Three years ago, President Obama hosted the first ever White House Maker Faire and launched the Nation of Makers initiative. Last summer, Zach Kaplan, Inventables founder/CEO, jumped on the bandwagon with a promise that he would donate one of its kid-friendly Carvey 3D carving machines to one school in each of the 50 states.

3D carver

Now, a year later, he's got an even bigger goal: to make sure that each of the 98,817 kindergarten through 12th grade schools in the United States have a chance to have one in the next decade. "We are falling behind a little bit when you look at other countries in terms of math, science and engineering," Kaplan told EBN in an interview. "We need a big push to help kids get experience in design thinking earlier in their education."

That's an audacious goal, but that's the kind of thinking that the electronics industry needs to address the talent gap for engineers, supply chain managers, and manufacturing pros that is looming for the electronics industry. The company has launched a program to let schools (students, teachers, parents, or supportive community members) launch a mini-crowdfunding effort and get a 3D carver for itself.

"We want to make traditionally industrial technology both accessible and exciting," Kaplan said. "A 3D carver makes design real and tangible. You can go from an idea in your head to a finished product in no time. Students get excited when something digital can be made physical."

Inventables carvers are priced at between ₹50,675.68 ($750) and ₹1.35 lakh ($2,000) and come with free cloud-based Easel carving software. "The thing about today's capabilities is that kids can use the software at home to capture their ideas, and then come to school and log in to create their idea. That's a big deal."

Teachers are well aware of the potential of this type of technology to get kids involved in using math, science, and other lessons in an applied way. Unfortunately, they are often living in a system that insists on "teaching to the test," Kaplan said. "Typically, the schools that are doing this have an evangelist teacher," he added. "They are pumping lifeblood into the school. These people are revolutionary, clearly adopters and innovators."

Esther Wojcicki, journalism teacher at Palo Alto High School and author of Moonshots in Education, in a TED Talk said it this way: "We need to change the mindset and the role of the teacher from the 'sage on the stage' to the 'guide on the side.'"

The early results have been promising. One school replaced the traditional bake sale with a "make sale" that allowed kids to sell the things that they had made. "This is something everyone can get behind," Kaplan said. "It's a chance to teach kids earlier about cool stuff like science, technology, and engineering and get them excited about it in a concrete way."