3D Printing Industry

Creating a Community of 3D Educators at Construct3D

These days 3D printing and digital fabrication are key elements of college and K-12 curricula. Students “learn through making” while developing crucial 21st-century skills in hardware, software, and 3D design. These efforts are happening at hundreds of institutions around the United States. The thing is, there’s often just one faculty or staff member leading the 3D effort, working alone. If you’re lucky, maybe you’re part of a small team.

What happens when you put hundreds of those leaders in the same place? We found out at the Construct3D Conference at Duke University last weekend!

Duke University campus tower

The mission of Construct3D is to bring together college and K-12 educators already active in 3D printing and give them a forum to share information and build a community. The conference, which grew out of Ultimaker’s Pioneer Program, was hosted this year by Duke University’s Innovation Co-Lab. Sponsors included Autodesk, ShopBot, FormLabs, LulzBot, 3DPrinterOS, Adobe, and, of course, Shapeways. These companies brought workshops, talks, and exhibits to Durham. And more than 250 educators from 150 different colleges, K-12 schools, libraries, and makerspaces showed up to share what we know and learn from our peers.

Ultimaker machines and prints

Ultimaker machines and prints // Photo: Aleph Objects, Inc.

LulzBot machines and prints // Photo: Aleph Objects, Inc.

Data-Driven Rhino/Grasshopper Workshop with Andres Gonzalez // Photo: Josh Ajima

Dale Dougherty, founder and CEO of Maker Media, kicked off Construct3D at a collaborative makerspace at Duke called The Foundry with a rousing call to action for making and sharing in education, and a vision for an educational climate where students can explore their passions. The following morning, Skylar Tibbits, founder and co-director of MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab, ran through a dizzying array of future-forward ideas including 4D printing, self-assembling structures, and auxetic materials. Lunchtime that day included Q&A sessions with Marius Kintel, lead developer of OpenSCAD, and Shapeways design evangelist Lauren Slowik, who announced the upcoming public 3D design curriculum that will grow out of her current New York Public Library course. The final day of the conference included a ShopBot keynote; a materials panel that brought together representatives of Proto-Pasta, Structur3D, Essentium, and Reflow; and a top-secret peek into the future of Tinkercad and Fusion 360 with Autodesk’s Guillermo Melantoni.

Just one of the many things Tinkercad has in store for the future…

But the heart of the conference was more than 100 presentations by educators. For most of us, Construct3D was the first time we could give a talk about 3D printing and know that the audience was already familiar with 3D printing and its educational opportunities. This enabled every talk and workshop to dive deep into techniques, pedagogy, design walkthroughs, and extensive Q&A sessions, with topics ranging from quadcopters and multivariable calculus to photogrammetry, art history, and social impact.

Over three days at Construct3D, we shared our successes (and failures!), got inspired with ideas to try out next fall, and most importantly, formed a community of educators that together will take 3D printing to the next level.

Didn’t get a chance to attend Construct3D this year? Stay tuned for the next one in Spring 2018 (location to be announced)!

In the meantime, you can find a complete rundown of talks and workshop at the Construct3D 2017 schedule, follow the hashtags #Construct3D and #Construct3D2017 on Twitter, and read recaps of each day of Construct3D at Karen Blumberg’s blog.

If you were at Construct3D and want to share what you experienced there, tell us about it in the comments; we’d love to hear about it!

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