Some of the most brilliant 3D printed inventions that I have seen were created by kids, from elementary school to college level. Given that 3D printing is becoming increasingly integral to so many vital industries, it’s a promising sign that young people are taking to it so well. Schools and government organizations have recognized the importance of getting kids interested and skilled in 3D printing, and many organizations are finding creative ways to motivate students to experiment with the technology. Increasingly popular are 3D printing competitions that, much like traditional science fairs, encourage kids to get inventive.
Inventiveness is the goal of the Gulf 3D Printing Olympiad, a newly announced competition for students in middle and higher education in the United Arab Emirates. Sponsored by learning solutions company ATLAB, the competition is open to all students between the ages of 10 and 25. Entrants are being asked to design and 3D print an innovative and useful product that can potentially help people in everyday life.
“This event is an opportunity for students to showcase their creativity, innovative thinking and design skills, in designing advanced 3D models and successfully printing them out in a three-dimensional format,” said S Senthil Kugan, general manager of ATLAB.
Students can enter their designs in one of four categories based on age: Primary (ages 10-12), Middle (ages 13-15), High School (ages 16-19) and University (ages 17-25). Designs may be submitted in teams of one or two students, plus a coach. Entries must be submitted by March 30, 2016, and will be judged on creativity, inventiveness, presentation and execution. For kids without access to 3D printers, ATLAB is setting up printing centers where the students can inexpensively print their designs.
If students need some extra motivation to enter the competition, some pretty enticing awards are being offered. The winner of the grand prize for “Best Innovative Product” will be awarded an all-expenses-paid trip to Birmingham, UK for the TCT Show + Personalise 3D printing exhibition in September 2016. Other awards include a LeapFrog Creatr 3D Printer (first place), a David 3D Laser Scanner (second place), and several cash prizes.
The competition was inspired by the recent UAE Innovation Week, a weeklong conference and showcase highlighting innovation within the United Arab Emirates. Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum has been aggressively pursuing new technology with several campaigns to make Dubai the leader in clean energy and smart technology by the end of the decade. Every industry is being asked to contribute to the technological overhaul, and the youngest citizens are no exception.
“There is no better platform to inculcate this spirit than among the student community. Design is an important part of innovation and technology has enabled us to use 3D printing to bring to life our unique concepts,” said Kugan. “Today it is possible for children to design a product and 3D print it. In the next few years, the affordability factor will further enhance the process of innovation.”
ATLAB’s company mission is to provide affordable training and tools to all educational institutions within the UAE. Motivated by what the company describes as “an urgent need” to get students engaged in STEM subjects, ATLAB provides lab equipment and technology-based curriculum, with a major emphasis on 3D printing. Through partnerships with several leading 3D printing corporations, ATLAB provides 3D printers and training to not only schools but companies who can benefit from the technology. It’s never too late to familiarize oneself with 3D printing, but, as so many institutions have reinforced, the youngest generation is the one to focus on in terms of advancing the technology in the future.