From businesses, to manufacturers, to everyday hobbyists 3D printing offers an accessible, safe and cost effective way to bring designs off the page and into life. Desktop 3D printing is igniting a new wave of innovation in the education sector, where 3D printing presents an incredible opportunity for STEAM based learning opportunities that span virtually every discipline from K-12 and beyond.
Jeremy Hedges and his team are capitalizing on that goldmine of opportunity with their company InkSmith. A University of Laurier grad, Jeremy initially founded InkSmith a couple of years ago to improve the sustainability of 3D printing feedstock. But like many startups, he found himself pivoting the company toward the education market after realizing the untapped opportunity for learning presented by the 3D technologies he represented.
“I estimate only 20% of Canadian schools today have access to 3D printers, but in the next few years they’re going to become a standard tool in every classroom and library,” says Jeremy. “It’s a real blue sky market and a powerful legacy to be a part of empowering future generations to tackle the world’s biggest problems!
Jeremy, the son of a teacher, is quick to point out that this isn’t a story about 3D printer hardware. “At the end of the day, the 3D printer is just the tool. InkSmith is an edtech company focused on inspiring kids and teachers to use STEAM-based learning technologies in the classroom. We don’t want to throw a 3D printer into the school and hope it works. We want to enable STEAM programming with a turnkey solution for education that provides professional development, curriculum based course projects, 3D printers, materials, the technical support and everything else they need to make it happen.”
Jeremy, the son of a teacher and Wilfrid Laurier University grad, spent his formative years leading community and youth programs. “I was always looking to make an impact,” he confesses. With 3D printing, he saw a cool niche where he could build a company and at the same time empower kids not just to learn about the world’s problems, but to become the innovators that solve them as well.
“With 3D printing and modelling technologies, we can get kids learning environmental science to design their own aquaponics system, or build 3D printed catapults to test physics theories. There are so many applications for learning engineering principles, mathematics principles, and even the arts,” he explains, noting that Inksmith is working currently with the Stratford Festival to use 3D printing for prop making, and to construct mini stage replicas to understand and test how props move, and how actors use the physical space.
One of the most exciting developments for Inksmith in the last year has been a budding partnership with the York Region District School Board. The company and school board have jointly applied for a funding grant to pilot the Inksmith solution into dozens of schools. Should the grant funding get approved, this project will serve as the pilot test for the federal government and provincial education ministries to invest in Canada wide deployment. In anticipation of a successful application, Jeremy is building out his team and beefing up the company’s academic credentials. A recently posted job description for teachers to help Inksmith develop course materials brought in 20 highly qualified applicants in a single day.
“JumpStart is a great program and it was super valuable to have access to mentors and call us on bad ideas says. It gave us the time to prototype and build a business model that works. Because of the ACJumpStart funding, we were able to really research and understand the market and hire our first employees to build out our product and sales. As a result, we’re at the leading edge of this industry and are the only company in Canada providing this kind of solution. I can confidently say we wouldn’t be here at all without ACJumpStart.” – Jeremy Hedges