Maker Dad Report: San Jose's Take Flight for Kids

TAKING FLIGHT WITH CUBES: Dave Lewis and son, Riley, joined EdSurge on stage at the San Mateo Maker Faire Education Pavilion. In addition to being an avid maker hobbyist, Dave has a Master's in Instructional Design and teaches part-time at Discovery HS. Stay tuned for the 'Maker Dad' Series in which he will be sharing maker anecdotes and practical advice for starting a maker space. Here is his field report from Take Flight for Kids in San Jose, CA:

As a follow up to the 2012 Maker Faire, my son Riley was asked to participate in the 13th annual Take Flight for Kids event in San Jose, Calif. Take Flight is a science and engineering outreach program aimed at students on the East Side of San Jose where the opportunities to get close to planes, and hands on science are limited.

While the dew was still on the grass, we setup two Cube printers, a number of sample items, and an HP workstation running SolidWorks. In no time at all, we were churning out small to mid-size 3D prints for the crowd.

The Cube ($1299) is 3D Systems newest entry into the 3D Printer market and is aimed right at the home and education user. The Plug-n-Play device is designed for those who want to print rather than learn how to build a printer. Setup of the printer (we have used three of them so far) pretty much amounts to opening the box, connecting the power supply, registering the printer and starting to print. At Take Flight, the Cubes consistently printed and had no problems in temperatures ranging from the low 60’s to the mid-80’s in a sometimes breezy and dusty outdoor environment.

Of the more than 7,000 people who attended, we saw about 1,000 at the booth during the 11 hours we spent on the field. The students, from elementary school through high school, were fascinated by the printers and all the younger kids wanted to “try” them. The older kids and a lot of the parents told us they had “seen” 3D printers in the media but never expected to seem them running outdoors. It was a great opportunity for Riley and his peers to display their knowledge to the masses and talk about 3D printing in general.

We also had a CAD system running on one of the HP workstations to show what a part looked like in the CAD program and what the same part looked like when it was printed out. It was great to watch the “lights come on” as folks looked at the CAD illustration and handled the physical part. For a lot of them this was a breakthrough moment as we brought techniques they may have heard about directly to them in a tangible way.

As we have seen elsewhere, people are simply fascinated by the process of actually printing. Seeing the object emerge on the print bed layer-by-layer as the printer literally hums along is captivating. As a quick “gift” Riley designed a fast-to-print dog-tag that our visitors could take with them. Even though we printed up a couple of hundred dog-tags before the event and we kept printing them during the event, we weren't able to keep up with the demand.

By the end of the day we were all really pleased with the event, pretty well talked out and foot-sore. Guess we should print some orthotics!

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