3D Printing Expo Shows an Industry Focused on Innovation

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2014-04-05 Print this article Print

JPL is on a mission to get more kids interested in space. It has started making one-minute videos that simplify ("simplify, not dumb down") concepts, hoping to turn on some kids to the ideas, and it has summer internships for high school kids.

Rangel told the story of one intern, a 16-year-old girl, who used one of JPL's MakerBot desktop printers to "print a to-scale model of the asteroid VESPA."

"There's a mentality that's starting to shift," he said. "She understands that she's not bound by the current version" of something. (The same intern also used a 3D printer to start a side business selling iPhone cases she designed and printed.)

In a program for younger kids, JPL put a "Mars touchable" on a scanner so kids could scan it and create it.

"Kids just tall enough to see above the table could understand that they weren't limited to the form factor," said Rangel. "The interface is also so natural for them. So, what's the next interface for scanners? Could we put it on [the Mars rover] Curiosity? Let it scan so we can print a surface of Mars? It's just a shift in the way we're consuming the complexity of the information."

In several sessions at the event, the acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) was mentioned. Kurti transformed the term first into "STEAM," adding art, and then "eSTEAM," with a little "e" for entrepreneurship.

"We don't just want problem solvers; we want proactive problem solvers. … [The world] needs people who say, 'Ooo, that's a problem. I can fix it!'" said Kurti.

"How much more effective would the world be if we could create a generation of proactive problem-solvers," he continued, workers who identify and solve a problem perhaps before a business or boss even has time to register the issue.

"What if even 10 percent of the next generation was that?" asked Kurti. "How much could that change the world?"

Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter.



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