Jun 24, 2015 | By Alec

In April, the entire 3D printing community was shocked by MakerBot, who suddenly closed three of their retail stores and fired a fifth of their staff. Could the biggest success story of our community be in trouble? Well, it is becoming increasingly clear that MakerBot is taking things into a different direction, trying to become healthier and is aiming to restore trust with all parties. As part of this sensible turn-around, they have just released an interesting series of sets together with ThinkFun, all aimed to encourage children to become more interested in scientific possibilities.

The sets in question are called Maker Studio Construction Sets, and have been made freely available over at MakerBot’s Thingiverse. And while there is a lot of vague talk about educational potential of 3D printers, these sets actually have a very clearly defined educational goal. To transform ordinary housefhold items into machines through a bit of simple engineering, which will hopefully enable children, parents and educators to renew interest in STEM subjects and careers. STEM, of course, stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

Key partner in this excellent campaign is ThinkFun, a company that has been behind educational and fun games for thirty years now. Their goal has always been to ignite 21sts century thinking skills through games and brainteasers, with the web being their main target. They argue that these kinds of games stimulate brain development in logical, visual/spatial, mathematical, linguistic and reasing departments, and in that respect tinkering with 3D printed sets is a perfect option. And its desperately needed, for the US Department of Education estimates that only 16 percent of high school students are thinking about pursuing something involving STEM.

Fortunately, these construction sets seem to include everything you need to build original creations: gears, winches, propellers,connectors, wheels, rods, hubcaps, spools, and hole punches and so on. All sets are designed by engineers with children of ages seven and up in mind. All these 3D printed components can be used to turn household items, from cereal boxes or soda cans, into kinetic machines. Thingiverse also provides instructions, assembly diagrams, and even 10 open-ended challenges to encourage problem-solving building. What more do they need?

‘We’re excited to partner with ThinkFun to introduce Maker Studio on Thingiverse,’ Jonathan Jaglom, CEO of MakerBot, says. ‘These new construction sets use 3D printing to stimulate a child’s imagination and build important cognitive skills. The open-ended, creative play fosters child development through self-expression and problem solving, helping kids understand engineering concepts in a playful and engaging way. Opening up Maker Studio Construction Sets to the world’s largest 3D printing community gives young makers more tools to create amazing, fun inventions.’

ThinkFun echoes these sentiments. As Bill Ritchie, the company’s co-founder stated, these sets are different from others for the ability to make something truly original. ‘Kids are inherently creative, and it’s amazing to see how imaginative they can be when given the opportunity to exercise their minds and ingenuity with smart toys like Maker Studio. We are eager to see the creations that come out of the Kids Make It Challenge,’ he said.

To make things even more exciting for children, ThinkFun and MakerBot have simulataniously launched the “Kids make it” Challenge, through which they can share their creation and compete for prizes and more. At stake is even the title of Master Maker, so it is hoped kids everywhere start 3D printing and making. To enter the competition, children (or parents or teachers) can simply post videos on twitter or Instagram. Entries will be accepted up until 14 July, with the winner being announced two weeks later. Interested? Go to the  #KidsMakeIt Challenge Page for more information. 



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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