The YouthQuest Foundation Year in Review: 2016

YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks with students in the 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab

The YouthQuest Foundation reached a milestone in serving at-risk youth as 2016 came to an end.

Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy 3D ThinkLink students graduate December 2016
3D ThinkLink students graduate from Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy, December 2016

“With December’s graduations in Maryland, South Carolina and Washington, DC, 200 Youth ChalleNGe Academy Cadets now have completed our 3D ThinkLink training,” said YouthQuest Co-Founder and President, Lynda Mann. “It’s been a joy to watch this project grow during the past four years.”

The 3D ThinkLink Initiative helps students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, creativity and confidence as they learn about 3D design and printing. The knowledge they gain gives our graduates an advantage in the tech-driven job market where demand for 3D design and printing skills is growing fast. Most important, they learn that failure is not final – a lesson that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.

YouthQuest launched the project at Maryland’s Freestate ChalleNGe Academy in early 2013. Later that year, the District of Columbia’s Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy joined, followed by South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy in 2014.

Advanced students assemble JellyBox 3D printer kits in the 3D Thinklink Creativity Lab January 2016
Lab Week January 2016

This year began with eight top graduates participating in a week of advanced training at our 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab in Chantilly, Virginia. They did hands-on research evaluating 3D scanners and assembling JellyBox 3D printer kits.

Our training for all ChalleNGe Cadets includes a four-hour community service project and a full day of Vocational Orientation visits to businesses and schools where 3D design and printing is used. This year’s destinations included some old favorites such as 3D Systems and the University of Maryland’s Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials Lab, as well as new ones such as The Foundery and Under Armour’s Lighthouse innovation center in Baltimore.

“Being involved in 3D ThinkLink makes me think about the different opportunities I have,” said Freestate grad Josh Nembhard. “Being here gives you a better chance of going somewhere, for example, college or getting a job.”

Our new Youth Mentor Program offers graduates the opportunity to continue their 3D ThinkLInk experience by sharing what they’ve learned with their family, friends and neighbors. Beginning with Immersion Lab Week in January 2017, we will provide the equipment and training for our most qualified students to drive positive change in their communities by serving as Youth Mentors. Funding for the program launched this summer is already halfway to the $15,000 goal.

3D ThinkLink students at Vocational Orientation at University of Maryland Biomaterials Lab
Vocational Orientation at University of Maryland Biomaterials Lab

We also encourage our graduates to continue their education by awarding scholarships to those who write the best essays about how our training has affected them personally.  Four students earned $500 scholarships in 2016; Trevon Ahl and Alycia Freeman from South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy, and Brock Jasmann and Aunya’ Jones from Freestate ChalleNGe Academy.

“3D printing has helped guide me into making better decisions and gave me a new life skill along the way. It has really helped me understand my self-worth because now I know I can design my own future,” Aunya’ wrote in her award-winning essay. “I now see the bigger picture to my life’s problems and I’m not afraid to face them.”

PHILLIPS AND HORIZONS

Building on the success of our work with Youth ChalleNGe Academies, YouthQuest expanded the 3D ThinkLink Initiative to reach more youth programs in 2016

The PHILLIPS Programs for Children and Families began semester-long 3D ThinkLink classes for high school students on the autism spectrum as well as those with mental health issues at its school in Annandale, Virginia, in the spring and will launch classes at its Fairfax campus in early 2017. 

“It’s made a big difference to our staff and to our students,” PHILLIPS Career Partners Director Lindsay Harris said. “These are students that have failed often in the classroom and they don’t always have the confidence that they can learn and be successful. This program really gives them that.”

According to the PHILLIPS Program Final Evaluation Report, the spring pilot program was a success, especially in the areas of student engagement, curriculum implementation and staff support. Lynda Mann credited the excellent work done by the PHILLIPS staff, especially teachers Samuel Son, Jim Field and Marcel Baynes.

“Their ability to recognize the innate creativity in these special-needs youth, and to use the 3D ThinkLink curriculum as a valuable way for the students to express themselves creatively while facilitating growth in critical thinking and problem solving, was brilliant,” she said. 

3D ThinkLink also took root and started growing in Virginia’s Tidewater region this year. We trained teachers and provided the curriculum and materials for Horizons Hampton Roads to run 3D classes for sixth graders as part of its six-week summer enrichment program.

This fall, teacher Franklin Baker used what he learned during the summer to create a course for older students. Horizons’ High School Scholars successfully completed their 3D class in December.

A REWARDING YEAR

2016 Step Up Loudoun Youth winning teams
2016 Step Up winning teams

2016 was the fifth straight year YouthQuest sponsored the Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition.  The event organized by Louduon Youth, Inc. challenges middle school and high school students to identify problems in Loudoun County, Virginia, and create solutions. Local business and civic leaders judge the projects and YouthQuest donates most of the prize money.

This year’s Step Up contest drew more entries than ever and we hope for an even larger field of competitors in 2017.

This year’s many accomplishments would not be possible without YouthQuest’s generous supporters.

The Challenge at Trump National Golf Club August 2016
The Challenge at Trump National

The annual golf tournament was our most successful fundraiser. There were more sponsors than ever and more than 100 players took part in the event on August 8 at Trump National Golf Club’s Championship Course in Potomac Falls, Virginia, recently named one of Golf Digest’s best new private courses.  

At the annual VIP Reception a few days before the tournament, we recognized AOC’s Valerie Hightower as our 2016 Volunteer of the Year. The 2016 Community Partner Award went to Duncan-Parnell, Inc. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington received the 2016 Strategic Partner Award.  

Lynda Mann with Volunteer of the Year Valerie Hightower August 2016
Lynda Mann with Volunteer of the Year Valerie Hightower

Donors stepped up during the golf tournament and VIP Reception to get the ball rolling on funding the Youth Mentor Program.

Our participation for the first time in #GivingTuesday, a global celebration of charity on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, also gave our year-end fundraising a boost.

Contributions are welcome at any time of year, of course. Please click here or contact Operations Manager Juan Louro, who joined us on the first workday of 2016, at juan.louro@youthquestfoundation.org or 703-234-6300.

The Year in Pictures

Vocational Orientation Opens Young Eyes to Opportunities

Students look at a 3D printed architectural model at 3D Systems in Rock Hill, SC, during 3D ThinkLink Vocational Orientation October 20, 2016

Introducing at-risk youth to 3D design and printing is only one part of YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Initiative. Our larger purpose is to help troubled teens learn to think in new ways and dream big.

One way we do that is through Vocational Orientation events, which are a requirement for completion of the 3D ThinkLink training we provide for National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Programs in South Carolina, Maryland and Washington, DC. Students spend a day touring businesses and universities to see real-world applications for the concepts they’re learning about in class.

During an October 13 Vocational Orientation event, University of Maryland grad student Max Lerner tells 3D ThinkLink students from Maryland and DC about the 3D printers he uses in the Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Lab.
3D printers in the University of Maryland Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Lab

Many of the kids we serve have struggled with academics and their life experience is severely limited. Before they enrolled in a ChalleNGe Academy, few imagined themselves pursuing higher education or a career in a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math)-related field.

That’s why being in a college lab or a high-tech manufacturing facility for the first time can be a life-changing moment for these at-risk teens. In essays they write about how our 3D ThinkLink training affected their lives, students frequently mention being inspired by something they saw during Vocational Orientation.

In October, our Maryland and DC students enjoyed a full day of eye-opening experiences, starting with a visit to the newly opened City Garage in South Baltimore. The former bus garage has been transformed into a wonderland of innovation, anchored by Under Armour’s Lighthouse, a 35,000-square-foot design and manufacturing center. The UA Lighthouse includes a room equipped with more than 50 cameras for 3D scanning of athletes. Designers use the scans to create individually tailored sportswear. The students also learned that UA uses 3D design and printing to prototype footwear and apparel.

Josh Dunn of Bustin Boards tells 3D ThinkLink students from Maryland and DC how the company designs and builds skateboards during a Vocational Orientation tour in Baltimore on October 13, 2016.
Josh Dunn explains how Bustin Boards makes skateboards

Elsewhere in the City Garage complex, the kids had fun at the Bustin Boards skateboard company. Along with trying out the boards, they discovered that the Moment of Inspiration software they’re learning to use in class is the same type of CAD (Computer Aided Design) program the company’s designers use. That led to a discussion about how CAD skills are needed for both 3D printing, or “additive manufacturing,” in which machines build objects by putting material only where it is needed, and traditional “subtractive manufacturing,” in which machines cut away material to form objects.

All kinds of additive and subtractive manufacturing devices were on display next door at The Foundery, a large makerspace. In the midst of all that modern technology, the kids also got some hands-on experience with one of the oldest manufacturing methods – blacksmithing. After heating, pounding and bending red-hot steel, the kids surely gained an appreciation for 3D software that can turn a simple shape into something useful or decorative with just a few clicks of a mouse.

3D ThinkLink students from South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy examine a 3D printed object during a Vocational Orientation visit at Duncan-Parnell's 3D printing shop in Charlotte on October 20, 2016.
Students visit Duncan-Parnell’s 3D printing shop in Charlotte

Students from South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy also saw additive and subtractive manufacturing processes in action as they visited Duncan-Parnell’s 3D printing department in Charlotte, NC, 3D Systems headquarters in Rock Hill, SC and the University of South Carolina Department of Mechanical Engineering in Columbia.

The medical uses for 3D printing often strike a chord with our 3D ThinkLink students.

The kids from Maryland’s Freestate and DC’s Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academies were fascinated to see how 3D printing is used to develop things like bone and vascular replacements in the University of Maryland’s Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Lab.

South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy Cadets look at a display on 3D printing in medicine during Vocational Orientation tour of 3D Systems in Rock Hill, SC, October 20, 2016.
Medical technology display at 3D Systems

At 3D Systems, the South Carolina students learned about the company’s work in the fast-growing specialty of pre-surgery modeling. A 3D Systems team recently worked with doctors at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York who separated baby brothers joined at the head. They were able to plan and practice every step of the complex surgery thanks to precise 3D-printed models made from MRIs and CT scans of the boys’ skulls.

We often remind students that being exposed to new ideas and experiences literally makes their brains grow, as new connections between neurons are formed. Our field trips also open students’ minds and expand their view of what’s possible. Vocational Orientation events make these at-risk teens aware of opportunities they had never imagined. While they may not end up working on the cutting edge of technology, the thinking skills and confidence they develop during their 3D ThinkLink experience will help them make the most of any opportunity they choose to pursue.

YouthQuest Teams Up With Horizons Hampton Roads

YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks with 3D ThinkLink students at Horizons Hampton Roads on July 25, 2016

One of the highlights for The YouthQuest Foundation this summer was the success of our 3D ThinkLink pilot project at Horizons Hampton Roads.

YouthQuest provided the equipment, curriculum and training for teachers to introduce at-risk kids to the magic of 3D printing as part of a six-week summer enrichment program at Portsmouth Catholic Regional School.

Jack Lyons talks with 3D ThinkLink student Amadou Abakar at YouthQuest's 10th anniversary celebration
Jack Lyons talks with 3D ThinkLink student Amadou Abakar at YouthQuest’s 10th anniversary celebration

It was the first time we’ve worked with Horizons Hampton Roads, which serves young people in Virginia’s Tidewater region.

We are grateful to FEDAC’s Jack Lyons for connecting us with Horizons. A longtime member of the AOC Solutions family, Jack knew about YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Initiative and met some of our advanced students during the Foundation’s 10th anniversary celebration last October.

When Jack’s sister, Elaine Lyons, became Program Director of Horizons Hampton Roads in December, he recognized the potential for a partnership. He suggested that she talk to YouthQuest Co-Founder and President Lynda Mann.

Within a matter of weeks, they reached an agreement to bring 3D ThinkLink classes to HHR.

The students and staff were excited about the experience.

Classroom aide Breanna Fair, who admitted she wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea during teacher training, had a change of heart soon after classes began.

Classroom aide Breanna Fair, teacher Franklin Baker and intern Eleni Fafoutis with 3D ThinkLink class students at Horizons Hampton Roads July 25, 2016
Breanna Fair, teacher Franklin Baker and intern Eleni Fafoutis with HHR students

“It was priceless,” to see the children’s reactions as they watched 3D printers turn their ideas into reality, she recalled. “You couldn’t ask for better.”

“It keeps them thinking over the summer,” she added. Learning to use Moment of Inspiration 3D design software helped strengthen the students’ math, planning and problem solving skills.

Cassidy Parish, 12, said she learned that it’s OK to make mistakes because you can always change a 3D design to make it better, then print it again. She also enjoyed the hands-on nature of the classes.

“I got to print my own things that I could design and build and use for myself,” explained Cassidy, whose 3D creations included a replica of the Goblet of Fire from Harry Potter and a Star Wars Death Star ID tag for her dog, Leia.

Teacher Franklin Baker gives Cassidy Parish tips for designing a 3D-printed clock at Horizons Hampton Roads on July 25, 2016
Franklin Baker gives Cassidy Parish tips for designing a 3D-printed clock

“If I got the chance, I would like to go help other students learn 3D printing,” Cassidy said.

Eleni Fafoutis, a high school intern who worked with the class, thinks the experience will encourage the kids to consider careers on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).

“One student told me he wants to build rovers for NASA,” said Eleni. “I said you can. You’re working with a real CAD (Computer Aided Design) program and those rocket scientists use similar things.”

That aspiring NASA engineer, 12-year-old Corey Wells, said our classes helped him learn to solve problems and be creative.

“I think it was great that they allowed us to do this because many kids don’t get this opportunity and I’m thankful,” he said.

Corey, Cassidy and the other students from our first class at Horizons Hampton Roads entered 7th grade a few weeks ago equipped with new skills and confidence, thanks to YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Initiative.

YouthQuest Foundation Honors 2016 Award Winners

Co-Founder and President Lynda Mann presents YouthQuest's 2016 Volunteer of the Year Award to AOC's Valerie Hightower in August 4

YouthQuest recognized the Foundation’s leading supporters by presenting awards at our annual VIP Reception on August 4.

Volunteer of the Year

Valerie Hightower from AOC Solutions has been an incredible volunteer supporter of YouthQuest ever since our inception 11 years ago. She has been behind the scenes at every event, providing critical services to make sure administrative and fundraising tasks are executed expertly.

Valerie’s dedication to helping America’s at-risk youth is only surpassed by her devotion to her family, including her daughter Sarah, who also serves as a YouthQuest volunteer.

We are truly grateful for Valerie’s continued support of our efforts and proud to honor her as our 2016 Volunteer of the Year.

Community Partner Award

Duncan-Parnell, a company whose services include 3D printing and prototyping, is the recipient of our 2016 Community Partner Award.

YouthQuest Co-Founder and President Lynda Mann presents the 2016 Community Partner Award to Duncan-Parnell’s Joe Holmberg on August 4.

During our 3D ThinkLink training, students are exposed to both academic and job opportunities in the 3D field. Duncan-Parnell’s 3D specialists make time in their busy schedules to host Vocational Orientation tours of their facility in Charlotte, North Carolina and speak to our students about job opportunities in 3D maintenance and support. This experience provides the students with invaluable insights into potential career paths and allows them to ask specific questions to help them in their decision-making process.

Duncan-Parnell also provides service and technical support for our Z450 powder-bed 3D printer, a key component of the 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab at our Chantilly, Virginia, headquarters.

Joe Holmberg, product specialist in Duncan-Parnell’s 3D division accepted the award from YouthQuest Co-Founder and President Lynda Mann at our reception.

Strategic Partner Award

YouthQuest Co-Founder and President Lynda Mann presents the 2016 Strategic Partner Award to Bos & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington board member John Ruff (left) and Program Director Patrick Leonard on August 4.YouthQuest began its relationship with The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, winner of our 2016 Strategic Partner Award, when we piloted our 3D ThinkLink Initiative at their Culmore Character Club summer camp last year. The project provided key learnings and positioned us to broaden our partnership.

We plan to expand delivery of our 3D ThinkLink Initiative to more of Boys & Girls Club kids, including the integration of 3D ThinkLink into their STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) Team initiative, providing more advanced application of our training and technology. We also plan to submit joint grant applications and host a joint fundraising event in the spring of 2017.

Lynda Mann presented the Strategic Partner Award to BGCGW board member John Ruff and Program Director Patrick Leonard.

YouthQuest’s VIP Reception was hosted by Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Tysons Corner, Virginia, and was sponsored by Visa USA.

New Friends, Familiar Faces Make Golf Tournament a Success

Golfers at YouthQuest;s 11th Annual Challenge at Trump National Golf Club, August 8, 2016

The YouthQuest Foundation’s 11th annual golf tournament was our most successful fundraising event, thanks to our generous sponsors, players and volunteers.

Volunteers Una Murphy and Steve Levenson welcome guests to YouthQuest's Challenge at Trump National Golf Club
Volunteers Una Murphy and Steve Levenson welcome guests

Two dozen teams – more than 100 players – competed on August 8 at The Challenge at Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Virginia.

The tournament is a major source of funding for the 3D ThinkLink Initiative and our other programs for America’s at-risk youth. This year, we introduced our supporters to the new Youth Mentor Program, which will give our most motivated and capable 3D ThinkLink students the tools and training they need to share their 3D printing skills – as well as their critical thinking and problem solving skills – with their communities.

Several guests at the tournament and our VIP Reception on August 4 made $500 donations to provide a Youth Mentor with a Tech Pack, which includes a 3D printer, laptop computer, design software and training. CLICK TO CONTRIBUTE

Everyone enjoyed a beautiful summer day on Trump National’s recently renovated Championship Course, which will be the site of the 2017 Senior PGA Championship in May. Three teams tied for first place at 56. Matt Owens from the Jones, Lang, LaSalle team and Milena Savich from CrossFit PR Star won prizes for the longest drives.

Players celebrate a putt at YouthQuest's Challenge at Trump National Golf Club on August 8, 2016
Celebrating a putt

Teams were matched up with celebrity and VIP players. As always, Jerry Olsen and other Washington Redskins alumni were on hand, along with current and former military and law enforcement officers.

We had more tournament sponsors this year than ever before. Visa USA sponsored the VIP Reception for the first time. Hewlett-Packard and One on One Financial Group came aboard as new Bronze Sponsors. Insurance Associates and the Poole Foundation stepped up to Silver Sponsorships. The PHILLIPS Programs, our 3D ThinkLink partner, was a first-time hole sponsor.

We’re also grateful to all our returning sponsors:

Platinum – AOC Solutions
Gold – 3Delta Systems
Silver – FEDAC Processing
Photo Sponsor – RE/MAX Gateway
Hole-in-One Car Sponsor – PNC Bank (C300 4Matic provided by Mercedes-Benz of Chantilly)
Bronze – AC Properties; CrossFit PR Star; Experis Technology Group; Iron Bow; Jones, Lang, LaSalle; Ritzert & Leyton; Valley Forge Acquisition Corporation; Wells Fargo Private Bank.

Brad Denton swings his 10-foot driver during a trick shot demonstration before the Challenge at Trump National Golf Club August 8, 2016
Brad Denton swings his 10-foot driver

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Tysons Corner, Virginia, which hosted the VIP Reception, also sponsored Golf Entertainer Brad Denton’s appearance. Brad provided his always-amazing trick shot demonstration before play started, then collected donations by running several promotions as he circulated around on the course.

New York Times bestselling author John Gilstrap, who judges our 3D ThinkLink student essay contests, was back again this year at the VIP Reception and Tournament Reception to meet our guests and sign copies of his latest thriller, Friendly Fire.

Linda Ackerman organizes volunteers ar YouthQuest's golf tournament on August 8, 2016
Linda Ackerman organizes volunteers

We couldn’t stage a major event like this every year without the help of our volunteers, many of whom are AOC Solutions employees. Our deepest thanks to Volunteer Coordinator Linda Ackerman, Bill Ackerman, Sabah Anwar, Carl Brown, Edna Davis (our 2015 Volunteer of the Year), Kelly Eisenhart, Nikki Gombos, Tammy Haug, Sarah Hightower, Valerie Hightower (our 2016 Volunteer of the Year), Gary Hoffman, Dick Knapp, Steve Levenson, Una Murphy, Denise Roberts, Tiesha Robertson, Tony Sanderson, Carol Schick, Bryan Self and Erica Stewart.

General Manager Michael MacDonald, Director of Events Ellen Fatigati and the entire Trump National staff always provide excellent service for our tournament guests, so we’ve already made our reservation for next year. The 12th Annual Challenge at Trump National will take place on Monday, August 7, 2017.

Scholarship Winners Want to Use 3D Printing to Help Others

YouthQuest Co-Founder and President Lynda Mann presents scholarships to 3D ThinkLink essay contest winners Trevon Ahl and Alycia Freeman at South Carolina Youth ChalleNGE Academy

The YouthQuest Foundation has awarded scholarships to two South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduates for their essays about how 3D ThinkLink training affected them.

Trevon Ahl and Alycia Freeman, both 17, are among the 16 students who completed the latest cycle of the 3D design and printing course YouthQuest provides at the school for at-risk teens in Eastover, South Carolina.

YouthQuest Co-Founder and President Lynda Mann presented the $500 awards to the essay competition winners during SCYCA’s graduation ceremony on June 8.

Bestselling author John Gilstrap, whose latest novel in the Jonathan Grave thriller series is Friendly Fire, has judged the semi-annual contest since 2014.

“This year’s batch of essays featured two standouts for me, both because they focused not on what the writer got from their introduction to 3D printing, but rather on how they will put their knowledge to work for others,” he said.

3D ThinkLink students from SCYCA attend Vocational Orientation at 3D Systems in Rock Hill, South Carolina on April 21, 2016
SCYCA students at 3D Systems for Vocational Orientation

In his essay, Trevon described the excitement he felt the first time he used Moment of Inspiration design software to transform a flat shape into a 3D digital model that he could print.

He also recalled the Vocational Orientation trip his class took to 3D Systems headquarters in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where he saw high-end printers that go far beyond the simple plastic-extrusion machines he learned to use in class. These professional 3D printers make objects from a variety of materials, including rubber, ceramics and metals.

“When I saw that, I was overall enthusiastic about this new wave of how to use machinery in everyday life that will help others in different ways,” Trevon wrote.

“If I had a 3D titanium printer for my personal use I would make bikes for all the children in my neighborhood,” he added “I’ve seen many kids in my community that walk everywhere and they would be grateful for a bike. I would even have them customize their own bicycle frame and then I`d print it out for them.”

Because he loves to fish, Trevon also said he wanted to 3D print a titanium fishing rod and “catch so many fish I would be able to share with the people in my community so we would all be able to enjoy a good fish fry.”

The $500 scholarship will help Trevon achieve his post-ChalleNGe goal of attending a technical college to earn a welding certificate. His fellow winner Alycia plans to study surgical technology at Savannah Technical College.

South Carolina Youth ChalleNGE Academy 3D ThinkLink students Hailey Key, Asia Grant and Alycia Freeman examine 3D printed objects during Vocational Orientation at 3D Systems in Rock Hill, South Carolina on April 21, 2016
Hailey Key, Asia Grant and Alycia Freeman examine 3D printed objects during Vocational Orientation

“Alycia’s story was quite touching,” John Gilstrap said.

Her dad was doing drugs and her parents divorced when she was 13. She moved five times and skipped school often, spending most days caring for her ailing grandmother instead of going to class.

“I then started to follow in my father’s footsteps,” Alycia wrote. “About a year later, I knew I had to be successful. I didn’t want to be a product of my environment.”

That’s when she decided to enroll in SCYCA. Being in the 3D ThinkLink class helped Alycia get re-engaged in education.

Like Trevon, Alycia said the visit to 3D Systems showed her how she can use the technology she learned about in class for the benefit of others. She was inspired to see the many ways 3D printing is used in health care.

Being that I took care of my grandmother, I want to help others live a better life in every way possible,” she explained. “3D printing encouraged me to become a surgical nurse. … I’m now motivated and determined to go to school and get into the medical field and actually complete it!”

CLICK HERE to read the complete essays

3D ThinkLink Initiative Expands to Reach Teens With Autism

3D ThinkLink students and instructors at PHILLIPS School in Annandale, Virginia, June 10, 2016.

YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink project at the PHILLIPS School in Annandale, Virginia, is off to an impressive start.

Six students have completed our 3D design and printing course as part of the Career and Tech Education program at the school for special-needs children. YouthQuest provided the curriculum, equipment, software and teacher training.

Henry Spiegelblatt runs a 3D printer in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink class at the PHILLIPS School in Annandale, Virginia
Henry Spiegelblatt runs a 3D printer

“We’ve hit on something here that has great potential,” Piper Phillips Caswell, President and CEO of PHILLIPS Programs for Children and Families, said during an event honoring the students on June 10.

YouthQuest and PHILLIPS teamed up early this year to launch the first 3D ThinkLink class specifically for high-school-age students with high-spectrum autism. Previously, YouthQuest’s signature STEM education program primarily served at-risk teens enrolled in National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Academies.

“It was mind-blowing to see something on the computer and then see it printed out on the 3D printer,” said PHILLIPS student Elijah Burton.

“It’s just really fun to design things,” added his classmate, Henry Spiegelblatt.

YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks, who developed the curriculum and trained the teachers, was “blown away” by the results of the pilot program at PHILLIPS.

Luke McHugh, left, and Adam Eldert work on a 3D design in YouthQiest's 3D ThinkLink class at the PHILLIPS School in Annandale, Virginia
Luke McHugh, left, and Adam Eldert work on a 3D design in Moment of Inspiration

“In four years of teaching 3D ThinkLink classes, I don’t think I’ve seen students create designs more complex than what I’ve seen here. I am super impressed,” he said.

“One of the reasons I enjoy coming to 3D printing is that I already have the ideas that I want to put down. I’ve always had these designs that I wanted to implement,” explained Adam Eldert, whose creations included a colorful spaceship. “However, until recently, I lacked the means and the resources to actually make them reality. Now, I possess both.”

Luke McHugh quickly mastered the Moment of Inspiration design software, using it as a tool for creative expression.

“I can exercise my ideas in a virtual environment where I can literally build them and then modify them without having to take the whole thing apart,” said Luke.

Adam Eldert's spaceship design created with Moment of Inspiration software in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink class at the PHILLIPS School in Annandale, Virginia
Adam Eldert’s spaceship design

Knowing how to use a 3D printer and serious CAD (computer-aided design) software such as Moment of Inspiration can be valuable for the students are they prepare to enter the working world. The PHILLIPS program is also designed to teach “soft job skills” such as problem solving.

The goal, as PHILLIPS Program Supervisor Lindsay Harris put it, is “to develop confidence as well as competence.”

With an emphasis on critical thinking, learning from mistakes and step-by-step improvement, our 3D ThinkLink training helps students achieve that goal.

Marcel Baynes, Tom Meeks, Jim Field and Sam Son at YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink teacher training in January, 2016
Marcel Baynes, Tom Meeks, Jim Field and Sam Son at teacher training

“I’ve seen an increase in their resiliency. They’re not afraid to fail,” said Sam Son, lead teacher for the Designing Futures Program at PHILLIPS.  “Whenever they do see the mistakes, they want to go back into the program – Moment of Inspiration – to make sure they find out exactly where it’s wrong and tweak it, because failure is not final and they want that final product to be exactly what they want.”

He described one student who had “always felt left out” because she was constantly being compared to her sister, who’s in gifted and talented classes.

“For her to actually be working with 3D printers and designers that people at the university are working with, it brings out a lot in her and the confidence has skyrocketed recently,” Sam said.

Much of the credit for this pilot project’s success goes to Sam and his fellow PHILLIPS instructors Jim Field and Marcel Baynes, who attended a week of training in YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab in January and spent many more days in and out of class learning to use the 3D printers and software.

________________________________________________

Congratulations to the First 3D ThinkLink Class at the PHILLIPS School

Elijah Burton
Adam Eldert
Ida Kahsay
Luke McHugh
Deja Semper
Henry Spiegelblatt

Students Explore 3D Printing Beyond the Classroom

3D ThinkLink students from DC's Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy visit the University of Maryland's Tissue Engineering Lab during Vocational Orientation in April 2016

Vocational Orientation is an important part of YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink training because it shows students some of the ways they can use the skills they’re learning in class.

In April, 3D ThinkLink students from Maryland’s Freestate, the District of Columbia’s Capital Guardian and South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academies visited businesses and universities to:

  • Deepen their understanding of 3D printing technology;
  • Learn about career opportunities in related fields;
  • Meet people who use 3D design and printing in their occupations;
  • See teamwork, creative thinking and problem solving in action.

At the Rock Hill, S.C., headquarters of our 3D ThinkLink Strategic Partner, 3D Systems, the South Carolina cadets learned about 3D printing’s explosive growth in areas ranging from medicine, automotive and aerospace engineering to fashion and entertainment. Director of Corporate Communications Tim Miller led a tour showing the full line of 3D Systems products and explaining the special applications for each machine. The students, who have only simple, desktop plastic-extrusion 3D printers in their classrooms, were amazed by the variety of printing methods and materials available.

Duncan-Parnell's Camren Summerlin shows students a 3D-printer
Duncan-Parnell’s Camren Summerlin shows students a 3D printer

The SCYCA students began their Vocational Orientation Day with a visit to a business that uses many 3D Systems products in its work with civil engineering clients, Duncan-Parnell in Charlotte, N.C. The staff showed them some of the latest 3D printers and talked about jobs available for operators who have the skills to produce high-quality 3D models. Applications Engineer Camren Summerlin also encouraged the students to consider repairing and maintaining 3D printers as a career.

The day wrapped up in Columbia with a tour of the University of South Carolina’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. Graduate Director Dr. David Rocheleau explained how mechanical engineers “make things and break things” – analyzing the strengths and weakness of materials in research to create better, safer products. In addition to 3D printers, the students saw engineering tools such as a wind tunnel, a century-old milling machine and a huge device that can cut through practically anything using a high-pressure stream of water.

UMD grad student Bao Nguyen explains how this 3D-printed scaffold is used to create a hip bone replacement.
UMD grad student Bao Nguyen explains how this 3D-printed scaffold is used to create a hip bone replacement.

The Maryland and DC students learned about 3D printing’s role in a very different kind of engineering during their visit to the University of Maryland in College Park. They met Laurie Bracaglia, Charlotte Piard, Bao Nguyen and other graduate students in the Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials Lab who are developing innovations such as human bone replacements. The researchers use 3D printing to build delicate forms around which bone cells will grow. The cadets took part in hands-on demonstrations of an emerging technology that would have seemed like science fiction not so long ago.

Our students also discovered how 3D printing fits into the invention process when they  toured Prototype Productions, Inc., in Ashburn, VA, another 3D ThinkLink Strategic Partner. Chief Operating Officer Italo Travez and his staff explained that everyone at PPI – designers, engineers and machine operators – share ideas and work together to find innovative solutions to customers’ needs.

During Vocational Orientation for 3D ThinkLink students from Maryland and DC in April 2016, Prototype Productions COO Italo Travez demonstrates products PPI developed
PPI’s Italo Travez demonstrates some of the products his company developed

Mr. Travez, who emigrated from Ecuador with his family when he was a child, also shared personal stories about what drove him to become a mechanical engineer and how he and his brother, Joe, built their small family business into a state-of-the-art prototyping operation that has developed hundreds of products.

There was even a side-order of innovation during a lunch break at Topgolf Loudoun in Ashburn. Director of Sales Cassandra Taylor led a tour of the facility that puts a high-tech spin on the traditional driving range. Players hit golf balls embedded with RFID (radio frequency identification) chips into targets equipped with sensors that read the chips and send the scoring data back to the players. Although most of the cadets had never touched a golf club, they had fun giving Topgolf a try.

The at-risk teens in our 3D ThinkLink classes typically have a narrow view of the world and their place in it. Many have never been to a high-tech workshop or a major university campus. These Vocational Orientation events help open students’ eyes to what’s possible for them as they plan their next steps into adulthood.

YouthQuest Congratulates Loudoun Teens Who ‘Step Up’

The top three teams in the Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition, sponsored by YouthQuest, on April 6, 2016

The YouthQuest Foundation has sponsored the Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition since 2012 and every year, the projects that students create for the contest become more impressive.

The event challenges middle school and high school students in Loudoun County, Virginia, to develop and implement solutions to problems they’ve identified in their community. Local business and civic leaders judge the projects and award cash prizes for the best ones. YouthQuest provides most of the prize money.

The PASTA team makes its presentation at the final round of judging for the Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition on April 6, 2016 at OneLoudoun
The PASTA team

“This was our largest Step Up yet,” said Loudoun Youth President and CEO Jared Melvin, who praised the “powerful, life-changing programs and messages” the students presented.

Fifty-nine teams – more than twice as many as last year – competed in the preliminary round on March 29 at Trailside Middle School in Ashburn.

YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks was one of three dozen judges who narrowed the field down to 10 teams that advanced to the finals, held at The Club at OneLoudoun on April 6.

PASTA (Peers and Students Taking Action), won the $1,000 grand prize. The student-run group with chapters in seven Loudoun County schools operates volunteer programs and helps students find opportunities to serve the community. PASTA’s recent projects include collecting more than 1,000 pounds of cereal and $400 in donations for a local food bank and raising $8,500 for a camp for children of cancer patients.

Carmine Gothard explains her Breaking Your Silence project during the final round of judging for the Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition on April 6, 2016 at OneLoudoun
Carmine Gothard presents her project

The $750 second-place prize went to Briar Woods High School senior Carmine Gothard for a project that stemmed from a traumatic childhood experience. Carmine was sexually assaulted when she was 7 and kept it a secret until two years ago. She created Breaking Your Silence to empower fellow survivors. Her project includes a support website and activities to help kids who’ve been sexually assaulted speak up and begin the process of recovery.

Members of the We’re All Human team, who earned the $500 third prize, were also motivated by bitter personal experience with their chosen issue; suicide, the leading cause of teen deaths in Loudoun County.

The We're All Human team from Woodgrove High School presents their suicide prevention project during the final round of judging for the Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition on April 6, 2016 at OneLoudoun
The We’re All Human team

After two of their friends killed themselves in 2014, the Woodgrove High School students started a suicide prevention campaign. Their first annual awareness-raising event took place on April 6, just hours before the final round of Step Up judging. All 1,500 Woodgrove High students joined in a 1.5-mile walk around the school in Purcellville, then watched a student-made documentary that featured classmates talking about their struggles with depression and despair.

The teams that finished in fourth through tenth place each received $250 for projects that addressed issues ranging from bullying to homelessness to child car seat safety.

Over the years, Loudoun Youth Founder and Chairman Emeritus Carol Kost has noticed an increase in the number of projects that deal with bullying, sexual assault and suicide. She says it’s important for the Loudoun’s leaders to recognize that, even in the nation’s wealthiest county, young people face many serious risks.

Not only do the Step Up teams help draw attention to those risks, they set an example for everyone in the county by taking action to solve the problems they see around them. That is why YouthQuest is proud to support the competition as part of our mission to serve at-risk youth.

Click here for a list of all the 2016 Step Up Loudoun Youth winners.

Students Do Real Research in YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Lab

Advanced 3D ThinkLink students assemble JellyBox 3D printer kits during immersion lab week in January 2016

Eight young people who spent a week in our 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab this month learned new skills and took part in hands-on research that will benefit other 3D printing enthusiasts.

“Not only did our students broaden their 3D design and printing experience by exploring the complexities of full-color 3D printing workflows, they provided valuable early feedback for the developers and manufacturers of two new 3D technologies,” said YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks.

Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduate Amadou Abakar watches his 3D design take shape on a Cube 2 printer during January 2016 immersion week in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab
Amadou Abakar watches his 3D design take shape on a Cube 2 printer

They were selected for Lab Week because of their outstanding performance in the latest cycle of 3D ThinkLink classes at National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Academies serving South Carolina, Maryland and the District of Columbia. YouthQuest provides the equipment, curriculum and training for the residential academies to help at-risk teens develop critical thinking and problem solving skills through 3D design and printing.

It was the largest group so far to receive 40 hours of advanced training in our Chantilly, Virginia, facility. Unlike the typical maker space, the 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab is dedicated solely to 3D design, scanning and printing. It is a true laboratory environment designed to promote comparative analysis and develop creative solutions.

The students were the first to experience the lab’s new 3D scanning and printing capabilities, and the first to assemble a unique 3D printer kit.

Going With the Workflow

The week began with an introduction to Cubify Sculpt, a type of 3D design software the students had never tried.

South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduate John Smith uses Cubify Sculpt to design a monster's head printer during January 2016 immersion week in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab
John Smith uses Cubify Sculpt to design the head for a monster figurine

In their classes at school, they used Moment of Inspiration (MoI), a CAD (Computer-Aided Design) program that turns two-dimensional shapes into three-dimensional objects. Sculpt is an organic modeling program in which the students begin with a 3D object and modify it in all sorts of creative ways, as if digitally sculpting a piece of virtual clay.

Step-by-step, they worked their way through the process of designing simple objects such as personalized rings using MoI and Sculpt. Now that every lab workstation is equipped with a Cube 2 printer – thanks to a generous donation from our strategic partner, 3D Systems – it was easy for the students to run test prints so they could quickly evaluate and improve their designs.

“As I began making the images and creating stuff I started to realize that this is a game-changer. It was amazing to me because I never even worked with this type of material before,” said South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy (SCYCA) graduate John Smith. “It helped me realize my passion for art and my talent is there … and I can use it to help other people.”

Once they got a feel for organic modeling, the students took turns making 3D scans of each other and learned how Sculpt fits into the workflow of preparing the files for printing. Then they were able to create full-color mini-busts of themselves using the lab’s recently acquired Z450 powder bed printer.

Evaluating 3D Scanners

Amadou Abakar scans Nate Sydnor while the Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduates evaluate 3D scanners during January 2016 immersion week in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab
Amadou Abakar scans Nate Sydnor with a RealSense-equipped tablet

The students tested and evaluated two kinds of handheld 3D scanning devices: the 3D Systems Sense and an HP tablet with Intel’s RealSense technology.

They experimented with various scanning techniques and lighting conditions, then conducted a focus group with Tom to discuss their findings.

They found the tablet was easier to use than the Sense, which has no onboard monitor and must be connected to a computer by a cumbersome cable. However, they noted that both devices had trouble capturing images of dark-skinned people.

“Scanning can be aggravating when it messes up and you have to redo it, but it’s still really fun,” said SCYCA grad Emilee Bray.

“It’s cool to have a 3D figure of yourself,” she added. “Nobody I know has that kind of stuff!”

Full-color mini-busts made from 3D scans of Kimora Felton, Nate Sydnor and Emiliee Bray during January 2016 immersion week in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab
3D-printed busts made from scans of Kimora Felton, Nate Sydnor and Emiliee Bray

The group had several ideas for simplifying the workflow and suggested improvements in the RealSense software’s visual feedback to help users hold the tablet at the proper distance from subjects while scanning.

Their feedback is being shared with the leaders of the Sense for Intel RealSense application development team at 3D Systems.

Assembling 3D Printers

The JellyBox, from iMade3D, is a soon-to-be-released 3D printer kit designed specifically for educational use. Its innovative design makes it easy to put together and take apart so it can be used over and over to teach students how a 3D printer works.

The students paired up to do the first independent evaluation of the JellyBox assembly process. Members of the iMade3D team spent a full day in the lab watching them put together four printers.

South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduate Kimora Felton and and Freestate ChalleNGe Academy graduate Josh Nembhard build a JellyBox 3D printer during January 2016 immersion week in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab
Josh Nembhard and Kimora Felton assemble a JellyBox 3D printer kit

“It was fun. I mean, we messed up several times, but we still finished in a day,” said SCYCA’s Justin Lewis.

“And for every mistake, we learned from it,” added Amadou Abakar, from DC’s Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy (CGYCA).

The students had a finished JellyBox to look at, but were given minimal instructions. At first, they all thought it would be difficult to assemble their kits, but the teams quickly gained confidence as they figured out how to put the pieces together.

Kimora Felton from SCYCA was so wrapped up in the project that when it was time for lunch, she didn’t want to stop working.

South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduate Emilee Bray and and Freestate ChalleNGe Academy graduate Osman Bah build a JellyBox 3D printer during January 2016 immersion week in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab
Emilee Bray and Osman Bah build a JellyBox

“I really love making stuff,” she explained. “When something really interests me, I go straight for it.”

“I was really impressed and I loved the energy and the attention the students devoted to the project,” said Filip Goc, the JellyBox’s primary designer, noting that their feedback will be invaluable in perfecting the design and refining the assembly instructions before the product goes on the market.

Osman Bah from Maryland’s Freestate ChalleNGe Academy called the experience “amazing.” He said he’d never expected to meet an inventor like Filip and “see how his mind works.”

“The advice he gave me was to just follow the steps and put your mind to it,” Osman recalled.

“A Life-Changing Experience”

A week of immersion training in our lab taught the students some lessons in life, along with advanced 3D skills.

“I learned how to work with people that I don’t know. I usually don’t like doing that,” said Emilee, who teamed up with Osman to build a JellyBox. “It was interesting getting to know someone while working on a project with them.”

The teams show the JellyBox 3D printers they built during January 2016 immersion week in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab
The teams show off their JellyBox 3D printers

She discovered that even though they’re from different states and have “a different perspective on everything,” they could put their minds together.

“It did get aggravating at times, but we still worked through it and we still made it,” she said.

“I was proud of us because we worked hard on that thing. We never quit,” added Emilee, who went directly from Lab Week to South Carolina’s Aiken Technical College – the next step in her plan to become a nurse anesthetist.

John, who impressed everyone in the lab with his design talents described our 3D ThinkLink training as “a life-changing experience” that’s given him new skills and tools to help him pursue a career in art.

Justin Lewis, John Smith, Osman Bah, Nate Sydnor and Josh Nembhard compare 3D scanner features during January 2016 immersion week in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab
(l-r) Justin, John, Osman, Nate and Josh compare 3D scanner features

“Being involved in 3D ThinkLink makes me think about the different opportunities I have. Being here gives you a better chance of going somewhere, for example, college or getting a job,” agreed Josh Nembhard, a Freestate grad who plans to study visual design.

Nate Sydnor from CGYCA also said the experience fueled his passion for art by helping him see things in different ways. In addition, he found it rewarding to participate in the scanning and JellyBox research.

“I can look back on this and say I accomplished something great because we are a part of history. We’re making history,” Nate said.

“I’m involved in something that’s going to impact a lot of people in the future. It makes me feel inspired and motivated,” Osman added.

Amadou, who aspires to be an electrical engineer, recalled that on the first day of Lab Week, the students talked about the aphorism that a koi fish grows bigger when it swims in a larger pond.

“This has been a really big pond for us to grow and learn and develop,” he said. “And this is really important because this isn’t something we’re going to leave here. It’s something we can take with us wherever we go.”

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