by David Melo, 3DS Intern

For those that read my blog at the launch of the Millennial Train Project, you know I had quite a week in store as I journeyed across the country with 3D technology in tow. Over these busy days and the experiences I gathered, I’ve come to see the true significance of this trip and have come away with the sense that I am a New Age pioneer, seeking and assisting progress and change along our route. For my traveling companions and me, this time was impactful on a personal and communal level as we affected and enhanced the communities we visited. From the warmth and excitement of the hackerspaces we visited, I know this modern technological voyage was a force of good, and it’s very rewarding to be so acutely aware of the positivity and empowerment we have spread.

We began our journey in Seattle, where we met Matt, founder and owner of Metrix Create Space. Seattle influenced Matt through its concentration of technology, and as a way of giving back, he has dedicated his time and effort to creating a concentrated space for others to get involved. His modern toolkit is equipped with CNC machines, laser cutters, sewing machines, power tools and 3D printers, and Matt is especially excited about the potential of conductive materials in 3D printing.

From Seattle, it was onwards to Missoula, Montana, by way of Whitefish, where we met with Rebecca. Rebecca moved to Missoula from New Orleans to help found a hackerspace as a fellow New Age pioneer. We joined forces with her in the Missoula Public Library to help further her mission to merge technology with traditional academics for a more dimensional educational outcome. She is part of the AmeriCorps Vistas program, which is a federal program dedicated to equipping underserved areas with the skills and tool sets they need to succeed.

We then took on St. Paul, Minnesota. The train ride there was perhaps the greatest highlight of the trip. We turned off all the lights in the train car, allowing the 3D printers to glow in their mellow light, and we held an impromptu jam session using the 3D printed instruments on board, including an electric and acoustic guitar and saxophone. The next thing we knew, there were about 20 people making music on iceboxes and with spoons as we sang along and rode into the night.  It highlighted the power of this technology to pull out creativity and bring people together in collaborative efforts. Not to mention, it was a lot of fun!

Once we stationed in Minnesota, we headed towards Leonardo’s Basement in Minneapolis. There we met Steve and Willis, a dynamic duo who are dedicated to increasing children’s design skill sets and stick-to-itiveness by helping them see their projects through from start and finish. Their philosophy is a positive counter to a culture of instant gratification, and they seek to show children how to fail the right way. In their words, they want future generations to “accept failure as a tool and develop methods to overcome fears and mistakes so that they can become future makers.” Their dedication was inspiring, and I was happy to have met them and know there are people like them out there doing what they’re doing.

The Milwaukee Makerspace was next on our list, and I was again blown away by the true sense of community that I felt there. They had an accessible space with tools ranging from robotic arms to sewing machines to 3D printers and scanners, and they were a great group to talk to and get to know. From Milwaukee we went to Chicago and Pumping Station: 1. The group there was both intrigued and amazed by the CubePro and Sense 3D scanner, and it was fun for me to bring these technologies to them and watch the mental wheels turn as they processed the potential in front of them. I look forward to seeing the outcome!

At the end of the week we arrived at our final destination, and my hometown, New York City. After all the inspiration I witnessed on the rails, I was eager to see what Hack Manhattan would bring to the table. The space was well-equipped with tools for electronics, wood- and metal-work and 3D printing, but they were missing the ability to 3D scan. The Sense and iSense 3D scanners mesmerized them and it was fun to close the gap for them with the power of physical photography.

To everyone on this amazing trip: thank you for your hospitality and inspiration. I’m excited about the direction we’re headed and look forward to keeping in touch. The Millennial Train Project covered a lot of ground (from sea to shining sea), but the journey has just begun!