Kids today are raised with clay and Playdoh, but the children of tomorrow will have a vastly more sophisticated tool available to turn the stuff of their imaginations into something they can touch. How will these children of tomorrow learn just what 3-D printing can do? LEO The Maker Prince is a new book by designer Carla Diana that aims to inspire a new generation of makers.
Published by Maker Media, Inc, LEO The Maker Prince owes a debt to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's 1943 children's classic, The Little Prince. "When I set out to write a book sharing my own excitement about the future of 3-D printing, I thought about what a strong impact certain books have had on my life," says Diana. "The Little Prince stood out to me, particularly for its message about creativity and keeping an open mind."
Like that book, LEO The Maker Prince features a prince from space who crash lands on Earth and then befriends the book's narrator after asking her to draw a sheep. Then the story takes a decidedly 21st-century twist. The prince of this story takes the sheep drawing, scans it into its memory banks, and prints out a three-dimensional model of it, initiating the narrator (and the reader) into the world of 3-D printing.
It's a charming premise that is pulled off with skill. That's no surprise, given the pedigree of the author. A fellow at Smart Design who has contributed pieces to publications like the New York Times (and even the site you're reading now), Diana handles the topic here with her characteristic intelligence and great sense of humor.
The book has also got a heck of a great hook: If a kid has access to a 3-D printer, he or she can download files to print out the characters of LEO The Maker Prince. In fact, readers as far away as the Netherlands and Shanghai have already started uploading photos of figures they printed from LEO The Maker Prince online.
But no matter how well the concept is handled, isn't a children's book about 3-D printing a little niche? Diana doesn't think so. "It's clear to me that 3-D printing will quickly become a tool accessible to almost all kids," says Diana. "Many schools, such as my alma mater, the all-girls Marymount School in New York are starting to build well-equipped Fab Labs where kids have access to digital fabrication tools."
Pretty soon, argues Diana, 3-D printers will be ubiquitous, which is why it's all the more important for kids to start thinking about the possibilities of 3-D printing now. Today, they might just be printing out a sheep or a robot from a children's book, but who knows? Tomorrow, those same skills might change the world.
LEO The Maker Prince is available now from Amazon.com.