A recent educational initiative introduced high school students to 3D printing and the startup mentality as groups from five area high schools converged at suburban Gilmour Academy. Veale Startup Week: The Business of 3D Printing was the first such program created by Veale Youth Entrepreneurship Forum, an organization formed to get high school students thinking about and learning the necessary skills to start their own businesses in the future.
Working with Veale on the program were 3D printer manufacturer MakerGear and startup accelerator Youngstown Business Incubator. Students from the five schools formed three teams that were each given a task: use 3D printing to design a product in response to a common problem, and then pitch it to an audience at the end of the week on “Demo Day.”
“Startup culture is very fast-paced,” said Cynthia Bailie, director of the Veale Youth Entrepreneurship Forum. “Giving students and educators experience with real-world problem-solving, rapid prototyping, and iterative product development will undoubtedly give them an edge as they pursue their own goals and business plans.”
The common problem they were assigned? The treacherous “car slide”: the phenomenon that occurs when you’re forced to brake suddenly and everything in your passenger seat goes flying. That’s a great assignment, in my opinion – if someone began selling a product that would keep my purse, books, groceries, sporting equipment, snacks, CDs, and all the other nonsense I tend to pile into my passenger seat from dumping itself on the floor, I would gladly buy it.
The students used MakerGear M2 3D printers to prototype their products, which included a barrier to keep items from pitching onto the floor as well as storage solutions with nets and hooks.
“We were pleased to work with Veale Youth Entrepreneurship Forum to power the first Veale Startup Week with our MakerGear M2 printers,” said Rick Pollack, founder of MakerGear. “It was gratifying to introduce high school students to the potential of 3D printing and see their designs come to life.”
Teachers and moderators were pleased to see the wide variety of ideas that the students came up with in response to the same assignment. On Demo Day, each team presented its product as well as a business plan for how to market the item. In addition to helping the students develop business skills, the project also got them thinking about 3D printing and how it might be leveraged in their future careers.
“We believe that every high school student should have the opportunity for an experience like this,” said Rich Wetzel, Additive Manufacturing Business Coordinator at Youngstown Business Incubator. “We provided students with a solid grounding in the business applications of 3D printing and why a company would want to incorporate 3D printing into its operations.”
The Business of 3D Printing was the pilot program for Veale Startup Week. Encouraged by its success, the organization plans to offer similar programs in the future, or possibly the same one. Everyone involved agreed: 3D printing is one of the most important skills students can learn, not just because of its increasing importance in existing industries but because of its limitless potential for creation.
“Through 3D printing and open source design tools, we see a democratization of industrial design, making the creation of new things accessible to more people,” said Matt Vanek, robotics and design instructor at Gilmour Academy. “For high school students, that’s incredibly powerful.”