AST2’s 3D Printers Promote Teamwork, Problem-Solving in Schools

Written by Kevin Volz.

Applied Systems & Technology Transfer (AST2) in Youngstown, Ohio, is on a mission to teach 21st-century skills to students through high school and beyond. The company has developed a 3D printer kit and curriculum that allows students to have hands-on experience designing and building products. Already utilized by schools in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin, the printers are delivered to schools in pieces, requiring students to work together to assemble the machines. Once the 3D printers are built, the students are given challenges and asked to use the 3D printers to create solutions.

“Students learn the ins and outs of computer-aided design (CAD) programs to construct digital versions of everything from miniature cars to toys to birdhouses,” said Julie Michael Smith, executive vice president of AST2. “They get to see the printer make the product, then test it to see if it works. While many of the products will fail, we’re teaching the value of trial and error.”

Michael Smith says AST2’s curriculum, called the INVENTORcloud Program, helps students hoping to pursue a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) while encouraging kids to work together to solve problems. AST2 has developed nearly 30 different courses available to schools across the country ranging from introductory engineering to physics and earth science.

AST2’s 3D printers differ from similar products because they are built specifically for the education market and are extremely durable. Schools can reach AST2 for help with their printers quickly using the company’s cloud-based STORM technology. STORM allows AST2 to walk schools through most repairs in real time, as well as help teach CAD and provide access to other rapid prototyping equipment.

AST2 was founded by Jack Scott, a Youngstown native and the former president and COO of Parsons, an international engineering and design firm in California. Through his work with the Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI), a northeast Ohio partner of Ohio Third Frontier, Scott was introduced to two entrepreneurs who had created a cloud computing design technology. He partnered with these entrepreneurs to get the technology into the hands of consumers via the classroom.

AST2’s offices are located within YBI, allowing the company to work alongside entrepreneurs from other industries every day. Michael Smith says this results in a collaborative environment that inspires creativity. The company’s location at YBI is also very close to America Makes, the federal government’s national laboratory dedicated to 3D printing and additive manufacturing.

“We have some of the top 3D printing resources right in our backyard at YBI,” said Michael Smith. “We’re able to collaborate with others in the 3D printing industry and leverage their expertise to push our products forward.”

Michael Smith says the low cost of living and starting a business in Ohio makes the state a perfect fit for any entrepreneur.

“We’re able to secure optimal office space and top talent for a lot less money in Ohio than we would on the coasts,” said Michael Smith. “In addition, organizations like YBI and the state of Ohio have confidence in local entrepreneurs and make investments in new companies to give them the resources they need to succeed.”

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