Microsoft has said it has a vision that 3D printed objects should be as easy to print as 2D. It's a vision shared by many makers of 3D printers and involves a future in which the presence of 3D printers in households and small businesses is as unordinary as 2D printers or laptops are today. A good place to start on such a vision—as any child of the '80s, who was introduced to computers in a classroom long before one arrived at home, can tell you—is schools.
On Nov. 12, MakerBot, partnering with DonorsChoose.org, America Makes and Autodesk—and quoting President Obama's State of the Union comment about 3D printing having the "potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything"—announced a mission to put a desktop 3D printer in every school in America.
As of the announcement, individuals and corporations interested in supporting the project can do so at DonorChoose.org, a crowd-funding site for educators, who can register on the site to receive a MakerBot Academy bundle. Bundles consist of a MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D printer, three spools of MakerBot PLA Filament (the material used for printing) and a year of the MakerCare service and protection plan.
MakerBot also plans to help teachers develop 3D printing curricula and to leverage Autodesk's software and educator curriculum.
MakerBot "is eager to do its part to educate today's students, who are the next generation of innovative makers, engineers, product designers, architects and artists, who could benefit from having 3D printing technology in the classroom," the company said in a statement.
"To get this done, we are going to have to do it together," added MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis.
Pettis has pledged to put a MakerBot Replicator 2 in public high schools in Brooklyn, the New York company's hometown, and Ralph Crump, founder of MakerBot parent company Stratsys, has "pledged his support," said the company.
Alongside the initiative, MakerBot also launched a MakerBot Thingiverse Math Manipulatives Challenge. Manipulatives—a variety of items used for teaching math concepts—are one of the most requested items on DonorsChoose, and are also something simple to create with a 3D printer.
The week-long design challenge (Nov. 12 to 18) is a call for the best manipulative 3D designs. The winners will be included in the MakerBot Academy 3D printing package.
"A MakerBot is a manufacturing education in a box. We need to encourage our teachers and our youth to think differently about manufacturing and education," said Pettis. "When you have a MakerBot ... you see the world differently. Instead of waiting for someone to create a product for you, you can create your own. It can change the whole paradigm of how our children will see innovation and manufacturing in America."
With the initiative, MakerBot even got a thumbs-up from the White House.
"As the president has said," Tom Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said in a statement, "we all need to think creatively about giving our young people the tools to be 'the makers of things, and not just the consumers of things.'"