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Adam Gebhardt and The TJ3D EdCorp had a big year thanks to a product going viral. Read on as Adam shares about their journey.

In Pittsburgh, we've had a few instances where our buses were caught in a jam. One bus ended up in a sink hole; another bus ended up having to be lifted off a collapsed bridge by a huge crane. Both of these instances became fodder for pop culture memes in the region.

Tired of seeing our buses at an angle, we came up with The 'Burgh Bus Level, a bubble level inside of a 3D printed plastic public transit bus—and it went viral once we put it on our EdCorp website!

This resulted in the sale of roughly 940 of these items, which were shipped to 26 different states over the course of a month and a half. This taught our EdCorp a lot about order fulfillment and shipping. We were excited to successfully meet the manufacturing and shipping challenge presented by this huge amount of orders! With hundreds of orders to fill, we were scrambling to manufacture our products and get them out the door. During short, 15 minute sessions during recess, my students would show up to fulfill as many orders as possible each day. What was interesting to me was that they organized themselves with different roles to complete in the fulfillment process.

One student would cut up the paper "thank-you" inserts to have them ready to put in with each package. Another student would begin putting wheels on the buses, while the rest would wait for an order to be called out. They rotated their jobs when they needed a break, and worked flawlessly as a team. We did not come up with these jobs ahead of time, but students simply fell into a system given the task at hand. We talked about this, and how they learned the value of teamwork throughout the process.

At one point, we were filling orders for the bus levels and one of my student's exclaimed, "This is like one of those games where you have to fill the burger orders for customers!" I think this illustrated a few things for my students. They recognized how games connected to the real life operation of businesses. They also said this in a tone of enjoyment. This was not something that was a chore or tedious was fun! These students regularly gave up their recess to fill orders and they thoroughly enjoyed.

For the students who engaged in the workings of the business, the more they invested, the more they received. I think they got a great glimpse of what it is like to run a successful company and share in the success that we had in our product going viral. There was a lot of excitement around this activity, and I now have some students looking to buy their own 3D printers so that they can create their own small businesses at home!

What's next for TJ3D? The Jeep is another famous Western Pennsylvania invention with deep history here. We are working on a Jeep Level design, and we'll see if we can recreate this viral journey again next school year.


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