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“My imagination came to life.”

– 3D Printing Apprenticeship Student

This isn’t just the story of a 3D printer. It’s the story of an incredible year that built unprecedented self-confidence among Boston Public School students. It’s the story of future engineers, inspired to create projects that would bring them to halls of The White House.

When NVBOTS co-founders Chris and AJ walked into Boston’s Joseph Lee School in 2013, they had something to prove: That 3D printing could transform education by teaching students how to design and use their skills to solve real world problems.

At the start of the first class, each student was handed a self-efficacy survey. They were asked to rate their confidence in statements such as:

  • “I can always manage to solve difficult problems if I try hard enough.”
  • “Thanks to my resourcefulness, I know how to handle unforeseen situations.”
  • “I am confident that I could effectively lead my team.”

Chris and AJ collected the results and began to teach.

For ten weeks, Chris and AJ would drive out to the Joseph Lee School after their classes at MIT. Their students picked up their design skills quickly and began creating a number of designs. They created accessories, toys, sports equipment, Greek gods, and anything that they had a passion to create.  Their designs progressed in complexity and quality as the students became more confident in their abilities to express their creativity and solve new problems. Students that had no previous design experience came to class every day to hone their engineering abilities. The students began to express a passion to pursue higher education to become tomorrow’s engineers.

As the tenth and last class arrived, Chris and AJ again distributed another round of self-efficacy surveys. It was the moment of truth: had the semester of 3D printing classes indeed improved the students’ confidence in their abilities?

They again collected the surveys and compiled the results. When the numbers were crunched, the results were amazing. In each category of the self-efficacy survey, the entire class improved by up to four points and the standard deviation of the scores shrunk significantly. Each of the students stated greatly-increased confidence in their ability to solve problems, rely on their skill set, and handle unexpected events.

Question Pre Post Delta
I am confident that I could deal efficiently with unexpected events. 5.8 7.8 + 2.0
I can solve most problems if I invest the necessary effort. 6.1 7.5 + 1.4
I can remain calm when facing difficulties because I can rely on my coping abilities. 5.8 7.7 + 1.9


See the Full Results


The results spoke for themselves. But the story was just beginning.

In the next year, NVBOTS and Citizens Schools would lead a crowdfunding campaign to bring 3D printing into more Boston area schools — igniting a passion for STEAM education among students that would take them from Newton North High School to The White House.

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