As the appetite for 3D printing continues to grow throughout Minnesota, three Technology Literacy Coordinators from CTEP AmeriCorps — Ani Goodenberger, Maria Paschke, and Brian Smith — want to get the DIY tools of today into the hands of tomorrow’s engineers.
After a recent afternoon brainstorming session held in the heart of St. Paul’s diverse Rondo neighborhood, the trio launched ‘Modeling the Future’ to bring their idea closer to reality.
Their project aims to offer youth in the Twin Cities a chance to learn 3D printing from the ground up by building a 3D printer from scratch, teaching STEM skills in assembly, circuit boards, and hardware.
“Because the self-replicating RepRap printers come in kits and are mostly built from user-sourced materials, our team thought it would be great to not only offer curriculum for CAD classes, but also to include youth in the actual building of the 3D printers they would later use,” Smith said.
Their initial goal is to raise $750 from the local community to get the first pilot off the ground with Tronix Team, a local after school program through Park Ave Youth and Family Services that works to eliminate the achievement gap in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) by providing hands-on electronic projects to diverse, underserved adolescent groups.
From there, they say, the idea is to expand the program to other community centers, after-school programs, museums and libraries around the Twin Cities. “We want to get kids excited about STEM projects and to spread the word about this exciting 3d printing technology,” he noted.
As a division of AmeriCorps, CTEP requires all members to participate in an extended group civic engagement project above and beyond their day to day roles of coordinating new digital inclusion initiatives, which include projects like BRIDGEdotMN.
The 3 – 5 person groups each create an action plan and timeline during the first three months of service and then implement their project during the remaining months of their one year term. Members consider issues such as feasibility, community impact, sustainability, community buy-in and cost when planning their projects. Past project topics have included working with local health providers to assist community members in accessing online health information, creating resources to increase internet security and distributing refurbished computers to low-income families.
“CTEP strives to instill a lifelong ethic of service and responsibility. It is the hope of these projects that members will gain skills and confidence to affect community change with a group of fellow concerned citizens, which we hope will then translate into continued action even after the AmeriCorps member completes their service term,” said Program Director Joel Krogstad.
Other CTEP projects in the works include: a cyberbullying awareness campaign, streamlining the North Star Digital Literacy Standards, and a summer camp for online/mobile game development. Members round out their experience by holding public presentations on August 3rd and exploring opportunities for continuing their respective programs into the future.