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On Location: The Grand Opening of the First ‘Makerbot Innovation Center’ at SUNY

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With no signs of slowing down (and currently hiring up the wazzoo), MakerBot extended their reach further into the university system last week with the opening of the very first MakerBot Innovation Center at the SUNY campus in Upstate New York. Perhaps they couldn’t have chosen a better school either: the SUNY campus in New Paltz, NY is just a quick drive up the scenic Hudson River from the industrial Brooklyn MakerBot Factory and is one of a few schools on the East Coast that offers a program specific to Digital Design and Fabrication. We stopped by the grand opening last week to check out what exactly a ‘MakerBot Innovation Center’ is and could it possibly be a prelude to the ‘school computer lab’ of the near future?

A New Computer Lab Model for Designers and Makers

In a nutshell, the MakerBot Innovation Center can simply be described as a 3D printing lab that is filled with over thirty MakerBot Replicator 2 and 2X 3D Printers. With about a dozen computers in the lab, students can theoretically hit ‘Print’ without having to wait on a list for a single 3D printer…as is the case in most schools. Additionally, the lab also features seven Digitizer 3D scanners and about a thousand miles of filament in various colors:

“Having a MakerBot Innovation Center in a place of business or in a university can change the whole dynamic of the new product iteration and innovation cycle…Class projects can be brought to life through 3D printing and scanning. Product prototypes can be created, refined and finalized at a much faster and affordable pace. Schools can train future innovators and be ahead of the curve when it comes to preparing students for the real world. We believe that having a MakerBot Innovation Center in a university or workplace is an incredible opportunity for those using it to unleash the power of innovation and change the world.”
-Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot

While the opening is no doubt a huge asset for the university and the surrounding community, perhaps what’s most interesting is how this new ’3D Printing Lab’ can be compared to the original computer labs that are now seen in every school from K-12 to college. When the original iMac came out, I was 11 years old and had previously been learning how to type in school on a sort of modernized typewriter. Within the next few years, our school adopted ‘computer labs’ that literally changed the face of education for my generation. With recent initiatives to push STEM deeper into public and private school systems as well as the steady decrease of 3D printer prices, it’s hard to argue that it’s just a short matter of time before we start to see something like the MakerBot Innovation Center in just about every school.

For more info on SUNY’s Digital Design and Fabrication program, head over to their course page.

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