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January 04 2017

MakerBot Educator Success Story: Doug Ferguson at Martin Sortun Elementary


Doug Ferguson had no idea what to expect when he was asked to become the STEM Integration Specialist at Martin Sortun Elementary School. The school created this brand new role, a first of its kind, to help advance the school’s STEM curriculums. Ferguson, who taught 5th and 6th grade for ten years, had the freedom to define the role but only had one year to determine how he’d make an impact.

By the end of the year, Ferguson was able to empower STEM teachers, implement fun, standard-approved lessons, and advance learning outcomes using 3D printing. To mark his success, his term was extended another two years and the position was opened in other schools across the state. Now, ten people across Washington state have been hired to fill this role at other schools. Read on to learn how Doug Ferguson is reinforcing STEM education in his town of Kent, Washington and inspiring a new trend across the state.

“3D Printing addresses a huge number of STEM learning concepts.”

Bringing 3D Printing to Martin Sortun Elementary

After spending some time with friends who work in engineering, Ferguson discovered 3D printing with MakerBot. “The first time I saw it, I said, “Wow, 3D printing addresses a huge number of STEM learning concepts,”’ Ferguson says. Determined to secure a MakerBot for the school’s technology lab, he turned to DonorsChoose.org, a popular education-focused crowdsourcing network. Over the next two years, Ferguson would use funding from DonorsChoose and several independent grants to purchase a MakerBot Replicator 2, a MakerBot Replicator, and 6 MakerBot Replicator Minis. In collaboration with Martin Sortun’s classroom educators, Ferguson has since incorporated 3D printing into everyday lessons for grades 3 through 6.

Building Exciting New STEM Curriculums

“Because the printers pretty much work right out of the box, they are user-friendly enough that our teachers are comfortable using them.”

As a STEM Integration Specialist, Ferguson conducts 3D printing trainings for the school’s staff, coaches educators in building new STEM curriculums, and co-teaches 3D printing lessons. “Because the printers pretty much work right out of the box, they are user-friendly enough that our teachers are comfortable using them,” Ferguson explains. “MakerBot’s efforts to produce resources like instruction manuals and webinars have helped as well.” He also provides on-site professional development for any teachers who might need extra help implementing new technology into their lessons.


Ferguson also teaches an enrichment class for 5th graders who are excelling in Math. He uses MakerBot solutions to challenge them with more advanced projects. In his lessons, students use 3D printing to help them perform tasks that involve calculating decimals, performing long division, scaling measurements, maximizing areas, and more.

3D Printing Lessons That Make an Impact

Using MakerBot, Ferguson could seamlessly integrate multiple STEM subjects into cohesive, standard-approved projects. “3D printing is a great way to make abstract mathematical concepts concrete. It helps us explore measurements, fractions, decimals, area, perimeter, and volume in engaging ways. These topics are all congruent with Common Core Math standards,” Ferguson says.

These projects also incorporate concepts found in Next Generation Science Standards. “We also cover Crosscutting Concepts in Science where we explore patterns found in ideas and nature. We’re able to identify problems and develop solutions. The last area we focus on is Disciplinary Core Ideas, where we explore engineering design standards that are universally applicable for use in 3D printing.” With these 3D printing projects, Ferguson could build strong, layered STEM foundations in uniquely engaging ways.

“The new Thingiverse Education page shows a strong dedication to supporting educators… I haven’t seen this level of outreach, support, and interest in education from any other 3D printing companies.”

Now 3D printing savvy, Martin Sortun’s educators regularly use TinkerCad and Thingiverse to help them jumpstart new 3D printing lessons. “TinkerCad is extremely user-friendly. And Thingiverse has a vibrant educator community that helps us with finding new activities. It’s a great resource to use when you don’t have time to start things from scratch.”

These resources have given educators the confidence to think outside of the box and use their expertise to create exciting new lesson plans. Past projects include creating balloon cars, earthquake resistant structures, energy grid simulations, cube volume measurements, buoyancy lessons, and more. “The new Thingiverse Education page also shows a strong dedication to supporting educators… I haven’t seen this level of outreach, support, and interest in education from any other 3D printing companies.”

What Lies Ahead

Ferguson’s new position was only guaranteed to last one year. Now, thanks to his success advancing STEM at Martin Sortun Elementary, he’s been asked to return for his third year in a row. “I’d say integrating 3D printing has helped,” Ferguson says. “3D printing is a great application of our elementary standards. It provides a very strong standards-based opportunity for technology integration.” He’s also mentioned that the process of transforming a student’s thought or idea into a physical reality is “powerful,” and believes it adds a new level of engagement for students.

“3D printing prepares students with advanced knowledge of rapid prototyping, basic engineering, design, and problem-solving by asking students to invent solutions for their everyday lives.”

Ferguson plans to continue using 3D printing as a tool for preparing students for jobs of the future. “I’ve read in many places that our Kindergartners will grow up to find that possibly more than 50% of jobs they face in the future don’t exist as of right now,” he says. “3D printing prepares students with advanced knowledge of rapid prototyping, basic engineering, design, and problem-solving by asking students to invent solutions for their everyday lives.” In his role, Ferguson will continue to empower teachers, inspire students, and make an impact on the future of STEM learning at his school. As a MakerBot Educator, he’s positioned to achieve more than ever before with fast, reliable, classroom-ready 3D printing.

To dig deeper into how 3D printing can be applied to your STEAM curriculum, check out the free lesson plans, tips, best practices, and more at Thingiverse Education!

December 22 2016

How BioLite Used MakerBot to Meet Impossible Deadlines and Cut Costs Promoting the BaseLantern


Professional-Quality Product Packaging at Less Than Half the Cost

Lean Startups Can Save Time and Money on Product Packaging by Post-Processing MakerBot PLA Filament

Whether you’re camping, glamping, or just plain roughing it, BioLite wants to transform how we use energy off the grid. This Brooklyn-based startup redesigns traditional outdoor products, like stoves and flashlights, with high-tech, sustainable energy innovations so that each will work without fossil fuels. Its advanced models can store power or even charge your mobile devices.

For BioLite’s latest product, the BaseLantern, the company’s design team took this tech-to-tradition approach in an unexpected way with MakerBot. The BaseLantern is a sleek, portable lantern that you can control with your smartphone. It will light up your campsite, charge your devices, and give you power usage stats over Bluetooth via an app. To promote it at the 2016 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show, BioLite needed to present a near final model months before its release and in its actual packaging.

Having finalized other marketing materials for the packaging beforehand, BioLite had one week to create blister packs for 10 products. In order to meet such a tight deadline, the design team relied on MakerBot’s 3D printers to save approximately $7,000 and accelerate the process of creating blister packs.


Post-Processing to Vacuum-Forming

BioLite chose blister packs because it’s an exposed-style of packaging that lets customers interact with the product more. For example, the BaseLantern comes programmed with a Demo Mode so users can see how it cycles through all of its lighting modes.

Blister packs are typically produced using vacuum-forming, an industrial manufacturing technique where sheets of plastic are heated and formed over metal, wood, or plastic molds. In the past, BioLite used outside vendors for prototyping blister packs, which typically required a 10-day turnaround time and higher costs.


As Director of Design at BioLite, Anton Ljunggren elaborates, “Before we had a MakerBot, we outsourced the full prototype production of the blister packs to a model making house. The cost for one package [two blister halves] would then be $600 per blister or $1,200 for a full package. This summer we made 10 new products so the cost to outsource it all would have been $12,000. Plus, a rush order would up the cost by 50% to 100%.”

Given that the BaseLantern is no bigger than a sandwich, the design team 3D-printed packaging molds on the MakerBot Replicator (5th Gen), one of its three MakerBot 3D Printers; the others being a recently acquired Replicator+ and Replicator Mini+. After, the PLA molds were sanded, primed, and painted to ensure smoothness. To note, BioLite could have also contracted 3D printed molds to an outside company but that would have multiplied costs and time.

As a member of the Brooklyn New Lab, an incubation space for hardware-focused entrepreneurs and startups, BioLite’s team could then use the vacuum-forming machine there to create the blister packs. All together, BioLite’s costs were roughly $5,000, accounting for 3D printing, the labor to post-process prints and use the vacuum-forming machine, a New Lab membership, as well as the cost of plastic for the blister packs. Ljunggren sums up the benefits with, “We saved about $7,000 on having the MakerBot and doing it ourselves. Plus we got it done faster than any shop could have turned it around for us.”


Faster, Better Processes from Scratch

“3D printing with MakerBot allows us to iterate and try different ideas. Before, if we’re going to pay $600 for a blister pack, we want to make sure that’s the final one. Now we can try completely different blisters because it’s not that much more work for us if we’re already doing it,” says Ljunggren. With MakerBot’s professional solutions, Ljunggren and his team have the freedom to very quickly bring ideas to life at low-cost. BioLite can upend old processes to uniquely create faster, more cost-effective solutions that achieve better results for the business. In this case, the molds significantly cut down on marketing costs and allowed BioLite to meet a deadline that would otherwise be impossible.


A Bigger Picture for Success

Meeting the deadline for the Outdoor Market trade show was especially important. Thousands of buyers from retailers regularly attend, looking to purchase bulk orders for the latest, greatest products. With a near final BaseLantern, BioLite could show off how it works, what it looks like before it’s even manufactured, how it hangs on the shelf, and how it might hold up when shipped en masse to stores.

As with all companies, generating revenue is essential; however, BioLite has a higher goal. It uses profits from its consumer camping products to support its mission in developing countries like Africa and India. Because cooking indoors over smoky stoves leads to millions of premature deaths worldwide, BioLite sells low-cost smoke-free stoves that require half the fuel, burn biomass, and charge cell phones or small LED lights.

For More Information About Post-Processing

MakerBot provides solutions for the wider needs of professionals, including guides on how to post-process 3D prints. To learn more about vacuum-forming, check out this guide.

January 28 2016

MakerBot Learning: ABS Filament
MakerBot Learning: PLA Filament
MakerBot Learning: PLA & ABS Filament

January 22 2016

MakerBot + Stratasys | Robert Welch LTD.

November 24 2015

Meet the Makers: Holy Faya

November 12 2015

Meet the Makers: Francis Bitonti

October 30 2015

Meet the Makers: Hod Lipson

October 01 2015

MakerBot Stories | University of Maryland

September 14 2015

Bay Area Makeathon 2015

August 18 2015

MakerBot Stories | The Oregon Pint

August 12 2015

The Nuts & Bolts of 3D Printing with the MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer
The Nuts & Bolts of 3D Printing with the MakerBot Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printer

July 28 2015

Swapping the MakerBot Replicator Smart Extruder -Web
What's So Smart About the Smart Extruder? Web

July 27 2015

MakerBot 3D Ecosystem
MakerBot Stories | Jigs and Fixtures

July 24 2015

MakerBot Stories | Coolest Cooler

July 23 2015

MakerBot Factory Grand Opening 7.22
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