MakerBot is donating several of its popular 3D printers, the MakerBot® Replicator® 2 Desktop 3D Printer, to seven schools for the blind in Japan in conjunction with Yahoo Japan Corporation, the operator of Yahoo! Japan. The donated MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printers will be part of Yahoo! Japan’s innovative new program, “Hands on Search,” that allows visually impaired and disabled children in select schools throughout Japan to have the ability to touch and feel 3D printed objects made on a MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer.
Announced in Japan on November 1, which is known as the Day for Braille, the “Hands on Search” project is a new program that evolved from finding items on the Internet and taking those items and converting them into real, physical objects. The concept takes “seeing, hearing, visual and audio inputs and puts them into an innovative format for the children to touch and feel by 3D printing models of items they would find in their school, home and in the environment. The items being printed are some of the downloadable digital designs available on the MakerBot® Thingiverse® website, the world’s largest 3D Design Community with more than 100,000 downloadable digital designs for discovering, printing and sharing 3D models.
The program was first conducted as a pilot program from September 20 through October 31, 2013, at the Special Needs Education School for the Visually Impaired, affiliated with the University of Tsukuba (School for the Blind), where visually impaired children had the “Hands on Search” experience, which allows them to touch more than 90 solid objects printed out on a MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer. Children enjoyed learning on their own by confirming the output of shapes and objects to items they already knew or by learning new ones.
The “Hands on Search” program is now being expanded and Yahoo! Japan will bring the program to the public and will be donating the “Hands on Search” machine to the University of Tsukuba, which will be responsible for managing the machine to provide opportunities for more people to experience “Hands on Search.” Any new 3D design files that are created for the program will be uploaded onto the MakerBot Thingiverse 3D Design Community website, where the files can be downloaded by anyone for free. Source code for the program will also be shared to Github. The “Hands on Search” machine will be donated to the University of Tsukuba and will be lent out to two public schools for the blind, the Hanawa Hokiichi School and the Yokohama City Special Support School.“MakerBot is proud to be able to support the ‘Hands on Search’ program being pioneered by Yahoo! Japan,” noted Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot. “We’ve seen some pretty exciting and innovative uses of 3D printing over the years, and those that impact children and help them see, or in this case feel, the world differently, are important to us. This program showcases how beneficial the sharing of information is and how it can transform someone’s perception about the world around them.”