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Many Hands Make Miraculous Mechanisms

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Keywords: Service Learning, Technology, Makers, Maker Space, Innovation, Collaboration, World Network
Subject(s): Information Skills, Biology, Art, Photography, Civics, Social Studies, Health and PE, Video, Spelling, Technology, Geography, Service Learning, Grammar, Science, Special Needs, Writing, Reading, Physics, Math, English/Language Arts
Grades 4 through 6
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Pinewood Elementary School, Jenison, MI
Planned By: Lori Barr
Original Author: Lori Barr, Jenison

A Hands-On Look at the New Industrial Revolution


How are the Internet, crowdsourcing, and social networking tools revolutionizing manufacturing? Is the US economy entering a new industrial age? Support STEM learning with this video that profiles MakerBot, a 3D printer which is changing the nature of manufacturing. By using the accompanying lesson plan I will have students explore the “new industrial revolution” by collaborating on a hands-on DIY manufacturing project using the free 3D design tool Google Sketchup. Then we will create our own products to donate to E-nable to help others.


Desktop Factory video
Reproducible: DIY Design
MakerBot 3-D printer
Spools of plastic


What does it take to become a manufacturer in America today? Contrary to the 19th century when it was not enough to have a good idea - you also needed resources such as money, a labor pool, and a professional network to launch a successful product - the world of 21st century manufacturing is very different. The American industry is riding a remarkable way of innovation. Using the Internet, anyone has the tools to build a business. In this “new industrial revolution,” an individual or company with a good idea and some expertise has the potential to succeed. Relying upon the availability of common platforms, easy-to-use tools, Web-based collaboration, an open source environment, and Internet distribution, individuals have the potential to become large scale producers. In this episode, which profiles MakerBot, a 3D printing company based in Brooklyn, NY, we examine an example of a small business that is leading the new industrial revolution by democratizing manufacturing. Most modern factories use expensive, high-tech robots to create their products, but MakerBot produces machines that give the customer the power to become a micro-factory.
Featured Vocabulary

innovation - the introduction of an invention into a use that has economic value
invention - the process of creating a new system or object out of an idea
intellectual property - a work or invention that is the result of creativity, such as a manuscript or a design, to which one has rights and for which one may apply for a patent, copyright, trademark, etc
patent - a government authority to an individual or organization conferring a right or title for the sole right to make, use, or sell some invention
open source - software which grants the right of users to study, change, and improve its design through the availability of its source code; also a term used to describe a general attitude of communities that allow free access to source code of programs or designs in such a way that anyone can alter, add to, and develop a software or design
creative commons - a non-profit organisation founded in 2001 that encourages the copying, legal sharing, and reuse of intellectual and artistic work.

Warm Up

Introduce students to the website Thingaverse.com, a community-based open source site where users share and collaborate on digital designs that can be made into real, physical objects, ranging from practical things like doorstops and plugs to playful things like robots and bugs. After they have explored the website, invite student to share their impressions. Explore questions such as: What is unique about this site? Is this concept of sharing ideas and information familiar to you or a novel one? Do you know of other similar websites (eg: Wikipedia, Internet Archives, Creative Commons)? Why would a website like Thingaverse.com attract users? (You may wish to introduce students to this lesson’s featured vocabulary at this time.)

Discussion Questions

Have students watch the video while taking notes on the following. Afterwards, use the following questions to assess comprehension and prompt discussion:

How is a venture such as MakerBot different than the assembly line?
How is it democratizing manufacturing?What distinguishes the industrial revolution of the past from the “new industrial revolution”?
What is opensource? How does it challenge the dominance of patents?
What economic principle is a company like MakerBot challenging?
How is the MakerBot an innovative company and how does it have the power to transform American manufacturing?

Activity One:

Using the reproducible DIY Design have students work in pairs or groups to conceptualize and design a “thing” that they would want to showcase on a website such as Thingaverse.com or at Maker Faire, an annual DIY festival which showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness. Students can either invent a completely original product or select a design from Thingaverse.com and “crowdsource” ideas on how to improve it. In both instances, have them use Google Sketchup to design and present a 3D version of their object along with a brief sales pitch that addresses the target audience and market of the product.

Activity Two:

Become active members of E-nable as we create fabricated hands and other prosthetic and community devices for those under-resourced around the world.

Afterwards, have students discuss their design experience. What were the challenges? Pros? Cons? Benefits? Of the experience. How do they see that extending into “real-life”?

Going Further

Create and launch a Young Makers Club. These clubs connect “connect like-minded young people with adult mentors and fabricators and to organize opportunities for kids to dream up and develop projects for Maker Faire each year.” We are supported by GRMakers.


The New Industrial Revolution Indepth and extensive feature article on the impact of DIY manufacturing on the economy from Wired magazine.
Google Sketchup for Educators Tutorials and tips for using Google Sketchup in the classroom to create, modify, and share 3D models.
New Models for Education: Maker Faire and the Young Makers Program, article from Edutopia profiling the value of a Young Makers school program
Young Makers The Young Makers Program intends to connect like-minded young people with adult mentors and fabricators and to organize opportunities for kids to dream up and develop projects for Maker Faire each year.



1. Uses a variety of strategies in the problem-solving process4. Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of measurement

11. Understands the nature of scientific knowledge

12. Understands the nature of scientific inquiry13. Understands the scientific enterprise


4. Understands the nature of technological design8. Knows that invention is the process of creating a new system or object out of an idea while innovation is the process of modifying an existing system or object to improve it

Life Skills

1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group3. Works well with diverse individuals and in diverse situations4. Displays effective interpersonal communication skills5. Demonstrates leadership skills
Just think of all the ways our students will change the world for the better and grow in character and integrity in the process!
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
There is no end to the cross curricular connections within a project like this!
Continued community service projects as E-nable members.
Links: Link to E-nable
Link to 3-D printer video
Materials: Printers, Integrating Technology, Cause and Effect
Other Items: 1 MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer (Fifth Generation Model) , $2800 each, total of $2800.00