In 2001, Universal Pictures released a film known as Jurassic Park III. Those familiar to the film and its predecessors know the general storyline: scientists create dinosaurs in a lab in the hopes of opening a one-of-a-kind theme park and eventually those dinosaurs escape and wreak havoc. The films, though they made hundreds of millions of dollars, often came under fire for their misrepresentation of the resurrected dinosaurs and the science behind them. However, what most critics did not notice and what some of us die-hard dinosaur fans and science geeks did notice was that the revival of dinosaurs was not the only important and desirable science portrayed in the movie. In one of the opening scenes, the character Dr. Alan Grant rapidly prototypes the resonating chamber of a velociraptor. This turned out to be an important tool for the protagonists to have at their disposal, as it saved them from being killed at the end of the movie. However, more importantly, this marked, at least for viewers of my age group at the time (around 6 to 8 years old), the film premiere of realistic, contemporary 3D printing technology.
15 years and one wildly successful Jurassic World premiere later, 3D printing and rapid prototyping have become widely and highly used technologies. The applications of these systems are endless because both the materials and the methods of product synthesis are so versatile. People are printing everything from doorknobs to skeletons to jewelry. You can print spare parts for your car and spare parts for your body. Some companies are even 3D printing forms of the ash-laden bodies of Pompeii; these modern statues will be used as part of a traveling exhibit to further restore cultural heritage and engage the public about the history of the catastrophe. For more information about this topic, click the link below:
Restoring the past is one thing, but what about building the future? As of right now, due to operational costs, 3D printing technologies are not available to everyone. Imagine a world where every student, from grade school onward, had access to this kind of equipment. Much like the applications of 3D printing itself, the usage of the technology as a tool for education is likely just as limitless. Students could learn the programming and modeling skills to build the designs they would want to print; studies in architecture, history, engineering, sciences, and practically every field could benefit from educational materials built through this method.
The movement to start disseminating 3D printing technologies to schools has already begun. In 2013, MakerBot announced their initiative to put a desktop 3D printing system in every school in America in an effort to improve STEM literacy across all demographics and age groups. Since then, the company has provided a platform for teachers to propose uses for the technology in their schools; interested donors can go on the website and fund the projects that interest them the most. Hopefully, within the next decade, the educational system will give birth to the first 3D printing generation, where all students will have access to this technology. Hopefully by that point, it will also be cheap enough so that I don’t break the bank printing my very own, life-size velociraptor.
For more information about the MakerBot Academy initiative, click here: http://www.makerbot.com/academy