Stratasys Blog

3D Printing Helps STARBASE Spark Kids’ Love for Engineering


Employers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields often cite a lack of qualified engineers as one of their biggest challenges. At the same time, underprivileged kids are hungry for opportunities in growing, good-paying industries. DOD STARBASE is the catalyst that turns those two problems into a solution.

“STARBASE is here to inspire these kids early on,” said Rick Simms, director of STARBASE One, a site serving the Detroit area. The inspiration comes from meeting working engineers, simulating space flight in a life-sized shuttle nose, and 3D printing rockets.

We’ve written before about STARBASE. Since our last update, the program has ramped up its efforts to keep kids engaged beyond the 25 hours of programing that 5th or 6th graders enjoy. STARBASE 2.0 facilitates after-school STEM clubs in the middle schools, and STARBASE is seeking to expand partnerships with existing STEM competitions to help its graduates participate.

STARBASE has also increased its use of 3D printing. In the past, kids would design models in CAD and receive a postcard showing the design. “We thought, wait a minute! How much better would it be if they could actually hold what they’re making in their hands?” Simms said. Now kids launch their ideas high in the form of 3D-printed rocket fins. Early this year, the DOD invested in $1 million worth of Stratasys 3D printers for STARBASE programs across the country.

STARBASE teachers also use 3D printing to build teaching tools that support its original curriculum. When kids learn that their classroom equipment was built on the same 3D printer that made their rockets, they perk up. “It always goes back to inspiring the kids, with anything that we do here. And if we do see their eyes light up, we know we’re doing the trick,” says Simms.

Feedback lets Simms know he’s making a difference, like when a STARBASE graduate went on to enter the White House science fair, or when a Detroit mom wrote to say STARBASE inspired her son to “follow his aviation engineering dreams.” Then there are the stories of kids who hated getting up for school, except on STARBASE days, when they were up and waiting.

“There’s a lot of fun opportunities that you can pursue out there with these subject matters that are typically perceived as difficult and scary,” said Simms.

See a video of STARBASE Minnesota students launching 3D rockets they designed themselves.

Throughout August, Stratasys is highlighting the engineers, scientists and teachers who use 3D printing to solve some of our world's biggest challenges. Visit our Facebook page for more stories like this.

Carrie Wyman

Carrie Wyman

Carrie is a technology and 3D printing enthusiast, with a passion for beautiful design.

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