By Leanne Gluck, Director of Social Impact

For as long as I have been in the manufacturing industry, we have been talking about the need for three things: to make manufacturing “cool again,” to bridge the Skills Gap, and to strengthen the conversation between industry and education. We talk theoretically about our opportunities to support the next generation and innovation in the US, but the question on my mind has always been the concrete “How?”

Yesterday, 3D Systems and the SME Education Foundation created one answer to that question, announcing a collaborative initiative to enhance high school industrial arts and vocational education classes called M.Lab21. M.Lab 21 is part maker/part manufacturing, and will provide students with starter kits outfitted with the latest 3D design and printing technology, including the Touch haptic device, the Sense 3D scanner, advanced prosumer desktop printers like the CubePro, and a suite of Cubify design software.  But it’s more than just plugging a printer into a classroom. It’s about providing an integrated ecosystem of 21st century tools, along with a curriculum and online platform in order to  build communities of practice. (Above: US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, middle, with 3DS Chief Technology Officer Chuck Hull, far right.)

The initiative was announced at the RAPID conference in Detroit, Michigan, during the morning keynote speech by US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. She encouraged everyone to learn more about the initiative and find ways to get involved, and closed with the idea that: “We have a window of opportunity—right now—to prove to the world that the 21st century will be another ‘Made-in-America’ century.” (Right: US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker greets students at the M.Lab21 announcement.)

At 3DS we are committed to making M.Lab21 innovative and high impact, and we invite teachers, educators, nonprofits and companies passionate about education to join the M.Lab21 initiative and help drive innovation and technology learning today. If you are interested in learning more, please contact [email protected].