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An Interview with Larry Burditt, Central Michigan University

With the near continuous development of 3D printing, we are seeing more schools choosing to make investments in the technology to varying degrees. Some schools such as SUNY New Paltz, Xavier University, UMass Amherst and Florida Polytechnic among others have made large investments by bringing full-scale MakerBot Innovation Centers to their respective campuses to provide this amazing technology to their campus communities. Central Michigan University, as we have learned, has also made the decision to establish an innovation center on their campus. Through a partnership between multiple campus units, the university opened the doors on the technology back in October 2015. We reached out to the university and were granted an interview with one of the key people involved in the process, Mr. Larry Burditt, the department chair in Art and Design. The interview was conducted via email and our questions with his answers appear below:

1) What prompted you to look into becoming a MakerBot 3D Innovation Center? Had anyone among the staff and faculty had experience with other 3D printers or 3D design?

We worked with an early low-end 3D printer but found it’s reliability was too low. In an information search we found the MakerBot was highly rated and worked our way to the innovation center from that beginning.

2) What types of reactions have you had across campus since the Innovation Center got up and running?

The Innovation Center is in its infancy. But we already have students from the two colleges who provided the majority of the funding (Communication & Fine Arts as well as Education) as well as Science and Technology. In addition, more and more we are finding students wanting to use the facility for personal projects.

 

3) What has been done to promote its existence and technology? Have you begun any cross-campus partnerships since its inception both on campus or out in the community?
We are beginning to work on various models to make the facility better known through the community as well as the university. We are working through the process in a conservative method to allow issues to be worked out during a time when we have a lower use rate.

4) Who all is able to take advantage of having this type of resource on campus? Is it limited to students taking courses or pursuing degrees in the studio/fine arts?
The facility is open to everyone on campus, students, faculty and staff.

5) What impact do you think it has had on the education of your students? Does it give your students a competitive edge over those from other schools?
As I indicated earlier we are in the very early stages of the facilities use. But through the availability of the facility we are providing our students with the opportunity to have access to cutting edge technology.

6) In as much as you can comment, how integral was the administration of the university in getting this done and getting it funded? Was any of this the result of a grant application?
Administration at various levels were instrumental in funding the MakerBot Center. It is an entirely internally funded project.

7) How have the first several months gone? What have been the biggest challenges presented and how have they been overcome or handled? What have been the biggest surprises, if any?
Working out details has probably been the greatest initial challenge. Staffing and costs were issues that required a great deal of collaboration. We have proceeded cautiously which I believe has removed a great deal of the unexpected problems.

8) What advice, if any, would you give to another dean, professor, or art studio who is interested in beginning an Innovation Center into their fold?
Utilize the training provided from MakerBot. Make it as easy as possible for instructors to work out pedagogy with no cost to the faculty.

9) What are some of the long-term goals of the Department of Art and Design as it relates to both 3D printing and education in general?
As with any new technology we want to see how it is progressing and were it can be used. In the late 1800 the development of photography was thought to be the death of painting by some of the era. But that wasn?t the case, both media grew and changed. I believe we will see a similar change with 3D printers as they change and evolve.

10) What materials/filament are you printing with, and what are some of the products you have printed that you are most proud of since the inception of the Innovation Center?
We are using the PLA filament from MakerBot. Several people are working on sculptural forms, including myself.