MONTCLAIR, NJ – If collaboration leads to innovation, that explains why Montclair is becoming a hub for 3D printing and new technologies.
The Montclair Board of Education with the support of Josh S. Weston and Picatinny Arsenal provided the School District with twenty-seven MakerBot Replicator® Desktop 3D Printers, the professional development to begin the implementation and the resources to establish a structure for ongoing teacher training.
Having these printers is great, but educators must learn how to use them in order to teach students. Following that reasoning, Picatinny Arsenal is funding a five-day training for representatives from Montclair’s 11 public schools who will receive CAD training at Central Office in Montclair, and 3D printing training at Picatinny Arsenal, starting February 9th and 10th.
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In addition, the United States government (Picatinny Arsenal) will finance the substitute teachers at the schools for the days these instructors will be in training. Weston, on the other hand, will provide the funding that covers the initial stages of the development of 3D printing curriculum, the coordination and logistics behind the 3D printing initiative, additional workshops for the cohort of 3D printing teachers, as well as 3D printing summer camp opportunities for Montclair students and staff.
Who is using the printers and why?
While 3D printing has been around for 30 years, used mainly for industrial applications, it has evolved to creating everything from candy, to weapon components. Still, much of the general public is unaware of what 3D printing is being used for. From organs to vehicles to clothing, 3D printing offers a wide range of potential across many industries.
Students benefit from having access to these printers because not only is the technology innovative but the resourcefulness required to come up with the objects, application, respective designs, and prospective end users, also requires an entrepreneurial mentality.
Who is collaborating?
It seems several concurrent initiatives are underway to create a STEM culture in the Montclair School District.
Lynn English, Director of the Weston Science Scholars Program and Dan Taylor, STEM Director for the Mount Hebron Middle School are spearheading the effort to create continuity and progression.
The newly available 3D printers will begin the journey from simple projects in elementary school, to learning CAD software in middle school, to more complex engineering projects in high-school. This continuity will provide relevant experience for anyone pursuing a STEM career in college.
Taylor said, “Students require resourcefulness, problem solving, and structure. Just as we need a solid and coherent sentence structure to communicate verbally, to use 3D printing for fabricating ideas and expressing themselves, students need a rigorous mentality.”
In addition to the schools, the Montclair Public Library also houses a 3D printer and hosts many maker events.
Lisa Sedita, Youth Services Supervisor at Montclair Public Library (MPL) said, “I feel lucky to have such great cooperation with the school system from primary to high school.” Sedita shared her love of all things yarn and discussed how during the last event there were displays of finch robots alongside yarn spindles made out of dowels. She was excited about the application of 3D printing in the fashion industry.
Taylor says, “Exposing students to the concept at a young age and with the knowledge that there will be consistent opportunities throughout their academic career to explore and indulge in this technology is a significant step.”
Adjacent to the library, HackNCraftNJ has a Makerspace in the basement of 60 South Fullerton Avenue, Montclair. Frank Gibbons and Jon Bonesteel are co-founders of the non-profit company that promotes technical advancement and innovation. Upon visiting the space we found Bonesteel creating gadgets on his printer. He showed us shelves of cool creations. One that stood out was the drone pictured above.
HackNCraftNJ partnered with MPL and Big Picture, which is a nationwide mentoring program sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, offering an alternative for students who were not attending a regular class schedule. Montclair High School also participates with Big Picture. For part of the day students did internships based on a subject of interest.
One of the students, named Junior, who was interested in bioengineering, worked with HackNCraftNJ and E-Nable making a basic prosthetic hand. HackNCraftNJ has also volunteered their time and expertise over the past few years in community events, including Mount Hebron’s annual Innovation Fair, several other local Maker events and the library’s annual Maker Day activities.
E-Nable is a global network of volunteers who work on making prosthetic hands and arms. Volunteers collaborate on 3D printable designs that are open source and can be accessed and improved by anyone. They match up people who have 3D printers with people in need of prosthetics.
Sedita has a friend named Connie, who lost her hand in a fireworks incident. Having seen the incredible creativity of the students, Sedita thought it would be wonderful to devise a prosthetic hand for her friend.
Gibbons said, “Connie has a unique interest in riding a motorcycle. In order to ride a motorcycle your hands need to control it. We are working with a local business to custom design a prosthetic hand for her.” Just to have a sense of how this can benefit the population at large, a prosthetic hand would normally cost tens of thousands of dollars whereas printing them would probably cost less than a hundred.
Gibbons said that young children in need of prosthetics grow out of them too rapidly, making the cost of changing prosthetics, as they grow, prohibitive. This technology makes all the difference. The collaboration is worldwide.
Many existing designs are open source and can be viewed on www.thingiverse.com from where people can download the files and print them.
Sedita explained that the price of printing at the Montclair Public Library is 10 cents per gram. MPL uses a corn based PLA material that looks like licorice and as Sedita said, the machine spouting it out, is a bit like a glue gun. It extrudes thin layer upon layer until the object is fully built.
But Montclair is not a community that hoards their treasure. Homeschooling parents are using the maker spaces at MPL and HackNCraftNJ to educate their students on 3D technology. HackNCraftNJ goes from Caldwell, to Glen Ridge and beyond showcasing 3D printing. Many of these locations may already have a 3D printer but not necessarily as much information as they would like on how to use it.
Montclair State University has 35 printers but according to Sedita there are occasions in which students do not have ready access to those printers, and seek out Montclair Public Library for the use of their 3D printer. Following an obvious need, MPL has offered trainings and tutorials, much of which can be found on www.montclairpubliclibrary.org.
MSU’s Feliciano School of Business building has recently opened a MakerBot Innovation Center that houses 35 3D printers. Their 3D printing venture has extended to other Montclair schools through the university’s gifted and talented program. This again showcases an effort to foster a STEM culture throughout the community.
While it does require a rigorous mentality, designing a 3D object is not as complex as it may seem. Logging in to www.tinkercad.com allows users to design 3D objects and export the file to a printer or upload it to www.thingiverse.com and share it with the world. However, if the designer isn’t quite ready or willing to share their design with the world they can register it at www.creativecommons.com and assign rights from there. The website offers six licenses under which a design can be released.
New Jersey Makers day is actually two days this year, March 18th and 19th. Montclair Public Library is partnering with HackNCraftNJ in providing maker activities to further promote the flourishing of the science technology engineering and math activities in Montclair.
What is missing?
We asked Taylor what he thought was missing. He said, “If there is a more serious effort between them and the support of the school district as well as the community and its stakeholders, there is a much better chance that this technology can come to the forefront of the experience and education of our students, strengthening their skillset along the way.”
He further explained, “This type of structure would establish and develop a community that collaborates, produces, redesigns and shares its skills and creativity. Since this technology is part of the future of manufacturing, it stands to think that having access to 3D printing on a regular basis may produce a culture of designers and makers who contribute to the economy of a larger whole.”