With our awards winning RobotsLAB Box (Gold Edison Award, Best STEM Solution by EdTech Digest, LAUNCHEDU COMPETITION AT SXSWEDU), we here at RobotsLAB are always on the lookout for innovative companies that compliment and enhance our product and further our view that STEM education need not be boring--or unaffordable. Makerbot, developer of the MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer is one such company.
Just as our robots engage students by demonstrating in real time the practical importance of math, MakerBot's 3D printers draw students in by showing them the fascinating new world of digital manufacturing. Engineering exercises like building bridges and pyramids, once cobbled together in the classroom with popsicle sticks, clay and epoxy, and taking days to build, can now be manufactured cleanly and swiftly in a matter of minutes or hours. Nor can the importance of students understanding the science and practice behind this new manufacturing method be overstated in terms of their future ability to access employment: no less a personage than President Obama has declared that 3D printing is the next manufacturing revolution and he intends that America will be the leader in this new revolution!
The first 3D printers, like the first computers, were huge and far more expensive than any school district could hope to put in the hands of its students. But Makerbot has brought the size down to little more than that of a desktop printer and the price to under $2000 dollars. Besides that, the company has made its printers available through crowdfunder Donorschoose.org; all teachers have to do is contact Donorschoose with their request. As of this writing more than a thousand schools have received printers.
Makerbot is doing more than just putting out affordable 3D printers in pursuit of this revolution: realizing that this new technology requires that schools develop new curricula to support it, the printer maker has built the website Thingiverse.com with over 200,000 downloadable digital designs that have been “specifically curated with teachers and core curriculum needs in mind.” And, says Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot, “We want teachers to be able to get their MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer in the classroom and immediately be able to 3D print something useful that ties into what they are teaching.” The MakerBot Academy 3D model of the Great Pyramid of Giza is an excellent example of one of these designs and how easily it can be incorporated into a school’s existing curriculum.
Getting your hands on the lesson plan for the Great Pyramid is as simple as downloading the digital diagrams from Makerbot's digital content files on Thingiverse.Com. The design calls for two equal sections displaying in 3D the inner passages and various burial chambers. A content pack includes not only the two-part print of the pyramid but a lesson plan discussing the engineering, design and construction process. This lesson plan is used in schools throughout the country in classes as disparate as engineering and social studies.
3D printing is considered by many to be the vanguard of a new revolution in manufacturing. Great importance is attached to seeing that our schools graduate more students with a background in this new technology. Makerbot is one company that is going out of its way to ensure that that happens!