Catching Up With 3D ThinkLink Graduate Dalonta Crudup

Capital Guardian ChalleNGe Academy 3D ThinkLink graduate Dalonta Crudup at the University of Kentucky

A few years ago, when he was in our first 3D ThinkLink class at the District of Columbia’s Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy, college seemed like a long shot for Dalonta Crudup. Now, he’s wrapping up a successful freshman year at the University of Kentucky.  

“I love it!” Dalonta, 21, told us in a phone call from the campus in Louisville.

He’s attending Kentucky on a basketball scholarship and plans to double-major in architecture and computer graphics. As if that’s not enough, this energetic freshman is also working on his autobiography.

“I’m writing a book. It’s basically about my life and how I grew up,” Dalonta said. “I’ve got eight chapters already.”

Dalonta Crudup (third from left) with other members of the first 3D ThinkLink class at Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy in 2013
Dalonta Crudup (third from left) with other members of the first 3D ThinkLink class at Capital Guardian

There’s plenty of compelling material for the story of how he went from the streets of DC to the campus of UK; problems in high school, the killing of his best friend, a life-changing 22 weeks at Capital Guardian, completing high school and prep school, earning a full scholarship to play for one of the nation’s winningest basketball teams. And that’s just the last four years.

His experience in our 3D design and printing class at CGYCA is part of Dalonta’s story, too.

“I do tell people about 3D class. When I tell people my name and you look up Dalonta Crudup on Google, my picture pops up in the 3D printing class,” he said. “And I tell them taking that class has helped me a lot because it showed me how get through obstacles in life.”

3D ThinkLink taught him not to give up, to ask for help and “keep trying until it’s done.” Dalonta said the experience gave him the confidence to take on other challenges.

He fell short of passing his GED exam by a few points at Capital Guardian, so he enrolled in high school in Frenchburg, Kentucky, and earned his diploma. Then it was on to Ridgeview Preparatory and Sports Academy in Hickory, North Carolina, to hone his skills as a point guard and shooting guard while taking classes to get ready for college-level academics. In his first year at the University of Kentucky, he’s been working to recover from a knee injury so he can start playing for legendary coach John Calipari next season.

Besides basketball, architecture has been part of Dalonta’s plan for years.

“I want to build my own house from the ground up,” he told us at CGYCA in 2013 when he was 17.

Looking back now, Dalonta said, learning to use CAD (computer-aided design) software in our class helped convince him that he could handle architecture and design classes in college.

“After I learned 3D in class, I kept on doing it,” he said. “I actually practiced at home with a program I use on my laptop computer.”


Dalonta’s strongest memory from 3D ThinkLink class was creating a tribute to his best friend, Malik Spears – known as “Wiz” – who was fatally shot the day Dalonta entered CGYCA.

“He was like a brother and I was with him every single day,” Dalonta recalled. “I was very sad. I was very frustrated.”

Toward the end of the class cycle, Dalonta found an outlet for his emotions when the 3D ThinkLink students got their final assignment. They had to use the skills they’d learned to create any kind of ornament they liked.

Dalonta decided to make a memorial to Wiz with a poem he’d written about his friend. He wanted to make something that would “show appreciation from me to his family.”

3D printing projects rarely turn out right the first time and putting text on an object can be especially tricky. It took three weeks for Dalonta to perfect his ornament.

“I was getting mad because we printed a lot and the words kept being smashed together and we had to keep switching up the size and the font to make sure you could read each and every letter and every word,” he explained.

Dalonta’s persistence paid off a few weeks later when he gave the ornament to Wiz’s mother for Christmas.

“She actually started crying,” he said. “It was a candlelight service and I stood in the middle of the crowd and read the poem.”

Rest in Peace, Wiz. We miss you.
We thought of you with love today
But that is nothing new.
We thought about you yesterday
And days before that, too.

Dalonta’s experience helped YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks realize the importance of teaching our students to use text in their 3D designs. Now it’s one of the first things they learn because students always want to personalize items with names or initials and give them to someone they love. Giving at-risk kids the skills and tools to create things that are emotionally meaningful motivates them to work through problems and achieve success.

“I used to be worried all about myself. Now, I think different. I look at life different.” Dalonta said. “I worry about myself still, but now I worry about others around me, too. “

3D ThinkLink Essay Contest Winners Earn Scholarships

3D ThinkLink essay contest scholarship winners Brock Jasmann and Aunya’ Jones from Freestate ChalleNGe Academy

YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink class at Maryland’s Freestate ChalleNGe Academy did more than teach Brock Jasmann and Aunya’ Jones about 3D design and printing.

“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’, 17, 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.”

“I can make anything if I put my mind to it,” wrote Brock, 17, who described his 3D ThinkLink experience as “awe-inspiring.”

Both Cadets were awarded $500 scholarships for their essays during a ceremony at Freestate on December 9.

Aunya Jones and Brock Jasmann try blacksmithing during Vocational Orientation at The Foundery in Baltimore
Aunya’ and Brock try blacksmithing during a Vocational Orientation tour of  The Foundery in Baltimore

Our program “transformed my way of thinking,” said Aunya’, who plans to join the Navy and become a nurse.

“Before 3D printing I did not believe in myself, and I had accepted the opinion that I was not good enough,” she explained.

Like most of the at-risk youth we serve, Aunya doubted herself when she started our class this fall.

“Everything seemed so foreign to me. I could barely work the program on the computer,” she recalled.

When she printed her first 3D design and it came out nothing like she had intended, she admitted feeling frustrated and wanting to give up. Instead, she made up her mind to work harder so she could “make things that I could be proud to show off.”

Aunya’ started paying close attention to every instruction, asking questions and testing every new design skill she learned.

“One day my instructor Mrs. Metzger said that my design was the only successful one to print. It brought me so much joy because that meant that I was finally getting it,” she wrote. “Joining 3D printing has taught me to never give up.”

Brock’s essay highlighted the effect his class’s community service project had on his self-esteem.

The Freestate Cadets went to a library to demonstrate designing and 3d printing small, personalized objects such as ornaments and keychain tags. 

“It was an amazing experience to see how interested and impressed the kids and adults were at the library when we showed them how to make 3D prints,” wrote Brock.

“3D printing is important to me because now I can express myself in a form of art that I’m talented in. Also, I am more able to educate my community through my new learned skill in 3D printing,” added Brock, who wants to become a Marine.

Brock and Aunya’s essays were chosen from among 13 submitted by students from Freestate, DC’s Capital Guardian and South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academies. The semi-annual scholarship competition is judged by bestselling author John Gilstrap, whose novels include the Jonathan Grave thriller series.

CLICK HERE to read the complete essays

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.

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