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MakerBot CEO Travels & Blogs on the ‘New Normal’ with 3D Printing in Schools

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MakerBot-LogoYou may have noticed that while many adults of this generation are educated, savvy, and ‘with it, ‘ when something goes wrong with technology at home, the kids are often the ones to take hold and fix everything with ease. Not only are the students of today in tune with technology, for the most part they are born into a life immersed in technology and its continual progression.

Today, literacy in technology like digital design and 3D printing is what sets many graduates apart from others. Schools want their students to stand out, to go above and beyond–and they must plan and look ahead for providing the real-world tools to help them attain those skills as they enter high schools and colleges. Often older students and those not even in school are taking on these new skills as well–and often just on their own initiative for designing specific projects they just want to see come to fruition in 3D.

These days, several companies–like MakerBot–are reaching out to schools and to users on all levels to find out what their needs are when it comes to 3D printing as they begin to look at it as an important educational tool, as well as a tool that artists and designers are becoming more reliant on. MakerBot CEO Jonathan Jaglom fills us all in on what happened when he took a 10-week tour around the US, meeting with more than 60 of their customers–in 22 states.


Jonathan Jaglom, CEO of MakerBot

The bottom line was that while Jaglom met with a wide range of MakerBot customers, the students surprised him far more than he expected, even armed with the knowledge that more than 5,000 schools are currently using their technology, in the form of MakerBot Replicators. Not only are the projects that students are working on impressive–it’s the ease with which they intuitively understand, appreciate, and manipulate the technology for innovating.

“…the other day, my mind was blown like it hasn’t been in years,” related Jaglom in his blog that was shared with 3DPrint.com recently. “I visited The Whitby School, where Leslie Perry uses MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D printers in her middle-school design technology classes.”

For Jaglom, much experienced in the ways of 3D printing, it was still a stunning experience as he caught a glimpse into what Whitby School students were actually doing, and the strong grasp that students had on what he refers to as “research, design, make, iterate, repeat.”

The natural ease students are showing indicates not only the typical affinity younger people and kids today have with technology, but also the use of a tool that is properly designed to prompt a streamlined path for use and innovation. This was perfectly demonstrated as he spoke with a student who upon showing his prowess with the technology explained that it was nothing out of the ordinary for him.

“I don’t see using Tinkercad and then MakerBot to design something as exceptional. I find it sort of normal,” said Eric, a student from Whitby.


Students and teachers at the Whitby School are all mastering 3D printing technology together, with MakerBot Replicator 3D printers

While all of the accounts that Jaglom received were not peaches and cream, especially as he visited some of the more corporate customers as well as those geared toward the making community, overall, he saw the successes in schools as well as their comfort with the technology as a “new normal.”

“I’ve listened to tales of success as well as grumbles at companies from Stanley Black & Decker to Adafruit,” said Jaglom. “At every school I’ve visited, I see a new educational paradigm–students teaching their elders about technology.”

While many talk about their fears in technology with regards to long-term concerns with artificial intelligence taking over the world, what can be looked at in a much more positive light is that the younger generations are really the ones taking over–and they are making some great strides already. Jaglom watched as students on the precipice of graduating as well as those working as interns at MakerBot helped local business people navigate the technology. He visited the following universities, with eye-opening and very positive observations:

At the State University of New York at New Paltz, Jaglom became aware of the “intergenerational knowledge exchange.” While interns helped ‘forty-somethings’ learn about digital design and 3D printing, they in turn helped the younger students with very solid life experience and knowledge regarding engineering, design from their end, and how to bring it all together for utilitarian solutions that can affect the real world.

The University of Maryland Clark School of Engineering wowed him with undergraduates who not only employed a grasp on the technology of 3D printing but were able to perform a study and full evaluation in helping the university decide which 3D printers would work best for an integrated program there. Not surprisingly, MakerBot Replicators made the cut and ended up being the choice for first-year engineers on the advice of the undergrads, who also wrote a paper on the subject for the American Society for Engineering Education conference, where they participated in explaining their findings.


Students at Brooklyn Tech Manufacturing Lab using MakerBot 3D printers

From the high school end of the perspective, albeit quite advanced, Jaglom visited Brooklyn Technical High School, which he points out is “the largest American high school focused on STEAM subjects.” He mentions seeing projects in action there from engineering classes building turbines, to a robotics club actually putting their creations to work, doing things like playing Frisbee and even loading a crate.

“As I was leaving Brooklyn Tech, a student chased me out of the building because he wanted an internship at MakerBot,” said Jaglom. “The truth is, I should have been running after him.”

Jaglom really puts it all in perspective with the simple realization that the while we are responsible for making the tools and putting them out there, the students and younger generation are getting ready to use them and run with it. The older and more experienced can either just sit back and watch–or join in and keep learning and keep sharing what they have to offer as well.

Discuss your thought on 3D printing in education, as well as how the younger generations seem to have a more firm handle on technology that those of their elders, in the New Normal in 3D Printing forum thread over at 3DPB.com.


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