Mike Isaac

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With MakerBot Academy, the 3-D Printing Movement Aims for Schools


Photo: MakerBot

MakerBot, the at-home 3-D printing startup, is angling to appeal to more than just the weekend-warrior, garage-project types: It wants to get inside the classroom.

The company announced on Tuesday an initiative to begin seeding its Replicator 3-D printing machines inside of K-12 schools across the U.S. The effort comes in partnership with DonorsChoose.org, a site that allows public school teachers to make online requests for classroom projects, which are then backed by a Kickstarter-like funding drive.

MakerBot’s pitch is straightforward: The company will contribute its “Academy” packages — a Replicator 2 machine, a bundle of printing filament, and a protection-warranty plan — to schools across the country that post project requests to the DonorsChoose site. If enough backers participate, MakerBot will send a kit to the classroom.

A lofty goal, though there’s no guarantee that parents, school administrators and community members actually care about bringing 3-D printing to their kids’ classrooms. And, after all, it’s not like they’re getting a free box of 3-D printing supplies; each project will still require a set of backers to fund it.

MakerBot hopes to spur that, however, with funds contributed from partners like Autodesk and Stratasys, as well as its “Almost Home” contributions, which give a sizable amount of money to Brooklyn-based K-12 DonorsChoose projects.

MakerBot has been one of the few companies to bring small-scale manufacturing to homes and the enthusiast crowds. That mission was bolstered all the more over the summer, when Stratasys acquired MakerBot for hundreds of millions of dollars.

The company’s latest initiative was spurred by President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address earlier this year, in which he said, “The next industrial revolution in manufacturing will happen in America,” specifically citing the 3-D printing movement. To do that, MakerBot proposes, the company will do its part to target STEM-type curricula in K-12 schools.

The project begins today, as public school teachers can begin requesting MakerBot Academy packs on the DonorsChoose website immediately.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik