Portland Community College Builds Maker Culture


There’s a saying that people will use to describe a person who is especially strong in some way: “A force of nature.”

One of my first stops, earlier this year, was to Portland, Oregon. There I met Gregg Meyer, the Interim Dean of Math and Industrial Tech at Portland Community College – Sylvania campus, and a man that I would consider a force of nature. Some people have tons of physical energy, and Gregg does, but in our few hours together I could constantly sense, in a figurative sense, this intellectual curiosity and hum, if you will.

Portland Community College Makers Manufacturing

Gregg Meyer, Interim Dean of Math and Industrial Tech at Portland Community College – Sylvania campus

We met in February when I drove to Portland to hang out with a few people to talk about the HP Sprout #GoMakeThings project, to hear the latest from area makers, inventors, business owners, and, a very pleasant surprise, to sit down with Gregg.

Sit down is not accurate — we practically ran around multiple buildings and areas so that he could show me the amazing maker space that the college is creating. And the manufacturing training areas they maintain or are expanding. Here’s an email snippet from one of our recent conversations to give you an idea of what Gregg is doing for the Portland student and maker population:

“Sorry for the slow response. I’m running two parallel digital fab camps with nearly 70 kids in total and it’s been a bit crazy. One is a high school student program that will earn them 8 college credits (3D printing, lasers, digitizing scanners, MasterCAM, CNC router and a project class). During this 4-week program they’ll design and fab an old-school board game from scratch using mostly rapid prototyping machines and a touch of metal working for dessert.

“The middle school program starting this morning will focus on digital vinyl cutters and learning how to build a micro-business around them (each kid gets to keep their own machine). 

“Then there’s my real job being dean of Math and Industrial Tech. Plus, I’ll have a new job, already starting, where I will be leading the development of a new PCC campus out in Scappoose, Oregon that is to become an Advanced Manufacturing Research Center consortium with regional universities and industry partners. That will be a dirt-up multi-year endeavor.”

Portland Community College Makers Manufacturing

As readers here know, I have been working on an HP Sprout project, using it in my workshop and experiencing what it has to offer for small business owners, indie artisans, and educators and students. I found myself genuinely impressed and decided to take it with me on various visits I had planned for 2016, traveling around the country. I only made a handful of stops, but as always, people and their creativity amazed me.

Gregg and PCC were one of those amazing stops. This sign says a lot about what he is trying to do, starting with PCC.

Portland Community College Makers Manufacturing

* * * * *

You can check out what Gregg and PCC are up to here:

The Makerspace at PCC

STEM resources at PCC

Final Note: The HP Sprout Pro is a new kind of all-in-one computer that enables teachers and students to make, design, and customize the world around them. Let us know what you’re doing with Sprout by sharing ideas with me on Twitter and use the hashtag: #GoMakeThings.

Additional HP Sprout Resources

Tutorials and How-To’s

HP Sprout YouTube channel

Inspirational Projects

Where To See, Try, Buy

Disclosure: HP is a long-time client, having partly sponsored my national 3DRV roadtrip, and contracting me to do research and work on the Sprout. They have loaned me the HP Sprout Pro for part of this project.


Pokémon GO Can Help Your Business


Pokémon GO is moving faster than any other game in history. It is surpassing some powerful social networks, such as, Twitter. The game is also doing a terrific job of getting the small business owner to pay attention to new ways to engage people, that is, customers and prospects.

People familiar with 3D tech, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), are thrilled because it represents a massive tsunami that can propel these technologies into the limelight of contemporary culture and business use. This is a very good thing for the large number of AR/VR/MR developers and entrepreneurs.

I wanted to share some statistics via some tech blogs I read:

My friend John Biehler shared this and it made my son and me chuckle:

Apparently people can’t aim #pokemongo #3dprinting

A photo posted by John Biehler (@johnbiehler) on


Tennessee Technology University And The Business Of Making 3D Practical


Finding a college or university that is entrepreneurial is not an easy task. Some will speak about it or create a course with the term embedded in it. Some schools like to grab hold of the buzzwords, but Tennessee Technological University (TTU) in Cookeville is doing something daily to inspire makers, build makerspaces, and enable local entrepreneurs: Putting machines and equipment into their hands.  

As I wrote in last week’s post about the STEAM Junction makerspace in Burlington (link at end), it is clear that a wide variety of people believe in the value of making. I used to think it was just a re-do of the days of old when we had woodshop, metalshop, autoshop, a mix of art classes, but TTU is demonstrating it is far more than that.

2016-07-08 _TTU _Fidan (17)

In just a few short hours, the Department of Manufacturing and Engineering Technology team, thanks to Dr. Ismail Fidan (right in image above) who invited me to visit, took me on a tour of a variety of spaces and efforts underway at the University. Here is a short list:

  • TTU has a Maker Space called the “iMakerSpace” and was created as a University-wide center (located in the library) under the leadership of the Colleges of Engineering and Business. The iMakerSpace serves as a focal point on campus to provide training, service, partnership, research and evaluation in Innovation and Entrepreneurship to all disciplines.

The space houses a work in progress that I found impressive: A 3D Printing Vending Machine. Upload your file with your student identification card, wait til you get notified that the print is complete, then come pick it up. A robotic arm and conveyor belt system goes and gently gets your object for delivery. I stood there gaping at it and never even took a photo! Here’s the poster-board description of it, for now.

2016-07-08 _TTU _Fidan (12) v2

The University has even invested in a foundry — yes, a metal-melting facility. While visiting, I met public high school teacher Jay Watson, who is at TTU for the summer on the Research Opportunities for Teachers program (funded by a National Science Foundation grant under the Engineering program) to study 21st century advanced manufacturing applications with a traditional casting process. If you are wondering if manufacturing has a future, look to TTU for some great ideas. You can keep up with what Jay is doing to merge his summer research project with his full time job of teaching high school students on Twitter or his website: Mr. Watson.

  • 3D Printing Labs (I visited two while I was on campus). It was in one of these labs where I set up the HP Sprout and we did some scanning. No shortage of enthusiasm from those present. Dr. Fidan, Jay Watson, and I scanned this interesting looking creature that someone had 3D printed.

3D Scan w Fidan and Watson

If you have built something within one of the 3D printing labs, or the iMakerspace, or perhaps the Foundry, the school has additional resources to help you think about the business side of things, too.

  • The Biz Foundry is a business accelerator (not within engineering department) of the Upper Cumberland Entrepreneurial Foundation, one of nine in the state partnered with an organization called LaunchTN.
  • The school also was selected by the National Science foundation (NSF) to provide Tennessee’s first implementation of an I-Corps Site. The I-Corps Site’s purpose is to foster innovation among students and faculty, promote collaboration with regional partners and linkages in the innovation ecosystem, as well as develop a National Innovation Network.

Like many locations I visit, I show up to listen and talk about 3D tech. I brought the HP Sprout with me because, well, sometimes you just want to hang out with people and share the stuff you enjoy. I knew it was a like-minded group.

I use the hashtag #GoMakeThings but there’s no need to tell anyone at the Tennessee Technological University to do that — they already are, in a big way. And in the process of “making things” or exploring how they are made, they are inspiring students and local entrepreneurs to forget the buzzwords and make something of long-lasting value: an inventor’s spirit and mindset.


Disclosure: HP is a long-time client, having partly sponsored my national 3DRV roadtrip, and contracting me to do research and work on the Sprout. They have loaned me the HP Sprout Pro for part of this project.

I am wrapping up my HP Sprout project, but if you are interested to check out the system, here a a few links and resources:

How The HP Sprout Adds Steam To STEAM Junction Makerspace



How The HP Sprout Adds Steam To STEAM Junction Makerspace


Makerspaces are popping up all over the USA and the world. Some of them start quickly when a team of people see a need in a school or library. Others, like STEAM Junction in Burlington, North Carolina, start by first building a community.

STEAM Junction w Ben Harris and HP Sprout

The Alamance Makers Guild started in 2011 as a way to engage with area residents who wanted to gather around making things. It was open to people of all ages and encouraged people to start small maker-type businesses, what I like to call Small Urban Manufacturers (SUM), and to create new manufacturing jobs for the county.

Those efforts became the Burlington Mini Maker Faire and that group’s efforts, spearheaded by Bennett Harris (himself an entrepreneur and creator of the well-known Reinventing Edison DIY kits), became the STEAM Junction – a for-profit makerspace that is deeply tied to the community.

I first met Ben when I was one of the early mini Maker Faire organizers for my local area. Then we met at the Atlanta mini Maker Faire while I was on the national 3DRV roadtrip. He keeps me apprised of his many projects and as I started talking about the HP Sprout he reached out.

“I had seen the HP Sprout advertised before it was available for purchase and immediately knew that this new paradigm in PC interaction was perfect for educational and creative use. I liked the fact that the Sprout is a powerful windows PC in its own right (processor, speed, storage, memory, screen size) but also has many new and intuitive ways to interact and create content and designs,” Ben said.

Ben knew that the Sprout would fit well into their new STEAM Junction Makerspace and purchased the Sprout before he even signed a lease on the building. Like me, Ben is often looking at the many different apps and uses for them with the wide range of people who visit or use the space: from K-12 students to adults – all doing creative projects.

STEAM Junction use of HP Sprout Leopoly 3D App 2

Using 3D apps can be challenging sometimes, so the easier to use the better. Ben and his team have been happily using Leopoly for 3D as a design tool (photo of vase above) in addition to the stop-motion video application (which I wrote about here), and the ability to share the screen via WiDi and select on the fly between the screen, webcam, or mat camera for instructional presentations. I have not used this feature, but love the idea of it. Interacting via remote locations in this way is a great idea for distance learning, among others.

Check out this YouTube video of Ben getting interviewed by Dale Dougherty of Make Magazine and Maker Faire:

I have been a fan of Ben’s work and passion for many years. The new STEAM Junction makerspace is an exciting and important update from his growing town of Burlington, North Carolina. I’m eager to see what else they do in that new space.


Final Note: The HP Sprout Pro is a new kind of all-in-one computer that enables teachers and students to make, design, and customize the world around them. Let us know what you’re doing with Sprout by sharing ideas with me on Twitter and use the hashtag: #GoMakeThings.

Additional HP Sprout Resources

Tutorials and How-To’s

HP Sprout YouTube channel

Inspirational Projects

Where To See, Try, Buy

Disclosure: HP is a long-time client, having partly sponsored my national 3DRV roadtrip, and contracting me to do research and work on the Sprout. They have loaned me the HP Sprout Pro for part of this project.


Bring Crayons To 3D Life With The HP Sprout Crayola Color Alive App


Each month, as I use the HP Sprout, I wonder who else is using it and what apps they love. Recently, I wrote about how we used the Stop Motion app to capture and create a LEGO minifigure movie (a short one, no pun intended) in record time.

Knowing there are plenty of other apps within the HP Sprout Marketplace – from the Origami Apprentice paper folding tutorial app to Martha Stewart’s “Craft Studio,” you could keep busy exploring the Sprout for quite some time.

So, I reached out on Facebook to see if anyone had any cool stories to share of the Sprout in the wild, so to speak. My favorite 3D modeling buddy, James Alday, responded quickly. He happened to be out with his family at the new Crayola Experience attraction in Orlando, Florida and was watching his children play in a room full of HP Sprouts. You can check out James’ Instagram feed – ImmersedN3D to see some of his fun 3D creations (including a great fireworks holder to keep little fingers safe). Photos I’m sharing here are courtesy of James, unless otherwise noted.

Crayons Bring Creations To Life In 3D

Crayola Experience w HP Sprout by James Alday _ImmersedN3D.com

On the Crayola Experience website, the Color Magic section is the area in the attraction where the HP Sprout is located and it offers, among other apps, the use of the Color Alive app (by Daqri 4D) so that kids can bring their coloring to life. It is rather fascinating because the characters that a child colors in will pop up on the screen, in 3D, and are instantly accessible to move, enlarge, and in some cases, move about the screen.

“Ever wonder what coloring will be like in the year 2050?  In this augmented reality experience you can actually see your coloring page come alive!  Virtually control the dragon you just colored as it roars to life and responds to your direction! See it play in a background of your choosing and don’t forget to take a selfie!” – from the Crayola Experience website

Okay, back to James Alday:

The Crayola Experience – it’s like a crayon theme park. We were showing some out of town family members around various Orlando attractions. We had never been to this Crayola place before; it is fairly new. But we just knew, from friends, that the kids would have a great time. It was pretty cool. It was fun for the dads as well. I would say there were at least 20 stations, 2 rows of 10. And they were very popular. I was shocked to see the amount of tech they had installed. A lot of interactive VR type stations.

It was great because the kids had a variety of pictures they could chose to color, then scan them in with the Sprout machines and watch the drawings come to life. It would apply their coloring to a 3D animated version of the design. Then you can take selfie photos and have them emailed to you.

Crayola Experience HP Sprout by James Alday _ImmersedN3D.com

If you are looking for ideas for how others are using the Sprout, check out their gallery of projects and ways that people are doing so: the Creator Gallery.

If you are an educator, read my interview/discussion with Bekka Stasny, middle school educator in Florida, share some of how she expects to use the Sprout in the classroom this coming school year. Big list of ideas for students, but you do not have to be in school to use the many apps, nor do you need to be a kid! 30+ STEAM Classroom Activities Potential With HP Sprout Pro.

Thanks to James, I learned about the very innovative and fun Crayola Experience attraction, but more so how it is inspiring kids (of all ages) to check out what 3D is all about and how you can participate and do it as well.

Disclosure: HP is a client, but as always, my content is my own.


HP Sprout With Stop Motion App


The LEGO minifigures advanced, millimeter by millimeter marching across the tiny stage, as we took hundreds of photos for the basic stop motion video. If you have ever done anything with a stop motion concept, you know that it is a labor of love and managing tiny movements, incremental changes.

The HP Sprout Stop Motion App aims to make that way easier and it is one of the built-in applications that my son and I used to evaluate the new 3D computing system. Even though it was years later, we used LEGO minifigures again and this time created a chase scene across the HP Touch Mat. The mat is just what you would expect – an interactive screen that rests horizontally, where you might have the customary keyboard.
Stop Motion App post
We had a blast with those first stop motion videos. They were totally goofy, hacked together, pre-teen nonsense, but the Stop Motion app was so easy to use it lowered our barriers to logic. As I have written in other posts about the Sprout, it is loaded with interactive functions (you can read the 30+ STEAM Classroom Activities Potential With HP Sprout Pro here) so the user-friendliness is well established.

The Touch Mat serves as your stage or capture area. Place your objects, minifigures, whatever, on the mat and then on the actual Sprout touch-enabled computer screen (the vertical one; as there are two to get used to) you can simply click the Stop Motion “take photo” button. It allows you to set a delay of a few seconds, too, which is helpful as depending on how your set is arranged you may want to move your hand out of the way more carefully, thus you move slower, so it is a handy option. The app also records sound so we added in some screams and shouts as the LEGO minifigure raced away from the Indiana Jones-style “boulder” (actually a wooden disk) chasing him across the set.

So the HP Sprout system is loaded with cameras and it makes the Stop Motion experience easy. So easy, that I found myself immediately ready to just create, without concern for “if it was perfect” or other normal mental barriers. I know that people who test and evaluate systems prefer to find other ways to explain how something works than to say, “It’s easy.” But it truly is.

Of course, this creative freedom was based on ignorance of true stop motion genius taking place out there with the Sprout. Had I seen some of the work of others, perhaps I would have been reluctant to make our own goofy movies, but hopefully not!

The creative stop motion genius I am referring to is Hayley Morris, who owns and runs Shape & Shadow, a full service animation studio, and who created Pluck, a short stop motion video with the HP Sprout that is quite amazing. I encourage you to take a look at not only the finished short film, but the making of it, where Hayley explains some of what she did with the Sprout (combining different built-in apps), some explanations of how she did it, and why it seems to be a tool she will continue to use.

As I wrap up this post, having made our own fun little stop motion films, and looking at what a professional like Hayley Morris (and her brother Sean who did sound) can do with the HP Sprout, is inspiring. The Sprout is not only a computer, but a mini studio where you can create in ways that were more tedious before, which Hayley alludes to, and get to work on an idea versus fiddling with equipment. Is the Sprout the perfect system? No, because one does not exist. However, it does offer a way to get work and play done in new ways, in less time, and arguably with less hassle. Less hassle means you can focus on your creativity, on your students, on your customers, and that, I would argue, is valuable in more than an incremental way.

Disclosure: HP is a client and they loaned me the HP Sprout Pro as part of a project. As always, my content is my own.


3D Printing Goliath (Sam), STEM, SWW 2016 Experience and Future of Design


At 15 feet tall, the ABCD 3D Printer from SeeMeCNC is the tallest 3D printer in the world. Throughout the SOLIDWORKS World 2016 show, I found myself going back to their printer, to watch it in action. And to marvel at what they had done, on a whim, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

John Olafson, VP and Cofounder of SeeMeCNC, and I met and spent some time talking at the big Maker Faire Bay Area event back in 2014, so it was terrific to get some maker time with him in Dallas. We talked about how they got to building the huge #PartDaddy 3D printer that you see in this photo.

Giant Delta 3D Printer SeeMeCNC PartDaddy SWW2016

The ‪#‎PartDaddy large format delta at ‪#‎SWW16. And ‪#‎SeeMeSam life size 24 hour print. https://www.facebook.com/seemecnc/posts/965546083482238

Since Dassault Systèmes is a client, I was invited to spend a few days at this year’s SOLIDWORKS World show in Dallas. Yes, it was in February, and yes, it took me this long to start digesting some of the many things I experienced at that show. #SWW2016 Dallas – It is a huge show with thousands of 3D CAD experts in attendance.

The highlights, for me, and why they matter now.

Spending 30 minutes one-on-one with, Gian Paolo Bassi, Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS CEO, to explore what they are doing. Sure, I heard him from the main stage, but it is rare for a CEO of a company as large as SOLIDWORKS to devote time to a little guy like me. I was and am honored for that time. I learned a ton that I’ll share a bit in this post and in some future ones.

In a nutshell, Gian Paolo Bassi started me thinking on the huge impact that STEM initiatives have on young (and older) makers and students. We spent some time talking, and I’m going to paraphrase him here, about how software needs to get out of the way and let people create, let them imagine, let them design. Their new Xdesign effort is certainly working towards this as well as the new Apps for Kids programs they are building.

“Design starts when we free people’s minds from the constraint of any program — where the software operates as an aid and not a hindrance so the user can move more thoughtfully through the creation process. When this type of freedom occurs, innovation is more likely to happen. Great design is possible when the digital tools are there to help, to assist (to aid) without being obtrusive.”  –Gian Paolo Bassi

Between this conversation with the Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS CEO and working on several other National Science Foundation projects (more on those in a later post, but one that stands out is the STEM Guitar Building Institute), has me thinking deeply about how STEM education is working (or not) to help young people wrap their head around the future of design and making. Specifically, how they do that, intrigues me, and I have a deeper post on some conversations I have had with STEM educators and institutions.

One of the ideas that came to me since attending SOLIDWORKS World was this: These big national software conventions should host and run mini Maker Faires within their exhibit hall as a way to connect to the increasingly important maker community around the event location. More essential, it would allow the area makers to have an impact on the software and manufacturing executives attending from all over the world. If you want to talk about the Future of Design, you could do so with the many minds that are actively doing things with your software, or with the ideas you share. Sure, the customers are critical to that, but why not mingle the two audiences.

I also met with some sharp guys at TechSoft3D.com who basically have used what Adobe PDF made possible, viewing objects in 3D within a PDF, and made it more robust by letting you pull in a variety of CAD data. Pretty amazing.

Already mentioned in another post, from that trip, I talked about the team at Sindoh that is building on its long heritage as a 2D printer company and starting to sell the 3Dwox printer. Had the chance to sit down with Rob Bodor from ProtoLabs about the neat work that company is doing to make it possible for you to do small run production; either injection molded parts, 3D printed parts, or machined parts. Like many up and coming networks, their advanced software lets them keep it affordable for them to produce just one item for you.

Last, but certainly not least, I spent time with my good friends at Stratasys to talk about the many changes coming in 3D printing from one of the dominant players in the marketplace. Their multi-material, multi-color (as in true full color), 3D printers are always impressive.

Oh, and that 15 foot tall delta 3D printer from SeeMeCNC – it was built on a half-joking bet. The company had just received a big shipment of materials to size and cut for their super popular and successful Rostock MAX v2 Desktop 3D Printer Kit ($999) and a Meetup gang that was hanging around the shop commented about the long metal frame pieces (you guessed it, about 15 feet long) and how it would be cool to see if they could make a printer that big… Well, that’s how big ideas come to life. #SeeMeSam is the resulting creation. Photo below.

SeeMeSam 3DP creation SWW2016

CAPTION: The ‪#‎PartDaddy large format delta at ‪#‎SWW16. #‎SeeMeSam life size 24 hour print. https://www.facebook.com/seemecnc/posts/965546083482238



National Attention On STEM, Maker, and 3D Resources


Let’s keep this in the present tense: America is a nation of makers, tinkerers, inventors, and entrepreneurs. I just updated that sentence from a White House press release I received about the National Week of Making. Did you know we have a celebration at a national level around making? It is sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the message came from Andrew Coy, Senior Advisor for Making.


If you wonder about our nation’s commitment to supporting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), then you can wonder no longer. There is basically a team of makers inside the Executive Office of the President in The White House. They are keen on helping students and small businesses figure out how laser cutters, 3D printers, and design software work – so that they can enable more Americans to design and build, with a practical goal of fostering advanced manufacturing in the U.S.

Take it one step further inside the government food chain and you will find the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, to name just a few, that are encouraging STEM.

Let me share a few of my STEM favorites. A few are directly related to client projects I’m doing in STEM, 3D, Education for the Guitar Building Institute, a Materials in STEM conference (both NSF projects), Dassault Systemes SOLIDWORKS, and the HP Sprout Pro project, but all are excellent resources to consider, whether you are an educator, a student looking for ideas, or a parent looking to challenge your child.

I have talked to five or six educators who have been part of the Guitar Building Institute (National Science Foundation project) and the enthusiasm is simply off the charts. Think about this: At what point in your life did you dream of becoming a musician? Come on, admit it, you likely played air guitar or sang in front of a mirror at some point in your teenage years. So, why not combine STEM and music to create an unstoppable combination? That’s what this detailed program does – shows teachers how to build guitars and share that with students of all ages. Note: On their website, scroll down to the image of the guitar and hover over the many parts of the guitar to see the lessons, in brief.

Most people in STEM circles have heard of the “maker movement” or the Fab Labs initiative from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In essence, they are the same thing, in my mind: Reinvent Shop class. Bring modern equipment into wood and metal shop type classes; Shop class, on steroids, if you will. SOLIDWORKS partnered with Fab Labs to give major access to the makers who hang out in more than 350 Labs around the world. The White House has an entire section devoted to Maker Ed as well.

Dremel is well-known for its handheld tool that carves, grinds, polishes. Did you know that they introduced a 3D printer not long ago? It is appropriately called the Idea Builder. It gets solid reviews within 3D printing circles. The company has partnered with MyStemKits.com for user-friendly lessons (meeting common core standards). I have one in my workshop as part of the HP Sprout Pro project.

A more advanced course curriculum is offered by Stratasys that explains the process of 3D printing from start to finish. This is written for the college level student, but some aspects of it could be incorporated into a K12 curriculum.

Nearly all of 3D Printing involves materials at some level – and while not everything can be 3D printed yet, materials science is at the core of all we consider making. A great educational resource is MatEdU, a clearinghouse of teaching materials including labs, hands-on demonstrations, modules and papers, which can easily be integrated into a variety of courses, class-room settings, and industry. It is aimed mostly at educators, but also helpful for people looking to learn about new materials. In addition, they run an annual conference that I’m helping with (another NSF project) that helps educators learn about Materials in STEM innovations. You can check out their annual event for teachers: M-STEM 2016 here.

Makers Empire offers a variety of 3D printing lesson plans and challenges for kids K-8. They are based in Australia, but their material is beneficial for learning programs around the world and offers not only a support platform, but also software and lesson ideas.

Pitsco Education develops a variety of STEM based curriculum “missions” that allow students to create a variety of objects. In one, Vehicle Engineering, 3D printers are used to construct vehicles and then students can race to see first-hand which design worked the best. Design Solutions allows students to learn about the design and prototyping process.

The Invent to Learn Guide to 3D Printing in the Classroom: Recipe for Success is a book based curriculum program that contains step-by-step instructions for 3D printing as well as how to purchase and set up a 3D printer for your classroom.

The technology of 3D printing also allows educators to create manipulatives and building blocks that are printed from a 3D printer. I Can Make offers the design for Strawblox you can print yourself as well as unique curriculum integration kits and lesson plans also help develop STEM objectives for children in the classroom.

SeeMeCNC has developed an online resource with links to other resources including video tutorials. There are several modules that explain the basics of 3D printing and allow students to create a variety of items from step-by-step activity sheets.

One more resource before I close this post: Getting Smart is a blog that I regularly read and they have a great post: Your Students can be “Makers”: 16 Projects Invented by Teachers by Lindsey Own. In fact, here is a short list of my STEM favorites specifically from Getting Smart, the company blog I mention in the Forbes post.

Obviously, there are thousands more sites and resources. No one place has been able to collect them all. Feel free to share STEM and 3D resources that you know about in the comments.


30+ STEAM Classroom Activities With HP Sprout Pro


The HP Sprout Pro is a new kind of all-in-one computer that enables teachers and students to make, design, and customize the world around them. That sounds like a big claim, but it offers a combination of technologies to increase student engagement and exploration.

HP Sprout Pro w kids Touch Mat

Image Courtesy HP Sprout Pro

I have written about technical details for the HP Sprout Pro in other posts, but briefly, it is an all-in-one computer designed by HP, powered by Windows 10 with a 6th generation Intel Core i7 Processor. Links for the Sprout are at the end of this post.

It has two truly unique features – one is called the “HP Illuminator” which does some radical things, really, when you consider most computer systems. The Illuminator is a 3D scanner (2D scanning, too, but that is fairly easy to replicate) allowing you to capture objects in three dimensions and turn them into models or 3D prints.

The Sprout also projects and extends the typical upright screen on to an advanced 20-point Touch Mat (the second unique feature), serving as a horizontal, touchable second screen right on your table or desktop. You can place your hands on the light-based image of your screen and move things around, resize them, and more. Even better for the classroom, several students can interact with either surface, at the same time, because it is capable of multiple touch points.

This system is still pretty new, rather unheard of, so I had to reach out to different educators and maker types to see if anyone had one yet. I asked one of my favorite middle school science teachers, Bekka Stasny, from the Electa Lee Middle School in Florida, because if anyone had figured out how to get one into a classroom, it was Bekka. Indeed, she was expecting and planning on the HP Sprout Pro for next school year, and so I reached out to ask how she was planning to use it. Here’s what she shared:

Bekka Stasny AScienceTeacher website

“As part of my Innovative Space Project for the 2016-2017 school year, I’m going to be working on several areas with the HP Sprout Pro.

First, communication – I’m building ‘a classroom without walls.’ The Sprout Collaboration function will allow me to collaborate with science classes in the district and beyond. We’ll be able to share demonstrations, lessons, mentor students, and show projects to one another, just for starters.

Next, I’m contemplating how the Sprout will allow me to increase critical thinking skills. With the ability to scan and capture objects, students can remix them. And I believe lots of interesting and deep connections will happen for learners of all types thanks to this functionality. It looks pretty clear that it will spark imaginations. The Create Studio, for example, will let children model in clay, then scan it to a 3D model, which will let them then 3D print it on our favorite 3D Printer, the LulzBot TAZ 4. Plus, this is a great way to document learning and save it for later.

It will improve digital literacy overall. We plan to create portfolio and science journals, lab documentation. The Stop Motion film app where students can create stop motion films and narrate a science concept they are learning about looks like plain fun.”

–Bekka Stasny, AScienceTeacher.com

As we talked through Bekka’s plans, it got me thinking about creating a list of what the Sprout Pro could do, for a teacher and students. So, let me start with a mix of simple and advanced things you can do with it in the classroom:

  • You can scan in documents and objects in two dimensions (2D).
  • The built-in Doc Scan app lets you or your students easily scan homework and worksheets.
  • Students can capture the process of lab experiments, to include alongside notes and other annotations for final science lab reports.
  • Artifact Collection: Students can gather and capture artifacts from their neighborhood, community, school, or field trip such as leaves, coins, toys, found objects, and rocks. These artifacts can then be used in reports, projects, and other creative activities. The built-in app is called Sprout Create.
  • You can scan objects in three dimensions (3D) on the flat surface of the Touch Mat, or via the Capture Stage, an additional accessory that rotates 360 degrees and tilts as it does so enabling you to scan more of an object.
    • As Bekka Stasny suggests, students can scan an existing object, or perhaps, use their creativity in clay, and then 3D scan that personal creation for use with a 3D printer.
    • The 3D Capture app helps you produce high-resolution, full-color, three-dimensional scans of objects with just a few simple taps. Plus, it gives you options to re-do a scan and this is especially useful if you have done a series of scans. 3D Capture digitizes both color and depth information about objects so that students can bring them into the Sprout Create Studio. Once in the Sprout Create app, models can be edited, investigated, mashed, enhanced, and re-purposed for many creative projects. Models can be manipulated, explored, and customized in Microsoft 3D Builder, for 3D printing.
  • Related to the 2D scan function, once you capture an image, it can remain on the Touch Mat;
    • Then you can trace onto craft materials like cloth, wood, or paper.
    • Or, students might scan craft materials and create a digital collage.
    • Capture colors, textures, and objects to import into design apps like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Use captures to create backgrounds and bring textures into design projects.
    • For one more example, let’s say you scan in historical images and source documents to the Create app. Students can then use the marker and text tools to explain how the images relate to one another to better comprehend historical events in a visual format.
  • On its own, the HP Illuminator makes for a great science, math, or engineering lesson and project. Using structured light, the scanner offers a lesson for students on how this technology works, in addition to see it in action.
    • Size Up is an instant measurement app that comes in the HP Marketplace. Any object you place on the mat is measured. Various specimens or artifacts can be quickly measured, evaluated, and documented for science labs.
    • It could also serve for math lessons. According to Institute of Education Sciences (IES), there is strong evidence that mathematical problem solving in middle school can be improved by teaching students how to use visual representations — in its unique ability both to turn any 2D or 3D object into a visual representation or to support the creation of new physical objects via a 3D printer, Sprout can be an integral piece of the personalized learning experience.
  • For science class, take those collected specimens like rocks, leaves, fossils, and other physical objects. Scan them; Then make models. Compare objects. If the object can be separated, you could scan the parts and create model that can be broken apart and studied, piece by piece, or reassembled as part of a dissection.
  • From these scanning capabilities, one can do various mashups or remixes by combining multiple ideas or objects together.
  • A stop motion app is built into the HP Marketplace that has existing backgrounds built-in. Students can scan a LEGO mini-figure, as one example, and create a fun scene of that character. Or, they could use it to develop a step-by-step science lesson after 3D scanning a natural item from your last field trip, for instance.
  • The Sprout can be used as a stand-alone computer, of course, but with its displays and fast processors, it makes it ideal to explore 3D resources from the Smithsonian XD project, as just one example. The national museum makes many of its own detailed 3D scans available for teachers to download and explore, including some files for easy 3D printing. Often, you do not need a super-fast system to view, but once you start rendering and modifying 3D files, you need more power. The Sprout Pro is built for that.
  • Recording tutorial lessons is easy with the Sprout – combining the above 2D or 3D scans along with its standard high quality webcam video to capture you as you deliver lesson content.
    • Sprout has three built-in recording devices, the Webcam that that faces you, the HP Illuminator camera which faces down onto the Touch Mat like a document camera, and the main display which has screen recording capabilities.
    • These three cameras can be used together in the Video Capture app. You can actively use up to two cameras at the same time, allowing you to record multiple perspectives simultaneously.
    • With the Video Capture app you can easily demonstrate interactions with an object, including documents, tools, or other resources, on the Touch Mat camera, while also sharing your display, for software interaction, videos, or document reference, and record directly from your webcam.
  • Sprout also makes remote collaboration an interactive experience by moving beyond a single screen. Through the HP MyRoom software (pre-loaded), students can share, present, and engage through multi-screen video. Students can connect remotely to students in another classroom, learn from a distant expert mentor, or participate virtually in a field trip. The ability to physically manipulate images and objects within these contexts opens up all new collaborative possibilities.
  • Sprout and MyRoom have powerful built-in collaboration tools,
    • Including a ‘whiteboard’ space that collaborators can draw on together,
    • The ability to grab a snapshot of an object or document with Sprout and then annotate or manipulate that object in a shared space.
    • To use MyRoom, simply invite collaborators by putting their email address in when you’ve launched MyRoom.
    • It allows several devices, including tablets and phones, to simultaneously participate in the collaborative space.
  • Sprout is a great tool for lesson delivery. You can use the External Display Mixer app to share materials, plus:
    • I love this one: Use the touch mat like a smart-board (drawing with your finger, not a marker!).
    • Connect to a projector or large display with Sprout’s third screen HDMI output.
    • The app also allows you to zoom in up to 4x with the downward facing camera, effectively turning Sprout into a shared magnifying glass for examining specimens and artifacts.
    • Go on a virtual field trip, where the space you’re visiting would not otherwise be accessible to your group. Visit a science lab or research facility from across the world; touch and play with scanned objects the host shares with you.

In conclusion, educators are beginning to do amazing things with the Sprout Pro.  We’d love to hear what you’re doing with Sprout! Let us know what you’re doing with Sprout by sharing ideas with me on Twitter and use the hashtag: #GoMakeThings.

HP SproutNoCamera-right-Surf

Image Courtesy HP Sprout Pro

Additional HP Sprout Resources

Tutorials and How-To’s

HP Sprout YouTube channel

Inspirational Projects

Where To See, Try, Buy


Disclosure: HP is a long-time client, having partly sponsored my national 3DRV roadtrip, and contracting me to do research and work on the Sprout. They have loaned me the HP Sprout Pro along with the Dremel IdeaBuilder 3D Printer for part of this project.


Is the 3-D Camera Tipping Point Here?


Although 3-D cameras have been around for several years, it is only recently that they have begun to evolve from a gimmick or peripheral gadget to a core and essential part of computing.

Multiple industries that are dependent on excellent 3-D camera technology are garnering tremendous attention and experiencing rapid growth. This includes 3-D printing, IoT, virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence, medicine, and augmented reality (AR) to name a few.

Interested in 3D Scanning for the Classroom? Read this post on my explorations with the HP Sprout Pro.

The MIT Technology Review posted in 2012 asking if, and validating that, smart phones may be spreading faster than any other technology in human history (along with some cool graphs to show market penetration of nine technologies since 1876). As you can guess without even going to the post, smartphones have had adoption that eclipses every other tech phenomena.

Most industry analysts have not studied 3-D cameras as their own category (yet), but by evaluating related industry research and investments or acquisitions, a solid view will emerge. The market potential does not have a specific growth number, either, so again we’ll look at fields that rely on 3-D cameras. Is this what the tipping point looks like? Looking at the adoption of other now mainstream technologies (for instance, phone to mobile phone to smart phone) can provide a model for what’s happening now in 3-D.

In interviews with a relatively recent entrant, Orbbec, maker of the Astra 3D, I started thinking more of this up-and-coming industry. Their new product, Persee, is a “3-D camera-computer” not unlike the Kinect in appearance, but with more brains, a lot more brains. The 3-year-old company is well funded and has maintained a stealthy approach. Just like with 3-D printers, there are many startups and large brands trying to tap into this future opportunity.

As the title states, Google, Intel, Apple, Microsoft, and Sony are aggressively building or acquiring 3-D sensor technology plays. I’ll explore them in greater depth below and in other posts this week. The combination of 3-D sensors and other IoT (Internet of Things) sensors leads me to believe that new efforts by companies like Orbbec will drive even more adoption (and more acquisitions by the big brands).

The Market Sizing of Related 3-D Fields

  • Wohlers Report 2015 shows a market size of $4.1 Billion, referring to manufacturers producing and selling the actual machines. Disclosure: I served as a paid technical editor for a few chapters of this year’s Wohlers Report. Gartner (in a Forbes post by Louis Columbus) estimates that the 3-D printer market will be a $13B business by 2018, saying that the 3-D printer market is at an “inflection point.” However, 3-D printers don’t operate in a vacuum; they need files to print. The ability to create 3-D scans of people and physical objects is the purview of 3-D cameras.
  • IDC estimates that the (Internet of Things) IoT market size (Forbes) will exceed $7 trillion by 2020. Defined by networked systems’ ability to communicate without direct human interaction, many IoT scenarios are made possible by the existence of 3-D cameras. Indeed, a systems’ ability to do things in response to humans and environments requires a computer’s ability to see, hear and make sense of its surroundings.
  • The VR/AR space is growing beyond the confines of gaming and the living room. In recent years, there’s been rapid (speculative) penetration into training, infotainment, healthcare, and industrial use cases. At the core of virtual reality is the need for sensors. Some market estimates show it reaching $150 Billion by 2020.

My conclusion reflects what former Orbbec VP of Marketing, Heather Mitchell, shared with me as we closed an interview: “In the very near future it will be hard to remember a time when computers did not have 3-D cameras built in.”

The original full version of this post first appeared on Forbes in October 2015. Is the 3-D Camera Tipping Point Here? – Apple, Intel, Google, Microsoft, Sony