Corinne Takara looking at work by Darlene FarRis LAbar 

Corinne Takara looking at work by Darlene FarRis LAbar 


In 2017, Matt Griffin and Lizabeth Arum of Ultimaker, and Chip Bobbert of Duke University, founded the inaugural Construct3D conference: a 3D printing, digital fabrication conference, and expo focused on academic use, best practices, and professional development opportunities for faculty, staff, and students. It was held at Duke University on May 5-7, 2017. Passionate, curious educators and innovators from informal, K12, and Higher Ed contexts came together to exchange ideas, build their networks, learn new skills, and accelerate the adoption and exploration of 3D printing in education.

The conference hosted panels featuring notable educators and industry experts. We also had over one hundred talks and workshops, a vendor area offering demonstrations of leading design, materials, digital fabrication technologies and other resources, and social gatherings that encouraged discussion.

We expect the 2018 conference to be even bigger and better than last year!

Bookending last year’s conference, we provided in-depth workshops led by core trainers from Autodesk, Rhino, and Shopbot. These popular sessions not only offered educators new skills to take home to their schools and programs, but were also opportunities to speak directly to staff central to the development of these platforms. Our plan for 2018 is to extend these offerings even further. Having sold out registration so quickly last year, we aim to double the audience of educators, from 280 to over 500 attendees.

Last year’s keynote speakers included:

Dale Dougherty, CEO of Maker Media, who kicked off the event with the introductory Informal Education keynote. He recounted stories from his role in founding the Maker Movement as well as opportunities he sees at hand for the future of education – including strategies educators can use to deeply engage and transform the experience of students.

Skylar Tibbits, founder and co-director of MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab, delivered the conference Higher Ed Keynote speech. He wowed audience with the progress of his research lab as it has introduced programming structure, behavior, and information into materials themselves – promising a future in which medical devices, furniture, buildings, and manufacturing facilities might be produced as emergent structures coded into smart materials.

Sallye Coyle of ShopBot and Duke’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute delivered the closing keynote. They focused on K-12 education, delving into the 21st century reinvention of “shop class”, and the importance of encouraging students and teachers alike to work with tools that deepen engagement and enhance creativity. Coyle’s extensive experience in STEAM education and her role in outfitting and constructing in-school and community makerspaces world-over provided attendees with a valuable look at the ingenuity that comes from experimentation and discovery made possible by access to and training with digital fabrication tools.

Several other notable speakers and industry innovators joined us at Construct3D 2017:

  • Marius Watz, known for creating art that highlights visual concepts through generative software processes,  was a featured speaker at Construct3D. Drawing on experience inspiring audiences of designers, artists, and programmers alike at events such as the IO conference, his talk, “Strange Objects: New Expressions with 3D Printing and Code,” discussed ways that novel fabrication technologies enable innovative forms of expression in 3D printing and computational design.
  • Autodesk product manager Guillermo Melantoni joined Technical Product Manager John Helfen and Autodesk’s Senior Manager, Youth Audience Strategy, Sarah O’Rourke, to offer a sneak preview into significant advances launching in upcoming product updates for Tinkercad and Fusion360.
  • Another notable speaker, Lead Scientist Matthew Borgatti from Super-Releaser Robotics shared his approach to tackling challenging engineering problems using digital fabrication, and the approaches to research, testing, and rapid iteration that accelerates the production of successful products and solutions.
  • Renown Grasshopper trainer Andrés Gonzalez introduced attendees to the Rhino3D software ecosystem, shedding a veteran light on data, design, and code through his dedicated involvement as the worldwide director of RhinoFabStudio, a digital fabrication professional community.
  • SketchUp evangelist Eric Schimelpfenig presented his journey from “bad student” to passionately engaged maker.
  • The CEO and co-founder of Structur3D, Charles Mire, drew on his background as a chemist and academic materials researcher, to share his efforts over the years to explore paste extruders and compatible materials. Research that lead him and his colleagues to band together to offer the Discov3ry paste extruder system, offered for Ultimaker hardware and compatible with a wide range of desktop 3D printers.
  • Clemson professor Insun Kwon displayed his intricate designs at the Ultimaker booth, and introduced attendees to the techniques he has developed for fabricating his challenging, high-resolution, digitally-sculpted models using affordable desktop 3D printing technologies.
  • The final panel of the event brought together a dream team of designers/engineers Matthew Borgatti, Sean Charlesworth, Michael Curry, Darlene Farris-LaBar, Eric Schimelpfenig, and Laura Taalman, moderated by Ultimakers Matt Griffin, to share real world experiences fulfilling challenge projects with clients and collaborators from an educator’s perspective.

While team members from Ultimaker are co-founders of this conference, the Construct3D team has committed itself to making the event printer agnostic, speaking to all of the approaches to desktop 3D printing and digital fabrication equipment, software, and materials in use by educators. We have committed ourselves to keeping this event open to all parties engaged in pushing the boundaries of 3D printing and digital fabrication in education. Last year’s exhibitors included Autodesk, ShopBot, Essentium, Adobe, Apress, Proto-Pasta, Trotec, Fusion3, Shapeways, Formlabs, Aleph Objects, 3DPrinterOS, and MakeShaper. For the 2018 event, we have the space for more vendors to join the Construct3D family and share to the participating educators, vendors who will also have the opportunity to share their industry expertise throughout the event.

Last year's event also included a screening of critically-praised documentary, “Most Likely to Succeed” (2015), a film Education Week called "among the best edu-documentaries ever produced." This touchstone film for educators provided attendees a stark glance into our antiquated educational system, and offers hope that new approaches to hands-on, project-based learning can improve student engagement and education outcomes.