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Educators traverse the region to attend 3D printing seminar

Richmond, VA (October 10, 2016)- Learning took on a new dimension Oct. 6 as educators from school systems, community colleges and universities across Virginia convened in East and West Hall for a 3D printing seminar organized by Charles Cartin, Ph.D, assistant professor in the Mechanical & Nuclear Engineering (MNE) Department. The program was organized in collaboration with specialists from MakerBot and manufacturer’s representative Amtek.

The session highlighted VCU’s new MNE Innovation Laboratory, which is the Commonwealth’s first Innovation Laboratory featuring a MakerBot Innovation Center. The half-day seminar featured best practices, lesson plans and demonstrations led by Cartin and representatives from Makerbot.

“It showed how we can bring things to actual life from a simple idea or sketch,” Cartin said. “This can encompass numerous disciplines other than engineering, such as medicine, business, history, art, graphic design, architecture — the list could keep going.”

Camil Touimi, territory manager for MakerBot, and Rich Sykes, sales specialist for Amtek, presented an overview of current prototyping technologies and suggestions for the classroom. Sykes described how 3D printing has morphed from “basically a glue gun on a motor” into a sophisticated (and essential) component of design and healthcare innovation with applications in biomaterials and creating models for trial surgeries.

Participants also discovered ways 3D printing technology can boost career readiness and foster interdisciplinary collaboration. Matthew Colahan, instructional specialist for STEM and Innovation in Virginia Beach City Public Schools, sees immediate applications for rapid prototyping in his school district’s curriculum.

“We have a new entrepreneurship program for grades 9 - 12 in Virginia Beach, and my goal is to set up a smaller version of this lab. It would get kids thinking entrepreneurially and let them try their hands at various fields. They could see how businesses take their products through iterations, ” he said as he pulled up an iphone picture of three bottle prototypes demonstrated in one of the seminar sessions. “These three samples cost less than a dollar to fabricate in a lab like this.”

Attendees also gathered resources to take back to their school systems’ senior leaders.

“I came here today because I want to make a case for a 3D printer for my program,” said Amber Honts, middle school STEM resource teacher with Matthews County Public Schools. “I don’t have to reinvent the wheel when I make that case. I’ve got lots of pictures, ideas, lesson plans. I think they are going to say, ‘Oh, my gosh - this is amazing.’”

For Stephen Bryant, innovative technology specialist, the day presented ways to expand the rapid prototyping lab that he administers for New River Community College. The ultralarge-capacity Makerbot Z18 printer and the polymer printer were new to him, and he thinks both would enhance the mechanical and art-based projects that students in his lab are currently working on. Libbey Kitten, science/STEM specialist for Powhatan Public Schools, emphasized that, as cool as the technology is, the lasting takeaway from a session like this is expertise and relationships.

“We opened a makerspace in Powhatan Schools three weeks ago, so I wanted to draw on the expertise of VCU,” she said. “VCU is an incredible resource - practically in our own backyard.”