NOTE: This articled has been translated to english. For the original article click here.
Alfredo Orejuela, Captain of Industry and Visionary
By Elizabeth Roman (EL PUEBLO LATINO)
PHOTO: Don Treeger/The Republican
Longmeadow - A few years ago, while studying political science and economics at Seton Hall University, Alfredo Orejuela wrote a research paper on the 3D Printing Industry. At that time he believed 3D printers would become ubiquitous like computers, now found in every classroom and workplace.
"In the 1980s and 90s people were still very skeptical about computers. They were too expensive, they were not easy to operate and many people did not understand the value of having a computer in their home or in the classroom," said Orejuela, a young Peruvian living in Longmeadow.
Years later Orejuela would found STEAMporio which provides 3D printers, professional development and student workshops to schools across New England.
"[Schools] buy the equipment and we teach the teachers how to use the equipment," said Orejuela, who not only knows how to use the printers, but can also assemble them.
When they first hit the consumer market in 2008, 3D printers were extremely expensive, costing thousands of dollars, but over the years they have become cheaper and more accessible giving students the opportunity to work with this extraordinary technology.
"I have always been a student that learns by practice. For many students, reading a science lesson in a book is not the same as doing an experiment where you are not only learning by using the equipment (gaining technical knowledge), but you can also create (the solution) with the printer," he said.
In his home office Orejuela has many examples of printers and the incredible things that can be created with the equipment. On a table he has an example of a prosthetic hand.
"A person who has lost his hand can use a prosthetic hand like this," said Orejuela.
The incredible thing is that the cost for a prosthetic hand made by a 3D printer can cost around $50, while one made by a traditional manufacturer can cost thousands of dollars.
A volunteer initiative called Project e-Nable has approached the problem by creating a program that works with students across the K-12 spectrum to teach them how to use 3D Printing technology to create a prosthetic hand themselves.
"The organization joins the school with a person who may need a prosthetic hand. They give the measurements to the students, and they spend a semester in school creating it for that person," said Orejuela.
Recently, Orejuela received a grant from Valley Venture Mentors for his participation in a program for young entrepreneurs.
"It was a good opportunity for me because I could spend nine weeks dedicated to improving my business," he said.
One of their goals is for schools to get this equipment and prepare their students to get jobs in engineering, design and more.
"I would like to expand the workforce development in western Massachusetts. I did not start this company to just sell printers, I want schools to have this technology so they can give their students the best opportunity to get jobs after graduation, "he said.
One project that Orejuela would like to pursue before the end of the year is to establish a competition with several schools where students will present ideas of what they would like to create with the printer.
"The school would buy the equipment and I would offer my free services to teach the teacher and the students how to use the technology," he said.
The goal would be for a group to choose to work with Project e-Nable, to create a prosthetic for a person who needs it.
"I think it would be an incredible experience for the students, for the school and for me as well," he said.