MakerBot partners with Donors Choose to bring 3D printing to the clasroom

3D printing and education have been courting for quite a while. From how-to maker books for kids to installing “Maker Labs” into public libraries, the idea of using additive construction to educate kids from kindergarten to high school has been an ambitious one, especially considering the cost of machines.

But Makerbot is attempting to jump the cost barrier by partnering with educational non-profit company Donors Choose to launch MakerBot Academy put a MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer in every classroom.

“Makerbot has education in its DNA,” Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot said at the company’s shop in Manhattan. “Years ago, I was a teacher, and I’m looking forward to working with classrooms again.”

To qualify for the program, a teacher just has to sign up for the printer through Donors Choose. Then, someone must make a base donation of $22.54. From there, the classroom can crowdfund to access the printer at a discounted price of $98 — that price includes the MakerBot Replicator 2, plus three filament rolls (in red, white and blue), a yearlong warranty and a curriculum plan. While crowdfunding is a large part of the endeavor, businesses like Autodesk(s adsk)  and America Makes are joining in among private donors like Bill and Melinda Gates and Pettis himself to help “match” funds to proliferate machines. Pettis hopes that this will help accelerate the process to put 5,000 machines in class.

“To get this done, we are going to have to do it together,” Pettis said in a press release.

In addition to the hardware campaigns, MakerBot is running a contest through their Thingiverse platform to bring plans for math manipulatives to the platform. The weeklong challenge, happening this week, will allow for the company to ramp up its available materials for teachers, who can access the documentation through the MakerBot Academy 3D printing package.

It’s important to note here that while Donors Choose has a particular focus on so-called “high need” classrooms — 80 percent of classrooms on the website have that designation — MakerBot’s program will be available to classrooms of all income levels. Pettis, however, spoke to the program’s natural fit: lower-income classrooms will be able to access subsidized materials and likely have a chance of receiving machines in their classrooms.

It’s a long time coming, but 3D printing may be in classrooms very soon, if MakerBot’s program does the job right.