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An Interview with Camile Caron, Autodesk

Back in mid-June we learned about Project Ignite which was announced in conjunction with the declaration of the National Week of Making (June 12-June 18, 2015) by President Obama and his staff at the White House. Project Ignite is the brainchild of popular, leading 3D design firm Autodesk. The platform provides a means for educators nationwide to incorporate 3D printing into their respective curricula. The project is browser-based, so users can get started with the design process with any laptop or computer. We reached out to Autodesk and had the opportunity to speak with Camile Caron, Sr. Business Development and Product Manager, Project Ignite, to get some more details. The interview was conducted via email and the transcript is below.

1) Can you provide a brief history of Autodesk and what the company does?
Autodesk's vision is to help anybody imagine, design and create a better world. As a leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software, Autodesk continues to develop the broadest portfolio of 3D software for global markets since its introduction of AutoCAD software in 1982.

Customers across the manufacturing, architecture, building, construction, media and entertainment and 3D printing industries use Autodesk software to design, visualize, and simulate their ideas before they're ever built or created. From blockbuster visual effects and buildings that create their own energy, to electric cars and the batteries that power them, the work of our 3D software customers is everywhere you look.

Through our apps for iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Android, we're also making design technology accessible to professional designers, makers, students, and anyone who wants to create and share their ideas with the world.

2) When and how did the idea for Project Ignite come about?
Within the Consumer and 3D Printing Group, we have a portfolio of fun and easy to use apps for makers, DIYers, artists, and more. We have supported use of these apps by educators and students for some time now, but really wanted to do something more.

Last year, we launched efforts around Spark, the first open 3D printing software platform to drive innovation, and recognized that the future of making things not only involves changes in the way we design and consume, but also in the way we learn.

So we set out to build an open platform that could help build creative confidence; bridge digital and physical with end-to-end design experiences. We talked to teachers across the globe, and one key theme emerged: they all wanted help getting started. Without the ?secret sauce? of compelling projects, 3D printers would sit idle at the back of the class, and our free software would not be put to use.

And thus, Project Ignite was born.

3) Is this the first time Autodesk has tried a project like this?
Autodesk has worked on learning content and workshops, but what?s new about this effort is that we are building an open platform to bring together educators, partners, publisher, parents and kids. We want others to engage and build awesome content to introduce emerging technologies like 3D printing and electronics (IoT) into classrooms.

4) Is there any level of expertise suggested or assumed for a teacher joining in? What kinds of technology should someone already have in place, if any?
Project Ignite is where teachers with varying levels of experience in 3D design, 3D printing or electronics can get started. Each project has learning outcomes and teacher resources to ensure educators build their own confidence in guiding their students through the design process. As for technology, Project Ignite is browser-based, so a computer or laptop is what you need to get started. Access to a 3D printer and electronics kits/components is recommended, but educators and students can get a feel for the projects by starting in the virtual world—designing, modeling, simulating and visualizing?before building the physical project.

5) What is the timeline for this project? How long to educators and individuals have to choose to get involved?
Project Ignite is available now and includes free design software, step-by-step courses, as well as for-purchase bundles including options for: 3D printers, electronic kits, premium content, support and training services.

Educators can start at their own pace, try a project or two before introducing Project Ignite into their classrooms, or they can jump right in with their students if they wish. Now?s a good time?summer break?to play and try it out, experiment and get ready for back to school in the fall. We will continue to work with publishers, authors and partners to add compelling content (more projects) to the platform. And we encourage folks to reach out to our team if they have questions. We are just getting started and want to hear about our users experiences. Feedback and questions can be sent to: projectignite@autodesk.com>.

 

6) How long does the curriculum take to complete? Is it designed to span a normal academic year? Or is it really a matter of which projects someone would choose to do?
Project Ignite is all about “bite-sized” projects that educators can inject into their classes to enhance their own lesson plans. They can create a learning path through multiple projects to build a longer, week-, semester- or year-long plan, or just introduce projects where needed.

We are aiming to make this flexible and help enhance learning experiences. For example, having students make their own measurement tools before completing math problems, or learning how to form basic circuits while learning about electricity.

7) Besides using a computer to complete work for these types of lessons, are there companion mobile apps for the project or for interacting with Autodesk and Tinkercad software?
For now, Project Ignite is browser-based, but we will continue to look at new ways to deliver and interact with the content and platform.

8) What has been the reaction to Project Ignite since it was announced?
Feedback has been very positive. One teacher has stated that she hasn?t experienced this much joy after introducing Project Ignite in her classroom since her student teacher years! We are finding there is a serious gap in the foundational ?on-ramp? to design in the K-12 space, and teachers are excited about what we are doing to not only provide them with ready-to-teach projects, but making it easy to create many student accounts through Project Ignite.

9) What do you think schools and universities can do to better (if anything) to foster STEM efforts related to 3D printing? What do you think are the biggest barriers to a novice getting involved with the field and the technology?
There are a few barriers I can think of:

1) Schools need to give kids room to iterate and fail. So much of their education experience is based on taking tests, filling in the blanks. Students need the white space?room to think creatively?about how to solve problems. And mess up a few times on the way to success.

2) Trying science and math to real world, relevant-to-the-students, examples and projects. How can we couch serious academic topics within fun and engaging experiences?

3) Making 3D design and printing more accessible. If you ask a student or teacher to draw a picture, they may say they are not an artist (and that?s another problem), but they won?t be confused as to what tool to use. That?s not the case for 3D design/printing. It would be great to have schools build that key 21st century digital literacy skills: understanding how to work in 3D and what?s under the hood of the devices they use (electronics).

10) Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about Project Ignite or Autodesk?
While we are focused on K-12 to start, anyone can use it to learn more about 3D printing and electronics!