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MakerBot aims to put a 3D printer in every school, and wants you to help pay for it

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MakerBot Globe
MakerBot Globe

MakerBot, the Brooklyn-based company that makes a variety of desktop 3D printers, accessories and associated software, announced a new plan today designed to put one of its signature devices into every school in America. Called the "MakerBot Academy," the new effort relies on DonorsChoose, a crowdfunding website designed specifically for budget-strapped teachers, which lets them post requests for specific supplies online and solicit donations to help pay for the costs.

Google and Reddit have previously turned to DonorsChoose for other educational tech initiatives. In this case, MakerBot is urging teachers to sign up for DonorsChoose and ask for pledges toward a MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer, last year's model, along with a supply of the plastic used for printing and an equipment service plan. MakerBot is offering a slight discount for its education bundle: $2,352 dollars for the whole package compared to $2,700 for the general retail price. The $348 discount is equivalent to about the cost of one year of the company's service plan, according to a MakerBot spokesperson.

clearly a great way to move more MakerBot 3D printers

But in Brooklyn, where MakerBot is based, founder and former middle school teacher Bre Pettis is discounting the printer package for public schools down to just $98, with much of the money paid by corporate sponsorships. MakerBot is also hosting an online design competition to get 3D modelers to come up with the best designs for printable math supplies, such as counting blocks, and the winner will get to pick a school to receive a Replicator 2 bundle for free. The combined effort is clearly a great way to move more MakerBot 3D printers into the hands of young people and raise awareness of the company, but MakerBot also cites President Obama's call earlier this year to revitalize American manufacturing as inspiration. Let's just hope the plan goes better than a recent effort in Los Angeles to give students iPads, which has been curtailed after students bypassed the devices' security settings.

Jacob Kastrenakes contributed to this article.