead to better informed decisions.

Kelley is one of many people who have found their way to desktop 3D printing to manage their own medical problems or those of their loved ones. After 6-week-old Ari needed an emergency operation on her walnut-sized heart, her mother, Anne Garcia, started a nonprofit called OpHeart so that planning with 3D printed heart models becomes the standard for surgery on young children. When Michael Balzer’s wife needed a brain tumor removed, he printed a model of her skull and sent it to her surgeon, who was then able to perform a less invasive surgery. A Hodgkin’s patient printed out models of his tumor when it was discovered, and again after radiation and chemotherapy made it shrink. Researchers are modifying the MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental 3D Printer to look into custom treatments, from administering the right amount of medication to replacing sections of windpipe. And of course there is Robohand, which began as a way to help one man and has grown into a global effort to provide low-cost prosthetics.

When it comes to 3D printing, doctors can get good ideas from patients, just as teachers can learn a lot from their students. Kelley says he told some doctor friends about his spine model, and they now want to know how he made it. Desktop 3D printing can make the worrisome world of medicine more concrete and accessible, and break down barriers between doctors and patients.

The same user-centered principle is behind the Bay Area Makeathon for Assistive Technology. We are proud to be the 3D printing partner for the event, which is hosted by TOM, UCP of the North Bay, and Google.org. At the Makeathon, people with skills such as product design, coding, and 3D printing will be collaborating with people who understand the needs of people with disabilities, including the people with disabilities themselves. We invited Kelley to join us at the Bay Area Makeathon, and he will use his making skills — including perhaps his newfound knowledge of 3D printing — to help others.

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Kids Make It Challenge Winners Announced

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This July, educational game maker ThinkFun partnered with MakerBot Thingiverse to sponsor a Kids Make It Challenge. The participants competed for the title of Master Maker as well as fun prizes.

The kids who made it have been announced: @bumbleflies, who built a toy fishing boat; @PlayEatGrow, who fashioned an alien friend with a propeller; @SkunksMonkey, who made a sweet penguin mobile; @AlissaApel, who souped up a Creativity Can; and @SalientTech, who created a working fishing pole.

Each Master Maker will receive a large spool of MakerBot PLA Filament or its equivalent in 3D printed products, plus a collection of ThinkFun games.

For the challenge, ThinkFun made its Maker Studio Construction Sets available for free on Thingiverse, so that anyone can download and 3D print the files from the Gear, Winches, and Propellers sets. Use the Maker Studio sets to build suggested projects, or to create something entirely from your imagination.

Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks to everyone who participated.

Didn’t get to enter this challenge? Keep your eyes peeled for more from ThinkFun and Thingiverse.

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Inspiring the Startup Mindset

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It’s long been the standard wisdom that to learn or achieve something new – a math problem, a recipe – you need to follow a series of pre-defined steps. Traditional education methods have sufficiently adhered to this for centuries.

At MakerBot we believe something different, and from the curiosity and courage I’ve been seeing on my 11-week, 22-state Listening Tour across the United States, so do our customers.

A new paradigm has become the dominant marker of success and innovation: the startup mindset. Think about Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, and MakerBot’s own founder Bre Pettis. Successful entrepreneurs focus on possibilities instead of current realities, disrupting standard processes to achieve their goals with rapid iteration instead. The hands-on learning that our customers employ with Desktop 3D printing in their schools and their maker spaces encourages an enthusiasm to real-time prototype, test, fail, and repeat, until a successful approach is found.

These last few weeks, I’ve covered 9 states and met over 20 customers, and I’ve been inspired to see a growing population for the maker spaces and centers in Boston University, Learning Labs in Georgia, and Florida Polytechnic’s RAD Maker Space. SUNY New Paltz’s MakerBot Innovation Center empowers students and community entrepreneurs alike. This approach to learning and developing ideas gives people an interdisciplinary space to be proactive, where they may have been stalled before.

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With the MakerBot tools at Whitby School and Brooklyn Technical High School, I see unparallelled imagination and engagement in middle and high school students. I’ve been so impressed with their involvement, their feelings of ownership, responsibility, and creativity. In short, their startup mindset.

In the course of daily life at MakerBot, we see this spirit up close. At our recent Hack-a-Thon, GE FirstBuild and MakerBot Thingiverse paired up to host interdisciplinary teams to develop ideas in two days. Each team brainstormed, created, iterated, and tried again, and each presented a finished concept. The winning team, headed by Bryan Berger of NY Hackathons, was Food Share, a way to display and share food from your refrigerator with neighbors. This is a solution that could potentially lead to less food waste and more community interaction.

We believe it is important to constantly iterate in order to achieve success. I’ve been humbled to see this curious and undaunted attitude at all levels and all disciplines in my Listening Tour.

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3D Maker Spaces Bridge Generation Gaps

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What do a fifth grade student and a seasoned executive have in common? Not a lot, you’d think. At least that’s what I thought before I started my 11-week, 22-state listening tour to meet MakerBot customers throughout the United States.

In every school and business I’ve visited in the past 3 weeks, I’ve seen a multi-generational community join together around a central creative purpose. Everyone wants to take their big idea napkin sketches to the next level, and a communal 3D space devoted to Real-Time design and prototyping allows that.

These 3D maker spaces, and our customers, continue to blow me away.

In CT, at the Whitby School, sixth graders and their teachers move through a professional product-development process: research, design, make, iterate, repeat. Students and teachers imagine and create something out of nothing in the classroom.

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In NY, at the State University of New Paltz, college students run the SUNY Innovation Center and help local entrepreneurs test and iterate on their ideas with 3D technology. Each brings their unique skills to the conversation: entrepreneurs bring their business acumen, and college students, who now accept Desktop 3D printing as the “new normal,” bring their Real-Time prototyping experience. Together, they quickly leap from 2D conceptual ideas to physical products and solutions.

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In GA, at Georgia Institute of Technology, students run an Invention Studio that includes a wood shop, metal shop, electronics shop, and now a 3D print shop complete with “3DP Masters.” These 3DP Masters help student and faculty inventors create, quickly iterate, and print on demand.

In FL, a big part of the MakerBot family is Florida Polytechnic University, where their RAD MakerSpace Innovation Center brings together faculty, students (current and prospective), entrepreneurs, and young people from the community around one idea – creating and turning hypothetical ideas like a floating light into reality.

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Whether people have decades of professional experience or are young students, the divide between the generations is not great when it comes to dreaming big ideas and turning them into reality.

I’m lucky. I’m seeing a new start-up culture emerging that bridges generations, and these communal 3D Maker Spaces are becoming magnets for quickly turning sketches into reality.

3D Maker Spaces give every generation a common language for going from Creating to Making.

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Sam’s Club Carries MakerBot Nationwide

Posted by on Monday, July 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

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Since the beginning of MakerBot, we have grown our 3D Ecosystem with new features for our products, materials, software, accessories, services, and content. Now, we’re expanding one of our most exciting partnerships to make 3D printing even more accessible to everyone.

Sam’s Club is a leading membership warehouse club with over 600 stores nationwide, and now the MakerBot Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printer is available in all 600+ Sam’s Club locations.

“There’s a growing appetite for 3D printing as people see how many professional and practical uses there are for the technology,” said Dawn von Bechmann, Sam’s Club’s senior vice president of technology. “We’re excited to extend MakerBot nationwide and bring our members the latest innovation.”

The Replicator Mini is an educational, portable, and user friendly compact 3D printer that brings easier access to 3D printing in office, classroom, or home.

Select Clubs now also feature a new in-store display that prominently showcases the 3D printer, so customers can learn about the technology firsthand. MakerBot and Sam’s Club first partnered in select Sam’s Club retail locations in the fall of 2014. Sam’s Club also sells MakerBot PLA Filament in four colors: black, blue, red, and white.

“Our revamped in-store display at Sam’s Club makes it easier for customers to understand the technology and the benefits it offers today,” said Mark Schulze, CRO of MakerBot.

Find the MakerBot Replicator Mini in your local Sam’s Club today.

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To Understand the Future of 3D Printing, Talk to a Student

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When you first see a 3D printer, it’s mesmerizing. You make something (a physical object) out of nothing (a digital file).

After a while, you learn 3D printing isn’t a magic trick. I’ve worked in the industry for more than a decade, so I’m used to seeing engineers and designers make prototypes and develop products for the market, and I get the disruptive potential of additive manufacturing.

But the other day, my mind was blown like it hasn’t been in years. I visited The Whitby School, where Leslie Perry uses MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D printers in her middle-school design technology classes. When I took over as CEO of MakerBot two months ago, I learned that more than 5,000 schools have MakerBot Replicators. Still, it was a shock to see sixth graders moving through a professional product-development process: research, design, make, iterate, repeat.

I expressed surprise, and a 12-year-old named Eric seemed confused. “I don’t see using Tinkercad and then MakerBot to design something as exceptional. I find it sort of normal.”

Over the past ten days, as I embarked on a 10-week, 22-state tour to meet more than 60 MakerBot customers around the United States, I keep encountering this new normal. I’ve listened to tales of success as well as grumbles at companies from Stanley Black & Decker to Adafruit. At every school I’ve visited, I see a new educational paradigm: students teaching their elders about technology.

The world hasn’t turned entirely upside down; it’s more of an intergenerational knowledge exchange. At the State University of New York at New Paltz, for example, 18-year-old interns at the MakerBot Innovation Center help seasoned local entrepreneurs use 3D modeling software and 3D printers to test and refine their ideas. New Paltz students learn about engineering and design by working on real-world problems as they teach these fortysomethings, who bring their experience and ideas.

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The University of Maryland Clark School of Engineering, which integrated MakerBot Replicators into its hands-on design course for all first-year engineers, included two undergraduates on their evaluation team. The students put several brands of desktop 3D printers through their paces and made recommendations about which model the school should buy. “You can’t expect someone like me to know about this technology,” quips Dean Darryll Pines, who remembers colleagues who pooh-poohed desktop computers and didn’t expect the Internet would amount to much. These two UMD students just delivered a paper at the annual American Society for Engineering Education conference, which talked about integrating 3D printing in the first-year engineering course.

And at Brooklyn Tech, the largest American high school focused on STEAM subjects, I saw a civil engineering class build a 3D printed turbine, and the many pieces made by the robotics club to help their creation throw a frisbee or load a crate.

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There may not be a 3D printer in every home yet, but more and more households have young people in them who see a 3D printer as just another tool, like a hammer or a Web browser. These children know how to have an idea, give it a physical form, and keep making it better. One generation’s magic trick is the next generation’s normal.

As I was leaving Brooklyn Tech, a student chased me out of the building because he wanted an internship at MakerBot.

The truth is, I should have been running after him.

And if you want to understand how things will be made in the future, you should be running after students like that, too.

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MakerBot in the Classroom: A Resource for Educators

MakerBot in the Classroom: An Introduction to 3D Printing and Design

MakerBot has become an important tool in more than 5,000 schools throughout the United States, and others around the world. Many more teachers would like to introduce 3D printing to help their students learn to collaborate and solve problems, and prepare them for the jobs of the future. To teach something, however, you must first learn it yourself.

For teachers out there who may have never used a 3D printer before, MakerBot has created MakerBot in the Classroom: An Introduction to 3D Printing and Design. This handbook, which also has plenty of useful information for teachers already familiar with 3D printing, is divided into three sections: a primer on 3D printing technology; explanations of how to download, scan, and design models to print, and sample 3D printing projects. Each project introduces a different free 3D design software tool. For example, the Make Your Own Country, which casts students as surveyors of a new land, starts in Tinkercad.

You can download MakerBot in the Classroom for free if you’ve registered your MakerBot Replicator. A sample chapter and project are available free to anyone.

This handbook is part of an ongoing effort to provide better support for 3D printing in classrooms and on campus. Other materials are available at the new MakerBot Education Resource Center.

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