Leading 3D Printing Adoption in Higher Ed: Takeaways from the 1st Annual MakerBot Innovation Center Summit

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This summer, leaders from 11 MakerBot Innovation Centers gathered at our Brooklyn headquarters for what proved to be a momentous founder’s summit. For two days—June 23rd and June 24th—attendees exchanged best practices, worked through collective challenges, and presented uses cases from their MakerBot Innovation Center.

As leading universities around the world continue to implement MakerBot Innovation Centers, these large-scale 3D printing installations will further elevate access, entrepreneurship, and multi-disciplinary collaboration on campus.

Through this first summit, we are addressing the wider needs of our customers by expanding the community around our products. As the first of many to come, the summit gives MakerBot Innovation Center leaders a platform where exchanging best practices is about more than a smoother experience or just ironing-out kinks. Together, we are creating a community that is striving for a more ideal model of integrated desktop 3D printing in Higher Education so that tomorrow’s leaders and graduates can gain real world experience iterating, win jobs, and make a real economic impact for their universities, cities, and regions.

Learning from Leaders

Turns out, every university in attendance has a different model for implementing a MakerBot Innovation Center. This fact is what makes the summit so vital and invaluable. Attendees can dissect and digest the successes and challenges for every other university’s unique approach.

Some prefer a “self-service” lab approach whereas others go for a service bureau style that handles print requests. For example, at Florida International University, the MakerBot Innovation Center is set up as a self-service style hub. It’s integrated in the College of Architecture + The Arts at the CARTA Innovation Lab. That lab is a part of FIU’s Miami Beach Urban Studios, a creative space for students, researchers, and the wider community. With 32 printers set up in an open office area, anyone can print as they please.

That lab has already produced novel work, like custom designed, 3D-printed musical instruments, radical architectural models, and a spill-free beverage holder for attaching to crutches that won an award at the 2015 Bay Area Makeathon. Even as FIU continues to experience success with their MakerBot Innovation Center, they could share in the challenges they’ve experienced and discover what others have done.

“The biggest takeaway from the summit was learning from the diversity and creativity of energies and talents that are going into figuring out how 3D printing laboratories are changing the face of higher education” says John Stuart, Director of the CARTA Innovation Lab.

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As a different example, SUNY-New Paltz has benefitted from their MakerBot Innovation Center for over a year. It’s located within the university’s Hudson Valley Advanced Manufacturing Center (HVAMC), which operates like a service bureau for students and community members. It also includes an array of Stratasys FDM and Polyjet industrial 3D printers, a CNC router, a vinyl cutter, 3D scanners, and more. In fact, it most recently received SMART Lab status from Stratasys as one of the most advanced 3D printing centers in the nation.

With more than a combined 10 million in state and private funding, the HVAMC has proved to be an invaluable driver of industry, innovation, and education in the region. It’s worked through the challenges of both scaling up and training faculty on how to teach students how to design for additive manufacturing.

Student interns run day-to-day operations, encourage a cross-collaborative learning space, and ensure that the HVAMC is open to all students across campus, no matter their discipline. In terms of outreach, the HVAMC has collaborated with over 150 local businesses, inventors, and entrepreneurs. It’s offered summer workshops for K-12 teachers, Saturday Art Labs, Summer Art Programs, a Digital Design and Fabrication certification minor, and short courses on 3D design and printing.

Through these stories of success among many others, every attendee could dive further into their challenges and successes.

The MakerBot Innovator Award 

Of everyone who attended, we want to especially recognize two people: Jacqueline Thompson and Dan Freedman. As the CARTA Innovation Lab Manager from FIU, Thompson received our MakerBot Innovator Award for her “boundless enthusiasm, organization, and patience”. With a background in Urban Planning and office management, she utilizes an intern to run the daily operations of the lab and is largely responsible for facilitating the diverse and outstanding 3D-printed work there.

Thompson had one one huge takeaway as well, “Although our Innovation Center operates differently than most of our peers, one impact was the agreement of finding solutions to recycling filament. It was a pleasure to collaborate with the universities on methods to reuse the filament and wonderful to know that at the end of the summit, MakerBot is researching ways to make this come in effect.”

The Godfather of the MakerBot Innovation Center

We would also like to thank Dan Freedman, Dean of the School of Science and Engineering at SUNY-New Paltz. In many of the presentations for other universities, he was acknowledged, in one way or another, as the “Godfather of the MakerBot Innovation Center”.

Beyond the wide success at the HVAMC, Freedman is a founding father responsible for empowering students, educators, and the business community to integrate 3D printing. At the Summit, he could speak about the value of desktop 3D printing in fields as diverse as higher-level and K-12 education, arts, engineering, fashion, business, and more. He’s even worked with his university’s sustainability officer to develop an industrial process for composting filament—an open question many 3D printing owners have.

“Through the MakerBot Innovation Center and events like this summit, we are committed to addressing the wider needs of those who aspire to lead in the 21st century. With a MakerBot Innovation Center, you can more effectively and easily prepare students with tomorrow’s skills, promote multidisciplinary collaboration, and accelerate design iteration within your university, local businesses, and community.” said Wallace Patterson, Global Director of Educational Enterprise Sales. “I am so proud that through the partnerships we have built with these universities, we can support their programs, spur the success of their students, and showcase the mission of their leadership to drive further success.”

To learn more about the MakerBot Innovation Center, please visit makerbot.com/innovation-center.