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An Interview with Shawn Nason, Xavier University
May 1, 2015
One of the latest trends we have seen in 3D printing is the introduction of 3D printing spaces on college campuses. More specifically, more and more campuses interested in 3D printing have opted for the building/installation of MakerBot Innovation Centers, a customizable 3D printing space. One of these locations that opened recently is at Xavier University, located in Cincinnati, OH. To learn more about their decision and what having one means to their campus we reached out and were granted an interview with Shawn Nason, Chief Innovation Officer, Xavier University and Xavier Center for Innovation. The interview was conducted via email, and the transcript is here below.
1) What prompted you to look into becoming a MakerBot 3D Innovation Center? Had anyone among the staff and faculty had experience with other 3D printers or 3D design?
Prof. Gary Lewandowski who teaches Human-Center making is our resident expert in 3D printing. David Zlatic, who worked in the theater department, just joined us and is trained in 3D design and he will be running our 3D print shop once it opens officially in July. In addition, we have several other staff members who are trained in using the 3D printers and software. Our hope is to hire students, teach them how to use the software and machines and have them help us run the space.
2)What types of reactions have you had across campus since the Innovation Center got up and running?
The reality is though if you’re not creating and innovating, you’re stagnating and not growing. And we all know that the next thing that follows is cutting and collapsing. I know we have a lot to prove in a short amount of time—and I think we’re well on way to doing just that. I will add that that outside the walls of the university—start-ups, major companies, alumni, donors, prospective students and parents are all raving about what we’re doing.
I get contacted on a daily basis from companies and individuals from all over the U.S. who want to do business with us. I have start-ups looking to partner with us. Major corporations are contacting me looking to partner with Xavier. We also host alumni, parents and prospective students regularly who walk through our space and talk to me, as well as all the members of our team, and they absolutely LOVE what we’re doing and want to be part of it in some way.
3) What has been done to promote its existence and technology? Have you begun any cross-campus partnerships since its inception both on campus or out in the community?
4) Who all is able to take advantage of having this type of resource on campus? Is it limited to students taking courses in specific academic disciplines?
5) What impact do you think it has had on the education of your students? Does it give your students a competitive edge over those from other schools?
We are teaching students to look for answers, and we’re giving them a variety of tools to do that, all within the context of a traditional liberal arts education as well. Also, by being a “center” and not an academic department, we have the freedom to partner with start-ups and companies. We can give students unprecedented access to internships with companies that are on the vanguard of disrupting industries. We also are giving local start-ups and companies the ability to work with students and to get perspective from an entirely new generation of thinkers. By working so closely with the community, we’re able to give our students a more well-rounded and practical education.
6) In as much as you can comment, how integral was the administration of the university in getting this done and getting it funded? Was any of this the result of a grant application?
7) Have the first few months met your expectations thus far? What have been the biggest challenges presented and how have they been overcome or handled? What have been the biggest surprises, if any?
8) What advice, if any, would you give to another CIO/CTO, professor, or business who is interested in beginning an Innovation Center on their campus or a place of business?
9) What are some of the long-term goals of Xavier as it relates to both 3D printing and education in general?
10) What materials/filament are you printing with, and what are some examples of the products you have printed that you are most proud of to this point?