With China putting 400,000 printers in elementary schools in 2016, Tom and Tracy Hazzard started looking for experts in teaching kids 3D Printing and found that they had to go north to Canada to talk with John Bolka of i3D Creatives and the #i3D Podcast. John talks about why kids have more passion for 3D printing than adults and why they learn it quickly. Find out why he is so passionate about teaching the next generation of 3D Print Designers and how he inspired them to start teaching their 6-year old daughter 3D modeling right away.
Listen to the podcast here:
Teaching Generation Z To Become Generation 3DP With John Bolka of i3D
Graduation got us thinking about whether or not there would be any college graduates with the right design skills ready to fill all the 3D Printing positions coming in the near future. More importantly, it got us worrying about whether or not our local school district has any plans for teaching kids 3D Printing and 3D Design/Modeling for our two young daughters. During our in-depth discussion with 3D Printing educator, John Bokla about his RoadMap and LaunchPad curriculum, we were reminded that it is not just every parent’s obligation to make sure that teaching kids 3D Printing is a priority in our schools and camps, but also every business owner’s too. Spread STEAM!
This is our show about learning how to 3D print.
Also, more importantly, learning how to create your what for 3D printing.
You got to learn something first. You got to learn how to use a lot of things. In some cases, some people have to learn how to design. We’re going to talk to the Head of i3DCreatives.com, the man behind it, the solopreneur behind it, John Bokla. He’s based out of Vancouver and he has been teaching young kids how to 3D print and to 3D model. He has an architecture and design background. He also has a podcast, which used to be called Lean Business and is now called #i3D. It’s great, fun, and it fits his audience.
There’s too much to go over and a lot of great content that we’ll do some of that in another episode. In this episode, we’re focused on education and learning about 3D modeling.
John, tell us a little bit about how you got started with 3D printing.
I was taking architecture engineering and I found it was taught inefficiently, first of all, and then I was seeing a 3D printing company. We at our university got a 3D printer in our department. I saw it coming, so I started learning about 3D printing. When I realized that there’s a potential that this could re-localize manufacturing so we don’t have to ship products around the world anymore, I went all in and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve engulfed myself in the world of 3D printing. When I was going through this experience of how inefficiently 3D design was taught, I realized that if this is going to be the future, we need to educate the next generation on how to use this and we need to do it efficiently. I started creating a curriculum for kids and started teaching in person.
What age group are you teaching?
I started at the BIG Little Science Centre in Kamloops teaching in person. I was teaching between ages 8 to 15, so that’s the curriculum I have available. They pick it up quickly and I’m thinking about trying to go younger. I teach 123D design, but I’m thinking about trying to get into TinkerCAD for ages 5 to 10 years old. I have a beta curriculum on YouTube that I’m trying to gather feedback and see if the younger generation can pick it up already.
We have a six-year-old and we’ve been talking about doing a test with her. TinkerCAD was one of the ones. We were going to do a test where we let her try to 3D print something because she loves the 3D printers. She loves to watch them run and she’s always saying, “Daddy make me this. Mom, can I have that?” We were thinking we would do that, so maybe we should try your program.
I’ve got ten videos up and running and I’m thinking about doing them on YouTube Live in the future. On Saturday mornings, kids can tune in and get an update on YouTube Live.
We thought we’d interview her and find out what she thinks of it. We’ll have to try it out and see what goes on there. You also said that you’re discovering that there’s an older demographic that wants to learn as well.
I’m finding that a lot of adults are saying to me, “Why don’t you teach us this 3D design for 3D printing?” I’m like, “First of all, you guys don’t get it as well as them. They’re better at it. Second, you guys don’t have the time.” Adults don’t have the time to learn this 3D design, dive in and get into it because they have so much going on in their lives. That’s why I’m focusing on that for kids, but I’ve tried to design my website in such a way that it gives adults a perspective of the world of 3D printing and outlines exactly how easy it is to get involved. I’ve made a custom URL link for you and your readers, i3DCreatives.com/wtfff.
If you go there, I’ve got my free eBook called Your Roadmap to 3D Printing that also has a video for it. It shows you how you can take your idea and turn your idea into a computer-aided design file and take that CAD file and have it 3D printed, even if you have absolutely no experience with 3D design or 3D printing. I’ve done it and it’s only about a fifteen-page eBook. I condensed it as tight as I could. It’s got links inside of it that will take you to the sources that I talked about and it’s also got a video with like a whiteboard animation that gives you the overview of the book as well.
I’m looking forward to letting our readers see what they think about it.
It’s exciting, and it’s good what you guys are doing. I like the way you’re educating on the ground level, everything that everyone needs to know about the printers, and how to get involved. It’s important what you guys are doing.
We want to take out the frustration and you probably find that especially with the adults. The kids are more willing to try things and they’re more experimental. That’s what I’ve heard from a lot of the makerspaces and vocadamies of the world that have the younger demographic that they teach. They don’t get so frustrated when the printer doesn’t work. We want to take out that frustration level that is going to happen because the technology isn’t quite there for everybody, so it requires a little hacking. It requires you to have technical capabilities or you’ll get too frustrated.
It’s so funny the way that the kids see it compared to adults. They’re okay with failing, testing, iterating, and playing with the machine. Us older generation, we don’t have time for all the tinkering.
We saw that that’s why we did it because, in the initial days when Tom first got the printer, junk was coming out of it. We want people to be more successful out of the box. Anything that we can do and you can do to help point them to how to be that successful and to create something original. Another problem is you go and you buy free files or you download free files, and then they are junk and you don’t know that it’s the file that’s the problem. You think it’s your printer and you don’t realize that.
That’s an important point. It’s going to be interesting to see in the future how the digital library marketplace comes together and how that all works because one day, there will be a platform that has the best 3D printable files. It’ll be known to be quality items. I’m excited for that day.
Still, at some point, if 3D printing is going to go mainstream, then it has to be the crafters who are doing things going to like Michaels arts and crafts, buying things and making their crafts or the Etsy level of people have to be able to create what’s in their mind. Finding something out there that exists is great. If you find what you need, wonderful, but you find something. It may only be close to what you need. It needs to be adjusted or customized somewhat and how are people going to do that unless they can create something on the computer in a file in three dimensions. I’m excited about your video series and curriculum because that is one of the biggest missing pieces that we’re finding. Even when we’re interviewing people who are companies that are selling slicing software and trying to provide all these solutions to help you 3D print. What they’re not doing is helping you with a solution to how to create that thing you’re going to print.
What is it you’re going to create? How do you go about doing that? The basic design principles. You came out of design school, so did we. You know you have the basics for design, but that’s not being taught anywhere, and that’s a problem.
It’s not just that it’s not being taught. It’s also that there aren’t teachers that can teach it because it’s coming so fast and technology is coming quickly. It’s happening and you can’t prepare teachers in time for it. While I was teaching at the BIG Little Science Centre, I had a mentor and he was like, “Keep teaching. You’re making cashflow. It’s working out well,” but I knew it wasn’t scalable me doing it that way. That’s why I’ve stepped back and went for almost 7 or 8 months of full development without revenue in order to bring this to market because this is how it’s going to scale. It’s through an interactive curriculum that has everything covered and it is easy for the teacher to just plug it in and play it in the classroom or at home ultimately.
For our readers to understand, is this curriculum something that you’re charging for?
How are you doing that?
There are three levels. The first is the basic level, where it has five of the chapters and five of the lessons unit. The premium has nine chapters that outline how to download and navigate through the space. The following eight chapters outline every single toolbox in 123D design, so you get to see in detail how every command works. It’s followed by ten interactive lessons that range from spinning top, Minecraft pendant, and key chainrings. Through those ten lessons, they learn almost every command in a sequence. They almost don’t need to go through those eight chapters of command outlines.
They can learn by doing and not just reading or if you’re the kind of person who needs to read to learn, you have both ways.
The goal of the product was to make it so simple that if you didn’t know English, you could still learn 3D design through it. Every command is outlined with step by step pictures, almost exclusively pictures, then every video I do has a ton of whiteboard animation in it. I tried to make it extremely simple to outline everything. I’m proud of the product and I’m excited to see what kids start doing with it. In the world we live in today, you need to be able to design something or to make it unique or to just change it that little bit. Our generation doesn’t quite have that, but the next generation coming up will.
We have our Ask Us Anything segment and one of the questions is, “If I’ve got Photoshop skills, is that enough to 3D print?” There’s a language problem. That picture is a great idea because there’s a language problem between the design software that people come to know like Photoshop and all of those things where you paint in them. They’re different from the language of 3D modeling software.
I wanted to ask you about that with the experience that you have had locally teaching kids about using the software and designing it so much of the language of 3D printing is about geometry. As I remember it, I don’t think I learned geometry until high school in terms of being taught it, but you’re working with much younger kids. Are you finding some of those lessons that are also teaching them about the fundamentals of geometry to understand how to build things?
We’re trying to go in deeper than just geometry. You guys will see in the TinkerCAD series, there’s one video that outlines geometry. This is the length, width, and height, and it’s all done in the whiteboard animation. I tried to make it crystal clear and simple for them. That’s in the TinkerCAD beta version. In the 123D design one, we talk about it progressively through, but we also try to incorporate different lessons within it. Say, in the first lesson is the spinning top. We learn how a linear force is turned into an angular force by your fingers to start the spinning. Inertia and equal opposite forces pulling against each other keep it spinning and friction slows it down. “Go. Here’s the design.”
I am dying for our kid to try this.
Linnea is going to love it, then we’ll give you a testimonial. We’ll show you how it goes.
We can do a follow up for some results. This is so critical. What you’re doing is going to make a huge difference not only in this industry but think about education that kids are getting at a younger age with this.
A lot of people may not realize this because I don’t think we’ve talked about this before. We have a 20-year-old daughter, a 6-year-old daughter, and a 1-year-old daughter. We have this huge range. Our twenty-year-old daughter is away at college and she’s in culinary. She’s interested in 3D printing food. It’s a big thing. We’re waiting for the Sugar Lab printer to come out. We’re super excited about it, but in the meantime, she’s sitting back going, “I don’t know how to model that. I can do it with fondant. I can do it with icing. I know how to do it by hand, but how do I model that on the computer? I better get some skills.” Her plan is to learn how to 3D design and yet, she’s growing up with two designers, so we didn’t teach her that. We’re looking at that and we said, “We missed something here because we didn’t give her a design economy. We should have done that.” We’re not going to make this mistake with the other two. We’ll start them young.
It’s going to become more common in education on time. It’s not there yet, but these are going to be fundamental skills that people need to have right now and in the future for sure.
That is why that is such an important part of the new economy. If you get yourself learning 3D design, 3D printing, these companies are going to need experts. They’re going to need people to manage the printers, to manage the design process, and to develop product lines. This is the hot new job that’s going to happen in the next couple of years. If you’re getting educated and your college isn’t teaching this, you got to find a way to get it. John, you have a podcast. Did you rename it yet or is it still Lean Business?
I did rename it. I pivoted the name because I got better feedback on i3D, so it’s #i3D but it’s going to be called i3D Podcast.
3D design and 3D printing is a part of that business model.
It’s a big part. What’s going to happen with 3D printing is it’s going to empower anyone to turn their ideas into reality. When you do that, you need to be able to relay that idea to people through the internet. That’s an important caveat or part of 3D printing that nobody is talking about yet. Nobody is talking about how once you’ve turned your idea into an object, how you share that object efficiently to other people. That’s the premise of the podcast. Through the experience, I’m taking an idea turning it into a dog collar GoPro mount and I’m going to try to sell that dog collar GoPro mount on the internet and be completely transparent with the audience through the experience.
Thank you so much, John. This has been such an educational conversation for us as well and it’s nice to find someone who’s getting it after what needs to be taught here.
Thank you guys so much for having me. It was a lot of fun.
For us, too. It’s a high-value conversation. Thank you.
That episode was more exciting and comprehensive than even I expected it to be.
It was jam-packed with information. John’s thinking about the future of 3D printing and the future is in the hands of the next generation and the generation after that. It’s in the hands of all three of our daughters because when we look at this, we’ve got Alex at 20, Linnea at 6, and Vanessa at 1, but she’ll catch up. They have the same problem. Alex is coming out of college without any 3D design or design courses at all in her case and she’s going to need it.
She wants to be able to use a food 3D printer in the culinary world, which is her area of specialty.
She can’t find a place to take a class. She’s in university and she has two colleges at the same time, and she can’t find a class to teach her 3D modeling at the level that she needs to learn it.
I’ve been struggling with how I’m going to teach our six-year-old how to start doing it because she has such an interest in doing things on our 3D printer.
You readers out there who have kids, you’ve come across this. If you’re 3D printing, it’s in your garage or rec room, your kids are begging to use it.
I’ve been struggling with where to start to teach her. I use a sophisticated high-end CAD program and there’s no way she can use that quite yet. She’s just learning to read. I’m excited to have her go through John’s tutorials on TinkerCAD. It’s probably where we’ll start with her.
We’re going to have to do a whole nother follow up. The interesting thing is that, and a lot of people don’t know this, I don’t do the 3D design work. I do a lot of design work, but the design work that I do for us isn’t in the modeling software.
It’s not in the CAD realm.
We have a manpower issue because you’re the bottleneck in our business. Only you can do that 3D modeling, so we can’t do as much experimentation as we would like. If I can learn to 3D model at the same time that Linnea learns it, she’ll probably beat my butt at it. I can see her out designing me. If I can learn to use the software the same way she does, it’s going to be a great lesson as to what people are struggling out there, those that may be learned Photoshop. I can use Photoshop like the rest of them. To answers that question. Maybe I can answer it firsthand for us.
It’s certainly a great experiment. We’ll be doing that as a whole focus of another episode and we’ll do a videocast as well because we want to see you using it.
I want to see Linnea using it. I want to see what she comes up with.
Stay tuned for a future episode for that one. It is refreshing to see someone like John focused so much on education. It’s a big gap.
Getting the community together to talk through social media, podcasts, user groups, or whatever method we need to create it, he’s willing to be flexible to build it. We all have to get together to do this because the 3D print market is focused on their printer, filament, and software. They’re narrowly focused and they’re looking at their user base today, but we’re all the user base of tomorrow.
You’ve got to focus on the Etsy community. You’ve got to focus on the crafters going into Michaels. This is another tool that could be used in their toolbox to create the products. The Etsy community is so huge and they went public.
I met this great young jewelry designer and when I said to her, “Have you ever used a 3D printer?” She said, “No, but I’d love to.” I was like, “You’re fifteen, you should be doing this because this could be the way that you have better jewelry than anyone else out there or faster, more flexible, more unique things.” She has a future there, so I invited her to come to our studio. Hopefully, she’ll take me up on that offer. That is the future. That is going to make this 3D print economy take off.
The next generations grow up not only learning how to read, write, and do basic math but learning geometry at an early age and learning how to create geometry on the computer. Three-dimensional models are going to become a basic skill. When we were younger, we were just being taught how to use desktop computers and that was super advanced. That served us well. The future is going to be here.
Let’s give a little more shout out to John. i3DCreatives.com is his website and his podcast is #i3D. You’ll be able to find it either way.
You’re going to want to find it because he’s doing a contest and giving away a 3D printer.
I’m sure he’ll do another one at another time, but there’s a 3D printer giveaway. He’s also done something great and that he’s offered the free eBook, the basis for the training program for learning how to 3D print. He’s given that away at i3DCreative.com/wtfff. Go there, send in your email, and we’ll send you the book. It’s super simple and visual.
For those of you out there who are not already doing CAD work or the new younger generations that are hopefully going to be learning and adopting an earlier age. If you’re caught in the middle and you still have an interest in you want to get into it, his video series and tutorials is a great place to start.
I’m going to try it and I’ll let you guys know how it is. Another thing that we’re exploring with John is the idea of maybe creating a more expert-based user group. For those of you readers who get to a certain level where you feel competent at using the 3D printer itself, but you have more difficulty making your what in the printer. You have complex geometry, you have issues or something’s not holding up. There’s no resource for that. We want to hear from you. Are you interested in an expert user group? Where would you like us to do it? Should we do a Google Hangout? Are you interested in a LinkedIn group? Let us know what you guys want because all of us together, John included, want to serve the community in terms of education and growing it. Whatever that service needs to be provided, we’re going to find somebody to provide it for you.
We would love to hear from you if you have some good thoughts on that.
Just to mention in case it didn’t come across, if you have a dog and a GoPro, you’re going to want to listen to his podcast because that’s a product he’s focusing on trying to create a lean manufacturing business around and it’s cool. Our dog in the family is going to have one.
It’s a foregone conclusion that a dog is going to have a GoPro around his neck. There’s a lot of videos to go through and edit from that.
Thanks again for reading and don’t forget to find us on HazzDesign.com. Of course, it’s WTFFF on iTunes. You can also Facebook, tweet and Instagram us pictures of what you’re making. I’d love to see what you’re making. It’s always @HazzDesign and all those places.
Don’t forget, if you have a question for us or something you’d like to contribute, you can go to our website and email us but we also have an Ask Us page on our website where you can go record a voice message.
It’s even easier. There’s a little tab at the top of the page that says send voicemail and it’s on every page on the website. Every time you go into it, there is a little send voicemail up at the top and you can just click on it. Thanks again for reading.
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