3D Printing Prevents Summer ‘Brain Drain’ at Boys & Girls Club Camp

Students learn 3D design and printing in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink classes at the Boys & Girls Clubs Summer Camp at Culmore Character Club in Fairfax Coynty, Virginia

Some students in Fairfax County, Virginia are going back to school this week with improved thinking skills, increased confidence and turned-on brains, thanks to YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Initiative.

Tom Meeks (left) and Chris Roberts set up equipment for 3D ThinkLink classes at Culmore Club

Tom Meeks and Chris Roberts set up equipment for 3D ThinkLink classes

They’re the kids we introduced to 3D printing in Boys & Girls Clubs Summer Camp classes at the Culmore Character Club in July.

More than 30 students, some as young as 10, took part in the classes taught by YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks and Chris Roberts, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington Education Director.

During two weeks of daily two-hour sessions, the students learned the basics of 3D design and printing. In the process, they had fun exploring their creativity and strengthening their problem solving skills.

It took only a few days for the kids to get comfortable with the Moment of Inspiration 3D modeling software and Cube 3 printers we provided. After mastering a few simple tasks such as making cookie cutters and key chain tags personalized with their initials, they were eager to dream up their own projects.

Pauline Erpe holds a 3D-printed vase she created

Pauline Erpe holds a vase she created

“I had no idea what 3D printing was. I thought it would be kind of boring at first because it takes a lot of work,” said Pauline Erpe, 11, who is entering 7th grade. “It took a few days for me to learn, but now I know how to do it and it’s really fun. I’m really good at it now.”

We were pleased and impressed by how quickly even the youngest students were able to start turning their ideas into 3D-printed reality. The printers were running constantly, churning out imaginative objects of all kinds including castles, vehicles, superhero medallions, vases and tags for pets.

Even projects that went awry at first became opportunities for learning about how to deal with setbacks. Jimmy Escobar, 11, worked hard to create a case for his cell phone, only to discover when he printed it that the holes for the control buttons weren’t large enough. He worked through the problem by taking careful measurements and adjusting his design in Moment of Inspiration until the print turned out the way he wanted.

Tom Meeks watches Jimmy Escobar try a haptic device, which provides an artificial sense of touch in making 3D designs

Tom Meeks watches Jimmy Escobar try a haptic device, which provides an artificial sense of touch in making 3D designs

“My teacher told us to never give up. If you mess up, try again. It might take you a few times, but you’ll get it. And I got it!,” Jimmy proudly declared as he showed off his finished phone case.

This summer’s pilot project with the Boys & Girls Clubs brought our 3D ThinkLink lessons to students who are younger than the ones we’ve been working with in the Maryland, District of Columbia and South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe programs. The experience convinced us that children of all ages can benefit from our curriculum, which will be available for purchase online through our website this fall.

“It’s not all about 3D printing,” Pauline explained. “I learned how to grow my brain because I was introduced to new things.”

Too often, summer vacation is “brain drain” time for young people. Our 3D ThinkLink classes helped the Culmore kids keep their minds turned on this summer so they could start the new school year ready to learn on Day One.

Fun, Fundraising at YouthQuest Golf Tournament

Golfers at YouthQuest's 10th Annual Challenge at Trump National Golf Club August 10, 2015

“One day of golf will make a difference for America’s at-risk youth all year long.” YouthQuest supporters just proved that’s more than a slogan for us.

Players, sponsors and volunteers turned out in force in August 10 for the 10th Annual Challenge at Trump National Golf Club.

YouthQuest Co-Founder & President Lynda Mann with Tournament Chairman Bill Hall

YouthQuest Co-Founder & President Lynda Mann with Tournament Chairman Bill Hall

“We couldn’t have had a better event to celebrate our 10th tournament,” said Co-Founder and President Lynda Mann. “The venue, the service, the food, the support of all our participants … We couldn’t have asked for more.”

“During these 10 years, we’ve built a base of sponsors and supporters that understand the importance of our mission to help high school dropouts turn their lives around,” she added.

This year’s tournament will help power the growth of our signature STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education project, the 3D ThinkLink Initiative. Our lessons in 3D design and printing help at-risk kids develop sorely needed critical thinking and problem solving skills. Some of the proceeds from the event will go toward improving our 3D lab. We’re also upgrading our website to make the 3D ThinkLink curriculum available for purchase online.

In addition to the funds raised through tournament sponsorships, our silent auction and raffle were the most successful ever, bringing in more than twice as much as last year.

Twenty-five teams of golfers got the rare opportunity to experience the newly remodeled Championship Course at Trump National Golf Club, Washington, DC, where the Senior PGA Championship will be held in 2017.

The CrossFit PR Star team on the final hole at Trump National

The CrossFit PR Star team on the 18th hole

Many of the faces were familiar, but we were pleased to welcome plenty of new players. This year’s field included more women than ever before. And, as always, we had the help of our generous volunteers, many of them from AOC Solutions.

“People tell us they keep coming back because this is the best charity golf tournament they attend all year,” explained Lynda, citing the high quality of the venue and the services provided.

Tournament Committee Chairman Bill Hall praised Trump National Director of Golf Kevin Morris, event planner Mary Hudgins and event coordinator Vicky Kurasz, along with the caddies and the rest of the staff. Last-minute changes are inevitable for an event as large as this one. The Trump National team took it all in stride and delivered an outstanding experience for everyone.

Former MLB pitcher Pete Schourek is pretty handy with a golf club, too.

Former MLB pitcher Pete Schourek knows his way around the links, too.

The early morning drizzle ended just in time for Golf Entertainer Brad Denton get things started with an amazing trick shot demonstration. The weather remained mild – mercifully unlike a typical mid-August Monday in Washington – allowing the players to enjoy a pleasant day on the course.

Most foursomes were matched with a celebrity player. Our VIP guests included speaker and Emmy-winning broadcaster Jan Fox, Major League Baseball alumni Shawn Camp and Pete Schourek, Washington Redskins alumni coordinator Jerry Olsen and former players Mike Bragg, Brian Carpenter, Ricky Ervins, Pat Fischer, Ken Jenkins, Carl Kammerer, Ron McDole, Kirk Mee and Ted Vactor.

Author John Gilstrap at YouthQuest's 2015 Challenge at Trump National tournament reception

Author John Gilstrap signed his new book at the tournament reception

New York Times bestselling author John Gilstrap was with us again this year, signing copies of his new thriller Against All Enemies during the post-tournament reception. Our summer intern, Bria Toussaint, spoke at the reception about her own nonprofit, GRL-PWR, and Loudoun Youth, two organizations with close ties to YouthQuest.

The 10th Annual Challenge at Trump National was a success because of the generosity of our sponsors, silent auction donors, players and volunteers. Special thanks go out to tournament photographer Jeff Mauritzen, Copy General for printing the programs and Staybridge Suites in Chantilly for providing Brad Denton’s lodging.

We also are grateful to Michael Garcia and his staff at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in McLean, Va., for hosting our VIP Reception on August 6, at which we recognized Founders Award winner Scott MacDonald, Volunteer of the Year Edna Davis, Community Partner Derrick Campana of Animal Orthocare and 3D ThinkLink Strategic Partner Joe Travez of Prototype Productions, Inc. Learn more about our award winners here.

Make a note now to join us at the 11th Annual Challenge at Trump National on Monday, August 8, 2016.

Congratulations to Our 2015 Award Winners

YouthQuest Vice President Allen Cage, Founders Award Winner Scott MacDonald and YouthQuest President Lynda Mann at VIP Reception August 6, 2015

YouthQuest Co-Founders Lynda Mann and Allen Cage presented awards on August 6 to individuals and organizations whose support has been crucial to our Foundation’s success.


YouthQuest Founders Award winner Scott MacDonald

Scott MacDonald

When we considered who should receive our first Founders Award, Scott MacDonald immediately came to mind. He is the clear choice for this special recognition as we prepare to celebrate YouthQuest’s 10th anniversary.

Scott, the owner and president of RE/MAX Gateway in Chantilly, Virginia, has been with us from the beginning. Not only has he sponsored every one of our events, he’s held his own fundraisers for YouthQuest. He constantly promotes the values and mission of our Foundation.

Scott sets an outstanding example of personal integrity and commitment to community. He has been vital to our organization since the day YouthQuest was founded. We are grateful for his generous support and proud to honor him with the Founders Award.


YouthQuest 2015 Volunteer of the Year Edna Davis of AOC Solutions

Edna Davis

Edna Davis is the quintessential volunteer. She takes on the hard jobs and she gets them done with a smile.

As executive assistant to AOC Solutions President and CEO Allen Cage, Edna’s daily to-do list is a long one. Yet she’s always willing to make time for us because she shares Allen’s passion for helping at-risk youth.

Edna is persuasive and tenacious, as you know if you were at last year’s Challenge at Trump National charity tournament where she got 100 percent of the golfers to buy tickets for the 50/50 raffle.

Regardless of the task – whether behind the scenes or on the front lines – Edna is always there to answer to call for YouthQuest.


Prototype Productions CEO Joe Travez with first 3DThinkLink class during Vocational Orientation in 2013

Joe Travez with first 3DThinkLink class in 2013

Prototype Productions, Inc. in Ashburn, Virginia has hosted tours for our students during every 3D ThinkLink class cycle since the project began in 2013.

These Vocational Orientation visits show the students how 3D design and printing is used in a wide variety of career fields. At PPI, they get to see all the steps in the prototyping process and learn about the importance of innovative thinking and problem solving at work.

CEO Joe Travez makes the experience even more valuable by sharing his personal story with the students. It’s inspirational for these at-risk teens to learn about how he turned away from gangs, embraced education and family, and built a thriving high-tech business from scratch. His message about making smart decisions and going the extra mile to achieve his goals is exactly what our students need to hear.

Because of their consistent support of YouthQuest’s mission, we are pleased to recognize PPI as this year’s 3D ThinkLink Strategic Partner.


Derrick Campana hosts Vocational Orientation visit to Animal Orthocare in April 2015

Derrick Campana hosts 3D ThinkLink Vocational Orientation tour

We discovered Derrick Campana through our strategic partner, 3D Systems, because they worked together to invent revolutionary 3D-printed legs for a disabled dog named Derby. (Click here to see a video about Derby.)

We’re fortunate to have Derrick’s Animal Orthocare, one of the few businesses in the world that specializes in orthotics and prosthetics for animals, located just a few miles from our headquarters in Chantilly, Virginia.

Animal Orthocare is a favorite stop on Vocational Orientation tours for our 3D ThinkLink students. During a recent visit, they enjoyed Derrick’s hands-on demonstration of making plaster casts of limbs and saw how he used 3D scanning and printing to create customized parts for prosthetics.

Since then, Derrick has been busy developing new mobility devices for animals. He even traveled to Thailand in July to help two elephants that were maimed by land mines. We can’t wait to learn more when we take the next group of Maryland and DC students to Animal Orthocare for Vocational Orientation in October.


Awards were presented during YouthQuest’s annual VIP Reception, at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Tysons Corner, Virginia. We thank Fleming’s Operating Partner Michael Garcia and his staff for hosting an outstanding event. Here are more photos from the evening.

3D ThinkLink Initiative: More Than 200 Students Reached

3D ThinkLink graduates from Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy, December 2014

What began with a few teens at one school has grown into a program that’s brought the magic of 3D printing to more than 200 young people coast to coast.

As soon as we launched our 3D ThinkLink pilot project at Maryland’s Freestate ChalleNGe Academy in early 2013, we started to see why it’s such a great teaching tool – especially for at-risk youth.

South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduate Sherquana Adams holds one of her 3D-printed creations in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink immersion lab August 2014

SCYCA graduate Sherquana Adams holds one of her 3D-printed creations

In more than two years of providing 3D design and printing classes, we’ve seen how the experience helps develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, encourages creativity and builds confidence.

Most of the students we work with have made decisions that led them down the wrong path and they see themselves as failures. Our classes help them understand that failure is not final; it’s just a step toward improvement and, ultimately, success. The software and hardware we use make it easy for them to try a project, analyze mistakes, make corrections and print again until they reach their goal.

Twenty-five Cadets from the Maryland, District of Columbia and South Carolina ChalleNGe Academies completed 3D ThinkLink training last month (see below), bringing our total of ChalleNGe Program grads so far to 111.

In March, more than 70 students from across the United States and Canada took part in our 3D printing workshops at the 41st Annual National Society of Black Engineers Convention in Anaheim, California.

Learning Moment of Inspiration 3D modeling software at Boys & Girls Club summer camp at Culmore Character Club in Fairfax County, Virginia July 2015

Learning 3D design at Boys & Girls Club summer camp

This month, we’re reaching dozens of kids in Northern Virginia for the first time by working with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington to provide summer camp classes at the Culmore Character Club.

Another way we’re bringing 3D ThinkLink to more people is by making our curriculum available for teachers and students to buy online. On July 1, we wrapped up a crowdfunding project on Kickstarter that will cover the cost of creating the curriculum packages, which include Moment of Inspiration 3D modeling software, lesson plans and instructional videos.

Our goal is to give at-risk kids the tools they need to become successful adults. That includes academic and vocational training, along with developing the life skills that will keep them on track no matter what career path they choose. We don’t expect most our 3D ThinkLink students to end up in jobs that directly involve 3D design and printing, but we do expect the thinking skills and positive attitudes they develop in class will help them get ahead in any kind of job.

YouthQuest Co-Founder and President Lynda Mann with Adonis Gonzales, 3D ThinkLInk graduate from Freestate ChalleNGe Academy in June 2013

YouthQuest Co-Founder and President Lynda Mann with Adonis Gonzales

For example, there’s Adonis Gonzales, who was in our first class at Freestate. He always wanted to be a master electrician and now he’s in the second year of an apprenticeship program. In a recent interview with the Connection Newspapers, he talked about how he uses the problem solving skills he learned in our class to work through obstacles on the job.

Adonis also took our “failure is not final” message to heart. He didn’t pass his GED exam the first time he took it – or the second time. But he didn’t give up and he learned from his mistakes until, on the third try, he earned his GED.

Adonis is a remarkable young man and he’s going to do well in life. Stories like his encourage us to keep expanding the 3D ThinkLInk Initiative so we can touch the lives of more at-risk youth.


Congratulations to Our Latest Graduates

South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy: Dishon Bailey, Chris Foster, Tyler Garcia, Jaya Geter, Aaliyah Lilly, LaKristopher McCoy, Joshua Milligan, Shiann O’Shea, Jared Pearsall, Craig Shipman
Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy: Angela Bernfeld, Tyeshia Blackmond, Dylan Cooper, Ronnell Dillard, Steve James, Kyla Joyner, Darian Moore, Andrey Ortiz-Castillo, Angel Patterson
Freestate ChalleNGe Academy: Maurice Allen, Philbert Fisher, Benjamin Illioff, Johnathan Lainez, TreVaughn McBride, Maxim Pine

Here are some photo highlights of their 3D ThinkLink experience.

Meet Bria Toussaint, Our Summer Intern

YouthQuest summer intern Bria Toussaint

This summer is going to be the busiest ever for YouthQuest, so we’re pleased to have Bria Toussaint working with us for the next six weeks.

Bria, who will graduate from Spelman College next year, has already accomplished a great deal in the field of youth-focused nonprofits.

She is the Co-Founder and CEO of GRL-PWR, a 501(c)(3) organization that empowers young girls through activities that promote self-esteem, goal setting and service to others.

During the first half of this year, she took part in an exchange program at Stanford University, where she worked with law students and professors to develop creative outreach solutions to the problem of human trafficking.

Bria Toussaint and Royal Phillips led GRL-PWR mentor training for cadets at South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy in May, 2013

Bria and Royal bring GRL-PWR to SCYCA

Bria came aboard as our summer intern just a few days ago, but her connection to YouthQuest dates back to her time at Freedom High School in Chantilly, Virginia, where she and classmate Royal Phillips created GRL-PWR. They entered their project in the 2012 Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition and won the first-place prize of $1,000 provided by YouthQuest.

Our Co-Founder and President Lynda Mann was one of the contest judges that year and was so impressed by Bria and Royal that she offered to help them take GRL-PWR to other states.  The Foundation sent them to the South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy in May, 2013 to teach a group of at-risk young women to be GRL-PWR mentors.

Bria’s summer to-do list includes assisting with our 3D ThinkLink classes for a Boys & Girls Club summer camp in Fairfax County, preparing for our annual charity golf tournament and VIP Reception, supporting 3D ThinkLink immersion lab week and teacher training, and delivering rewards for backers who made pledges to our successful 3D ThinkLink curriculum project on Kickstarter.

We’re confident Bria’s internship with us will be a mutually beneficial experience. She’s gaining valuable hands-on experience in the day-to-day operation of a nonprofit organization and we’re gaining valuable insights from a smart, enthusiastic young woman who’s already making her mark in the nonprofit world.

Essay Is ‘Clear Winner’ in Scholarship Competition

YouthQuest 3D ThinkLink esssay contest winner Aaliyah Lilly of South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy with quote: I am excited for the future"

Aaliyah Lilly, a South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduate, has earned a $500 scholarship for writing an outstanding essay about what she experienced in the YouthQuest Foundation’s 3D ThinkLink class.

“I often had troubles in school understanding key points, but since being a part of 3D printing, my way of thinking has gradually changed,” she wrote.

Cadet Aaliyah Lilly receives her essay contest scholarship from YouthQuest Secretary Bill Hall at SCYCA graduation June 10.

Cadet Aaliyah Lilly receives her award from YouthQuest Secretary Bill Hall at SCYCA graduation June 10.

Aaliyah, 17, is one of 25 Cadets at National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Academies who completed the 3D ThinkLink course during the latest class cycle. In the process of learning the basics of 3D design and printing, the students developed better critical thinking and problem solving skills.

3D ThinkLink training also provided a creative outlet, Aaliyah said, and introduced her to “the next generation’s technology.”

Aaliyah will receive her scholarship money when she enrolls in a higher education or trade school program. She’s interested in studying Media Communications and Hospitality Management and aspires to become a Public Affairs Specialist in the military.

But first, she wants to share what she’s learned with others at SCYCA.

South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy Cadets LaKrisopher McCoy, Aaliyah Lilly and Shiann O'Shea visit 3D Systems headquarters for Vocational Orientation in April.

SCYCA Cadets LaKrisopher McCoy, Aaliyah Lilly and Shiann O’Shea visit 3D Systems headquarters for Vocational Orientation.

“After graduating Youth ChalleNGe Academy I plan return as a peer mentor to encourage those who are in the position I was in,” she wrote.

The competition was judged by YouthQuest supporter John Gilstrap, the New York Times bestselling author whose new thriller Against All Enemies comes out in July. He declared Aaliyah’s essay to be the “clear winner.”

“While several were very well written, this one reached beyond the introspection of how the program changed their lives to embrace how the lessons learned can then be passed along to a new group of future students,” he said.

You can read Aaliyah’s essay at the bottom of this page. Here are excerpts from essays some of her fellow students entered in the contest.

“Back home, not too many people believed in me and I often heard what I could not or would not do, but this program has given me more power to prove them wrong. … Thanks to 3D it has made me a better artist and very creative, I would have never known I could be so passionate and it has been very empowering to develop such skills. I have put a lot of hard work into this program and I have really enjoyed being a part of 3D.” – Tyeshia Blackmond, 17, Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy, Washington, DC

“Since I joined the 3D printing class I have learned that everything does not come out right the first time. I have learned that it takes patience, hard work and dedication to have a successful print. For example the first item we made in 3D was a key chain. I believed it would take no longer than 20 to 30 minutes but it took up to 3 to 4 classes to completely finish because of all the shapes and lines needed. I wanted my project to be perfect so after every print I looked closely at the key chain. When the outcome was not right or did not look presentable to me I would have to fix it. This class also gave me motivation to stay in Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy as a Cadet. Learning 3D was hard but it is worth it.” – Ronnell Dillard, 17, CGYCA

I knew that I was going to learn something new, but I was not sure what it would be about or how challenging it would be. Once I was in the program, my perception and outlook changed, dramatically. I recently saw a quote that said, “Don’t let your fear of breaking things keep you from trying new experiments. That’s how you learn about the real world.” Now that I’ve gotten an opportunity to practice using the program and learning from it, I see that it is a fun and addictive program that can and is being used in daily society… And if I break something, it’s OK. I’ll print it again.” – TreVaughn McBride, 17, Freestate ChalleNGe Academy, Maryland


How 3D Printing Has Changed My Life

by Aaliyah M. Lilly, age 17
South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy

I believe that you must be willing to change your perspective to seek ultimate opportunities. Prior to coming into South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy I had no intentions of participating in any extracurricular activities, but I found interest in 3D Printing and Systems. 3D printing has been an outlet I’ve used to be creative while also gaining knowledge of the next generation’s technology. Since the start of the course I have learned not only the concept of 3D printing, but how to come with up an idea, design it, and turn it into reality. I often had troubles in school understanding key points, but since being a part of 3D printing, my way of thinking has gradually changed. I am very grateful to be able to express myself now through my work.

After graduating Youth ChalleNGe Academy I plan return as a peer mentor to encourage those who are in the position I was in. After that, I plan to attend AmeriCorps. However, my overall goal is to enlist into the military as a Public Affairs Specialist while majoring in Media Communications and Hospitality Management. I plan to take the skills I learned from 3D printing and utilize them in my personal life. I hope to design personalized 3D print items that will provide another stream of income as an entrepreneur.

One of my ultimate life goals is to be able to help my father financially by becoming self-sufficient. Growing up in a single parent household, my father has been the most influential person in life. I watched him struggle to raise me as a young female. I believe that everything I do is in honor of my father.

He instilled in me knowledge and gave me the guidance that I will need to be independent. I am excited for the future and thankful for what 3D printing has given me.

Kickstarter Campaign: Help Us Share the Power of 3D Printing

Support YouthQuest's 3DThinkLink curriculum Kickstarter campaign

We’re running a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter during the month of June that will take the YouthQuest Foundation’s 3D ThinkLink Initiative to the next level. Support this project and spread the word!


Our goal is to raise $8,000 to publish and package for purchase an easy-to-use introductory 3D design and printing curriculum suitable for students of all ages, particularly at-risk youth.

The campaign launched on the Kickstarter site on Monday, June 1 and will run for 30 days.

UPDATE: June 26We have topped our goal with four days left to increase the total. The funds in excess of $8,000 will be used to produce a bonus video for the curriculum package that will explain the various types of 3D printers and help users decide which one is best for them.

We will produce a curriculum based on the lessons we’ve developed during more than two years of teaching students in National Guard Youth ChalleNGe programs serving South Carolina, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

The package will include Moment of Inspiration 3D modeling software, a course syllabus, comprehensive lessons plans, supporting videos and student handouts. The classroom curriculum will be bundled for one teacher and 10 students. There also will be a single-user self-directed curriculum package for home use. Students will be able to print completion certificates after passing a performance-based assessment.

By offering this curriculum for sale to online subscribers, we will create an important new source of revenue to support our work with at-risk youth and to share the power of 3D printing with people everywhere.

We’ve seen over and over again that our training does much more than introduce students to the hot, new technology of 3D printing. It improves problem solving skills, stimulates creativity, reinforces STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education and builds self-confidence. Plus, it’s fun to discover how to turn ideas into 3D-printed reality.

YouthQuest 3D ThinkLink ruler/bookmarkEveryone who contributes to our Kickstarter campaign will get the satisfaction of knowing they’re helping at-risk kids learn to think differently and make better decisions through 3D. In addition, we’re offering five levels of rewards for our backers.

For donations up to $25: A handy 3D ThinkLink ruler/bookmark

personalized 3D-printed key chain tagsFor donations of $50: A personalized key chain tag, which is one of the first things our students learn to make in class

For donations of $100: A personalized two-color case for an iPhone or Android phone designed and printed in our 3D ThinkLink Lab

For donations of $500 or more: A single-user self-directed curriculum package

For donations of $5,000 or more: The complete classroom curriculum package

Our plan is to complete the project and deliver all rewards to backers within 60 days of reaching our $8,000 Kickstarter goal.

You’ll find frequent updates about the campaign on our Kickstarter page, as well as here on our website and on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

YouthQuest Introduces Tomorrow’s Engineers to 3D Printing

Students are introduced to 3D design and printing in a workshop presented by YouthQuest at the National Society of Black Engineers Convention in Anaheim, California March 26, 2015

More than 70 students from the U.S. and Canada took part in our 3D printing workshops at the annual National Society of Black Engineers Convention.

Two students in a YouthQuest workshop at the National Society of Black Engineers Convention in Anaheim work on a design for a 3D-printed tag

Students work on a design for a 3D-printed tag

“It was really rewarding to be able to share our critical thinking and problem solving rubric using 3D printing with these very bright and talented youth,” said YouthQuest Co-Founder and President Lynda Mann, who led our team at the event in Anaheim, California, on March 26.

“We were excited to be a part of this amazing opportunity for youth of all ages to expand their knowledge and gain invaluable experience within key STEM disciplines,” she added.

The workshops gave middle school and high school students a taste of what we teach in 3D ThinkLink classes at the Maryland, District of Columbia and South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academies, where 3D printing is used as a tool for developing creativity and thinking skills.


YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks shows students how to use Moment of Inspiration 3D design software in a workshop at the NSBE convention in Anaheim, California, March 26, 2015.

Tom Meeks explains the class project

Our three 90-minute sessions at the NSBE Convention focused on Moment of Inspiration, the 3D modeling software we use in 3D ThinkLink classes.

“Learning about 3D printing turns on your brain,” YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks told the students. He explained that Moment of Inspiration (MOI) provides a “link” to transform the ideas in their brains into 3D-printed objects they can hold in their hands.

Tom guided the students through the steps to make key chain tags personalized with their initials and a simple design they created.

He demonstrated how to start with two-dimensional shapes such as circles or rectangles and use the software to combine them and add a third dimension – in this case, giving the tags depth and raising the initials and designs. Introducing an engineering principle to the future engineers, he showed how raising the tag’s rim by one millimeter made the object stronger while minimizing material use and print time.

As he does in all our 3D ThinkLink classes, Tom urged the students not to fear failure. If something goes wrong, he told them, don’t give up; go back and figure out how to correct the mistake and then keep working toward your goal. If you get stuck, he said, ask for help; and if someone else is struggling, try to help them.


3D ThinkLink instructor La-Toya Hamilton from Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy shows a student how to use Moment of Inspiration 3D modeling software during a workshop of the National Society of Black Engineers Convention in Anaheim, March 26, 2015

La-Toya Hamilton shows a student how to use Moment of Inspiration

With a little help from the YouthQuest convention team, nearly every student was able to complete the project within the allotted time.

La-Toya Hamilton, a counselor at DC’s Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy who also teaches 3D ThinkLink classes there, was instrumental in keeping the sessions running smoothly by helping individual students who had problems with MOI.

Our convention team also included YouthQuest Secretary Bill Hall, Communications Director Steve Pendlebury and Tammy Haug, National Sales Manager for AOC Solutions, who generously volunteered to come in from San Diego and help with the workshops.

A Cube 3 printer makes a batch of key chain tags designed by students in YouthQuest 's 3D printing workshops at the National Society of Black Engineers Convention in Anaheim March 26, 2015

A Cube 3 printer makes a batch of tags

The files the students created in our workshops contained all the data a 3D printer needs to build the tags by precisely stacking ultra-thin layers of plastic, which is melted by the print head and then hardens instantly.

Thanks to our bank of four Cube 3 printers made by 3D Systems, our 3D ThinkLink strategic partner, we were able to load up all the files from the Thursday workshops and print out every tag during the evening, so the students could pick them up at our display table first thing Friday morning.


Convention officials told us the workshops were among the most in-demand events for pre-college students. And every time the Cube 3 printer at our display table was running, a crowd gathered.

Students and adult group leaders wanted to know how to get started with 3D printing. For example, one group hopes to make customized phone cases as a fundraising project. Another student has a dream of providing solar-powered 3D printers in remote African villages to make tools, parts and utensils.

Students show the 3D-printed tags they created in YouthQuest's workshop at the National Society of Black Engineers Convention in Anaheim March 27, 2015.

Students show the 3D-printed tags they created

The National Society of Black Engineers is dedicated to the academic and professional success of African-American engineering students and professionals. With more than 30,000 members worldwide, it’s one of the largest student-governed nonprofit organizations based in the U.S. NSBE’s mission is “to increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.”

This was our first NSBE Convention. We are honored to have been invited. Being involved in such an important event significantly raised YouthQuest’s profile and helped us connect with individuals and groups from the education, engineering and youth services communities. We hope we’ll be able to do even more at next year’s NSBE Convention in Boston.


View of design for 3D-printed tag in Moment of Inspiration modeling software


CLICK HERE to see instructions for downloading a free 30-day trial version of Moment of Inspiration and a step-by-step guide to create the tags we made in the NSBE workshops.



YouthQuest Teams With Loudoun Youth to Reward Teens Who ‘Step Up’

Teams set up their project displays for the 2015 Step Up Loudoun Youth competition, sponsored by the YouthQuest Foundation

One of the ways the YouthQuest Foundation encourages young people to be creative thinkers and problem solvers is by supporting the Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition.

YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks presents prize money for the 2015 Step Up Competition to Loudoun Youth President Jared Melivin

Tom Meeks presents contest prize money to Loudoun Youth President Jared Melvin

This is the fourth straight year we have provided the prize money for the contest, in which middle school and high school students from Loudoun County, Va., develop projects to address issues they believe are important in their community. The goal is to encourage, support and reward the youth of Loudoun County for making positive changes in their own lives and the lives of others.  

Twenty-seven teams presented their projects to a panel of judges on March 19 at the Loudoun County Public Schools Administration Building in Ashburn.

“I was very impressed. These kids are real go-getters,” said YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks, who served as one of the two dozen judges for the first time this year. He praised the students’ passion for their chosen issues, which included education, homelessness, bullying, sexual assault, stress and depression, diversity, traffic safety and health.

Allison Ball, Kelsey Clark and Hannah Ratcliffe explain their project, Charitable Act, at the 2015 Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition

(L-R) Allison Ball, Kelsey Clark and Hannah Ratcliffe explain their project, Charitable Act

The $1,000 grand prize went to Charitable Act, which provides summer theater camps for underprivileged children. Hannah Ratcliffe founded the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to “share her love for theater with the world.” Hannah and her Briar Woods High School classmates Kelsey Clark and Allison Ball wowed the judges with a presentation that featured a little three-part harmony and lots of enthusiasm.

Amina Bukasa from Virginia Academy took the $500 second-place prize for her Define Yourself project, which aims to boost young women’s self-esteem with activities that celebrate their inner and outer beauty.

Robab Newbury and Rohan Arora from J. Michael Lunsford Middle School earned third place and $250 for LOUDOUNHEALTH, a project that provides online information about health and diseases for the people of Loudoun County.

Winners of the fourth- through seventh-place prizes will get $200 and $100 will go to the eighth-, ninth- and tenth-place teams.

The top 10 teams will be honored at a reception on March 26, where they will talk about their winning projects and receive their prize money. A full list of winners and their projects will be available on the Loudoun Youth website.

VIDEO: Life Lessons Learned in 3D ThinkLink Classes

List of how to achieve goals made by 3D ThinkLink Lab students

The YouthQuest Foundation’s 3D ThinkLink Initiative reached new heights as the New Year began, thanks to our generous supporters and a group of outstanding students who took part in our Immersion Lab training.

The success of our annual golf tournament and other fundraisers made it possible for us to give at-risk youth better tools to strengthen their critical thinking skills and explore their creativity during a week of study at our headquarters in Chantilly, Va.

YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks  sets up a new CubePro 3D printer with 3DThinkLink Lab students Caleb Dujmovic and Christopher Coleman.

Setting up a CubePro printer

The YouthQuest Foundation provides a course in 3D design and printing for National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Academies, where high school dropouts get a chance to turn their lives around. Instructors at the Academies serving Maryland, South Carolina and the District of Columbia selected six graduates to receive 40 hours of advanced training in our lab during the week of January 5-9.

The first day of class felt a bit like Christmas morning when three large boxes containing CubePro 3D printers arrived. The students eagerly unpacked and set up the machines made by our strategic partner, 3D Systems, Inc.

The CubePros are a giant step up from the basic, single-color Cube2 printers they used at school. The CubePros are much larger, faster, more precise and can create two- or three-color objects in a single operation.

Dylan Foster's chess piece design in Moment of Inspiration software

Dylan Foster’s chess piece design in Moment of Inspiration software

In addition, we gave each student a tablet computer loaded with the new version of Moment of Inspiration 3D design software.

Imaginations quickly shifted into high gear as the students discovered what they could do with these new tools. Their projects included customizing solar-powered robots, making parts for a simple prosthetic hand and experimenting with all sorts of creative, multi-color designs.

For each project, the students had to create a plan to turn an idea into reality using their knowledge of the software and hardware. They made test prints, studied what worked and what failed, and kept improving their designs until they reached their goals.

This process of working through problems to achieve success is the foundation of our 3D ThinkLink Initiative. The project is about much more than introducing at-risk kids to the burgeoning technology of 3D printing. Our goal is to help young people who’ve made bad decisions learn to think differently.

On the final day of Lab Week, we asked the students to make a list of the most important things they had learned. Among their answers:


There’s nothing on the list about 3D printing specifically. Instead, these are lessons for building a better life.

To us, that means 3D ThinkLink Lab Week was a great success.


3D ThinkLInk Lasb student Dylan Foster from South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy holds his walking robotDylan Foster, who plans to be an artist, took full  advantage of the new tools in our Lab. With a three-color printer available for the first time, he designed several red, white and blue creations, including a beautifully detailed chess piece. For his robot project, he made a battery holder that’s simpler and works better than the one our Director of Instruction, Tom Meeks, had devised. Our classes also taught him to stay focused on his goals. “I used to give up a whole lot easier,” he said. The South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduate, who had never been so far from home before, said he “met a lot of good people” and gained valuable skills during the week in the 3D ThinkLink Lab. “It’s worth the time you put into it,” Dylan said. “You can learn a lot and do a lot.”

Lessons Learned:

“Stay determined, never give up.”

“If I make a mistake or get something wrong once, that’s not the end of it … Try again and try again and try again.”

“It’s good to be creative.”


3D ThinkLink Lab student Kamie Moody from Freestate ChalleNGe Academy“Frustration was a big problem for me,” Kamie Moody admitted. Our 3D ThinkLink classes became her “outlet” from the daily pressures at Freestate ChalleNGe Academy. “Every Monday, when I had 3D, I was excited,” she recalled.  Kamie appreciated the chance to learn about CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software because it will help her pursue a career in architecture. Experimenting with Moment of Inspiration’s new features brought out her creative talent. On a small scale, her designs look like jewelry, but on a large scale, they could be futuristic buildings. “The 3D ThinkLink program basically solidified what I already knew; that designing is something that I really want to do,” she said.

Lessons Learned:

“Keep trying. Don’t give up. It may be a little too complex at first, but if you modify it, it doesn’t have to change completely. Just make it work for you and what you know.”


EricTablet“3D deals with a lot of measurements, a lot of exact points. The smallest thing can mess up the result,” Eric Wright explained. “Every step you take, you’ve got to make sure it’s correct … If you mess up, you learn from your mistake.” His favorite lab project was making a two-color replica of his iPhone, which required him to take precise measurements of every surface using a digital caliper. “The hardest part was getting the details right,” Eric said, but he worked through the problem step-by-step until he succeeded.  Even though he’d never heard of the technology before joining our class at Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy, Eric is so interested in 3D printing now that he’d like to work in the field. He hopes the training we provided will give him an advantage in competing for a job. “It’s good because it opens you to do new things and see new things,” said Eric.

Lessons Learned:

“Be creative.”

“Think before you act and learn from your mistakes.”

“Don’t stress. Don’t get yourself mad because you can’t do something; just learn how to do it.”


3D ThinkLink Lab student Caleb Dujmovic from Freestate ChalleNGe Academy with a cell phone stand he createdOur training might turn out to be a life-changing experience for Caleb Dujmovic. He was one of the top students in his 3D ThinkLink class at Freestate ChalleNGe Academy, where he said he enjoyed learning to make things for his family and friends. His favorite lab project was making a cellphone stand because it incorporated everything he’d learned during the week about Moment of Inspiration’s new features. Caleb applies the problem-solving skills we’ve taught him to his current job in the construction business, but he’s set his sights on a bio-engineering career. It’s something he’d never considered until he visited the Maryland NanoCenter’s Tissue Engineering Lab during Vocational Orientation Day. Learning how 3D printing is being used to create bones, blood vessels, skin and other tissues opened the door to a world beyond construction for Caleb. “Seeing the steps behind what they do made me more interested in it because it’s like a puzzle of how to solve something or find something new,” he said. “It showed me what I want to do in the future.”

Lessons Learned:

“There’s not just one way to do something.”

“Trial and error – it goes hand-in-hand with life.”


3DThinkLInk Lab student Christopher Coleman from Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe AcademyNicknamed “Highspeed” by the staff at Capital Guardian ChalleNGe Academy because he was often ahead of his classmates, Christopher Coleman was first exposed to 3D design software in 8th grade. Later, he “really got hooked on 3D” in the Hirshhorn Museum’s ARTLAB+ program. Our 3D ThinkLink classes taught him how to use new design tools and printers he’d never tried before. The self-described “loner” says he also learned to ask for help and work with others. “This program particularly helped me with a lot of my faults – things that I’ve got to improve,” Christopher said. “I learned to be more humble … There’s people that know stuff that I don’t know, and they don’t know things that I know.”

Lessons Learned:

“If there’s something that’s hard, don’t try to take the easy way around it. Keep going straight. Because if you keep going straight and play with stuff, you might find something new that will help you.”

“Be open and try new things. Don’t limit yourself. Go the extra mile for what you want to do.”


3D ThinkLink Lab student Sherquana Adams from South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy holds a partially assembled 3D-printed robohandAt first, Sherquana Adams didn’t want to sign up for our class at South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy because she thought 3D printing was “for geeks.” But the more she learned about the many ways this technology is being used, the more interested she became. Sherquana, who aspires to be a surgical technician, was amazed by the medical applications for 3D printing. She thought it was “really cool” to put together 3D-printed pieces to make a kid-size prosthetic hand during Lab Week. “I now have a way to express myself,” she said. In just a few months, her opinion of 3D printing has shifted 180 degrees: “This is not for geeks, this is for anybody!”

Lessons Learned:

“You can do anything you set your mind to.”

“The sky is the limit and you should never doubt yourself.”


If you would like to help us expand our 3D ThinkLink Initiative, please CLICK HERE to make a donation or contact us at info@YouthQuestFoundation.org or (703) 234-4633.

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