Program to Showcase 3-D Business Opportunities

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- A new partnership by the Youngstown Business Incubator and Youngstown State University aims to bring home to high school students the business opportunities that additive manufacturing represents for them.

A $10,000 grant from the AT&T foundation will fund development of the summer program, expected to take place next year. YBI will provide funding support through its sand-core printing initiative with the foundry industry, which has an educational component.

“As we saw over the weekend with the amazing turnout that we had at the kickoff for the Youngstown Maker Community, the timing of this announcement couldn’t be better,” said Barb Ewing, YBI’s chief operating officer. “This weekend was a great kickoff but it was just that. It was the kickoff to a much larger initiative.”

“What we’re going to try to do with this funding is address a gap in 3-D printing education,” said Brent Conner, associate professor in YSU’s department of mechanical and industrial engineering and director of advanced manufacturing and workforce initiative in the university’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Much of the time, effort is spent educating students about the technical aspect of additive manufacturing, Conner explained.

“When we think about this from a business standpoint, there is a gap there. How do we communicate the ‘so what,’ the value proposition for additive manufacturing?” he continued. “That is what we’re trying to address here. We’re trying to give kids the opportunity to know how to make some money off of this process, how to be able to start a business themselves, what’s important, why is it different from other things. … That’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Every 26 seconds a student drops out from high school, said Steve Kristan, AT&T Ohio director of external affairs. The reason isn’t that they can’t handle the workload, he continued, but that they don’t see the relevance of remaining in school. “So we’re focused on keeping kids in school, specifically in a STEM environment.

“One of the components that is lost in the larger discussions is this really is a very different business model than traditional manufacturing,” Ewing added. "Where in traditional manufacturing economies of scale and a distinct price point are sought, additive manufacturing permits “economies of ones, twos and threes and mass customization,” she said.

“So it’s not as simple as just learning how to use the production equipment in order to make a business. To really optimize the capabilities and the true uniqueness of the process we have to understand how to use it properly and when to use it, not just how to use the machines,” Ewing said.

The initiative also aims to address another gap Kristan cited. About 6% of students graduating from universities and institutions hold degrees in the STEM disciplines, but there are job opportunities in those fields for 26% of graduates.

“It’s important that Youngstown take full advantage of the fact that the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute is located here,” said Mike Hripko, deputy director of workforce and educational outreach for American Makes, as NAMII is branded. The funding will provide curriculum and “much-needed training opportunities for students,” he explained.

“This new business model is fantastic. The individual becomes an entrepreneur. The entrepreneur becomes a factory,” he remarked. 

Pictured: Mike Hripko, Brett Conner, Barb Ewing, Steve Kristan, Guha Manogharan.

Copyright 2014 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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