Monday, August 5, 2013

Thingamajig Only Scratched the Surface of USPTO's Educational Outreach!

I have to admit that I was completely in the dark about the work that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was doing to promote creative thinking through its Office of Education and Outreach when I was first asked if I would participate in the Thingamajig Invention Convention.

What I didn't realize is that the USPTO Office of education and Outreach programs go beyond simply participating in an occasional special event.  It turns out that they have focused on 3D printing by bringing in students from area schools to engage them in the entire conceptualization, design and printing process over an extended period of time.

Moreover, this effort also extended on an international level through an exchange program whereby visiting Korean students joined U.S. students in joint 3D printing workshops. The Korean students were visiting the US as part of a program sponsored by the Korean Intellectual Property Organization and  Korean Invention Promotion Association.   The American students were summer camp participants from the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington.  This is wonderful on so many levels.

As anyone knows that has read this blog, I firmly believe that 3D printing is NOT about printing out cheap plastic objects.  At its heart, 3D printing is about releasing the creative energy in all of us by allowing us to realize, in a concrete form, the ideas that our brains conceive.

As I got to know more about the work of the USPTO Office of Education and Outreach, it was clear that their mission is committed to that same premise on a grand scale!!!

OK.  I'm pretty conservative when it comes to the government spending my tax money.  But, if there was ever a program that I can get behind, it is the outreach efforts that I have just now discovered that are being done by a very creative and innovative team of public servants.  NOTHING is more important to me than having EVERY student come to the realization that ALL of us have marvelous brains and that ALL of us can learn how to use those brains to do amazing things.  This IS the focus of the USPTO team that is responsible for outreach among students and learners of all ages.

On top of all these hands-on programs, the USPTO Office of Education and Outreach, along with the Office of Innovation Development joined with the National Science Foundation and NBC Learning to produce an 11 part series called Science of Innovation that is available online to schools and home educators.  Number 9 in the series is titled "Science of Innovation: 3-D Printing"   Here is the segment on YouTube. 

Lesson plans are available on the Science of Innovation site.

Now, I want to say something important about the work of the USPTO Office of Education and Outreach.  For my practice teaching in college I was assigned to work in a kindergarten in an inner city mission in Washington, DC.  I was astounded to learn that most of the children had never even seen a pair of scissors and had no idea at all how they worked.  I had expected scissors to be a part of every home environment for young children.  It was not.  Not all children have the same start in life.  I have never forgotten that lesson.

It would be a huge mistake to see the efforts of engaging kids in "maker" projects as simply fun activities for kids.  From my work with YouthQuest Foundation in the Freestate Challenge Academy I have come to see these kinds of mentoring as having tremendous potential for being life altering for students engaged in designing and printing 3D objects.  A kid that may walk in with a nagging feeling that they are a failure can come to realize that they CAN be creative and successful at doing things others consider "hard" and when that happens it is entirely possible to completely alter the path of that student's life and choices.  I have seen that first-hand in an extremely powerful way.  So, the USPTO has won a new fan.  If ever there was a case to be made for investing money to save money it is in efforts like these and I applaud them.

So, my joy at being involved in the Thingamajig Invention Convention now goes well beyond the event itself.  I will continue to follow their work and seek out stories for this blog that demonstrate what 3D printing is all about.... growing brains!  :)

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