Kim Francois August 3, 2016

Materialise China’s dream is to influence future perspectives of kids in remote areas through innovation. As of last year, our team has been working on the Silk Road project and, since the project kicked off in April in Xi’An, it was finally my turn to be a teacher on the Dream Bus. I got up at 4 am to leave from Shanghai to Huangzhong, a small county of 400,000 citizens, which is located in the Qinghai province of West China. I arrived and was warmly welcomed by the local education bureau, who picked me up at the airport and immediately took me for a delicious lunch where I met the Adream team and the other volunteers.

Materialise meets the students in Huangzhong

During the three ½ days in Huangzhong, we visited three different schools. The first day started with a beautiful blue sky and an excited team that was ready to bring a different kind of teaching to the children on the Silk Road. A big opening ceremony was organized by the local government and the children amazed everybody with a beautiful show, including local dances, martial arts displays and musical performances.

Children performing traditional folklore dance

Also the common phenomenon of taking pictures of newcomers occurred also in Huangzhong, so we spent at least half an hour taking part in an impromptu photo shoot. Then the actual work started: taking place just before lunch, the kids in the course were about 14 years old and very enthusiastic to learn about 3D printing technology – something completely new for them. They immediately took the tablets and started playing around with them. It took only 10 minutes for the first group to finish their designs. I would have never imagined that they would be so quick! And not only the students were fascinated by the technology; the parents were equally curious to learn more about the possibilities of 3D Printing.

Kim Francois offers books to the school Headmaster

The second school was a one-hour drive from our hotel. The town in which the school was located consisted out of just one street, which really showed us how remote the area was. This time we had the opportunity to teach two classes: 3D Printing and a “Going Abroad" course. The “Going Abroad” course focused on the culture of Belgium, and was taught together with Chen Shu, a famous Chinese movie star. Although there were quite a few photographers and media attending the course, the kids still focused and asked many questions about Belgium: what do we do for fun, what are our famous buildings and do we have special holidays? After the course I received all kinds of local home-made cookies from the children. In the afternoon we taught the 3D printing course. Incredible designs were made featuring animals, houses, and some kids even wrote my name in 3D.

Meeting the students

The third and last day was organized a little bit differently to the first two days. As the school facilities were too basic to really set up the classes, the Dream Bus stopped at a grass field in the area and invited the kids to come and play with all the teachers. I was responsible for a group of 40 students, which I introduced to the games I used to play when I was little. I was glad to leave a bit of Belgium behind: students happily accepted a gift bag containing books from the SmurfsTin Tin, 3D-printed chocolate, a 3D Smurf model and Lotus Speculoos (a typical Belgian cookie).

I want to thank everybody for their contribution to the Silk Road project, not only our Materialise volunteer team, and of course the Adream team, but also Lotus Speculoos and Wanwudayin, who sponsored the chocolate 3D Printer. It was an amazing experience which I will carry in my heart forever. Kids are our future and through this project we can show kids a different future, bring innovation to them and little by little make the world a better and healthier place.

You can find out more about our Silk Road Project here. Interested in discovering our other social initiatives? Take a look at our website.