Xcel Energy Grant Funds Equipment in WBU 3D Lab

PLAINVIEW – The School of Mathematics and Sciences at Wayland Baptist University continues to benefit from a $370,000 grant issued to 50 non-profit organizations and educational institutions by the Xcel Energy Foundation. The grant is intended to benefit those organizations that are focused on community-building initiatives in Xcel Energy’s Texas-New Mexico service area.

The ongoing grant has provided funds for several years for Wayland’s 3D print lab. Dr. Scott Franklin, professor of mathematics and computer science, said the university has been able to better equip the lab thanks to the funding. This year, Wayland received $5,000.

David Hudson, president of Xcel Energy – New Mexico, Texas, said in a press release that the grant is meant to benefit those systems and programs that focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“Through the Xcel Energy Foundation, we are able to target programs and organizations that are doing the greatest good and providing area residents opportunities to learn and grown, which benefits everyone,” Hudson said.

Franklin said the grant will be instrumental in purchasing a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine that allows pre-programmed computer software to control factory tools and machinery, enhancing the 3D modeling with precision movement capabilities. He said the additional equipment will benefit local public and college students.

“The workshops that we do teach middle school, high school and Wayland students how to do 3D modeling, printing and scanning,” Franklin said. “The new grant is providing funding for us to have a 3D engraver, a CNC machine, so we can do even fancier 3D modeling projects.”

The 3D lab has already become a vital part of the Wayland curriculum, and is playing an important role in extra-curricular activities. Franklin leads the Pioneers Makers group that experiments with 3D technology, and he teaches the 3D printing courses. The equipment has also been used to benefit other organizations on campus and print personal protective equipment (face shields) for local doctors and nurses at the outbreak of COVID in 2020. The 3D technology has also benefitted a local Girls Who Code group that is hosted by Franklin and Wayland in conjunction with the Hale County Literacy Council.

Plans are currently underway for the School of Mathematics and Sciences to host a weekend workshop for students who want to learn more about 3D modeling. More information on the workshop will be made available at a later date.