Concluding our series on North Carolina’s 3D Jedi, (see post 1 and post 2), it is fair to say that Epps has not made it this far without solid commitment from his community. Epps notes: “The BRAC Regional Task Force, which is a base realignment and closure group (an organization closing bases across the country, consolidating troops, and relocating them to new areas) led the initial effort by funding our previous program, placing 3D labs in eleven high schools.” And now, BRAC is ramping up their investment. “BRAC aims to further shape the educational landscape of the 21st Century” by expanding and adding more content and equipment, totaling thirty-one systems in eleven counties.
As a result of Epps’ G.R.E.A.T. 3D Academy, some local business leaders have also changed their perspective about education: instead of thinking that schools should be producing a traditional workforce, they now believe that high schools are capable of producing a highly skilled workforce. Again, Ben Dibble reflects that his work in producing stereo 3D as a student “helped me become very independent and, at the same time, it taught me to work with a group. It taught me not to wait for opportunities to open up, but instead make my own.“ Given the current STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education challenges we face, Jeff Epps appears to be well along the road toward producing a highly marketable workforce, while investing in his state’s own and most promising resource—its potential-rich youth.
Epps' project is not without significant challenges, however. “We’re looking for more business leaders as partners,” he indicates. “We need assistance from the engineering community to help expose students to the engineering experience—we need internship opportunities for our student once they become comfortable using 3D design software.” He is not only seeking physically close internships, but also remote internships. “I need people that can video conference with our students, look at their content, and challenge our interns to improve their work.” He is also looking for laptops to put in the hands of students. “When those kids get laptops in their hands, they take them home; while they’re at home, they’re doing more. We find that they actually do extra work without complaining.” Epps is also hoping to find more modern 3D content development software. (If your organization is interested in partnering with Epps, field testing products, or recruiting his growing army of students, please consider contacting Director Epps at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
It is becoming clear that not all 3D content development will emerge solely from creative production houses. Student-created content will soon become a disruptive element in the content development market. For that reason, I’ve always advised 3D content development companies to develop a simple authoring tool for student use. Then, I suggest they begin to strategically tap into this growing developer community well before it begins to tap into their revenues.