3D printers at O’Maley Liveblog of Glory!


Everything you need is in the kit, including your own personal software engineer

Everything you need is in the kit, including your own personal software engineer

Allright, here we go people! I’ve got the kit, I’ve got a pile of sugar and I’ve got Marty. I await Stevens while I get my game on.

Progress: nill

Number of mistakes: 0

so far, so good

The pregame:

Salutations Clamunauts!

A special treat this weekend as you while away the hours of hurtling towards non-existence in this cruel universe of ours. I, your humble Clammisar, along with Clam Staff Photographer and “Guy who says he can get us free wifi” Stevens Brosnihan will be among those brave souls who have volunteered to “give up” our weekend in order to assemble two dozen 3D printers at O’Maley Innovation Middle School (motto: We don’t just call it that. Seriously, there’s a crap-ton of innovation going on here!).

Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

Yes you read that right, two dozen. 27 kits to make these babies were donated* by the Gloucester Education Foundation to create a 3D printing lab at the school. YOU SHOULD GIVE THEM ALL THE MONEYZ FOR BEING THIS AWESOME!!! Three are already up and running, it’s up to us volunteers to assemble the rest.

Also, the suggestion I would be “sacrificing” by having to “give up” a weekend to do this is laughable. The tenor of my weekends as a parent with active kids and community responsibilities is somewhere between the flight deck of an aircraft carrier during combat operations and that scene in Apollo 13 when they try and make an air filter out of duct tape, a glove and an adult diaper. Chilling for the weekend in one place with my favorite people working on a fabulously geeky project that benefits kids while cramming pastries into the big hole in the center of my face? I think I can handle this.

But can I? You be the judge dear readers. 3D printers are notoriously finicky beasts. Seth Stevenson at Slate.com tried to get one to work and wound up making a bottle opener that looks like this:

An added dimension of Fail

An added dimension of Fail

So stay tuned as I try to turn a kit full of parts into a Star-Trek level tool of pure Geekgasmic W00t!.

“Point of order: First, Jim, tell us what the Hell is 3D printing and why should kids do this?”

I’m glad you asked that, mysterious bold italics. 3D printers, at least the ones we’re making here, are actually pretty useless. No, seriously. They are like home computers in 1981, they don’t really do much that’s useful from a day-to-day perspective.

Yah, sure, laugh. That kid probably spends weekends racing his mega-yachts now

Yah, sure, laugh. That kid probably spends weekends racing his mega-yachts now

But that’s not the point. What’s going on with this technology in general is nothing short of a fundamental shift in the way we design and make and consume things. Over the past 30 years we’ve digitized numbers and text then audio, video and eventually almost all meaningful communications. Every time we’ve done this there have been huge shifts in the way the world works as digital versions are replicable and easy to manipulate and share. 3D printing is part of the next effort in that long chain of digitization- the digitization of actual, material stuff.

With a 3D printer, to make something you either download an existing design or you create your own (kids will be creating their own). They will learn everything from using Computer Assisted Design (CAD) programs and actually producing objects.

Also, if the currency of the future is Yoda heads, we're stylin

Also, if the currency of the future is Yoda heads, we’re stylin

Just like with computers in the early 80s, learning this skill will have huge positive implications for our future, just like learning programming in the 80s had for a generation of programmers. 3D printers are also not the only technology that use the fundamental principles being taught, but it is the most accessible to students. And it opens the door to emerging technologies like nano-scale fabrication (MIT is building a 50 million dollar nanotech center on campus as we speak, and they don’t do that on a lark), atomically precise manufacturing which will change the world and even digital designs used in film and video games today.

You have 3D modeling to thank for this image

You have 3D modeling to thank for this image. And madness.

For us, what the technology we’re putting together over the weekend allows kids to do is learn these skills and see the outcomes of their designs that incorporate math, engineering, computer literacy and art with the result being a tangible object they can hold in their hands.

So, when I said above that they are useless, I was wrong. They are the ultimate education machines for these highly-relevant skills. It’s so amazing that we’re doing this. Right here in Gloucester, peeps!

Also with the right attachments you can print cupcakes! Stay tuned!

*The printers were actually donated with outside funds by raising money and stuff. For some reason we were recently told the awesome new Chromebooks the 8th graders all got were “donated” by the City, but that is obviously absurd. Providing funding for the schools to buy tools to teach kids in the 21st century is not “donating,” that’s what the city is just supposed to do. Do they “donate” gas for the snowplows? Do they “donate” hoses for the fire department? Oy.