11/1/23 UPDATE: NMC’s pitch won $5,000 with another $35,000 pending completion of a feasibility study by March 2024.
TRAVERSE CITY — An NMC team is competing today for a prize that would allow the college to update its construction technology curriculum to include potentially revolutionary 3D wall printing capability.
NMC’s team is among six finalists at today’s National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship Pitch for the Trades competition in Nashville, Tenn. Construction Coordinator Carolyn Andrews and two members of NMC’s Office of Possibilities (OOPS)are seeking the maximum $50,000 prize for a 3D printer and supporting materials to make building homes more affordable, sustainable and faster.
“We are asking for that money to help us introduce 3D printing homes into our curriculum,” Andrews said. “We need to do whatever we can to solve some of this housing crisis and labor shortage.”
Through 2027, the Grand Traverse region has a housing gap of more than 31,000 units according to Housing North, a nonprofit housing advocate. More than 22,000 for sale units are needed and 8,800 rental units. In both categories, lower-priced housing is in the highest demand.
3D printing accomplishes this by using a robotic arm to build a programmed wall from a single material like concrete. Andrews said a single-story home could be printed in a day with three people. A traditional stick frame home would require a bigger crew and take multiple days or weeks, which increases the cost.
“You’re getting something done a lot more efficiently with less people,” she said.
In addition, materials like concrete are much less vulnerable to threats like hurricanes, flooding, and fires, which are becoming increasingly common with climate change.
“It’s actually a better home than your traditionally-framed home,” Andrews said.
NMC students will get their first chance to try the technology this fall when they join pitch team member Al Everett’s private company, Thrive TC, to build the region’s first 3D-printed home. It will break ground in November, Andrews said.
“We want students out there,” Andrews said. “We’ve been building the same way we have been since the 50s. Change is scary, and we haven’t embraced technology like we should.”
To advance to today’s finals, Andrews, Everett and Will Kitchen, also of OOPS, delivered a virtual pitch earlier this month. The idea is backed by leaders from both the Michigan and Grand Traverse area Home Builders Association, Andrews said.
“They are in strong support of it,” she said.
Andrews also thinks it will boost NMC enrollment.
“The fact that we’re embracing technology and giving students a unique opportunity for a specific skill, that’s going to set them apart for higher paying jobs,” she said.
NMC has budgeted $35,000 for a printer that utilizes a 3D robotic arm to create panelized walls, $10,000 for curriculum development and faculty training, and $5,000 for innovation mindset credential development and ecosystem support
Pitch results are expected Tuesday morning. The judges have discretion on how to divide a $150,000 prize pot among the six finalists.
“As an optimist, I believe we will make a positive impression and have a good chance of coming back with something,” said Kitchen, a founder of OOPS.
Release date: October 30, 2023
For more information:
NMC Communications Director
(231) 392-1800 (call or text)