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Calling All Makers: Announcing the First-Ever White House 3D-Printed Ornament Challenge

For the first time ever, we’re inviting makers and innovators around the country to participate in the White House 3D Printed Ornament Challenge.

Here at the White House, planning for the 2014 holiday season is already in full swing! The house is buzzing with activity as preparations for the most festive time of the year are underway.

Once again, President Obama and the First Lady will welcome tens of thousands of visitors from around the country to tour the holiday decorations – and those that can’t make it in person will have the chance to explore the décor online. From Christmas trees and garlands to lights and ornaments, the holidays will be filled with wonder, delight, and excitement.

And this year, for the first time ever, we’re inviting makers and innovators around the country to participate in the White House 3D-Printed Ornament Challenge!

The Challenge, in partnership with the Smithsonian, invites makers, artists, designers, engineers, and anyone interested in 3D modeling and 3D printing to design a winter holiday-inspired ornament. Starting today and running until November 10, 2014, people can head over to Instructables to submit their design and for more details about the Challenge.

A selection of the winning ornament designs will be 3D printed and displayed in the White House during the holiday season; featured on the Smithsonian’s state-of-the-art 3D data platform,; and will join a small collection of White House ornaments in the political history division of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

A "Bo-flake" ornament from 2012, featuring the likeness of Bo, the Obama family dog.

With the democratization of tools and technologies like 3D printing, individuals have more opportunities to take their ideas and turn them into reality. Empowering students and adults to create, innovate, tinker, and build their ideas and solutions to problems into reality is at the heart of the Maker Movement. Since the White House Maker Faire in June, the White House has continued to support opportunities for students to learn about STEM through making, expand the resources available for maker entrepreneurs, and foster the development of advanced manufacturing in the U.S.

Once a technology that was incredibly expensive and used primarily for industrial applications, 3D printers are now available for about the cost of a laptop, and in some cases even less. 3D printing is now being used across a broad range of fields including biomedical, health care, fashion, food, engineering, automotive, and more. 3D printing uses a digital design file generated on a computer to produce an object by placing successive layers of material such as plastic or metal. One of the main benefits of the technology lies in the fact that changes can be quickly and inexpensively made to the design of an object digitally, making personalization and the production of small quantities less costly.

More and more K-12 schools now have 3D printers in makerspaces or in their libraries. Educators are using 3D modeling and 3D printing as an interactive, hands-on way to teach students key STEM concepts such as geometry, fractals, space and depth perception. And across the country, innovators are putting 3D printing to use to create everything from robotic hands to entire cars.

We need your help to create the first 3D-printed ornaments that will deck the halls of the White House. Host an ornament design workshop or activity in your classroom, at the local library, or your community makerspace, and then submit your designs on Instructables. Don’t forget to share your experience with us using #NationOfMakers, and continue to send us ideas for how we can engage and support the Maker community at!

Stephanie Santoso is the OSTP Senior Advisor for Making.