3D Printering: A Makerbot In Every School Follows The Oregon Trail


Gather ’round, children and I’ll tell you a tale of how everyone from the ages of 16 to 40 has played Oregon Trail.

Back when Apple was just starting out, [The Steves] thought it would be a good idea to get the Apple II into the hands of schoolchildren across the United States. They did this with educational pricing, getting Apple IIs into newly created ‘computer labs’ in schools across the country. These new computers – from my experience, anyway – were used as a replacement for the old Selectric typewriters, and on rare occasions a machine that played the MECC classics like Oregon Trail.

Fortunately, a few students were bright enough and had teachers who were brave enough to allow BASIC programming, PEEKs and POKEs. This was the start of a computer revolution, a time when grade schoolers would learn a computer wasn’t just a glorified word processor or dysentery machine, but something that would do what you told it to do. For those kids, and I’m sure a few of them are reading this, it was a life changing experience.

Now it appears we’re in the midst of a new revolution. If this horribly named column isn’t enough of a clue, I’m talking about 3D printing. Yesterday, Makerbot announced they were going to fill in for Apple in this physical revolution by trying to get a Makerbot into every school in the country.

You actually think we’re going to say this is a bad thing? Really?

Here’s the skinny on the press conference Makerbot held yesterday: public school teachers (K-12) can register for a Makerbot Academy 3D printing bundle. This starts a project on DonorsChoose.org where anyone can donate to get a Makerbot into a classroom. If the project is funded, that classroom gets a Makerbot Replicator 2, three spools of PLA, and a year’s worth of MakerCare.

If, however, you teach in Brooklyn, NY, you’re in luck. [Bre Pettis], the big cheese at Makerbot, put up a freaking ton of money for this project. Enough that every public school in Brooklyn will get a printer with the addition of $100 in a Donor’s Choose project. Check out the Makerbot ‘Almost Home’ project on Donors Choose, where your classroom can get a Makerbot, filament, and MakerCare for about $100 in donations. That’s awesome anyway you look at it.

On the Internet, you only need to read half of [Hegel]’s Phenomenology.

Just as in the 80s, a whole bunch of kids are going to get their hands on new technology that will change the world in a few years. Awesome. Thesis.

This can’t be good, though. I mean, look at what all those Apple IIe’s were used for. Word processing, Appleworks, and Oregon Trail. Yes, it’s fun, but using a computer only as a glorified typewriter does both the student and the computer a disservice. Are we to expect the Makerbots in every classroom will be used for novel and interesting applications? Will students around the country be printing out the stuff they created in art and shop class? Will teachers even know how to use the printer, how to calibrate and operate it? Is this printer just going to sit in a closet somewhere, off-limits to the curious student, going unused simply because 3D printers aren’t at the, ‘push a button, get a plastic part’ level of functionality yet? Obviously the idea of putting 3D printers in every school was thought up by a fool. Antithesis.

Since I’ve already done two-thirds of your thinking for you, I might as well finish the job.

This isn’t going to work without you.

A few years from now, the middle school in your town is going to have a 3D printer. Whether that 3D printer is used is up to you.

How many teachers in 1980 knew about all the intricacies of the Apple II? How many could program? From the stories I’ve read about the early frontier of the digital revolution, not many. The common trope goes something like, “my school had a computer, no one knew how to use it, so I started my IT career at the age of 10.” This isn’t to demean the efforts of educators 30 years ago; back then, a personal computer was a novelty.

Right now, 3D printers are where personal computers were circa 1979. Back then, computers had no ‘killer app’ – VisiCalc wouldn’t be released until later that year. Other than flicking switches and the magic of having a machine that would do numbers and sometimes letters for you, there was no reason for the common person to own a computer. Now, with 3D printers, we have the same situation. We’re pretty sure they’re going to change the world, but no one has figured out exactly how quite yet.

What we can do, though, is create an environment for the killer app to be created. Like the user groups of yore, the 3D printing nerds among us will need to venture forth and find those printers that aren’t used. Do you know a shop teacher? Awesome. Show them the Makerbot announcement and tell them you’ll get them up to speed. Do you know the modern equivalent of that kid who didn’t want to play Oregon Trail after their typing lesson? You should take them to a hackerspace. No hackerspace in your area? Start a 3D printing club. Meet in someone’s garage.

Getting a whole bunch of 3D printers into every community across the country is a great idea no matter how you look at it. Of course a lot of those printers will only be used to spit out Minecraft buildings and plastic Octopodes, but that’s not the point. A few of those teachers, and possibly more of those kids, are going to take 3D printing to where it hasn’t gone before. Who knows, maybe some of those kids will ask Santa for a RepRap kit. It worked with Apple, and it’s going to work again with Makerbot.

53 thoughts on “3D Printering: A Makerbot In Every School Follows The Oregon Trail

  1. Excellent points Brian. We all do need to step up and help this actually happen.

    My biggest concern with 3d printers in schools is that some HR or Health and Safety busybody decides these things have hotends and dangerous moving bits and an adult needs to supervise their use at all times. Bang goes the opportunity for thousands of kids around the country to poke and fiddle and work out what they want to do with this just like we did back in the day with the first computers in schools.

    Giving kids the opportunity to mess around with these machines will take a lot more support from staff and helpful hackers than it did with PCs back in the day, but I think it will be well worth it in the end.

    1. my highschool has two makerbots and one delta reprap(don’t know the exact design) so that arguent is invalid. i go to the most ghetto school in the state and we have welders and 3d printers and lathes and bandsaws. our tech theatre program has 2 tablesaws, one chop saw, and a few circular saws etc. etc. what’s going to happen is the same thing as every other “dangerous” tool. you’re going to have to pass a safety and knowledge test first. or you’ll need someone to set it up and get your part for you, who has passed it. the reason this is REALLY cool, is that every kid that gets to use these are going to be able to learn about how to build things, what parts can’t be built, what trinkets are magic(captive rings etc etc) what parts need support, and more importantly HOW they work. i built a working suspension bridge with one, something in a cad program that took a month to figure out. and yeah, i could have bult it with yarn and matchsticks, or legos… but i wouldn’t have. because i wanted it to be “one peice” which is… way cooler. the fact is that even if they don’t change the world, they will sure as hell change lives.

      1. That’s great to hear.

        When I was in what we call secondary school in the UK (equivalent to highschool I think), there was simply no way a kid would be allowed access to a powertool, regardless of any safety tests.

        I wonder if this is just a UK nannystate thing, or if we’ve all moved on to trusting our kids to not be completely careless :-)

      2. My son is currently taking the watered-down equivalent to a high school shop class, and is having the opposite experience. They have a small mill, lathe, 3D printers, laser cutters, band saws, drill presses, etc, but they don’t let the kids touch them!! You have to mark up what you want done, then wait in line for the teacher, and watch him do it. My son told his teacher that he’s just gonna make his required ping pong paddle at home, since he has free unrestricted access to my two Bridgeport Series IIs, South bend lathe, laser cutter, etc. Emailed the teacher a video of him doing it all himself, just to prove that it’s not impossible…

        1. This is troubling to me. What lesson does this teach? To me it says: “wait for someone else to do everything for you”. I wish your school district would adopt the policy to certifying each student who wants to use the hardware through a training and safety course.

          Want to use the drill press? The safety class is on Monday, make sure you sign up.

  2. I just don’t see this becoming successful. 3D printers seem to me like they’re completely useless. All they can make is plastic knick-knacks. There’s no actual practical uses that I’ve seen. Schools won’t be interested.

    1. What about Ceramics class, where you make little clay knick-knacks? Or Woodworking, where you make little wood knick-knacks? Or Music class, where you make noise?

      The point is that creativity fosters innovation, and 3D printering is another way to teach creativity.

    2. I’m not sure if you remember shop class, but I remember making bird houses and other ‘useless’ things when I was a kid. A 3d printer opens up the number of potential things you can make quite a lot. If you’ve actually had access to a 3d printer for any length of time you’ll soon find the number of things it can print is only limited by your imagination and CAD skills.

      Which interestingly does bring up another point, do they teach CAD programs in schools now?

      1. if you take the right classes, most highschools have them. you have to do multiples of them though, take drafting one and you learn pencil and paper, take drafting 2 and you learn CAD. same as Architecture. my cousin goes to a bigger school than I and his highschool had cnc machines in it. he machined and assembled a reprap design from stock aluminum. at his highschool. this is an important leap.

        1. This is fascinating. I took drafting 1 in high school (this is many years ago) but because I wasn’t on the building-trades path as a profession I never had time to get past that. I wonder if they were offering CAD classes as a follow-up?

          Anyway, this plays into Brian’s point about partnering with hackerspaces. I know Sector67 (here in Madison, WI) does SolidWorks classes which anyone can register for. What an opportunity to get time with some real design software as an extra curricular!

      2. During the end of my junior, and all of my senior years of high school I was fortunate enough to have a 3D printer in the classroom. It took the teacher years to get the grants, and he added in quite a bit of his own money to aquire what was then a ~$30,000 machine. It was the first of its kind in the K-12 system in our state and my classmates and I immediately jumped on it.

        Sure there were a few students who just made basic extrusions of 2D objects. But there were quite a few of us who really pushed the machine to its limits. The teacher designed and printed a functional 2 speed transmission (the only metal bits were some snap rings holding stuff in place). Some students made functional parts for robotics systems they had been tinkering with in their spare time. I designed my own cyclic system for a FP RC heli and ran it at several hundred RPM to prove that it was a working proof of concept. While several others designed their own model cars and had their own 3D printed derby.

        The transmission worked quite well and was an excellent demonstration of how strong the parts were. It was never intended to carry an actual load, but rather was a teaching aid that allowed us as students to see through a window in the side as it rotated.

        It was because of that early exposure to 3D printing that I became involved with the RepRap project, and that same 3D printer from my old high school was the machine that printed the parts for my original Mendel. That printer went on to create ~4 other machines, which in turn have spawned more, etc. All the while I have been pushing the bounds of my own designs and now find myself in the process of designing and building a 3D printer with a 6 ft^3 build volume, just so I can realize even greater ideas and make larger functional parts.

        Just a few of the things I have made:
        -Adapter rings for putting oversized speakers in my car
        -Replacement parts for my RC helicopter
        -Custom baffles and wave guides for high end speakers that I have built
        -Brackets and framing for custom computer cases, along with several monitor mounts
        -Case for my raspberry Pi
        -Replacement oar locks and tiller mounts for my friends sailboat (withstood the loads just fine)
        -Replacement parts to fix the roof rack on my brothers Jeep Grand Cherokee
        -Replacement brackets and connectors of all shapes and sizes
        -I’ve even made a few parts for a local composites company, they used the 3D printed parts to make part of the core of a mold and the results were great.

        It was also because of that influence in my life that I started down the road to interdisciplinary design: A program at my University that offers a mixture of ME, EE, Industrial Design, Busines, and Econ. Simply put, that program teaches one how to take an idea from concept, through design, manufacture, and ultimately see it to market as a product.

        Last I had heard there were 100+ DIY 3D Printers that were all created because of one machine that a HS teacher fought tooth and nail for when the school district said it was a waste of time and would never be useful. Which by the way the district has now placed 3D printers in every single HS in the district.

      3. I know of one school that did taught CAD 20 or so years ago. In the technology class room that was accessible to those in grades 6-12. A great classroom in addition to the metal and wood shops it had learning stations for electrical/electronics, hydraulics, pneumatics, etc.

    3. Kids have imaginations that adults don’t. Think of the satisfaction kids gets from drawing in 2D on paper, not expand on that. This will help children progress in spacial learning and creativity at a geometric rate. Not to mention the personalized tools special ed kids could gain, like a tool to help them hold a pencil.

      Origami started in the 1st or 2nd century in China before spreading to Japan in the 6th century and was used by children to make toy boats and birds. Now those practices are being used to fold solar panels into small enough packages to take into space.

    4. I’d have to disagree. A 3d printer is a very powerful tool if you understand its limitations/weaknesses and plan around it. No, it’s not a “production” machine, but it can be a fantastic tool for low-cost rapid prototyping.

      Is plastic a “useless” material? Of course not — and neither are 3d printers for prototyping plastic parts. Billion dollar industrial FFF printer companies don’t exist because 3d printers are useless.

  3. My school’s robotics club has been wanting a 3D printer for the past two years; this would be an easy way for that to be accomplished.

    This program seems like it would work really well if the eventual recipients are already in a position to maintain and make use of a 3D printer so they can teach others about it more effectively.

  4. Not a big fan of the makerbot due to the value vs pricing option, but hey if the schools get them for free or at a reduced cost why the hell not. Plastic knick knacks my arse, this is about machine experience, the wow effect and a hope for a brighter future. Giving a school a lathe will NOT have the same effect.

        1. When I was in High School 70-74 the wood shop instructor considered the shaper as the most dangerous machine tool in the shop. While he allowed us to use the routers and lathe, he didn’t allow us to use the shaper, although he gave instructions in it’s proper use. When ever a project need the shaper he performed the operation My guess he considered the shaper the most dangerous because the cutter is covered by the work.

  5. This is a Makerbot monopoly play, pure and simple. The whole racket resembles the Microsoft (partner of Makerbot BTW) Office lock-in play that creates a generation of users who are convinced that the only way to type something is using Microsoft Word.

    The real value of turning schools on to 3d printing is as a gateway to the values of open source, and as a concrete example of something that would only be possible through open source (remember that everything Makerbot has done has been built on the shoulders of open source projects). The Makerbot product is simply the “trappings” of the potential of this technology, frozen in time and wrapped up in a pretty closed box.

    1. Great, live in your little idealist utopia. Back here on planet Earth, almost any office you go to is going to be running a Microsoft OS with Microsoft Office and, in many dev environments, MS Visual Studio. Open source is great and I happily run Linux at home, but I guess I just have that old-fashioned view of wanting schools to teach relevant life skills, of which being indoctrinated into the RMS cult is not one.

      1. school shouldn’t be about teaching how to use word.

        ever notice that they don’t teach the short cut keys??

        They teach you how to format a letter in personal and business styles, they teach you how to know where the letters are on a keyboard.

        You’ll find that whilst most primary schools (for example) have windows machines running in AD domain style machines, they will run simplified software that looks more like windows 3.11 than anything more modern.

        there is no reason that the software that they are using, (which at an early age is not MS word etc) couldn’t be open source, running on a free OS.

        And I’m not using free in the sense of liberty, I’m talking free as in savings in dollars.

    2. I’m not jumping on the band wagon with MG.

      I’d like to use the Apple IIe in every computer lab as I was growing up as an example of where Jason is wrong. My earliest computer exposure was on those Apple computers, both in general ed classes in grade school and a Saturday introduction to programming class (can’t remember if it was BASIC or LOGO or both).

      BUT, I’ve never owned an Apple computer. It was the exposure to computers and programming that fed my enthusiasm for technology. I think exposure to 3D printing is the important part, not which type of printer is used for it.

      1. I’m not saying nothing good can come out of access to these printers, just pointing out that a) seeing this as a philanthropic move by Makerbot is an error and b) the Makerbot way glosses over the more valuable lessons of how desktop 3d printing came to exist.

        Let’s be honest, if the first computer you used didn’t come with the tools to program it, you’re less likely to have become a programmer, and if your first exposure to 3d printing is through a constrained device that says “don’t understand how I work, how I came to exist, and don’t modify me”, you’re less likely to feel the empowerment that comes from understanding how these machines came to be.

        That said, the best thing about a Makerbot is that they can print parts for a Reprap (at least for now…)

        1. Jason, Your argument does not make to me. The printer is a tool; do you require your lathe, table saw, or more appropriately, CNC machine to be open source and the history of the machine to be documented and explained to the student before they use it?
          My shop class had all of these tools, up to and including 3D printers (a large, old, Z-corp machine that liked to dump powder on the floor). I never felt creatively limited by not knowing their history.

          A 3D printer that came “without tools to program it” to match your computer analogy would be one that cannot accept new design files. I agree that this is a stupid idea — but that’s from your head, not what actually exists.

          1. That’s not *quite* correct. What builds the printer is the knowledge to build it, not a design tool (although that’s part of the puzzle).

            Bear in mind that the original intention behind the Reprap project (of which Makerbot is a descendant) is to create a self-replicating machine, which is a different animal from the specialized tools you describe. One of the motivations behind this self-replication capability is to remove the need for companies to grant people the privilege of using their machines. The idea is to make production capability accessible.

            As you know there’s nothing *new* about 3D printing, but what *is* new is the radical idea that you don’t have to be privileged to own one :)

        2. To correct one thing, Makerbot very much supports people hacking the printers. Their tech support even officially supports community generated firmware and hardware mods to the printers, and the company adopts the best community-generated stuff, such as the Sailfish acceleration, and the spring-tensioned extruder, into the official products. That’s not the attitude of “don’t modify me” or “don’t understand how I work”. Heck, almost all of the software (the slicers, etc.) are open source, and they run the largest site (Thingiverse) for collecting and sharing designs, including many alternatives to Makerbot’s products.

    3. I’m confused as to why Microsoft gets slammed for their work with MS Office, which, while not the only, or maybe even the best suite of applications used for creating business documentation is the standard…

      The model that Makerbot is following is clearly described as the Apple philosophy, get our products into schools, and kids will grow comfortable with us. “Yesterday, Makerbot announced they were going to fill in for Apple in this physical revolution by trying to get a Makerbot into every school in the country.”

      I’ve used several of the other word processing applications… Word Perfect, Pages, StarOffice Writer… In the end, they all get the job done; however, when it comes to sending the documents to others, the assumption is that they can open the document with Word…

      1. Yes, but what you need to realize is that Word is an abomination.
        If I am swearing under my breath there is a very good chance I am using Word.
        If I am saying “Stop ____ing helping me.” under me breath then I am definitely using Word.

        That said, I all for schools getting the latest tech. Sitting down at that Apple II at Burnview Junior Secondary all those years ago is what lead me to a carreer in computers. I am unsure about 3D printing being the revolution that all claim, but it is new and new skills are always worthwhile,

    4. The makerbot monopoly thing bugs me, but for a different reason. I would argue that makerbot really doesn’t know how to make 3d printers. They’ve been trying to sell printers for thousands of dollars for years, and still don’t understand that people aren’t willing to pay that much. Not when printerbot or another competitor will sell a similar machine for 300 smackers.

      People continue to compare printers to computers, but there’s one major difference: computers have already been ADOPTED. People can already see the potential of computers, but most people will only pay the price of a novelty for a printer, much as in 1972. (makerbot seems to ignore this and sell a full circle machine for a more than full circle price)

      Back to my point, I really don’t think makerbot’s the best company for the job, an account of their price and understanding of their “customers.” They may have spent more on marketing and outreach, but there are several companies out there that can offer a similar printer for a small fraction of the price (and understand the power of it), meaning more printers in more schools in less time for the same cost. With the amount of money that’s left over, support for the printers becomes a triviality.

      ps. A holdover from a previous week’s article on patents:

      Since much of makerbot’s patents were originally posted on the reprap wiki for all to see, is it possible that some of the patents could be found to be invalid?

      It might also be worthwhile to start grabbing some of the more valuable wiki stuff off of waybackmachine that isn’t patented and widely adopting it, before it gets patented as well. (especialy that extruder for clay that was mentioned during the clay printing article)

      It may well be that they were able to patent so much because no one stood up and said “hey you already shared that with the world!”

    5. Of all available 3D printers, Makerbots are the best choice for classrooms. The idea is not to BUILD a printer in a classroom. It’s to USE it. Makerware has an easy to use interface. Perfect for people who don’t have 3D printer experience.

    6. Nothing about this ties people to Makerbot, beyond that they’ll be learning on MakerBot printers. But the skills kids will learn will apply to any 3D printer, because they all basically work the same way, or to some degree any manufacturing process, because the fundamental thing that the kids are learning that they can design and make things, not just buy them. And once they catch that bug, nothing can stop them!

      Also, I agree that MakerBot is a good choice for a classroom, because it’s a durable, professional looking printer, with a support contract, and with easy to use software. And that kind of “support system” is what you want when introducing a new technology into schools.

    7. So subvert it.
      Get the Makerbot to print out Rep Rap plastic parts, and start a RepRap building club.

      Apple IIs could not create more computers.
      Office can not spawn other word processor.

      But any 3D printer can make parts for another 3D printer.

    8. The real scary bit isn’t that there is a land grab to monopoly as such, it’s more that there is a money grab.

      There is about 99,000 schools in the states,
      at $2000 per machine that’s 198 million in sales (quite good when you figure that’s going to be donated!)

      and 34.6 million per year in recurring “makercare” fees…

      And the worst bit is it’ll probably be a turn off for most students when the realities of dealing with FF printers, hits.
      for most of us, when working at home, a failed print or a clogged nozzle is a part of life, no big deal, clean clear press print again.
      when you’re using a machine that’s shared for a class, that you have a short time effectively reserved for use, then it’s going to be difficult. and impossible if a clog happens, and can lead to missed deadlines, thus failed assignments, failed courses.

      print times and class times don’t tie up, there is not usually a “daily” shop class, so students will be able to start the print perhaps once a week, maybe twice? in a class of 30 that means 30 weeks of printing, (longer than a school year?)

      so actually, to be really useful in a school each school needs between 2 and ten if we’re talking ten per school take that 198 million and make it nearly 2 billion dollars that makerbot wants.
      with 1/3rd of a billion dollars per year in recurring support/warranty fees

      For better or worse, a printer in every school probably is a good idea, at least as an introduction to a new technology, it’s a good way to show basic principals of robotics etc, and a good way for students to be able to get something visual from and CAD for that they do. but I agree that a makerbot printer in every school probably isn’t the way to do it.
      (not to say that the makerbot way with makercare etc won’t suit some schools, -of course it will, however, other schools might be better places with a cheaper printer, (where two years of maker care is a whole new printer)

  6. “…will be used for novel and interesting applications? Will students around the country be printing out the stuff they created in art and shop class?”

    I apologize for small offtop, but looks like some of them already do it – 3ders(dot)org(slash)articles(slash)20131113-make-your-own-hair-dryer-with-open-e-components-and-3d-printing.html :)

  7. This program is a way to get donors to buy Makerbot® (only) printers at full list price– a great marketing scheme. Wouldn’t it be better to establish a fund for schools, then let the 3D manufacturers bid on quantity purchases, and let schools choose the brand? (Maybe cheaper ones arrive sooner or a district can get more printers.) Why not let some competitor sell 2 printers at $1250 instead of the $2500 Makerbot?

  8. As a teacher, I’m skeptical for a couple reasons–

    1. While a certain technology may be a requirement for a certain type of learning experience, the practice of trying to jump-start the learning experience by getting the technology into the school by any means necessary has a poor track record. The Apple 2 computer labs mentioned in the article are a perfect example. Rather than enabling new learning experiences about creative computing, they were mostly seen as new ways to do old things such as typing, or as a break from ‘real’ learning, such as Oregon Trail.

    2. The success that the Apple II, BBC Micro, etc. had in inspiring programmers is likely connected to the fact that many kids had them at home. It’s important to build connections between home and school, or something like this risks becoming a one-time experience. I know that exactly zero of the families I work with will be purchasing a 3d printer at current prices.

    Creating curricula, designing in-service and pre-service teacher training, etc. is waaay less sexy than “a 3d printer in every school”, and it requires –gasp– actually engaging with the imperfect educational systems we have rather than lobbing tech at them from the outside.

      1. Believe it or not, most teachers (including good ones) don’t invent entire curricula out of a clear blue sky. Perhaps we should, but that is not the norm. It’s all well and good to tell the teachers that it’s their job to take the initiative and self-educate, however, unless you support teachers in trying new things, and refrain from punishing them when experiments fail, it just won’t happen. Many schools have closets full of expensive fad technologies which were barely used and ultimately shelved because of lack of training, or because it didn’t mesh with existing practice.
        Now, for those few teachers who already get the potential of design-thinking in education, and who already get how a 3d printer can facilitate that, this program will be a boon. However, that’s a small percentage of teachers and falls far short of the rhetoric being used to promote the program, which as many have pointed out isn’t a completely altruistic move from Makerbot.

        1. While I think that having 3D printers will unleash fantastic learning and creativity, I do think there’s a challenge with the way schools are structured. These days they’re so hamstrung by the “no children left behind” law, which requires 100% of kids to pass math and reading tests, with huge penalties for missing the target (cutting salaries, firing people, shutting down schools, etc.), that that are basically forced to allocate all resources to hit that target. So there is tremendous pressure to cut anything not on the test (shop, art, music, etc.) because the penalty for even one kid failing the test is severe. So because of NCLB, schools will spend a fortune to help the last 1% pass (tutoring, aids, etc.), and will shut down everything else to pay for it.

          Yes, some schools manage to accidentally teach stuff that’s not on the test. But it’s less and less every year, and the NCLB targets and penalties ramp up every year.

          My fear is that schools will have the 3D printers, and instead of unleashing kids’ creativity, they’ll use them for very narrow applications that clearly apply to testing scores. For example, there’s a contest on Thingiverse now for designing math manipulables (http://www.thingiverse.com/challenges/MakerBot-Academy-Math) that teachers can download and print. That’s great, and an easy way to get direct educational value from a 3D printer. But I sure hope that after they do that, they let the kids design and print things as well. Heck, let kids design things to help themselves learn! You know, the way schools bought computers to run some boring back-office accounting stuff, but then kids accidentally learned how to program. :-)

    1. A thousand times yes to point #2. Teachers see students a small amount of time compared to when the students are at home. When there is little to no parental involvement in a child’s education, the students will not see value in learning, whether it is 3d-printing or basic math.

      I think the goal shouldn’t be to throw 3d-printers into schools, but to integrate these machines into the community.

  9. From the teachers I know, they are already under enough stress with loads of standardized testing, lesson plans dictated by the state that must meet a plethora of asinine requirements, and being micromanaged by the school administration, that they don’t have time to incorporate new technology into the classroom.

    I agree with the article that this won’t work without passionate makers willing to help teachers integrate this into their lessons, but they might not like another voice in on the broken record of “incorporate more technology.”

  10. 1) Are they offering to teach the teachers on the proper use of the printers (teacher edition textbooks, etc.)?
    2) Will they work with those teachers and other professional educators on developing a curriculm that both eases the intergation of the 3D printers in the classroom as well as teach students on all of the knowledge that can be garnered from learning how to use one (“Hey kids, learning to use one also teaches you how to use a CNC machine and CAD.”)?
    3) If they do already have curricula in mind, is it one that teaches them useful skills in the job market where a 3D printer is not typically used (which is what we are really trying to prep them for)? That is, does it teach them ransferable skills?

    1. Kudos for framing your critiques as questions, rather than going on a semi-rant like I did above. :)

      Perhaps a fourth question: Since they framed this as a “k-12” initiative, do they really expect adoption in elementary schools?

  11. I’ve been running 3D Printing usergroup meetings in Columbus, OH, for 4 years. I’ve already contacted my Alma Mater and offered my assistance with getting them signed up for the program and with free support to get them started.

    I agree with the comments about a curriculum (or lack thereof) and the need for people like us to help get the ball rolling. I’ve been teaching workshops on Arduino and 3D printing and other Hack-a-day topics for years, and when I encounter a teacher, they all want to know where they can get curriculum materials or even a starting point. That is an important element of all of this or, as has been said, the 3D printers will be sitting in a locked room with no student access for lack of a plan.

  12. I’ve been letting editorial typos slide lately. But I can’t believe there are 50 comments, and not ONE person has brought up that Brian referred to a computer as a “dysentery machine”. Because that’s damn funny.

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