How imagination and initiative equal positive differences in our communities.

  • Creating Change Through 3D Printing May 12, 2017
    3D Design Prblem Bank founder Rich Lehrer

    (Photo by Andrew Luman, and used with permission.)

    “The last thing the world needs is more plastic trinkets,” says Brookwood 3D Design Problem Bank founder and Innovation Coordinator Rich Lehrer.

    Consequently, if his students think they’ll be 3D printing their names or plastic mascots, they’re in for a–possibly world-changing–surprise.

    Rich and his 8th-grade STEM students at Brookwood School, in the Boston, Massachusetts were one of the first student groups to 3D print a prosthetic hand device, in 2013.

    Max Lehrer with baseball grip device designed by student

    Max Lehrer (r) with 3D printing student and bat-gripping device. Photo courtesy of Rich Lehrer, and used with permission.)

    Rich’s then-three-year-old son, Max, was the recipient–and the students were able to see the results of their engineering work immediately.

    The success of this project was just the beginning.  Rich, who has served as an education coordinator for nonprofit e-Nable, in addition to his current work as a teacher trainer through the Buck Institute, was inspired to incorporate real-world problem-solving into his students’ future lessons.

    Following closely thereafter was the beginning of the 3D Design Problem Bank.  In the Problem Bank, community members submit problems which they believe 3D printing could solve.  Then, the students choose a problem and get to work, designing.

    And in an exciting STEM offshoot, the Problem Bank also sparked “Dezign Girlz” in 2016.  This was a girls-only, week-long STEM workshop that paired sixth-grade girls with residents of a local senior community.  Once they’d identified problems the senior citizens encountered in daily life, the students went to work designing adaptive 3D printed devices as solutions.

    Rich talked about his background as an educator, some of the STEM projects his students have done, how he came to implement the 3D Design Problem Bank, and shared his vision for a global “3D Design Problem Bank”, along with some resources.

    On this edition of Over Coffee® you’ll hear:
    • How Rich first began teaching STEM projects as his eighth-grade science curriculum;
    • His experiences leading his students as they built a prosthetic hand device, in 2013;
    • How that experience started him using 3D printing in a problem-solving context, for his students’  learning experiences;
    • How Brookwood came to implement the 3D Design Problem Bank, and how it works;
    • Rich’s vision for expanding the Problem Bank to be a global educational tool;
    • The ways in which similar Problem Banks might be customized to deal with certain types of design challenges;
    • How Rich and a colleague connected sixth-grade girls with senior citizens in the local community, through the “Dezign Girlz” pilot project;
    • The resources Rich recommends for fellow STEM innovators (he has a free curriculum available on his website!)


    Brookwood’s 3D Design Problem Bank Project

    Ultimaker Education Pioneers

    Rich’s website

    MIT’s D-Lab

    e-NABLE Community- open-source community for 3D printed prosthetics

    LimbForge™-nonprofit that provides tools and training for clinicians to provide pathients with 3D printed prosthetics

    Buck Institute for Education


  • Sparking Tomorrow’s Best Ideas–All Weekend Long April 22, 2017
    by Dot Cannon"Imaginology Gate 8 on Orange County Fair marquee

    “Ooh, I want to go play some music!” exclaimed one elementary-school student entering “Imaginology” at the Orange County Fairgrounds on Friday morning.

    He would get that opportunity.

    Imaginology lifesized photo grames with costumes on main mall

    He would also have the chance to program LED lights, play math games, make clay, fabric or paper art…

    kids program LED lights at OC Fair Imaginology


    Imaginology employee at clay station

    Jurassic Parties staffer lets viistors handle pythons

    …and even handle a snake.

    The thirty-eighth edition of the Orange County Fair’s Imaginology had kicked off at nine that morning.

    kids and teachers build with blocks at Imaginology

    Opening day of “Imaginology” is “Field Trip Day”.  A bevy of school buses had delivered students from all over Orange County.  They’d be exploring, learning–and imagining the ways they could use STEAM to create their futures.

    But most of all, they’d be having fun.

    And this was just the first day of the OC Fair’s free three-day family-oriented STEAM event.

    mathobotics display in main hall

    Throughout the Fairgrounds were all kinds of areas of interest in science, technology, engineering, art and math.  But these weren’t just displays.

    Imaginology staff display prints at printmaking station

    Workstations stood ready to help participants get a hands-on taste of Arduino, Raspberry Pi, printmaking, and whatever else captured their imagination.

    “Face time” with animals and agriculture

    Scout troop leader and troop handle python at Imaginology

    One of the biggest crowd-pleasers was the “Jurassic Party” area–with its tortoise and two pythons visitors could hold.

    "Agventure Land" farm games at Imaginology

    Imaginology attendees work in the "Super Dooper Pooper Scooper" station

    Young “Imaginology” attendees even had the opportunity to play at being farm kids for a day.

    spectators take pictures of sheep shearing

    Two 4-H clubs were exhibiting in the livestock area.  The sheep shearing seemed to be popular with Imaginology attendees…

    Closeup of sheep shearing

    –although not necessarily with the customer.

    Attachng a miling machine to Annabelle the cow

    And “Anabelle” the Jersey cow had a capacity-crowd audience for the afternoon milking demonstration.

    All this, and “Imaginology” has barely begun!  They’ll be open this Saturday and Sunday, April 22nd and 23rd, from 10 am to 5 pm.

    Main mall of Imaginology at the OC Fair

    Saturday’s scheduled events include the “Fashion + Art LIVE” fashion show and VEX Robotics Awards.  On Sunday, Imaginology will host Digital Media Arts and My Dream Career Photo Awards presentations.  Both days, there will be a “MiniMAKEathon”, with an awards ceremony at 3:00 on Sunday afternoon.

    And twenty years from now, a rocket scientist, web designer,  sculptor, musician, agricultural technologist or other STEAM professional may look back and say, “For me, it all started with ‘Imaginology’.”

     The thirty-eighth annual “Orange County Fair Imaginology” event runs from 10 am to 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday, April 22nd and 23rd, at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.  Admission is free; parking is $8.  Here’s the link for directions.
  • The Makings of Magic April 15, 2017

    Vocademy General Manager Dylan Harter

    Dylan Harter has an extraordinarily cool job.

    As General Manager at Vocademy: The Makerspace, Dylan oversees a unique program.

    Vocademy, which opened in Riverside in 2013, is a maker space with a difference.  Their program focuses on education–for everyone.  And they’re teaching real-world skills that most schools no longer offer.Vocademy General Manager Dylan Harter displays laser-cut plaques

    “We are makers,” says Vocademy’s website.   They’re sharing those making skills  by offering training in 3D printing, laser cutting, woodworking and a host of other hands-on areas.    With employee-training programs for companies, as well as students and the general public, they’re bringing the “fun” element back to learning.

    Batman costume near sewing machines

    Oh, and they’re creating some fantastic cosplay, LED signs, and go-carts, too.

    "I'm not a complete idiot" LED sign

    gocart made by Vocademy students

    In March, we met Dylan at Vocademy for a tour of the fifteen-hundred-square-foot facility.   Like the maker culture itself, Vocademy is continuing to grow and evolve.  Vpro 3D printer

    These 3D printers were made specifically for Vocademy!

    Laser cutting cutting wood

    This massive laser cutter has a three-foot-by-four-foot cutting area.  It can cut anything that burns.

    Electronics station with LED light circuit

    The day we visited, Vocademy had eight electronics stations, were adding features to their finishing room, and were continuing to explore the possibilities for a second Southern California location, sometime within, approximately, the next two years.

    They were also planning a maker faire, this autumn, in Riverside!  We’ll give you more details when they announce the date.

    Dylan Harter with 3D printed and molded masks

    Dylan talked about his experiences with Vocademy, showcased some of the facility’s features (a high school actually teaches shop classes onsite, due to Vocademy’s high-end equipment and safety procedures) and offered a preview of what’s next.

    On this edition of Over Coffee®, you’ll hear:
    • How Dylan and founder Gene Sherman first came up with the concept of Vocademy;
    • How a local charter high school is using Vocademy for onsite curricula;
    • Some of the maker skills students and members can learn;
    • Dylan’s recommendations for favorite resources for makers;
    • Where Vocademy is heading, in the future;



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