ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. -- Deep in the basement of Benilde-St. Margaret's, students are huddled over their work benches, refining projects that are three years in the making.
"We had one of the original dimension printers about 12 years ago," said their teacher, Tim Jump, who directs the Catholic school's Advanced Competitive Science program. "They were really concerned whether a high school could manage that type of technology."
"They" would be 3D printer giant Stratasys. The locally-founded company is keen to connect with both middle and high schools. The goals isn't selling more printers -- it's getting younger students excited about careers in a field known as additive manufacturing.
"If we had this program when I was a kid, my career path would have been different," said Rob Storlien of Stratasys. "Stratasys is like Disney World. We get done at the end of the day and we would need to go home, and, it's like - would you say, 'We leave Disney World? One more ride, one more ride!"
Storlien is kidding, but only a little. With applications in manufacturing, advances in medicine, and the ability to create almost any form a human can imagine, 3D printing is an exciting frontier for engineering.
"We're doing work that changes the world, and you see these kids, and you want to try to get them excited about that, too," Storlien said.
Tim Jump is doing exactly that with his ACS program at Benilde. In year one, students learn the basics. By year two, they are building robots. By year three students are printing out parts, and working on a college-level competition to create search and rescue robots that literally take students all over the world.
"These are the parts of our search and rescue robot that went to Germany last year," said Jump. The mini-robots his students are making develop better ways to refine the technology used on the full-sized robot.
Students compete with college teams from around the world where that technology is put to the test, and then shared so students can further advance their work. What they learn has real-world applications.
"When the Fukushima power plant went down," said Jump, "they were sending robots in to do some of the evaluation. Those were robots that were part of this competition. We've been with those universities, worked on those robots. We've offered some of our research that was actually on some of those robots."
Stratasys and Benilde work together -- Stratasys providing expertise and help printing some of the larger parts for Benilde's full-sized robot. Benilde students are showing Stratasys just how far they can go with the technology.
"It's all self-motivated," said senior Sofie Scott. "You work with your hands, all by yourself. It's real world applications, problem solving."
Benilde is hosting a day-long open house for its Advanced Competitive Science program Thursday, May 7th. You can find more information on the Benilde-St. Margaret's website.