When Inventables CEO Zach Kaplan accepted the invitation to the White House in honor of National Week of Making last summer, he did not know he would soon be helping to bridge the financial divide for students across America.
The National Week of Making, June 12, 2015, kicked off with an event that included updates on President Obama’s call to action to create a “Nation of Makers.”
“The initiative shines a spotlight and raises up what’s going on, empowering America’s students,” Kaplan tells A&E magazine. “America is a very entrepreneurial country. Building is in our DNA. There has been a resurgence in the last few years, and (the White House) felt it was important to bring it into the forefront and talk about it.”
The head of the Office of Science and Technology policy got up on stage and opened the floor, asking if people could commit to bring the community together, Kaplan recalls. A professor then stood up and lamented that, from his perspective, there are a lot of resources for industrial machines, but there’s a big gap when it comes to school and digital manufacturing. “You’d think it was planned,” Kaplan jokes.
During that meeting, Kaplan stood up and committed to donate a 3D carving machine-powerful technology capable of creating precision parts and designs from materials like wood, plastic and metal-to a school in every state of the union. His pledge received a standing ovation.
But that moment had its roots far back in Kaplan’s own education. At his high school, plans to shut down the shop class were announced. Back in the 1970s, Kaplan explains, there was less of an emphasis on vocational work as there was on continuing education. The attitude was, “Let’s just get rid of it. It’s a waste of time.” But Kaplan’s physics and shop teacher knew the value of such work and teamed up to keep the shop class open.
“I was just a kid. I didn’t influence that decision but it obviously shaped what I chose to do with my profession,” Kaplan says.
To Kaplan, this contest to place a 3D carver in 50 schools across the U.S. is just the first step in the company’s ultimate goal: a 3D carver in every school in the nation in just a decade.
Inventables began accepting applications for 3D carving machines the very next day. Overall, the company received 609 applications, which went through various rounds to determine which schools-from K-12 to community colleges and universities from all 50 states-were best fit to receive the machine. The criteria included basic questionnaires explaining need and how the machine would be implemented in the classroom, an example of what designs they would make with the machine, and a video application. “The video was a chance to ask, ‘why you?’ It was a chance to tell their story,” Kaplan explains. The winners would receive a gift card for either the X-Carve model or the Carvey model.
The Career Center, which busses in students from high schools in the Grand Junction, Col. area, began working on its application on Oct. 28, 2015. Students of Wende Gist’s computer technology class designed a raspberry pie case using the Inventables’ free software Easel and submitted their unique video to Inventables. Her students were ecstatic when they heard the news on Jan. 12 that they had won for the State of Colorado. While the computer technology class will manage it, the 3D carver will be utilized by the whole of the Career Center-from culinary, construction and floral, to small engine repair, early childhood and medical prep. After weeks of research, the Career Center used the gift card to purchase the X-Carve.
“(With the X-Carve) the kids get hands-on experience, and I think it will be really beneficial. I’m hoping with all its capabilities it will attract more girls into my class. Maybe,” Gist tells A&E magazine. “We’ll definitely put it to use. Those are the things we’re thinking now. We do get donations and refurbish items to resell, so we’re hoping to eventually expand that program.”
With Kaplan’s sights set on his goal of putting a 3D Carver in every school in the nation in a decade, he believes this is possible by removing some of the financial barriers for schools-by taking away that budget discussion and creating the opportunity for initiative. It is his belief that if more kids were exposed to these types of vocations, Inventables could, in fact, encourage a “Nation of Makers.”
For more information on the initiative, a full list of winners from each state, or to apply, visit www.inventables.com/3dcarver.