Co-Founders Lynda Mann and Allen Cage explain The YouthQuest Foundation’s mission to give America’s at-risk teens the opportunity to change their lives through education.
Instructors from three National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Programs spent the week of Feb. 3 preparing for the next round of The YouthQuest Foundation’s 3D ThinkLink Initiative classes.
They completed our first teacher training course at YouthQuest’s headquarters in Chantilly, Va. The sessions led by the Foundation’s Training Director Tom Meeks and President Lynda Mann covered everything from brain development and critical thinking skills to the use of Moment of Inspiration and Cubify Sculpt design software to operating a Cube 3D printer.
Our unique STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education project uses 3D printing to teach critical thinking and problem-solving skills. By learning to think differently, at-risk teens who once gave up on school become re-engaged in their education and discover how to make better decisions to achieve their goals in life.
During a busy week of training, the teachers did everything their students will do in class. Hands-on projects included using basic shapes to create an Egyptian level and designing, printing and assembling a set of gears. The 15-unit curriculum wrapped up with a creative exercise in which they manipulated images captured by a Sense 3D scanner.
The teachers also got an overview of the many vocational opportunities for their students. 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is used in such diverse fields as automotive and aerospace engineering, cooking, medicine, architecture and art.
YouthQuest developed the 3D ThinkLink Initiative in partnership with the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program. The project launched at Maryland’s Freestate ChalleNGe Academy early last year and expanded to include the District of Columbia’s Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy last fall. Our newest partner is the South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy. All three programs will begin 3D classes in March.
Congratulations to the first-class teachers in our first class!
Freestate ChalleNGe Academy
Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy
South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy
Patience. Persistence. Attention to detail. Creativity.
Our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education project not only introduces students to the revolutionary field of additive manufacturing, it uses 3D design and printing classes to teach critical thinking skills that help at-risk teens make better decisions as they enter adulthood.
“I didn’t think I could learn anything like this before,” said Cadet Dalonta Crudup, whose dream is to design and build his own house from the ground up.
“I was thinking that when I start architecture in college it was going to be hard, but joining this class has made it seem a lot easier – how to deal with things, how to deal with situations and building stuff,” he said.
Cadet Niema Travers also was worried at first that she wouldn’t be able to learn 3D design and printing.
“Now I can do this without any problem,” she said with a smile. “It made me feel better than anything because … to be able to make something on the computer, for it to print out and be in your hand, is amazing.”
The 3D classes taught Niema, who has her sights set on a career in information technology, to be patient and methodical in solving problems.
“You have to figure out which piece goes where and if you do it wrong, you have to figure out what happened and go back,” she explained. “It takes a lot of hard work, but I love it.”
“It helped me pay attention to detail,” agreed Cadet Kenneth Cruz, who hopes to study 3D printing in college and perhaps become a video game designer.
It was also a confidence-builder for Kenneth and his classmates.
“Being in this class, it helped me understand that you can put your mind to anything,” he said.
The 3D ThinkLink Initiative gave Cadet Gerry Rubi, who plans to be a civil engineer, the opportunity to get creative with technology.
“One of the main things it taught me is there’s a lot of ways to do one thing,” he said.
Gerry took a 3D engineering class at his previous school, but was only able to look at his designs on a computer screen.
“We never got the chance to physically print it out and be able to hold it and say we created that,” he said.
The class at Capital Guardian allowed him to come up ideas for objects, design and print them and make revisions until he was satisfied with finished item. Gerry likened it to the difference between “drawing a picture and bringing the picture to life.”
YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Initiative was launched at Maryland’s Freestate ChalleNGe Academy early last year and expanded to Capital Guardian in the fall. The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program operates these residential academies where dropouts get a second chance to earn a high school degree and prepare for employment or continued education. The ChalleNGe program in South Carolina will start 3D ThinkLink Initiative classes in a few weeks.
Anna Mae Hayden, who has served as The YouthQuest Foundation’s events coordinator for six years, is moving on to begin a new career adventure.
If you’ve had any contact with our organization, chances are you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Anna Mae. A tireless networker, Anna Mae seems to know everyone in our community and remember everything about them. The connections she’s made over the years have helped us build a strong core of supporters and partners.
Anna Mae is probably best known for organizing our signature annual fundraiser, The Challenge at Trump National. From contacting volunteers, sponsors and celebrity guests to assembling items for silent auctions, she juggled all sorts of tasks to make the golf tournament bigger and better every year. But her contributions go far beyond that big event. Anna Mae worked behind the scenes year-round to keep everything at our Foundation running smoothly.
Every December, she threw herself into decorating for the Christmas party hosted by AOC Solutions, our upstairs neighbor and a major supporter of YouthQuest. Fortunately, she’s already promised to continue that tradition.
Even though she won’t be here in person, Anna Mae’s legacy remains in the positive impact our Foundation has had on at-risk children and their families. Her work made it possible for us to touch hundreds of lives during her six years at YouthQuest.
Everyone at YouthQuest wishes Anna Mae all the best in her new job at the Hampton Inn and Conference Center in Winchester, Va.
There are some very special ornaments on display this Christmas season in the homes of the teenagers who completed the latest 3D ThinkLink Initiative classes sponsored by The YouthQuest Foundation at Freestate and Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academies.
As a final assignment, YouthQuest Training Director Tom Meeks had the Cadets in the Maryland and District of Columbia ChalleNGe programs use their imaginations to design and fabricate any kind of ornament they could dream up. The idea was to encourage them to be creative and to produce something meaningful they could take home to their families after graduation.
Some of the ornaments are reflections of the changes these at-risk teens have gone through during the 22-week residential programs operated by the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Foundation.
Perhaps the most poignant creation is Capital Guardian Cadet Dalonta Crudup’s ornament.
He wanted to make something that “would just stand out.” His inspiration came from his best friend, Malik Spears – know to all as “Wiz” – who was fatally shot in Northeast DC this summer, just before Dalonta entered the ChalleNGe program.
“This is like a tombstone,” he said, holding the circular object that bears a heartfelt message. “I made this to show appreciation from me to his family.”
“He was like a brother and I was always with him every single day,” Dalonta explained. “It says: 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 the days before that too.”
Some of Dalonta’s fellow Cadets from the District of Columbia also knew Wiz.
“It meant a lot to the class,” he said. Although it was “very hard” to complete the project, when his classmates saw what he’d done, they realized they could come up with their own creations, too.
“It was a lot of steps. We had to keep switching it to get it to work,” recalled Dalonta, who plans to study math and business in college and eventually pursue a career in architecture.
In the first version of his design, the raised letters on the ornament were too small so they got “all smooshed up together.” Over three weeks of classes, he kept revising his design until he was satisfied with the results.
The project helped reinforce one of the 3D ThinkLink Initiative’s most important lessons: Make improvements step-by step until you achieve your goal.
When he started the program this summer, Dalonta was “very sad … very frustrated” about the killing of his best friend. Making the memorial ornament helped him get through his grief, he said.
At Capital Guardian’s graduation ceremony this month, Dalonta was honored as the Most Improved Cadet in his class of more than 50.
A Christmas Rose for Grandma
Capital Guardian Cadet Kenneth Cruz also had someone close to him in mind when he created his design.
The cylindrical ornament has an elaborate rose pattern cut into it, which casts a warm glow when a small light is placed inside. He unveiled the gift for his grandmother on stage at the DC Armory during the Dec. 13 graduation ceremony.
“I made this lantern with a rose on it for her for Christmas, but I guess I’m giving it to her now,” Kenneth announced as the crowd laughed and cheered.
Cadet Gerry Rubi said that of all the projects the 3D ThinkLink class did, making an ornament taught him the most because he was free to create his own design.
Using Moment of Inspiration modeling software, Gerry began with a simple cube. He removed all the corners, added designs to each face, scooped out the top to form a bowl and put a slot in the side for storing keys or other small items. The Cube 3D printer then turned his idea into a unique ornament that’s sure to become a family heirloom.
“It gave me a chance to play around with all the software and all the creativity I can put into it,” he said.
“One of the main things it taught me is there’s a lot of ways to do one thing,” added Gerry, who plans to become a civil engineer and received the top award, Cadet of the Cycle, at Capital Guardian’s graduation.
“It’s a wonderful program for the Cadets,” said Keith Hammond, Capital Guardian’s Manager of Information Systems, who helped teach the 3D classes.
“They now know that they are creative,” he continued. “Before this class, they may have had creativity bottled up inside them but because they couldn’t draw, they weren’t labeled an artist, they felt like they couldn’t be creative and they couldn’t identify themselves that way. Now, with this class and with the tools that we’re using, they can be creative and they know they have an outlet for that creativity.”
YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Initiative gives at-risk teens an advantage as they enter a workforce where STEM skills are in high demand. The classes prepare students to successfully compete for a growing array of technology-related jobs that don’t require a college degree or to continue their education in one of the STEM disciplines. In addition, the program builds self-confidence and problem-solving skills that help graduates achieve their goals no matter what career path they choose.
The Cadets in our 3D ThinkLink Initiative classes have just taken a giant step toward a successful future as they completed the 22-week residential program at Freestate and Capital Guardian ChalleNGe Academies.
Eighteen young people were honored at award presentations and graduation ceremonies in Maryland and Washington, DC, last week.
Recognizing that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education is essential in today’s workforce, the YouthQuest Foundation developed the 3D ThinkLink Initiative in partnership with the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, which operates residential academies where dropouts get a second chance to earn a high school degree and prepare for employment or continued education.
Launched at Maryland’s Freestate ChalleNGe Academy early this year and expanded to include the District of Columbia’s Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy this fall, the unique project uses 3D design and printing to teach critical thinking and problem-solving skills to students who once gave up on school.
Selected Cadets receive 25 hours of training that supplements their regular math and science curriculum. Instructors have found that students in these classes gain confidence and become more engaged in all their other courses. In addition, the Cadets discover that learning to think creatively has benefits beyond the classroom. The skills and values they develop will help them achieve their goals no matter what career path they choose.
Several Cadets from the 3D project received special recognition during their graduation ceremonies. Cadet of the Cycle awards, the highest honor a Cadet can earn, went to Gerry Rubi from Capital Guardian and Jennifer Contreras from Freestate. Capital Guardian’s Dalonta Crudup and Freestate’s Trinisia Reese were named Most Improved Cadets. Many others received scholarships for their leadership and academic achievements.
In the second phase of the ChalleNGe program, graduates return to their communities to continue their education or begin careers under the guidance of mentors who will serve as their role models, advisers and advocates for a year.
Congratulations to all the graduates!
Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy
Freestate ChalleNGe Academy
Statistics show the outlook for teenagers who quit school is bleak. The YouthQuest Foundation works to help dropouts break the cycle of failure and get back on the path to productive citizenship by providing academic and vocational development, infrastructure support and life-enriching activities for America’s at-risk youth.
- Every 8 seconds during the school year, a public high school student drops out.*
More than 1 million teens quit school every year. In public schools, per-student spending has doubled since the 1970s, yet the dropout rate has remained around 30%. Among African-Americans and Hispanics, it is closer to 50%.
- Every 32 seconds, a child is born into poverty.*
Dropouts beget dropouts and poverty feeds this cycle. The poorest teens are six times more likely to quit high school than the richest ones. Children whose parents quit school are at much greater risk than others of becoming dropouts themselves.
- Every 3 minutes, a child is arrested for a drug offense. Every 7 minutes, a child is arrested for a violent crime.*
Every time a teen drops out, we all pay the price. Dropouts drain public resources because they are much more likely than high school graduates to be unemployed, need government aid, abuse alcohol and drugs and be arrested. At least two-thirds of dropouts spend time in jail. On average, dropouts earn about half as much as graduates, so they contribute less to the economy.
A 2006 study by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that most dropouts believe they could have graduated from school under different social or economic circumstances. YouthQuest seeks to create the circumstances these teens need to succeed in a world where demand is growing for workers trained in the skilled trades.
For example, studies predict nearly 80% of future jobs will require science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) knowledge. Yet most at-risk youth find it difficult to imagine themselves in STEM-related careers due to the lack of role models in their communities, according to the California STEM Learning Network.
In response, YouthQuest has launched the 3D ThinkLink Initiative, a unique project uses 3D printing to teach critical thinking and problem-solving skills to students who once gave up on school.
Our goals are to prepare teens for entry-level jobs in the skilled trades, and to instill the life skills and work habits that will help them advance to leadership positions.
We all benefit when dropouts turn their lives around. As they become more self-reliant, these young people have less need for community services, so the burden on taxpayers is lighter. Businesses are able to innovate and grow when they can hire workers who have the latest skills required in their fields. Through mentorship, at-risk youth develop healthy relationships with respected adults in their community and industry.
YouthQuest believes it is our responsibility, individually and as a society, to see that every American child has the opportunity to reach his or her potential.
*– Children’s Defense Fund, 2013
The 3D printing classes YouthQuest Foundation Training Director Tom Meeks teaches are truly multi-dimensional. While his students work on understanding the science and math of additive manufacturing, they also learn lessons in life.
Tom told the class that Edison – who was once labeled “too stupid to learn anything” by a teacher – built about 1,000 unsuccessful prototypes before finally making a bulb that worked. When a reporter asked how it felt to fail 1,000 times, Edison replied: “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
The story resonated with the Cadets, most of whom had failed in school and dropped out. They realized that quitting high school was a mistake and they enrolled in the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program to change their lives by resuming their education.
Step by step, YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Initiative is showing at-risk teens that mistakes are opportunities to learn and improve.
Instructors at Maryland’s Freestate and Capital Guardian, serving the District of Columbia, choose promising Cadets to take part in the 3D ThinkLink Initiative, which YouthQuest sponsors to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education.
“It’s really important to the YouthQuest mission that we not just do 3D printing as an end in itself. It’s got to be integrated into what the students are learning,” explained Tom.
For example, the Cadets used math concepts such as ratios in designing their gears with Moment of Inspiration software. They also had to apply physics and engineering principles to make sure the parts would work together correctly after being fabricated by a Cube 3D printer.
“Is this stuff easy? No,” Tom told a class as some Cadets stumbled through the gear-building steps. “Why were you chosen? Because you can do hard things. I know you can do it!”
‘Your Failures Are Not Final’
The first assignment for these students was to create a cookie cutter. The results ranged from nearly perfect to way, way off.
Instead of the planned star-shaped outline, a couple of objects came off the printer as solid blocks of plastic. Tom playfully declared the botched cookie cutters to be “cookie mashers” and said he was glad to see them because they helped make the most important point about these classes.
“Your failures are not final. You can redesign it and print it again.”
It’s a message Tom repeats frequently as he encourages the Cadets to work together and solve problems through creative thinking.
“It’s really a ‘thinking class’ more than a 3D printing class,” he said.
“We want them to learn to love learning. We want them to know that when they do fail, they can analyze that failure, study that failure, and then go on to make changes that make a positive result in their lives.”
‘These 3D Classes Are Awesome’
The project is a tremendous confidence-builder for Cadets, according to Keith Hammond, Manager of Information Systems at Capital Guardian and former Placement Coordinator at Freestate.
“They’ve gone from being the kids nobody wanted in class, who got kicked out of school,” said Keith, who has been deeply involved in the classes since the pilot project at Freestate early this year. “Now they’re in the top 1 percent of their student population because they know something that 99 percent of the kids do not know. They understand 3D printing – additive manufacturing – and they’ve been successful at it. So now they carry themselves with confidence in all their other classes.”
Freestate science instructor Timmy Jackson has seen Cadets who didn’t seem interested in academics at first become more engaged, thanks to the 3D ThinkLink Initiative. He recalled one in particular who started out as “maybe a C student in science.”
“Once he came to the 3D program, he became basically like an expert. He was actually giving some hints to the instructor,” he said.
“These 3D classes are awesome for the kids,” he added. “Some of them are already talking about this as a future. They want to know how they can get involved in it once they graduate.”
Keith has heard the same praise from other instructors at Freestate and Capital Guardian.
“They say, ‘Wow, the 3D kids are really stepping up their game now,’” he beamed. “So I can challenge them more and they’re not as frustrated when they fail because they’ve understood what Tom is teaching them: Failure can lead to success. It’s just one step.”
The Next Steps
YouthQuest has invited other National Guard Youth ChalleNGe programs in the mid-Atlantic region to start classes at their Academies early next year. Next summer, select students from all the programs will be invited to the Foundation’s headquarters in Chantilly, Va., for 40 hours of immersion training in the 3D ThinkLink Lab.
The YouthQuest Foundation’s 3D ThinkLink Initiative is growing, and so is the need for resources to support this important STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education experience for at-risk youth.
We are serving twice as many students this fall as we did in the pilot project at Freestate ChalleNGe Academy in the spring. 3D printing classes are being conducted at Maryland’s Freestate and the newly opened Capital Guardian ChalleNGe Academy, which serves the District of Columbia. And that’s just the beginning. We have invited four more National Guard Youth ChalleNGe programs in the mid-Atlantic region to start classes at their Academies early next year.
This means hundreds of high school dropouts who decide to turn their lives around will have the opportunity to learn about the revolutionary technology of additive manufacturing. Smaller groups at each Academy will be chosen for 25 hours of advanced training as members of 3D ThinkLink Teams. Starting next summer, select students from those teams will be invited to YouthQuest’s headquarters in Chantilly, Va., for 40 hours of immersion training in our 3D ThinkLink Fabrication Laboratory.
Make the Connection — DONATE
With your support, we are opening students’ eyes to a world of possibilities in STEM they might otherwise have never seen. Every donation, large or small, helps us assemble the pieces we need to build on the early success of our 3D ThinkLink Initiative. For example:
- $30 provides a lab tool set for one student.
- $100 provides one hard drive and battery for a recycled laptop computer.
- $450 provides one tablet computer for a 3D ThinkLink Team graduate.
- $1,600 provides one Cube 3D printer and materials.
- $2,500 provides one week of 3D ThinkLink Lab immersion training, including lodging and meals, for one student.
By making the connection between technology and creativity, the 3D ThinkLink Initiative gives at-risk teens an advantage as they enter a workforce where STEM skills are in high demand. Our classes prepare students to successfully compete for a growing array of technology-related jobs that don’t require a college degree or to continue their education in one of the STEM disciplines. In addition, the program builds self-confidence and problem-solving skills that help graduates achieve their goals no matter what career path they choose.
The YouthQuest Academy Channel is at www.youtube.com/user/YouthQuestAcademy.
The channel is a collection of instructional videos made by YouthQuest Training Director Tom Meeks for the teachers in the 3D printing classes we are sponsoring at the Capital Guardian and Freestate ChalleNGe Academies this fall.
As the project expands to other states next year, this video supplement to the curriculum will become even more important for keeping teachers on the same track, even if they’re hundreds of miles apart.
We’ve seen how our 3D printing classes help show at-risk teens how they can build a better future for themselves through creative thinking, teamwork and perseverance. We believe that is a valuable lesson for anyone. That’s why we’re making all YouthQuest Academy Channel videos available to the public, so teachers and students anywhere can start to explore the new world possibilities in 3D printing.
A couple of introductory videos are posted now and many more will be added soon. Stay tuned!