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makerbot-innovation_centerI was required to take shop class in 8th grade, where you learned how to use tools, like a miter saw, to make a lamp out of a plastic bottle. I took Computer Applications when I was a senior, which was mostly just making PowerPoint presentations. Things have sure changed since then…no, this isn’t where I tell young whippersnappers that I had to walk uphill both ways to school in a blinding snowstorm or anything like that. It’s awesome that in today’s world, so many schools are working on adding 3D printing into their curriculum. A case study on 3D printing in the classroom was even completed at a secondary school in the Czech Republic earlier this year. Now Mount Olive High School (MOHS) in New Jersey has just installed a MakerBot Innovation Center, becoming the first secondary school worldwide with such a great offering for its students!

makerbot_replicator_module_2These large-scale centers have been an option for universities that want to offer students wider access to 3D printing, but most K-12 schools that teach 3D printing just have individual printers for students to use. As 3D printing continues to be utilized in more industries, however, teachers and administrators are looking for further ways to make this technology accessible to their students on a daily basis. In 2013, MOHS received a MakerBot Replicator 2X as a donation from the Josh and Judy Weston Family Foundation, a New Jersey-based organization focused on contributing to education and the arts. After plenty of classroom projects over three years, and an overwhelming demand from their students, teachers Megan Boyd and David Bodmer, with the support of the school district, decided to elevate the school’s technology.

makerbot-logo-kickstarter-1.originalThe MakerBot Innovation Center at MOHS is part of the Marauder Innovation Learning Lab (MILL), a STEAM-focused (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) learning space. There’s a ThinkerSpace, where students can meet to discuss ongoing projects, and a Workshop area, with workbenches and tools that can be used to work on prototypes. They’ve got 33 MakerBot 3D printers, and on the school’s website, the principal says the slogan for the MILL is “Making What’s Next…” The goal of the MILL is for students to learn how to approach real-world problems in a holistic way.

“Our goal with the MakerBot Innovation Center is to provide students a learning environment that replicates what industry is like,” said Boyd. “We’ve been talking to many leaders at the college and industry level to better understand what skills students will need to succeed. We heard over and over again that in our rapidly evolving economy, skills like problem-solving and collaboration will be much more important for students than purely technical skills. The MakerBot Innovation Center will help us teach these skills as it offers a very different, more hands-on learning environment that gives students more freedom to experiment, learn from failure and progress their thinking.”

mtolive-insideblog-1Using the MakerBot Innovation Center, the students are able to experiment more, and learn to feel more confident when taking risks. Entire class loads can be printed at once, without having to go through the long process of individually loading prints onto a flash drive and queuing them up for 3D printing. This lets teachers give students feedback on their designs within hours, instead of days or even weeks.

“When you can quickly make changes and evolve your idea, it’s easier to take criticism from others,” said Bodmer. “We consider that part of the core skill set that students need to succeed. Students need to learn to be flexible in their thinking and be receptive to feedback to refine and develop their ideas. We don’t know what these students will end up doing when they enter the job market but these are the type of skills that will benefit them in any career path.”

Courses are currently being offered in engineering and industrial design. Students begin learning the basics by downloading objects from MakerBot’s Thingiverse. Over the last three months, the students have printed over 700 objects! The engineering courses focus on the technicalities of prototyping, like assembly design, while the industrial design classes concentrate on user experience, aesthetics, and product design. In a recent project, students studied all of the historical industrial design movements, and then designed and 3D printed a chess set inspired by a style of their choosing.

[Image from Mount Olive High School website]

[Image from Mount Olive High School website]

The MOHS MakerBot Innovation Center was financed with help from the Department of Defense and the local Board of Education. MakerBot helped set up the center, and also trained the staff. Boyd and Bodmer are already planning a STEAM Capstone course for 2017 that will utilize the MakerBot Innovation Center and the MILL. Students can apply their newly learned skills in real-life settings, by partnering with local companies and nonprofits that can involve groups of students in various projects and then evaluate them. Boyd says she hopes some of her students will even start Kickstarter campaigns in the future. Discuss in the Mount Olive forum at 3DPB.com.

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