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Vibrant Hawai‘i Donates 3D Printers

September 5, 2021, 8:44 AM HST
* Updated September 4, 11:52 AM
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Vibrant Hawaiʻi is donating 28 Prusa 3D printers to schools and nonprofit organizations across Hawaiʻi Island as a result of its Resilience Hub initiative which mobilized in September of 2020 through a County of Hawaiʻi CARES grant, and continued through July 2021 through donations made by Kohala Coast residents.

3D printing was introduced to Resilience Hub sites and community partners to support the creation of and access to personal protective equipment (PPE) at a time when demand was high and supplies from manufacturers was low. Big Island Face Shield, the grassroots group who partnered with Vibrant Hawaiʻi, was formed by Hawaiʻi Island volunteers, many of whom have an expertise in engineering.

“The Big Island Face Shield group formed in spring of 2020 as a volunteer group of 3D printing hobbyists and enthusiasts,” said Kean Wong, Program Director of Big Island Face Shield. “During the global PPE shortage in early 2020 we 3D-printed thousands of face shields and face mask clips and distributed them to healthcare facilities, business, schools and individuals all across the island. Seeing the need for engaging educational programming for keiki across the island, we pivoted and were excited to partner with Vibrant Hawai’i in the Hubs 1.0 and 2.0 programs, as well as with many summer camp programs in 2021, to offer creative educational experiences across the island. It has been fantastic to experience excited and engaged keiki, and for organizations and communities to see 3D printers as ways to engage people with design and creativity using this exciting technology.  We look forward to seeing how these wonderful schools and nonprofit organizations utilize the 3D printers to encourage innovation and local resilience.” 

Hubs 2.0, which ran from February – July 2021, was built upon the demonstration of community members to efficiently and effectively respond to critical needs to support recovery and resilience. Expanding beyond food distribution and providing direct support to keiki’s distance learning, Hubs 2.0 explored ways in which community members could lead in providing pathways for economic recovery, including food resilience initiatives and exploring tech innovation via 3D printing.

“Tech literacy and experience across the island varies, so 3D printers presented an opportunity to maximize the investment in devices and further invest in our people,” said Ashley Kierkiewicz, Resilience Hubs Co-Chair. “The pandemic brought to bear how integral technology is to our lives. By making 3D printers more accessible and providing training via Resilience Hubs, we exposed children and families to technology that fostered design-thinking, and likely sparked an interest in pursuing a career in tech, which is shaping up to be a major industry in the islands. Big Island Face Shields was a phenomenal partner in helping communities actualize ideas into tangible products.”

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At the Miloliʻi Hub, 3D printers were powered by a generator since there is no wired electricity in the building. This caught the interest of other education groups who realized that the lack of electricity was not a hindering factor to provide tech education in rural areas, as previously thought. 

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“We proved that anything is possible here in Miloli’i and there’s other teachers who are thinking about providing resources and programs because we did it in a hālau with two 3D printers and a generator. For the keiki, the 3D printers also enlightened them to endless possibilities. They gained skills involved in using the printers, but more importantly they gained the confidence to be engineers who know this place and their place in the ‘āina,” said 3D Printing Coach Kendra Killkuskie. 

By the close of Hubs 2.0, Big Island Face Shields had provided 235 3D printing workshops and enrichment activities focused on growing critical thinking skills, entrepreneurship knowledge, design thinking and STEM skills. The 10 3D printing coaches reached 3,333 keiki and their families around Hawai‘i Island.

“Many communities haven’t had the chance to interact with advanced technology so providing this program was incredible, “ said Wong. “We are confident that in 10-20 years some of these keiki will head down a STEM path. We’ve challenged them to think about broader opportunities than the ones they initially knew existed.”

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Vibrant Hawaiʻi’s islandwide 3D printer donation to schools and public places will continue to support access to tools and technology that advance innovation and localized solutions to build resilience.

“This project truly models community empowerment. By building capacity and confidence in rural areas of our island through training and mentorship, community folks can take the lead in developing solutions that will work for them,” said Janice Ikeda, Executive Director, Vibrant Hawaiʻi. “I am incredibly grateful to Kean Wong, Caroline Landry, Ava Williams and their team that brought 3D printing technology and skills to every district of our island. They initiated the conversation about permanently placing printers in the hands of the community, and we wholeheartedly support this.”

3D Printer Donation Distribution

  • Hāmākua: Hāmākua Youth Foundation (2), Paʻauilo Elementary and Middle School (2) 
  • Hilo: East Hawaiʻi Cultural Center (2), Haili Christian School (1), Hawaiʻi Science and Technology Museum (2) 
  • Puna: HAAS/ASC (2), Volcano School of Arts and Sciences (2) Kaʻū: Kaʻū High and Pāhala Elementary School (4) 
  • Kona: Miloliʻi/Kalanihale (2), Holualoa Elementary (2), Kahakai Elementary (1), Laʻiopua Community Center (2), Kealakehe Intermediate School (1) 
  • Kohala: Kohala High School (2) 
  • Waimea: Waimea Middle School (1)

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