Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Can You Teach Innovation?

Today's guest post is by Scott Harmon, Z Corporation VP of Business Development

“We need to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world”
-President Obama
 State of the Union, Jan. 25, 2011

For years, leaders across business, government and education have expressed increasing concern about America’s continued decline in fields like engineering and manufacturing. Student performance continues to lag other developed nations, especially in math, science and engineering fields. Companies continue to ship engineering and manufacturing jobs overseas. Government efforts to counteract these trends do not appear to be working.

Everyone seems to agree that there’s a problem. Everyone seems to be trying to solve it, but for some reason we continue to lose ground in critical innovation competencies like engineering and manufacturing. Why? Because Thomas Edison was right. He said:

“None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes. What it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.”

Trial after Trial. 99% Perspiration. Real innovation is hard. Engineering is hard. Math is hard. Science is hard. It’s no wonder kids don’t like learning these subjects. They see all the trial and hard work, but don’t get to experience the joy of innovation, the inspirational aspects until much later.

Z Corp. developed a basic curriculum of materials that will help students derive the most educational benefit from their ZPrinters. The curriculum is oriented around the National Science Education Standards for Technological Design as developed by the National Research Council. The members of the National Research Council are drawn from the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine.

In the hands of great teachers, Z Corporation 3D printers and the accompanying curricula provide the kinds of inspirational experiences that motivate students to explore tough subjects like engineering and architecture. Low cost, easy to use 3D printers in the classroom help kids experience the joy of making things, the thrill that comes from creating something that works. With 3D printers, kids can experience engineering and architectural design all the way through to the physical solution they designed. They’re not simulating. They’re not pretending. They’re not looking at someone else’s work. They’re creating.

“Showing off their innovations in the trophy case is a point of pride for SITHS students and keeps them inspired to continually improve their work.”
-Frank Mazza, Instructor, Staten Island Technical High School

“When students hold parts in their hands, they’re closing the loop. Until then, it’s all conceptual, virtual and 2D. Completing the circle is important. It turns kids on.”
-Bruce Weirich, Instructor, Ontario High School, Mansfield, OH

Innovation, invention, and engineering may be 99% Perspiration, but if we can help kids experience the 1% Inspiration, the joy of creating, maybe we can get back to out-innovating, out-educating and out-building the rest of the world.

Free AEC Event (New York City):

How Leading Architects Leverage 3D Printing for Smarter, Competitive Design (Microsol Resources)