WATSONVILLE—After a week of designing catapults, jewelry and other small trinkets as part of a three-dimensional software design institute, young Digital NEST students watched one of the largest commercial 3-D printers in the country transform a thin rope of plastic into a fluted vase.
“You can see how it sparks their imagination,” said Don Macleod, chief executive officer and president of Applied Motion Products in Watsonville, which hosted the student open house. Applied Motion makes high-precision motion control products that fit into a multitude of moving electronics, including the five fist-size motors in the onsite 3DP Co. printer. “It’s a great opportunity for them to see a machine that they would not normally have access to.”
Digital NEST, which provides free high tech and professional skills for people aged 12-24, has filled the summer with digital workshops such as programming, coding, blogging, video production and entrepreneurship. Students in a programming class last month visited Dell; this week’s program showed students that there is high tech in Watsonville, said Jacob Martinez, founding executive director.
“Digital NEST is all about getting these youth the skills they need to compete for good-paying jobs locally and globally,” Martinez said. “There’s a huge opportunity for 3D modeling careers.”
During the week, Brandon George, 11, created shapes to build a 3D boat while Domingo Martinez, 12, designed a 3-D human brain. Laura Vivanco, 17, designed a compact mirror and Kimberly Cortez, 13, designed jewelry. With just a week of computer assisted design practice under their belt, they admitted to limited success.
“It looked nothing like a brain,” Martinez said.
Macleod said he hosted the students as a way to cultivate youth interest in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, pursuits.
“We’re very interested in encouraging that (STEM) in the young community here,” Macleod said. “We can’t get enough educated and trained young engineers as it is.”
Macleod hopes to one day see Digital NEST have its own commercial 3D printer and said he would take steps to help make the $20,000 machine happen for the small nonprofit.
The community has lauded the nonprofit program since it was founded in November, offering up funding, free services, mentors and equipment. Martinez has twice been invited to visit the White House to talk about the teaching model and other communities have looked to replicate the program, Martinez said. In addition to private funding, the program has received support from a community angel and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
Next on the Digital NEST summer agenda are podcasting classes and a mentor orientation. Young people are invited to drop by the center for free access to computers, software, Wi-Fi, and other digital tools and classes.
New Tech in Motion Scholarship
Applied Motion Products also announced a new Applied Motion Make It Move scholarship contest, which offers $1,000 to the person whose project embodies “originality, ingenuity and mechanical skill to drive the advancement of today’s technological society.” Contestants are asked to video their project and post it on Instagram by Oct. 16. For information about the Applied Motion Products scholarship competition, visit: www.applied-motion.com/makeitmove.
This article first appeared in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.