I spoke with Paulo Kiefe, the founder of STEMFIE, a new site dedicated to providing 3D printable construction set components.
The site, as you might gather from its name, is focused on providing an ability for students to learn principles of construction. STEMFIE provides an “open educational construction set” for making new designs.
Aside: It turns out that Kiefe was one of the designers who produced the original #3DBenchy 3D model back in 2015, which is perhaps now the most-3D printed object in the universe. See a 3D Studio for 3DBenchy here.
Fabbaloo: What is the STEMFIE project?
Paulo Kiefe: The STEMFIE project attempts to create a new application for 3D printers in schools and homes. The technology and price level of machines and material has become so accessible, that making things on demand, is no longer something that only companies can do.
With that in consideration, STEMFIE was designed as an ecosystem of parts in a coherent construction set toy — which 3D-prints easily on most consumer-level machines.
The system resembles the good old Meccano construction set, which has been around since the late 1800s.
STEMFIE also aims to create a new kind of toy which is downloadable by the end-user. In this way, when kids need more parts for a project, they only need to turn on the 3D printer and make as many as they want.
Fabbaloo: Who started STEMFIE, and when did that happen?
Paulo Kiefe: I am the creator of STEMFIE. Having used 3D printers for 20 years – and now seeing the ease-of-use and affordability of desktop machines – the thought of designing parts that can be useful and have a long-term use at home, was always on my mind. I realised the potential in spreading designs online when I, back in 2015, co-designed 3DBenchy together with my colleague and friend Daniel Norée.
I love construction set toys and especially, building mechanical things with beams, rods, cogwheels, etc. When I was a child, I use to love when my father taught me how to play with these and make my inventions.
I, therefore, decided, roughly two years ago, to start designing and prototyping a set of components that would be small enough to print quickly and easily, but still maintain enough detail and dimensional accuracy.
After many attempts and iterations, I finalised the construction standard for STEMFIE, meaning that all parts attach proportionally and coherently.
Fabbaloo: Who’s funding STEMFIE?
Paulo Kiefe: I developed STEMFIE on my own. I spent time, lots of filament and, sometimes, a bit of sweat and tears.
Fabbaloo: Are you the only person on the STEMFIE project? Is anyone else involved?
Paulo Kiefe: Apart from myself, I have had excellent help from my friend and inventor Sven Hellestam. He also uses 3D printers and has been very good at helping me see the design from a different perspective.
I have also had great support from my friend Thomas Lindgren, who, apart from also being a maker and 3D print user, printed STEMFIE parts at home and played with his kids, which gave me excellent user feedback.
Fabbaloo: Where is STEMFIE based?
Paulo Kiefe: STEMFIE was born in Sweden.
Fabbaloo: Is there an intention to add additional projects?
Paulo Kiefe: Yes, there is an intention, and ongoing work behind the scenes, to release all the part files for the STEMFIE standard – the fasteners, beams, etc., all in the different sizes. In that way, anyone will be able to make their STEMFIE projects.
I will also release new projects regularly. There are already a bunch assemblies designed, which I need to do more testing before I release them, and there will be many more in the future built on ideas.
I will also prepare a specific Blender scene file, in which anyone more efficiently will be able to create their projects and modify any part they desire. In other words, I want this to be a community project an let people know that STEMFIE is a toy designed for everyone to use and play with!
Fabbaloo: Do you have any idea what these additional projects might be?
Paulo Kiefe: The list is long! All projects till be released under stemfie.org/projects. I already have plans for making different kinds of projects, suitable for doing experiments in schools and being an educational tool. I also wish to receive community feedback. It is more fun to design a STEMFIE project, knowing that people want to 3D print that and play with it.
I can already mention, as a teaser, that the next project will use a ping-pong ball.
Fabbaloo: Are any formal educators involved in the development of projects?
Paulo Kiefe: I have talked to a few schools in Sweden that have shown interest in using STEMFIE as an educational tool. But as far as the project has progressed now, I am the only person deeply involved developing STEMFIE, and naturally also with the excellent help and feedback from my friends.
Fabbaloo: How are projects produced? Are they made in-house or can anyone submit a design?
Paulo Kiefe: The projects produced now, which I will regularly be releasing in the future, are all created by me.
Nevertheless, I sincerely wish that other users of STEMFIE will make their designs and submit them to the project. I will gladly publish them also on stemfie.org, and naturally, with attributions.