Chief Creative Officer for 3D Systems and Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am has become increasingly known for his philanthropy. Running the i.am.angel foundation in Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, the celebrity executive has been introducing disadvantaged youth to empowering technologies since 2009. And, with his newest position at 3D Systems, will.i.am has found 3D printing fuel to stoke the fires of brilliance in the young students he works with. A new partnership with the Duke of York’s Inspiring Digital Enterprises Awards, in addition to will.i.am’s existing work with The Prince’s Trust, has helped the philanthropist extend his non-profit work and technological gusto in the UK, as well.
Since 2012, will.i.am has been helping disadvantaged youth in the UK access STEAM education through the Prince of Wale’s own non-profit foundation. With a large donation of $780,000, the artist and The Prince’s Trust were able to establish a tech education program that included, this year, a workshop with Britain’s Makerversity. Over the course of the six day workshop, the students were able to create unique instruments made up of microboards, conductive paint, and 3D printed components.
At the same time as Makerversity was training these kids to become young 3D printing entrepreneurs, will.i.am’s work in Los Angeles was doing the same. Boyle Heights students participating in the musician’s US-based tech program were enlisted to create a 3D printed globe decked out with musical instruments to represent the importance of musical technology around the world.
The works of both groups of students culminated in a show at the Barbican Centre in London as part of the immersive Digital Revolution exhibit taking place this summer. There, works created by Prince’s Trust students in the UK and i.am.angel students in the US were displayed among art created and curated by Radiohead, Bjork, and will.i.am himself.
Coinciding with the event, will.i.am and the Duke of York announced that the musician’s philanthropy work in Britain was not yet complete. The musical executive will now be a part of a new initiative launched by the Duke titled the Inspiring Digital Enterprise Awards. Young entrepreneurs, between the ages of 16 and 25, will pitch ideas to the iDEA project in hopes of being one of 1,000 entrants to earn a “Discovery Badge”. After passing the first test, 100 entrants that successfully develop prototypes and business plans will be selected for “Beta Badges”. The next 20 projects that earn a “Live Badge” will be given £5,000 to create real-world products from their prototypes. Finally, in October of this year, a panel of judges will pick three winners to be given £15,000 to start their own digital businesses.
Given will.i.am’s proclivity for 3D printing, I wouldn’t be surprised if, on top of the 3D printed works created by his students in the past, a number of the iDEA teams use the technology, too. I doubt there will be a reality show that gives us a taste of what businesses the young people develop, but we’ll be sure to check in with the iDEA Awards to see if there’s anything we should report back.