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Six NKY Schools to Launch 3d Printer Clubs

Education, business and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) intersect the maker movement and local start-up cultures in a very unlikely place thanks to  $50,000 from a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant and the Greater Cincinnati Stem Collaborative (GCSC).

Thirteen new 3d Printer Clubs, where students design and print solid objects from digital files, launch this fall across the tri-state including Campbell County Middle School, the Northern Kentucky MakerSpace, Holmes Middle School, Erpenbeck Elementary School, RA Jones Middle School and Summit View Academy.

They will introduce several hundred fifth and sixth graders to STEM to fill a growing vacancy of jobs.

GCSC Program Manager Mary Adams, a retired Procter & Gamble (P&G) executive, can’t wait to meet this year’s club members “when they’ve graduated with STEM degrees in local careers and tell me their 3d Printer Club made all of the difference.”

Modeled after the GCSC’s successful STEM Bicycle Clubs, the 3d Printer Clubs share the same purpose, according to Adams, “of engaging students and sparking their interest in STEM education and careers.”

Clubs at schools, non-profits and learning centers received word September 30 they have been funded with printers, materials and technical expertise. Each one includes a lead teacher, 15 students, a community partner and business mentor.

Recipient Aiken High School will stretch the adaptable curriculum to its seventh and eighth graders, working with General Electric (GE) Aviation. “This is amazing and going to help us bring math alive for kids: touching, seeing, putting it together, problem solving and making sense,” says principal Lisa Votaw. Her school’s longtime business mentor “donated 2500 hours in human capital last year, giving one of my harder students the best day of his life. If these volunteers are touching him, they are touching lots of students. The shiny (GE) engineers come off the bus asking what they can do to help.”

One of those engineers, an executive and project leader for the GE-Aiken partnership, Alisha Kalb, says her company values the community benefit of “growing the technology capability and academic achievement in schools.” The STEM clubs – Aiken hosts a bicycle group – introduce “the idea of problem solving, thinking differently and kids experiencing manufacturing processes so important to our industry. We can’t even imagine what they will come up with in the 3d Printing Club and that’s exciting.”

An outgrowth of a 2013 P&G grant for summer camps, the curriculum was re-engineered with an investigational spin. “I had eighth graders acting like kindergartners with their mouths hanging open as they watched the end product print,” says Fay Wagner, Bethel-Tate Local Schools gifted intervention specialist who helped craft changes. She’s hopeful that the 13 new clubs will “open the world of STEM careers to students who don’t realize what’s out there and to see its importance in our culture” just as the program has in her rural, high-poverty district.

“With a little guidance, in an afternoon kids can create an object out of their own heads, something tangible, and we’ve managed to pay out some design-thinking knowledge,” says Polar 3D CEO Greg LaLonde. The local start-up will supply printers, teacher training and technical support to the after-school clubs. LaLonde helped target co-founder William Steele’s simpler and more affordable printer to the education market to “inspire young minds to think like entrepreneurs.”
Polar 3D models that mission. By using an eight-inch disk instead of the more typical four-inch square as a building plate, users can create objects four times larger.

“We’re doing in math what they’re doing in hardware,” Steele says.

The NSF grant was obtained by the University of Cincinnati’s College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH) to integrate engineering design into science classrooms. CECH Director for Community Partnerships Dr. Kathie Maynard, also a GCSC leader, secured an extension for $50,000 in remaining funds for the 3d Printer Clubs. The University of Cincinnati Research Institute is also a donor. “This really is the next step of GCSC’s goal to create a continuum of authentic experiences that get kids involved in real-world STEM and with STEM professionals. The long-term plan is building pathways of experience from K-12.”

The STEM Bicycle Club, a model for the 3d printers, debuted in 2014 at Woodward High School with the Urban League as a community partner, Time Warner Cable as a funder and GE’s expertise. The first seventh- and eighth-grade students reverse-engineered, perfected then kept mass-produced bicycles donated by Walmart. Maynard brands the club as “the beauty of what business and education have to offer.” Twenty bicycle clubs will be announced later this fall.

STEM after-school clubs have garnered the support of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Haile U.S. Bank Foundation, P & G, Duke Energy, Time Warner Cable and IBM.
The non-profit Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative creates hands-on, heads-on learning for students to fuel the growing local STEM pipeline by gathering education, community and business partners. Eighty percent of area jobs in the next decade will require math and science skills. STEM jobs are growing two-times faster than others and pay 70 percent more. For more information, visit

Selected 3d Printer Clubs
• Aiken High School, Cincinnati Public Schools, OH
• Campbell County Middle School, Campbell County Schools, KY
• Corryville Catholic School, OH
• Erpenbeck Elementary School, Boone County, KY
• Girls Incorporated of Jefferson County, IN
• Holmes Middle School, Covington Independent Public Schools, KY
• King Academy Community School, OH
• NKY Makerspace, Boone County Schools, KY
• R. A. Jones Middle School, Boone County Schools, KY

• South Avondale School, Cincinnati Public Schools, OH
• Summit View Academy, Kenton County Schools, KY
• Williamsburg Local School District, Clermont County, OH
• Youth Motivational Learning Center OH

From Greater CIncinnati STEM Collaborative/Image via Facebook