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An Interview with Braden Croy, Syracuse University

Following the success of our first round of HARO queries related to 3D printing in education, in business, and in the consumer space, we decided it was time to delve a little deeper into the education space, where 3D printing is having a tremendous impact. More specifically, we have chosen to focus on its integration into higher education and STEM education. This is the first in a series of interviews with people from around the country working with 3D printers and printing. Braden Croy currently serves as the director of the NEXIS (New Explorations in Information and Science), which operates under the School of Information Studies (a.k.a. the iSchool at Syracuse University. NEXIS, according to the school stands for New Explorations in Information and Science and is a student-run space for exploring new technologies that intersect with the information management and technology concepts that we teach in the classroom. The interview was conducted via email, and the transcript is here below.

1) What is your academic background and experience?
I graduated Virginia Tech with a degree in international development. Throughout my college career I focused extensively on entrepreneurship and product commercialization. Once arriving at Syracuse University to work, I got heavily involved in the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem on campus. One thing led to another and I ended up directing NEXIS in the Fall of 2014. While not formally trained in 3D printing, I've learned a tremendous amount on my own time and by working with students on various projects.

2) How long have you been working with 3D printers/printing?
I first started working with 3D printers heavily a year ago.

3) What prompted the inclusion of 3D printing with NEXIS, or were they both begun at the same time?
3D printing became a key component of NEXIS as a method to encourage and teach rapid prototyping. NEXIS focuses extensively on emerging technologies and consumer grade 3D printing is one of the major trends we see shaping the future. Students have loved learning the various software applications and printing processes associated with 3D printing.

4) What types of printers do you have available to students in the NEXIS lab?
We only have the Makerbot Replicator 2 available. SU's makerspace has many other types available and open to students.

5) How many total do you have? Are there plans to expand in the future?
NEXIS only has 1 printer currently. If we were to expand and purchase additional 3D printers they would be more sophisticated, capable of printing carbon fiber (Mark One by MarkForg3D) or circuit boards (Voltera).

6) What types of filaments/materials are used?
PLA plastic exclusively.

7) What level of support have you gotten from the dean and other administration?
The iSchool's administration has been very supportive of the time and money commitment necessary to seeing any 3D printing initiative succeed. Not only does NEXIS have its own lab space, but it is funded with grants the school helped secure.

8) How have the 3D printing resources been integrated into the curriculum? What are some of the short and long-term term goals of the school as it relates to 3D printing?
The iSchool has not really integrated 3D printing into its curriculum. The engineering school does much more with manufacturing of every sort. There are likely no long term goals to include 3D printing in the curriculum because the iSchool is focused on data science, 3D printing within NEXIS was always seen as a method to encourage self-directed learning and the expression of creativity by students, not a formal academic endeavor.

9) What have been some of the biggest challenges involved with keeping a 3D printer space open and running?
Encouraging membership in the lab and making sure the printer doesn't break.

10) Can you provide some examples of what have been the most unique or interesting things that students, faculty, or staff have been able to print so far?
A group of NEXIS students 3D printed a drone. We had a student 3D print the Ebola virus. Students have 3D printed testing/measurement equipment for drone studies. Student has 3D printed an electric vehicle charging station housing.