Bre Pettis discusses technology, innovation at University Lectures Series

Students gather at the first University Lecture of the year to hear advice from the leader in 3D printing technology.

Innovator and technology evangelist Bre Pettis kicked off the University Lectures Series with an inspiring lecture Tuesday in Hendricks Chapel.

Pettis, co-founder and former CEO of MakerBot industries, became a phenomenon in the tech world for his leadership in 3D printing technology in 2009, and revolutionized the desktop 3D printing market. But he didn’t start out as a 3D enthusiast. In his lecture, Pettis retraced his professional and personal journey, from being a puppeteer, a teacher, an artist and most famously a successful entrepreneur. He encouraged students to indulge their obsessions.

Photo: Dara McBride
Bre Pettis, a trailblazer in 3D printing technology, delivers his University Lecture in Hendricks Chapel on Tuesday. His speech touched on a number of topics, including social activism.

“Try to find a way to contribute to society that makes you happy as well,” Pettis said.

While discussing his insights on entrepreneurship, he encouraged students to be aware of social justice issues, no matter the field they work in, and spoke of the need for social activism, diversity in workplace and gender equality.

“What I try to do is hire a lot of women,” Pettis said. “They are just smarter.”

Pettis commended the university for being fertile ground for innovative thinking by helping students with their entrepreneurial ventures. He stressed the importance of forming deep and lasting friendships, and cited friendship and gratitude as inspiration for starting Bre & Co., his latest venture that launches later this month and allows customers to buy personalized gifts made using 3D printing technology.

Barbara Stripling, the co-chair of the committee that picks speakers for the series, said Pettis was chosen because of the importance of entrepreneurial and innovative thinking among students.

“We were trying to provoke people to think in a new way and wanted them to hear it from somebody who actually made it happen,” she said. “Someone who has continued to push himself to think in new ways.”

Graduate student Carolyn Goldstein liked the unconventional nature of the lecture.

“When you go to a university lecture, it is usually very prim and proper and this was informal and inspiring," Goldstein said. “This guy is leader in his field, yet he felt so comfortable talking to us, like we were his peers.”

The next University Lecture will feature Lynsey Addario, a photojournalist for The New York Times, TIME and National Geographic, on Oct. 18.

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