The Community

Interview with a 12-year-old Shapie

On Thursday, Brendan Chang, a 12-year-old Shapie, shared a photo of an iPod case he designed using Shapeways on Twitter.  Inspired by his story, I took some time to catch up with Brendan this weekend before he headed off to summer camp. There are many reasons to get up for work in the morning as a member of the Shapeways team, but stories like Brendans remind us how important and influential what we do here really is. Here’s a quote from Brendan to give you a taste:  “And the best part? It was mine. Nobody else had my case.”

Brendan’s tweet to us on Thursday said: ”Proof that @shapeways is for everyone: I’m a 12 yr old designer, and made my own iPod case with #3DPrinters” so it’s easy to see why I was curious to learn more about his experience. Pretty hard to beat a testimonial like that. With permission from his parents, I asked this brilliant young mind 16 questions. Below are his answers in his own words. Fair warning, however; if you find yourself feeling less articulate than this preteen, don’t worry, I’m in the same boat too :).
Question 1: When and how did you first hear about 3D Printing?
“I first heard about 3D Printing in school, when we learned about Bre Pettis and his company Makerbot (which I heard was recently acquired by Stratasys) I was very interested in the idea of layering plastic to get a 3D object.”
Not only is Brendan’s school clearly awesome but he also keeps in the know on 3D printing news? Mind blown for the first but nowhere near the last time during this interview.
Question 2: How did you hear about Shapeways?
“I first heard about shapeways when my friend emailed me, saying something along the lines of: “Check out my 3D Printed Minecraft Man!” I received the email on my iPod, and replied, “WHAT?” in capital letters. I then asked, “You have a 3D Printer!?!?!?!?” He simply replied, “Maybe. Okay, no. I used this cool company, shapeways. They print your models for you!” At that point, I went to your website, which was very interesting. I went and looked at the different things people had uploaded, and felt right at home.”
A 12-year-old feels right at home on our site. Props to the whole team. Going to go ahead and chalk this up in the “win” column. 
Question 3: What was the inspiration behind your iPod case? 
“I had many ideas of what I would do if I could make anything. Who wouldn’t want a life size toy giraffe? As I thought about it, I realized, I don’t. I wanted something I would use every day. Something that would be helpful and useful in my everyday life. I thought, What do I use everyday? Then I realized: Who doesn’t use their iPhone every day? How about their iPod? At that point, I had my mind set. I was going to make an iPod case. As for the “B” on it, well, my name begins with “B,” though I’m sure you’ve already figured that out.”
This kid is already thinking like a Design Thinker and it’s impressive. And to answer his question, no, I hadn’t figured that out yet because I was still getting over the fact that Brendan is a better 3D modeler than me, at 12. 
Question 4: Was this your first experience with our printing service?
“My first experience with your service was not this iPod case; It was actually just a test, to see if I had any idea what I was doing. And although this may sound weird, I didn’t actually think I had created the file correctly, and even if I did, I was new to 3D Printing, and had no idea the quality. I was nervous that if I had gotten the model perfect, the printers might have messed up. I have never thought of something that, today, seems incredibly ridiculous. The printer? Mess up? After my experience with shapeways, I was pretty sure the printers couldn’t mess up.”
Brendan even understands the value of prototyping. Mind blown, again.
Question 5: How did you think it turned out?
“My case was truly better than anything I could have gotten. Maybe it wasn’t rubber. But it was durable and cool. And the best part? It was mine. Nobody else had my case. The quality of the print, as mentioned earlier, was unexpectedly good. I never would have thought a 3D printer could be so accurate and perfect.”

The Machines in our LIC factory are blushing. Thank you Brendan.

Question 6: Will be using us again?
“To say it simply: Yes! I intend to use shapeways until I have enough money to buy my own 3D Printer, which just makes me want to point out: Shapeways is an easy way to print at cheap prices, and I am very thankful for it.”
There’s really no better brand endorsement, is there?
Question 7: What did your friends and family think about your product? What do they think about 3D printing in general?
“My friends asked me where I got a 3D Printer, and I told them: I used this cool company that you can send your file to, and then they print it! They were very impressed. My family paid for the case(s), and were very pleased with the output. The people at my school think 3D Printing is really cool! My parents think so too, though they worry about waste it might produce. “
This feedback is so fun. Just to clarify, additive manufacturing/3D Printing arguably cuts down on waste significantly; by avoiding tooling and the creation of injection molds, paired with the concept of printing on demand (read: no inventory/excess units) our hope is to make the world more product efficient.
Question 8: Tell me a little more about yourself, where do you live, like to study in school, other hobbies etc
“I live in Hastings on Hudson, New York. I enjoy playing tennis. In school, I find math, science, and technology interesting, provided that I like my teacher. As a hobby, I mess around with circuits and electronics, though I am still learning a lot!”
Whoever the teacher is who exposed you to 3D Printing, Brendan, stick with them! And let’s be real, we’re all still learning a lot when it comes to circuits and electronics :).
Question 9: What do you want to be when you grow up?
“When I grow up, I want to be a computer designer. I want to be able to merge consumers with technologically advanced people. This way, the consumers don’t have to do anything different from anyone else to get the best, and still be able to use the technology’s full features.”
Did I mention we’re hiring at Shapeways?
Question 10: What do you think you’ll make next?
“I enjoy watching the TV show Doctor Who. I want to make a model of the sonic screwdriver (you can google it if you don’t know what it is), print it, and paint it. If the sonic screwdriver is too hard to create, I might make a case for my new raspberry pi. I am also considering making a model of my Minecraft character, though Minetoys can do that for me.”
Question 11: What designers do you look up to?
“I look up to all of the designers who do things nobody else had ever done. In specific, I look up to thingiverse user Ellindsey. He has done amazing things with 3D Printers, including making a transformer. I also look up to the creator of the Makibox, Jon Buford, because although I probably won’t get one of his printers, he has made one of the cheapest DIY 3D printers out there. Unfortunately, it is still $200, and being a twelve year old, I don’t have a lot of money to spare, ha ha! Jon is a designer both on computer programs and when building physical items like toys.”
These two should be flattered. Love that Brendan’s favorite designers all work in 3D!
Question 12: What do you see in the future for 3d printing?
“I am only 12, so I don’t really know much about how computers used to be. From what I have heard, they used to be these hunky, expensive, “dinosaurs.” Today, we have computers doing the work of hundreds of people, for cheap. Today, we have 3D printers. They are hunky. They are expensive. And I hope that someday, a boy will write about how the printers of 2013 were dinosaurs, just like the old computers. I hope that the technology progresses until it is in as many homes as a computer is today.”
And my mind was just blown for the third time in 10 minutes. Brendan understand the technological revolution we’re in the midst of better than most people five times his age.
Question 13: What do you think would encourage more people to use Shapeways? 
“I think more people would use shapeways if they heard about the accuracy of the prints. Shapeways is so advanced, it’s hard to believe. I think that showing what goes on and the end product would make a lot of people understand how simple it is to make anything you need.”
Well with brand ambassadors like you Brendan, things are looking good for Shapeways! Pete, our CEO, always says “feeling is believing” and your iPod case should be great for spreading the word!
Question 14: If you could design anything in the world what would it be? 
“If I could design anything, it would combine everything I have ever learned into a product. Maybe I would 3D Print parts for a robot, then use my skills in coding, engineering, and creativity to make a robot that isn’t just for hobbyists. Of course, that would be cool. Although it would be incredibly hard for anybody to make, the fact that I could just 3D print certain parts of the robot makes me so happy.”
When you design that Robot Brendan, we’ll promote it, you have my word :). 
Question 15: Is there anything on your Shapeways wish list?
“On my shapeways wish list, I have a few things, including a spool for headphones, which I found to be very cool. My wishlist is located here
Happy to see Brendan is maximizing the tools on the site. Props to our dev team for making that happen!
Question 16, just for fun: You’re stranded on a desert island with one of our machines, what do you print first? 
“Ha ha! I probably would have asked this question too! Assuming I had unlimited materials for printing, I would print, in glazed ceramics, a thin sheet of shiny ceramics. I would wait for a sunny day, and try to attract attention by reflecting sunlight. Although you didn’t ask for a second thing, I would next print an iPod case, because, hey! If I get off the island, who wouldn’t want a free iPod case? (That was a joke)”
We got the joke and love your answer. Strategic response and great leverage of all our materials!
A final closing note from Brendan: “I just want to say thanks for helping me with my entire 3D printing experience! I have learned so much about design thanks to shapeways! “
You’re welcome, and believe me, the pleasure is all ours. Thanks for inspiring our whole team Brendan! 
Were you inspired by Brendan’s story? Do you have a young Shapie in your life that we should talk to? Let us know in the comments below! Hope you all had a great weekend :).


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