MakerBots in Education

[caption id="attachment_306" align="aligncenter" width="580" caption="Image Credit: Bre Pettis"][/caption] Have you ever heard of a MakerBot? It's a 3D printer that basically "prints" melted plastic onto layers, building almost any digital model into an actual product. This technology was the stuff of scifi novels years ago and companies like MakerBot have brought the cost down dramatically to bring this technology into the mainstream. The company has created a community around this technology called the Thingiverse where anyone who has built these digital objects can upload them for anyone else to download and print themselves. People go on here and upload their pictures of their prints and comment on ways they can improve it. There's even a section for variations of a build! My favorite? Behold this amazing structure: How crazy is that? And I could literally download that file and print a figure of my own. It's a powerful way of conceptualizing 3D models in a physical space. Naturally that leads to some powerful educational contexts as students can learn not only to build their own digital models but also now print them on the fly and hold them in the palm of their hand. That's exactly the direction we're headed at UMW working with George Meadows in the Education department. On Friday, December 16th we will hold a "MakerBot Party" gathering all who are willing and able to come together and help us build this device (The DIY kit we have is cheaper but more involved to put together. The company actually sells a more expensive version that comes assembled, but where's the fun in that?). We will stream the process of putting this device together live to DTLT Today all day and possibly be able to begin printing items that day as well. It's the start of something big in my opinion. The New Media Consortium is already looking at this technology as a possible trend for the Horizon Report. MakerBot has a site dedicated to educational curriculum devoted to the use of this device (sparse right now, but hopefully will grow with work from the community and us), and every day more schools, museums, and libraries are seeing the potential this provides. Kudos to George Meadows at the University of Mary Washington for having the idea and working with DTLT to make it a reality. There's no doubt in my mind there is much more to come!