Chris Nettles is a 17-year-old student at Columbia High School in Lake City, FL, and he's the kind of Maker in Training you just can't ignore.
This week, a group of students, Nettles among them with the members from "Team 3556" at CHS, attended a symposium on 3D printing at Florida State University.
The symposium features no less of an authority on and booster of the Maker movement than Dr. Darrell Wallace. Wallace, the Deputy Director of AME for America Makes, fielded questions from the assembled students after his address.
During that Q&A, Nettles brought up one of his suggestions to move the technology forward among students and nascent makers.
"I asked if there was a network through which high school students could collaborate, learn, share designs, and discuss additive manufacturing," Nettles says. "While the answer was 'no,' this did open a dialogue between a few of our team members and Dr. Wallace."
And not surprisingly, Wallace said America Makes would be open to supporting that sort of project.
Now that he's opened up a can of 3D printing worms, as it were, Nettles is looking for some buy-in from students around the nation to help him get the ball rolling, and he's got the President of the United States behind him as well.
President Obama recently announced the creation of two new Pentagon-led institutes which are modeled after the first of the breed in Youngstown, Ohio, aimed at boosting advanced additive manufacturing. The eventual goal of the initiative is creating jobs, many of which were lost to global competition in the last few decades.
And the President is putting our money where his mouth is: the two new manufacturing innovation institutes are being supported with a $140 million commitment from the federal government and then combined with more than $140 million in non-federal resources.
As part of Obama's goal, he announced that he wants to see a branch of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute – now known as America Makes – in his hometown of Chicago.
The POTUS also said that a second hub will be located in Canton, Mich., just outside of Detroit, and that center will be focused on developing new methods for light metal manufacturing.
"If we want to attract more good manufacturing jobs to America, we've got to make sure we're on the cutting edge of new manufacturing techniques and technologies," Obama said during his address from the White House.
Speaking from a dais in the East Room at the White House, Obama was surrounded by some high-tech equipment. Behind him were a helicopter engine, a robotic arm used by the Navy for underwater explosive disposal and perhaps most telling, a 3D printer.
"I'm really excited about these four hubs," the President told the crowd. "The only problem is Germany has 60 of them. I don't want the next big job-creating discovery to come from Germany or China or Japan. I want it to be made here in America."
And Chris Nettles is the kind of guy who will actually carry the ball and move the technology forward, the next generation, if you will.
"Here's where we need your help: We'd like to receive input from students about what they'd like to see in this type of network, on topics from website format, to functions that should be available, or even suggesting a name for the project," Nettles says. "This is something that we'd really like to see take off. With the explosion of 3D printing and additive manufacturing, we believe that this project would become a very valuable resource for students, teachers and robotics teams."