Digital Media Academy 3D brings desktop 3d printers to tech camps

Introducing 3D printers to tech camps across North America

Digital Media Academy (DMA) is a tech education company that hosts scores of simultaneous tech summer camps across North America each year. Originally founded at Stanford University in 2002, DMA has continued to expand its technology camps, courses, and sites, serving kids, teens, and adults at top-level universities in the US and Canada.

DMA draws its instructors and curriculum developers from pools of industry professionals and exceptional technology educators, consistently adding new topics and technologies to keep their curricula attractive and pertinent for participants.

DMA students at tech summer camp
Younger students at DMA enjoying some unplugged outside breaks
DMA logo
Based in San Francisco, Marcus Duvoisin has been working for tech summer camps for ten seasons now, and currently acts as DMA's Assistant Director of Curriculum & Instruction. Speaking about DMA's expansion over the past few years, Duvoisin reports, "We now run DMA at Stanford, Harvard, UCLA, UT Austin, Rice, Northwestern — at twenty-two of the top universities in North America. Last summer we enrolled over ten thousand students."


3D printing courses at DMA

2015 was the first year DMA offered sessions for 3D printing, seeking to expand their past 3D curriculum options — which had included designing 3D game assets — to introduce the world of digital fabrication. They experimented with a stereolithography printer technology for their debut season but encountered complications using SLA printers in a camp environment. Printing time and post-processing considerations were especially important, leading DMA to eventually switch to the Ultimaker’s line of FFF desktop 3D printers.

DMA wall of inspiration
The wall of inspiration
Ultimaker 2 Go at DMA
Ultimaker 2 Go at the DMA

In 2016, Ultimaker North America worked with Digital Media Academy to provide the twenty-one Ultimaker 2 Go printers they needed for their summer season. This was an opportunity to pilot test how to best serve science and technology camps looking to add 3D printing to their programs.

Asked about the new direction, Duvoisin says, "This summer’s 3D printing classes are going a lot smoother than the first year with SLA printers where I had to be constantly on the phone with the manufacturers trying to support the teachers using them in class."  

As with any hardware-based technology course, the instructors and support team expect there to be additional configuration and tuning required. "I think it is just a matter of people getting comfortable with them," Duvoisin says. "And thanks to the documentation and manuals Ultimaker offers, I think that even traditional school teachers adapting to desktop 3D printing for the first time will feel they have what they need to manage and support them, like our instructors!"

Asked what has been the best part of switching from Ultimaker 2 Go desktop 3D printers this past year, Duvoisin told us:

The packaging and getting the printers working from the beginning of the classes has been really smooth. Especially transporting them. So you guys did a great job with the case. Makes everything easy.

Out of the twenty-one printers that DMA shuttled around to the various sites that offered their summer 3D printing course, only one of them needed to be directly serviced by the Ultimaker technical support team.

Stanford University student Ultimaker
A student at Stanford University watching her 3D print
DMA Made-by-Girls event
DMA also takes their Ultimaker printers on the road for their Made-by-Girls events

Sharing the love (and 3D printers)

Duvoisin also states, "Some of our students are making 3D pages from popular books with braille on them for visually impaired kids. Kids making for other kids!"

He advocates passionately for the value of tech camps as a means to instill lasting interest and engagement for the participants in career paths within technology and the sciences. Duvoisin hopes the work DMA accomplishes may also positively impact education beyond the summer. "I’ve been teaching tech related subjects to kids and teens for the last decade," he says. "And I'm passionate about spreading that environment of curiosity and high energy from tech summer camps into our traditional school system."

DMA instructor and students
Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test, SHARE
DMA instructor using Ultimaker
Jacob Richards, a DMA teacher, showing a student how to level the print bed

Printing this summer in a city near you...

This summer will be the third time DMA offers desktop 3D printing curriculum across its many sites. The course only continues to grow in popularity, with three hundred and fifty students already signed up for one of two 3D-printing focused classes: “3D Printing & Product Design” and “Adventures in 3D Printing.” These courses will take place in a large number of DMA sites across North America, from Austin to Toronto, Stanford to Saratoga, Cambridge to Seattle, and beyond.

DMA 3D print
DMA is excited to use their Ultimaker 2+ printers this season for larger prints

As an exciting new development for their program this year, high school students participating in the 3D Printing & Product Design course will tackle a real-world product design challenge for a final project through a partnership with Quirky. And as an added bonus for the students attending, there will be a series of online video chat sessions where they will receive mentoring and encouragement from professional product and industrial designers in the Ultimaker community over the course of their program.