Starting today, MakerBot is launching a major push to get its 3D printers into the hands of school students. This is a good thing, because when it comes to education, it's easy to get the whole technology thing wrong. For example, some policymakers are heavily in favor of bringing laptops and tablet computers into the classroom, which is fine and potentially useful. But the same people (not teachers, mind you, but pundits and politicians) often dismiss table saws, ratchet sets, and the like as relics. As if a metal lathe somehow isn't "technology." That's not an error you'll find among innovators at SXSW, in Silicon Valley, or in the emerging innovation center that is Brooklyn, New York. Those people, the ones inventing and launching products, know the value of building things—physical things—using real-life tools.
That's why it makes perfect sense to imagine 3D printers in classrooms. Teachers can register on DonorsChoose.org, a crowd-funding site for education, to receive a MakerBot Academy bundle, which includes a Replicator 2 printer, supplies, curriculum aids, and technical support. The idea is for individuals and companies to donate money at the website to purchase the bundles, which MakerBot is offering at discounted prices. Other partners include Autodesk (the leading CAD software company) and America Makes, a 3D printing institute launched by the Obama Administration as part of a plan to promote U.S. manufacturing.