BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – A young woman with an innovative mind is working to make education more accessible in developing countries by using 3D printers. The first school is set to be built in Madagascar in November of 2021.

(credit: Thinking Huts)

21-year-old University of Colorado Boulder student Maggie Grout created her nonprofit Thinking Huts when she was just 15 years old. With more than 260 million children having no access to education worldwide, Grout knew she wanted to find a way to make education more accessible globally.

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“I was adopted in China so I think that was really the root of it,” Grout explained. “I think that by providing an opportunity through education, you can really build something greater for yourself and then also be able to address the poverty issue as well through education.”

Grout said the idea to use 3D printing to build schools is all thanks to a conversation with her dad. She quickly created partnerships with local organizations, like an architect who designed what the “thinking huts” would look like.

“My vision was for it to be a beehive configuration,” Grout said. “So it’s a modular hexagon shape for the one hut and then multiple can be attached if the communities need more space for the students.”

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Grout said that 3D printing is a great way to lessen the gap in access to education in developing countries because not only is it sustainable and much faster, it’s more cost-effective.

“The design is a hybrid design of 3D printed concrete walls and locally sourced materials,” she said. “So we are still involving the economy and employing local labor.”

In addition to building the school, Thinking Huts also plans to be involved in developing the educational curriculum. Grout said the nonprofit is working with a university in Madagascar that will supply the land and oversee the school once it is built. The curriculum will include learning about topics like health, life skills, mathematics, science and literacy.

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Grout will graduate from CU this spring, with the goal of traveling to Madagascar in November to start the building process. In the meantime, Thinking Huts is still fundraising for the effort. You can find more information at ThinkingHuts.org.

Makenzie O'Keefe