In an effort to engage the next generation of artists, engineers, and inventors, Navajo Technical University hosted the inaugural Navajo Maker Summer Camp in early June. Middle and high school students from throughout the region were invited to learn about advanced manufacturing technologies and processes, like 3D printing and modeling.
To provide the opportunity for Native American students, Kellogg Advance Rural Manufacturing Alliance, Navajo Technical University’s Center for Digital Technology, and the Indiana-based companies, 1st Maker Space and STEM Consulting partnered.
Students who attended developed an understanding of 3D printing techniques, as well as the ability to create and design 3D models using computer software programs like TinkerCad. Participants spent the week learning design and then applied that knowledge to engineer race cars equipped with propellers and custom made wheels. The students also designed smart phone accessories.
“It was a success,” said camp leader Tex Yazzie, who is a science and social studies teacher at St. Bonaventure Elementary in Thoreau, New Mexico. “They printed their own projects. Everyone laughed; everyone had fun. I think it went great.”
The camp is part of a larger initiative by Navajo Technical University to develop pathways for K-12 students in STEM— science, technology, engineering, and mathematic—fields in order to secure financially stable futures. Industries like metrology, robotics, and engineering have been identified as crucial careers of the 21st century. By offering a youth summer camp involving 3D printing, Navajo Technical University hopes to help train the next generation of manufacturers.
“These kids are our future. They’re the ones who will be leading us. They’re the ones who will be building things,” explained Yazzie, who has been incorporating 3D printing in his curriculum at St. Bonaventure for the last several years. “3D manufacturing is small now, but wait 10 years. These kids are going to be the ones running them. They’re going to be the ones running camps telling kids this could be their future.”