Last month, Ultimaker participated in the first national academic 3D printing conference in North America. The event was sold out, with 260 attendees and exhibitors gathering to discuss the many ways digital fabrication benefits classrooms and communities.
As a co-founder and sponsor of the inaugural Construct3D 2017 conference, which was held at Duke University May 5-7, Ultimaker had the opportunity to interact with bright minds in academia. Construct3D blended educators and industry allies from a broad range of backgrounds, galvanizing conversations about embracing and exploring 3D printing in the classroom, and enabling educational pioneers to shape future implementations of digital fabrication in schools.
Focusing on how they can integrate 3D printing into their day to day activities, Construct3D attendees explored ways to engage young minds in STEAM programs, as well as methods for inspiring community outreach in libraries, tech centers, science museums, Maker Faires, and after school programs. In addition, the event emphasized the importance of furthering research, improving academic development, cultivating contemporary skills, and enhancing the student experience in higher education.
Uniting K-12, Higher Ed, and Informal Educators Under One Roof
Over the course of the three-day conference, Construct3D united passionate, curious educators from all three academic contexts—K-12, Higher Ed, and Informal. There was no shortage of activities on hand, with nearly 120 talks and workshops, as well as back to back panels featuring notable educators and industry experts that provided ample learning opportunities for attendees. A vendor area offered demonstrations of tangible design examples, materials, digital fabrication technologies and other resources, with social gatherings that encouraged discussion and facilitated connections between attendees and industry experts.
The inaugural event commenced with an introductory Informal Education keynote by Dale Dougherty, CEO of Maker Media. In the keynote, Dale shared how he founded the Maker Movement and spoke about prospects for the future of education. Dale also illustrated various strategies that educators can use to deeply engage and transform the experiences of students, enriching classroom activities.
Construct3D’s Higher Ed Keynote speech was delivered by Skylar Tibbits, founder, and co-director of MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab. Speaking about the progress of his research lab in programming structure, behavior, and information on the materials themselves, Skylar impressed audiences by predicting a future in which buildings, furniture, medical devices, and manufacturing facilities may someday be built as developmental structures coded within smart materials.
Sallye Coyle of ShopBot and Duke’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute gave an intriguing closing keynote, which concentrated on K-12 education and the modern rejuvenation of what “shop class” means to educators. Sallye expressed how vital it is for students and educators to work with tools, which only furthers inventiveness and commitment in the classroom. Highlighting her extensive experience in STEAM education, Coyle spoke about her role in outfitting and constructing in-school and community makerspaces world-over. This successful initiative showed attendees the ingenuity that comes from experimentation and discovery when students and communities have access to—and are able to train with—digital fabrication tools.
Several other notable speakers and industry innovators joined Ultimaker at Construct3D, each one passing on valuable knowledge and experience to event goers. Known for creating art that highlights visual concepts through generative software processes, Marius Watz was a featured speaker at Construct3D. His talk, titled “Strange Objects: New Expressions with 3D Printing and Code,” discussed ways that novel fabrication technologies enable innovative forms of expression in 3D printing and computational design.
Autodesk product line manager Guillermo Melantoni joined Technical Product Manager John Helfen and Autodesk’s Senior Manager, Youth Audience Strategy, Sarah O’Rourke, to give attendees a sneak peek at some significant advances launching in upcoming product updates for Tinkercad and Fusion360. Another speaker, Lead Scientist Matthew Borgatti from Super-Releaser Robotics, shared his process for tackling challenging engineering problems using digital fabrication, as well as his approaches to research, testing, and rapid iteration that accelerates the production of successful products and solutions.
Renowned Grasshopper trainer Andrés Gonzalez introduced attendees to the Rhino3D software ecosystem, shedding some veteran light on data, design, and code through his dedicated involvement as the worldwide director of RhinoFabStudio, a digital fabrication community. SketchUp evangelist Eric Schimelpfenig presented his journey from “bad student” to passionately engaged maker, as an authentic example of the positivity that can come from digital fabrication.
The CEO and co-founder of Structur3D, Charles Mire, drew upon his background as a chemist and academic materials researcher. He shared his efforts on exploring paste extruders and compatible materials over the years, which led him and his colleagues to band together and offer the Discov3ry paste extruder system. The system is now offered for Ultimaker hardware, but is also compatible with a wide range of desktop 3D printers.
Clemson professor Insun Kwon displayed his intricate designs at the Ultimaker booth, introducing attendees to the techniques he has developed for fabricating his challenging, high-resolution digitally sculpted models using affordable desktop 3D printing technologies.
The final panel of the event brought together a dream team of designers and engineers; Matthew Borgatti, Sean Charlesworth, Michael Curry, Darlene Farris-LaBar, Eric Schimelpfenig, and Laura Taalman. Moderated by Ultimaker’s Matt Griffin, the panel shared real world experiences fulfilling challenging projects for clients and collaborators from an educator’s perspective.
Ultimaker Pioneers Led the Way
As a Founding Sponsor of the event, Ultimaker also hosted the Saturday evening get-together to celebrate the 22 members of its groundbreaking vendor-agnostic Pioneer Program. The members participated in Construct3D this year as speakers, panelists, workshop leaders, and exhibitors. Conference attendees interested in learning how to join the Pioneer program and make further use of online resources at Ultimaker.com’s Education pages were able to easily connect with attending Pioneers at the evening event.
Duke University Innovation CoLab Studio
Activities extended beyond meeting rooms and exhibitor booths for a glimpse at Duke University’s own major contributions to innovative uses of 3D printing and the development of the academic makerspace. Visitors had the opportunity to tour the Duke University CoLab Studio, a formerly underutilized computer lab that has been transformed into a high-traffic digital fabrication makerspace. CoLab Studio is highly-regarded among other universities as a leading example of how to leverage these 21st century technologies to stimulate invention, exploration, and expression in an academic ecosystem.
Central to the range of digital fabrication technologies on offer at Duke University—3D printers, CNC milling machines, laser cutters, cutting plotters, and more—is an array of nearly fifty Ultimaker 3D printers. Students, faculty, and alumni from across the many programs and areas of study on campus have access to 41 Ultimaker printers in the CoLab Studio, 4 Ultimaker 2 Go’s for checkout, and 4 Ultimakers in peripheral labs. Tours of the CoLab Studio at Construct3D highlighted the extensive range of opportunity for Duke’s community to interact with 3D printing at all levels of the digital fabrication process.
Exhibitors were available throughout the event to socialize with guests in between panels and workshops. Autodesk, ShopBot, Essentium, Adobe, Apress, Proto-Pasta, Trotec, Fusion3, Shapeways, Formlabs, Aleph Objects, 3DPrinterOS, and MakeShaper shared their industry expertise to enhance the overall experience.
Construct3D also included a screening of the critically-praised documentary “Most Likely to Succeed” (2015), a movie Education Week said was "...among the best edu-documentaries ever produced." This touchstone film for educators provided attendees a stark glance into our antiquated educational system, and offered hope that new approaches to hands-on, project-based learning can improve student engagement and educational outcomes.
Available at the beginning and end of the conference were comprehensive workshops led by core trainers from Autodesk, Rhino, and Shopbot. The sessions sold out, supplying educators with valuable new skills to bring home and incorporate into their school programs. The workshops also provided opportunities to speak directly with staff members who played an integral role in developing these programs. Those who were able to grab spots in the workshops were among the first to hear about upcoming developments in platforms like Tinkercad, Fusion 360, Rhino, and Grasshopper, each of which will impact their curriculum planning for the upcoming fall semester.
Construct3D, as the first national academic conference centered around 3D printing and Education, sold out quickly and was positively received by attendees and exhibitors. The event continues to generate conversation and activity within educational and industry circles alike.