3D ThinkLink Students Eager to Share What They’ve Learned

Tom Meeks with 3D ThinkLInk immersion lab week students

Cadets from Maryland’s Freestate and DC’s Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academies prepared to serve as Youth Mentors during a week of immersion training in YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab this month.

“As far as I’m concerned, this was the most successful immersion experience we’ve done,” said YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks. “We were totally focused this time on how to use their skills to be mentors to young people in their families and neighborhoods, and how to work in the community to demonstrate what 3D design and printing is.”

The 3D ThinkLink Initiative uses instruction in 3D design and printing as a vehicle for teaching at-risk youth about critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and confidence. The Youth ChalleNGe Program, run by the National Guard, gives dropouts a second chance to get their lives back on track and earn a high school degree.

Advanced students build a JellyBox 3D printer in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab during immersion training week June 2017
Advanced students work in the 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab

For teens who have struggled in school, the experience of learning something cool like 3D printing and teaching it to others does wonders for their self-esteem.

“Now I can do things to help people who were in my shoes,” said Freestate Cadet David Kelly, 16, from Baltimore.

During daylong sessions in the lab, our advanced students became thoroughly familiar with the setup, operation and troubleshooting of the M3D Micro 3D printers they’ll be using as mentors. They also worked with new types of materials they hadn’t used in their on-campus classes, such flexible and color-changing filaments.

For the first time, the students made designs to be built in the lab’s full-color powder bed printer, so they could experience a professional level of 3D printing.

Staying motivated all week was no problem for these students. After a full day in the lab, they would take their laptop computers back to their hotel rooms and work on designs until 9:00 or 10:00 at night, then come back the next morning eager to print their creations.

‘It’s Like Therapy’

All four cadets said being involved in our program benefited them in ways that go far beyond gaining technical skills. They described 3D ThinkLink class as a respite from the regimented life at their ChalleNGe academies, where they spent 5 ½ months away from home.

Freestate ChalleNGe Academy Cadet David Kelly holds a frame for a fidget spinner he 3D printed during immersion training week in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab June 2017
David Kelly holds a frame for a fidget spinner he 3D printed

David explained that he would get frustrated in other classes sometimes, but having the opportunity to use his imagination and design whatever he liked in 3D class every week always made him feel better.

“Making stuff calmed me down,” he said. “Whenever I make new things, I generally get happy. It lightens my mood.”

The same was true for Capital Guardian Cadet LaMarcus Corley.

“It has helped me control my anger,” the 17 year old from Washington, DC, wrote in a scholarship-winning essay about his 3D ThinkLink experience. “When I come to class, my whole mood changes. I become happy because I know that I’m at my safe place.”

Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy Cadet Adrian Vasquez uses Moment of Inspiration 3D software to create a design during immersion training week in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab June 2017
Adrian Vasquez uses Moment of Inspiration 3D design software

LaMarcus also said our class brought out the creativity he used to keep “all bottled in” and taught him how to “think about stuff differently.”

“It helped me with focusing more — paying attention to detail, getting everything right,” said Freestate Cadet Stephen Brown, 16, from Upper Marlboro, Maryland. “It taught me to never give up and to focus on your goal.”

It also helped keep them out of trouble. All the cadets said they appreciated being chosen for the 3D ThinkLink program and enjoyed it so much that they wouldn’t risk being kicked out for misbehaving.

Before he enrolled at Capital Guardian, Cadet Adrian Vasquez said, he had problems in school.

“I would get good grades, but my mind would always be on something else. So I got caught up with stuff I wasn’t supposed to be around,” the 16-year-old from DC said. “But ever since I started 3D, my mind has been nowhere near that stuff.”

“It’s like therapy, a type of therapy. Working on 3D designs keeps me focused, not on the other nonsense stuff,” Adrian explained.

“And my mom is cheering me on,” he added. “She’s seen all the posts about us on Facebook and she’s never been so happy. She knows the rough times I had.”

Thinking Differently About the Future

The 3D ThinkLink experience opened these at-risk teens’ eyes to new opportunities and changed their view of what’s possible for them.

“I’ve never really been so confident about the things I’m doing,” said Adrian, who plans to become a master automotive technician.

Freestate ChalleNGe Academy Cadet Stephen Brown checks a print on an M3D Micro 3D printer during immersion training week in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab June 2017
Stephen Brown checks one of his designs printing on an M3D Micro

Stephen is aiming for a career as a fashion designer and entrepreneur. With 3D printing playing an ever-increasing role in the fashion industry, he realizes the value of the hands-on experience he gained in our classes.

“It really helped me think outside the box and I can use that to my advantage in the future,” he said. “As I pursue my career, the 3D printer will really help me print out prototypes of designs.”

Learning 3D printing gave LaMarcus a new perspective about his options after graduating from Capital Guardian and he’s looking forward to being a Youth Mentor.

“I know it changed me, so I want to make a change in people’s lives,” he said.

So does Adrian, who was reminded of the importance of giving back when he discovered how 3D-printed prosthetic devices help people who’ve lost limbs.

“I had a mindset thinking that this was just for me or for my family,” he explained. “It’s not always for yourself. You can always improve someone else’s life.”

Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy Cadet LaMarcus Corley uses the lab's full-color powder printer for the first time during immersion training week in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab June 2017
LaMarcus Corley uses the lab’s full-color powder printer for the first time

The work these students do as Youth Mentors will support YouthQuest’s goal of reducing America’s dropout rate.

David hopes the children he reaches will share his excitement about 3D printing and decide to learn more about it.

“This isn’t easy stuff. There’s a bunch of math in it, so you really have to stay in school to understand this,” he said.

David added that he’s eager to inspire younger kids “because they’re going to be the future for us.”

“I understand I’m the future now, but they’re going to be the future for me.”

YouthQuest Partnership With AMIkids Opens New Opportunities

Eric Tinsley with YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks ar AMIkids Savannah River in Sylvania, Georgia in March 2017

The launch of 3D ThinkLink classes at AMIkids Savannah River in Sylvania, Georgia, is an exciting step forward for The YouthQuest Foundation’s 3D printing project for at-risk youth.

Our 3D ThinkLink Initiative uses instruction in 3D design and printing as a vehicle for teaching critical thinking and problem solving, building confidence and encouraging creativity. Since 2013, we have served more than 200 at-risk kids in Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina and Washington, DC.

Along with reaching another state, the expansion to Georgia gives us the opportunity to work with a new kind of at-risk student population.

“This has enormous potential to help change the course of these students’ lives and education,” said YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks.

AMIkids Savannah River provides a home for unplaced teenage boys in the foster care system who struggle with behavioral problems, academic challenges, legal troubles and other issues that have led to repeated placement failures.  

 “Traditional methods of isolation and punishment for misbehavior are not suitable for kids in these circumstances. The AMIkids approach puts the kids’ needs first and provides them guidance and opportunities many of them haven’t had in the past,” according to the AMIkids website.

Eric Tinsley with Tom Meeks at 3D ThinkLink teacher training, February 2017
Eric Tinsley with Tom Meeks at 3D ThinkLink teacher training

We’ve seen how our 3D ThinkLink curriculum can be tailored to meet the needs of various at-risk groups. It was created for National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Programs, which serve high school dropouts, and has been adapted for teens with autism at the PHILLIPS schools in Northern Virginia and for low-income kids in the Horizons Hampton Roads summer enrichment program.

Students might be at AMIkids Savannah River for years, much longer than the 22-week residential program at ChalleNGe Academies, so this is a chance to extend their learning beyond our introductory course into advanced 3D design.

“It’s an opportunity for us to explore the benefits of our project in a semi-permanent residential setting and it challenges us to create follow-on education programs,” explained Tom, who anticipates more time for science-based activities, using different kinds of 3D printing methods and materials.

AMIkids staff member Eric Tinsley completed 3D ThinkLink teacher training at our Chantilly, Virginia headquarters in February and is leading the project in Georgia.

The missions of our organizations are closely aligned. YouthQuest and AMIkids both work to break the cycle of failure for at-risk teens. Our 3D ThinkLink Initiative helps them understand that failure is part of the learning process and mistakes are opportunities to make changes that lead to success.

As the program’s website puts it: Even kids with a troubled past have the potential to achieve a bright future, and AMIkids Savannah River works every day to separate their troubled past from a bright future.

YouthQuest Celebrates Prize-Winning Problem Solvers

2017 Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition finalists

YouthQuest’s dream is for all the young people we reach to become successful adults who give back to their communities.

That’s why Youth ChalleNGe Cadets in our 3D ThinkLink classes are required to complete a community service project. It’s why we’re training students to use their 3D printing, critical thinking and problem solving skills to serve their communities as Youth Mentors.

And it’s why we support the Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition, which challenges teens to give back by solving problems in their communities.

The goal of the annual event presented by Loudoun Youth, Inc. and Loudoun County Parks, Recreation and Community Services is to encourage, support and reward teens in Loudoun County, Virginia, for making positive changes in their own lives and the lives of others. YouthQuest has been the primary prize money sponsor of the contest since 2012.

Judges listen to a team's presentation at the 2017 Step Up Loudoun youth Competition
Judges listen to a team’s presentation at the Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition

Eighty teams submitted ideas last fall and 40 gave presentations during preliminary judging on March 27 at Trailside Middle School in Ashburn. Ten were chosen for the finals, held on April 5 at The Club at One Loudoun. More than two dozen local business and community leaders, including YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks, volunteered as judges.

The students choose the issues and develop the projects to address them, so Step Up gives adults a fresh view of the world through the eyes of the next generation of leaders. This year, the environment, physical and mental health, education, bullying and traffic were among the students’ concerns.

The topics often are a reflection of current events. After a year filled with news about hacking and other cyber-shenanigans, Kriti Ganotra from Broad Run High School came up with the idea for Call of Security. She earned the $1,000 top prize in the Step Up contest by developing a free device that detects computer network vulnerabilities.

Loudoun County is home to the East Coast’s version of Silicon Valley. Up to 70 percent of the world’s Internet traffic moves through data centers in the Dulles Tech Corridor, so a breakdown in Loudoun’s network can have widespread impact, Kriti explained in her presentation to the judges.

Kriti Ganotra presents her winning project, Call of Security, at the 2017 Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition
Kriti Ganotra presents her winning project, Call of Security, at the Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition finals

Kriti went online to research vulnerability scanning systems and find open-source code, which she modified to create a program that checks for weaknesses in all devices connected to a router by wifi, even TVs and appliances. Then she tested her scanner against Nessus, a leading professional service.

“Nessus is a vulnerability scanner used by the DoD (Department of Defense) costing about $50,000 a year and I found out my machine actually performs better than Nessus,” Kriti said in an interview with Loudoun Youth.

“I want to bring it to Loudoun County, using high schoolers to create a community where everyone is educated about cyber-bullying, cyber-security, cyber-threats and technology,” she added. “I want to bring this to every single house and eventually patent this into something that we can develop all around the nation.”

This year’s $750 second-place project was inspired a different sort of technological threat — the potentially deadly mix of smart phones and Northern Virginia’s notorious traffic congestion. The Put It Down team of Freya Panchamia, Saumya Sharma, Paras Sarjapur and Iyush Hoysal from Eagle Ridge, Mercer and Stone Middle Schools targeted the dangers of distracted driving by encouraging people to sign a pledge not to text while driving. They’ve reached more than 200 drivers so far and plan to continue the project.

The Put It Down team was excited to be picked as one of 10 finalists in the 2017 Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition
The Put It Down team was excited to be picked as one of 10 finalists

“We know that we’re making a significant impact on Loudoun County because we’ve reached out to many people and we’ve gotten many pledges,” said Freya.

The Clean Kits team of Palak Shah and Areej Khan from John Champe High School made it to the top ten last year and went home with this $500 third-place prize this time. They have provided personal hygiene and sanitary products for homeless women in Loudoun and Fairfax Counties and Washington, DC, since last year.

“The reason we chose to tackle feminine hygiene is because people are afraid to talk about it. People are afraid to donate these products because they feel uncomfortable buying them,” Palak said. “The thing is, these are simple products that all women need.”

The Every Voice Heard project won the $150 fourth-place prize. Isabelle Nikkho and Tammy Niyomtes from Harper Park Middle School, responding to a recent rash of teen suicides in Loudoun, created website to raise awareness about depression and suicide and provide resources. They also raised funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The remaining six finalists all won $100 prizes for their projects.

Be Me for a Day – Anna Nguyen from Broad Run High School created “day in the life” videos to help students and adults choose a profession.

Clean Up Beaverdam Creek Reservoir – Lacey Tanner from Rock Ridge High School organized cleanup events and raised community awareness about protecting the reservoir.

Environment Rescuers – Shiril Yedhara, Rajul Vadera, Mira Warries, Keerthi Dasoju from Rock Ridge High School raised awareness among local students of the global water crisis.

Loudoun Purity – Priyanshi Jeevagan and Ananya Gahlot from East Ridge and Stone Hill Middle Schools organized a 3K walk to raise money for hygiene kits for people at the Leesburg Homeless Shelter.

Personal Teach – Ari Dixit from Stone Hill Middle School created a program with a voice interface fpr the Internet to help students improve their scores on standardized tests.

UnSalted – Taylor Jackson from Riverside High School developed an app to help students reduce stress.

Learn more about Step Up Loudoun Youth here.

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.”

A FINAL PROJECT, A LASTING LESSON

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. “

NEWS RELEASE: 200 Youth ChalleNGe Cadets Complete YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Training

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

CHANTILLY, VA. (Jan. 26, 2017) — The YouthQuest Foundation is proud to announce that its 3D ThinkLink Initiative has reached a significant milestone.

With December’s graduations, a total of 200 Youth ChalleNGe Academy students have completed the course in 3D design and printing, which helps at-risk teenagers develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, creativity and confidence.

“3D design and printing is a means to an important end, and that end is to grow our brains,” says YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks. “It’s really a thinking class more than a 3D printing class.”

YouthQuest launched the 3D ThinkLink Initiative 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. The National Guard runs the residential academies where high school dropouts get a second chance to turn their lives around.

3D ThinkLink students at ChalleNGe Academies learn to use CAD (computer-aided design) software and 3D printers during 30 hours of classroom instruction and labs. They are also required to complete a four-hour community service project and eight hours of Vocational Orientation at universities and businesses where 3D printing is used.

The Foundation awards scholarships every six months to the students who write the best essays about how the 3D ThinkLink experience affected them personally.

The top graduates are invited to attend a week of advanced training in YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab in Chantilly, Virginia. The most qualified lab students can continue to explore 3D design and printing by serving as Youth Mentors to drive positive change in their communities. YouthQuest provides the equipment and training for Youth Mentors to share what they’ve learned with their family, friends and neighbors. 

In 3D ThinkLink classes, at-risk teens that used to give up in frustration when facing setbacks discover how to learn from their mistakes. When a print fails, they evaluate design problems, make improvements and try again until they’re satisfied. The skills and values they develop will help them achieve their goals no matter what career path they choose.

The most important lesson 3D ThinkLink students learn is that, in 3D printing and in life, failure is not the end; it’s a step on the way to success.

BEYOND CHALLENGE

Building on the success of the project at Youth ChalleNGe Academies, YouthQuest has expanded the 3D ThinkLink Initiative to reach more youth programs.

The PHILLIPS Programs for Children and Families began 3D ThinkLink classes for high school students with autism at its school in Annandale, Virginia, last year. PHILLIPS soon will launch classes at its Fairfax campus. 

YouthQuest has provided summer enrichment 3D programs in Virginia at Horizons Hampton Roads and the Culmore Boys & Girls Club.

The Foundation also conducted workshops to introduce more than 70 students from across the U.S. and Canada to 3D printing at the 41st Annual Convention of the National Society of Black Engineers in Anaheim, California.

ABOUT YOUTHQUEST

The YouthQuest Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Chantilly, Virginia, provides academic and vocational development, infrastructure support and life-enriching experiences for America’s at-risk youth. It was founded in 2005 by Allen O. Cage, Jr. and Lynda Mann with the core mission of addressing two critical issues: the stubbornly high dropout rate for the nation’s teens and the shortage of young workers who have the skills today’s employers need.

YouthQuest is eager to connect with corporate partners and individual donors so that more at-risk youth can experience the life-changing benefits of the 3D ThinkLink Initiative.

To learn more, visit www.youthquestfoundation.org or contact YouthQuest at info@youthquestfoundation.org or (703) 234-4633.

MULTIMEDIA RESOURCES

Images: 3D ThinkLink photos for media use

Video: Building Better Lives with 3D Printing

Video: 3D ThinkLink Lab Week – Lessons Learned

Video: 3DThinkLink at PHILLIPS School

Video: 3DThinkLink at Horizons Hampton Roads

Media Contact:
Steve Pendlebury, Communications Director
steve.pendlebury@youthquestfoundation.org
(703) 234-4639

3D ThinkLink Initiative Photos for Media Use

All images copyright 2017 The YouthQuest Foundation
Click photos to open full-size, high-res files

Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduate NeLazjay Brown operates a 3D printer she assembled during advanced training in YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab on August 4, 2016, in Chantilly, Virginia.
Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduate NeLazjay Brown operates a 3D printer she helped build during advanced training in YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab on August 4, 2016, in Chantilly, Virginia.
3D ThinkLink students graduate from Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy on December 12, 2016 at the University of the District of Columbia
3D ThinkLink students graduate from Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy on December 12, 2016 at the University of the District of Columbia
YouthQuest Foundation Director of Instruction Tom Meeks conducts advanced training for students in the 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab on January 6, 2016 in Chantilly, Virginia.
YouthQuest Foundation Director of Instruction Tom Meeks conducts advanced training for students in the 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab on January 6, 2016 in Chantilly, Virginia.
South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy Cadets from YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink class check out a 3D-printed architectural model during their Vocational Orientation tour of 3D Systems in Rock Hill, SC, on October 20, 2016.
South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy Cadets from YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink class check out a 3D-printed architectural model during their Vocational Orientation tour of 3D Systems in Rock Hill, SC, on October 20, 2016.
Freestate ChalleNGe Academy graduate Aunya' Jones and YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks work on setting up a 3D printer during Youth Mentor training in the 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab on January 11, 2017 in Chantilly, Virginia.
Freestate ChalleNGe Academy graduate Aunya’ Jones and YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks work on setting up a 3D printer during Youth Mentor training in the 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab on January 11, 2017 in Chantilly, Virginia.
South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduate Dylan Foster assembles a 3D-printed prosthetic hand during advanced training in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab on January 8, 2015 in Chantilly, Virginia.
South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduate Dylan Foster assembles a 3D-printed prosthetic hand during advanced training in YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab on January 8, 2015 in Chantilly, Virginia.
Graduate student Max Lerman shows 3D ThinkLink students from Freestate and Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academies the 3D printers he uses in the University of Maryland's Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials Lab. The students visited the lab for Vocational Orientation on October 13, 2016.
Graduate student Max Lerman shows 3D ThinkLink students from Freestate and Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academies the 3D printers he uses in the University of Maryland’s Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials Lab in College Park. The students visited the lab for Vocational Orientation on October 13, 2016.

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

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

Fall 2016 Scholarship-Winning 3D ThinkLink Student Essays

These students from the 2016 fall class cycle earned $500 scholarships for these essays about their 3D ThinkLink experience.

By Aunya’ Jones
Freestate ChalleNGe Academy

The YouthQuest 3D printing program has transformed my way of thinking in a variety of ways. Before 3D printing I did not believe in myself, and I had accepted the opinion that I was not good enough. When I initially signed up for 3D printing I did not expect my mindset to change, but thank God it did. Every part of 3D printing took a part in my change specifically speaking, the vocational training. We learned that 3D printing helps make society so much simpler. The employees at Under Armor and students at the University of Maryland help to make other people’s lives better and that inspired me to improve my outlook on life.

Early on in 3D printing, I did not believe that I would be able to make a successful design. Everything seemed so foreign to me. I could barely work the program on the computer. The very first design I made left me feeling shameful. My design on the screen was nothing like what it printed out in reality. Through that experience I learned that I needed to look at the scale of my work. At times, I became frustrated with myself and wanted to give up because my peers’ designs looked better than mine. The disappointment from my first design forced me to make things that I could be proud to show off in my future designs.

I learned to keep my eyes glued to the screen and pay attention to every instruction given by Mr. Meeks. When I had questions I would ask aloud. Every new noun and verb that we learned I tested it on my designs. I was able to use mathematical conversions to figure out what a millimeter looked like off screen and know how it would be once printed.  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.

Joining 3D printing has taught me to never give up because you will not be satisfied or get where you are intended to be. Starting something is for a purpose and that purpose is not to quit. 3D printing showed me that I cannot always do things on my own and I have to learn the right way first. Mr. Meeks said, “Mistakes are a part of the process to success,” and that is a quote that I will never forget. I now see the bigger picture to my life’s problems and I’m not afraid to face them. I understand that it was not the destination that mattered but the journey I had to take to make it there. 3D printing did more than teach me how to use a program. 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.

_________________________________________

By Brock Jasmann
Freestate ChalleNGe Academy

3D printing has been a very awe-inspiring experience to me. I have personally benefited from 3D printing by learning that I can make something complex and visually outstanding by using a couple different tools on Moment of Inspiration. I use the Moment of Inspiration program to make my creative designs, but to me it’s more than just a computer program. I say this because, through the service to the community project, I was given the opportunity to go to a library to teach the community about 3D printing.

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. We printed things such as: books, key chains, arrayed stars with faces, and little Lego shaped men. I taught them about how we use additive manufacturing, which is “a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital model[1]”. The impact that 3D printing has not only on me but the community is enormous, fun, and educational.

While visiting employees at Bustin Boards, Under Armor Light House, and The Foundery in Baltimore, Maryland during our Vocational Orientation, I learned how they used 3D printing in their skateboards, clothing, and shoes. For example, Under Armor takes virtual images from athletes’ bodies to make custom clothing to fit their body type based off of the 3D scan. This showed me that 3D printing was for more than just creating small items, it is used in technology to make clothing and everyday items.

“While 3D printing has been successfully used in the health care sector to make prosthetic limbs, custom hearing aids and dental fixtures, the technology is now being used to create more complex structures — particularly human tissue”-Cadie Thompson.[2] Another phenomenal production of 3D printing is that scientists at University of Maryland are making fake working environments for cells to thrive in to replace burnt flesh and scars with a foreign body fat. The fat is then used to fit the affected area. The scientist surgically place the healthy host cells on the body to make the scar completely disappear. This effect of 3D printing is revolutionary because now wounded warriors will have a normal life by no longer having scars exposed and they can have realistic looking prosthetic limbs.

I am ecstatic to know that I can make anything if I put my mind to it. Moment of Inspiration has inspired me to learn more about 3D printing and helped me to teach it to my community. 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. In conclusion, all of these examples are reasons why 3D printing is awe-inspiring to me.

[1] http://3dprinting.com/what-is-3d-printing/

[2] http://www.cnbc.com/id/49348354: Quote cited from CNBC “How 3D Printing is Reshaping Medicine”.

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.

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