Students Explore 3D Printing Beyond the Classroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YouthQuest Congratulates Loudoun Teens Who ‘Step Up’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scholarship Winners Pursue Their College Dreams

3D ThinkLink instructor Charles Johnson awards scholarships to essay competetion winners (l-r) Emilee Bray, Kimora Felton and Kathaleen Polanco at South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduation December 9, 2015

Three young women who earned scholarships in YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink essay competition are taking the next steps toward their career goals.

Emilee Bray, Kimora Felton and Kathaleen Polanco each won $500 for writing about their experiences in our 3D design and printing classes at South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy.

After graduating from SCYCA in December, Kathaleen started the new year by enrolling in South Carolina’s Aiken Technical College while Emilee and Kimora traveled to Chantilly, Virginia for a week of advanced training in YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab.

3D ThinkLink student Kathaleen Polanco visits 3D Systems in Rock Hill, SC, for Vocational Orientation October 22, 2015
Kathaleen Polanco at 3D Systems in Rock Hill, South Carolina for Vocational Orientation

“Before South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy, I was a mess,” Kathaleen confessed.

Her young life took a dramatic turn last April when she was shot while partying with friends. By year’s end, she had completed the 22-week residential program at SCYCA, which included our 3D ThinkLink training.

“I can proudly say I’m clean and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been,” Kathaleen said. “I honestly finally feel at peace with life.”

In her essay, she described 3D class as “an escape … where I can be in my own little place, a place where I can design any and everything.”

Kathaleen gave credit to our Director of Instruction, Tom Meeks, for encouraging her to continue her education.

South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduate Emilee Brays designs a ring during immersion training week in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab January 5, 2016
Emilee Bray designs a ring during 3D ThinkLink Immersion Lab Week

“Tom inspired me to be a better me and never give up no matter how hard life gets,” wrote Kathaleen, who is studying computer networking.

Emilee joined Kathaleen at Aiken Tech immediately after the week of immersion training in our lab. She plans to graduate in May with CNA (certified nursing assistant), electrocardiogram and phlebotomy certificates. Her long-term goal is to become a nurse anesthetist.

“3D printing is starting to get popular now, especially in the nursing field,” Emilee explained. “If I were to tell them that I went through this kind of program, there’s no doubt that I would get that job!”

Besides strengthening her resume, the 3D ThinkLink experience taught her how to think through problems and overcome obstacles.

“It’s not just in 3D printing that you learn from your mistakes. It’s in life that you learn from your mistakes,” said Emilee.

Kimora agreed that our classes helped her learn to think in new ways.

SDouth Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduate Kimora Felton sets up a 3D printer in the 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab during immersion training week January 5, 2016
Kimora Felton sets up a 3D printer in the 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab

“Before getting involved with 3D printing, my mind was scattered,” she recalled in her essay. “Trying to relieve anger and finding ways to express myself, I’d do things that made me act out of character, which led me to think I wasn’t worth anything at all.”

Kimora said 3D ThinkLink gave her a new way to express herself and boosted her self-esteem.

Like Emilee, she hopes to use her 3D skills on the job. Kimora, who wants to be a veterinarian, is enrolled in the Veterinary Assistant program at Horry Georgetown Technical College in Conway, South Carolina.

She was inspired by the video she watched in class about Derby, a dog born with deformed front legs who is able to walk thanks to 3D-printed prosthetic legs.

“Involving 3D printing into this field will give deformed, damaged or diseased animals that are on the verge of being euthanized a second chance,” Kimora wrote in her scholarship-winning essay.

CLICK HERE to read the complete essays

2015 Scholarship-Winning 3D ThinkLink Student Essays

These three students from the 2015 fall-winter class cycle earned $500 scholarships for these essays about their 3D ThinkLink experience.


By Kathaleen Polanco
South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy

My name is Kathaleen Polanco Aponte Bejarano and I’m from Beaufort County. I was born in Hilton Head Island, but I live in Bluffton. I was chosen by Mr. Johnson to be in the 3D printing class, which by the way, I’m so excited to be in. I find it amazing that I and nine other girls are in 3D printing out of the entire nineteen cadets available. To me 3-D printing is a way to escape real life. It’s a way where I can be in my own little place, a place where I can design any and everything. It’s new way to release my anger.

I find that being in 3D printing gives me another opportunity in life, actually this whole program gives me another opportunity in life. I want to surround myself with positive things and positive people. I’m so happy my parents sent me to this program, Of course I didn’t want to go to South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy but after the first day I realized it was my last chance to make my parents and myself proud. I’m sick of breaking my parents’ heart. I needed a change in the life I was living. I see a change in me that no one in my family thought could happen.

I can proudly say I’m proud of myself for participating in 3D printing I would love to make things for my sister and my parents even for my future babies. I’m going to be very honest, after this program I wasn’t sure of what I was going to do with my life. That’s exactly why I’ve decided to join Aiken Tech College and study Computer Networking where I can further my education and hopefully further my skills with a 3D printer.

It was so good to meet Tom. He gave me the idea to further my education. I wasn’t sure if I was going to complete this program with my GED. When I asked Tom if I could make it out on the real world and survive without my GED, he told me anything is possible, it would just be little harder without any higher education. Tom inspired me to be a better me and never give up no matter how hard life gets. ‘’Fall seven get up eight.’’

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

This quote to me means that you can decide where you end up in life and that you have the brains and you have the power and you can walk the steps necessary to be successful in life…..YOU!


By Kimora Felton
South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy

My name is Kimora Felton. I’m 16 years old and from Myrtle Beach SC. I’m a cadet from the South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy.

Before getting involved with 3D printing my mind was scattered. Trying to relieve anger and finding ways to express myself, I’d do things that made me act out of character, which led me to think I wasn’t worth anything at all. Finding myself as a student of Youth Quest Foundation Program made me think of myself as someone. I finally found a way to express myself through creating digital objects and turning them all into 3 dimensional physical models.

First, I got a mental image of the idea. Secondly, I transferred my mental image onto the computer. Finally, I printed the object out using the Cube 3 3D printing machine.

I decided that I would involve 3D Printing into my future career. I plan to major in Animal Science at Coastal Carolina University which will authorize me to be veterinarian. Involving 3D printing into this field will give deformed, damaged or diseased animals that are on the verge of being euthanized a second chance. “All creatures are deserving of a life free from fear and pain.”- Maura Cummings

3D printing will allow me to create prosthetic limbs and implants for injured animals, which will make life trouble-free and unchallenging. By scanning a healthy animal just like the injured one, I can generate the body part to be molded and printed. As the animal grows, the implant or amputee will have to be changed out and made again. The materials used in 3D printing can not only copy the function of the missing part, but also combine with the structure of the animal. For every animal that would have put down, 3D printing has brought far more than a million reasons to continuing life for such animals.

I feel that I deserve this immersion scholarship because I’ve shown a mass amount of interpersonal communication skills, hard-work ethic and creativity.


By Emilee Bray
South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy

My name is Emilee Bray, I was born on April 24th 1998, and this makes me 17 years of age. I am currently a cadet at South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy, my reason for attending this academy is to acquire my GED.

I have been offered many opportunities including 3D printing. The 3D printer was founded by Charles W. Hull in the mid-1980s. 3D printers use a process called “stereolithography” which uses UV lasers to strengthen photopolymer that creates 3D parts by layers.

I plan on enrolling in Aiken Technical College in January 2016 to study Health Care; health care is a constant topic in society today. Now, with the fast paced development of additive inventions,  the increasingly popular technologies often referred to as 3D printers, the future of health care is proceeding in ways both acquainted and dramatically new. 3D printing is making a significant impact on health care patients, whether it’s a cast or a brace. Medical professionals are rising in discovering this printing device because it shortens costs and improves healthcare patients.

3D printing has impacted my life in a number of ways. On October 22nd, 2015 my 3D printing class and I went to 3D Systems and two other 3D printing centers. I learned a variety of interesting facts, one of them being this device can print food, human body parts, and other fun and exciting objects such as iPhone cases and any device stand to prop your gadget. You can also 3D print different materials like glass, gold, platinum, silver, titanium and other steels, etc. If I were to break any type of bone in my body, I could 3D print a cast or splint for myself that would make a big impact in my life.

John F. Kennedy once said: “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction”, meaning if you don’t make an effort or have enough courage to do what you want to do in life than you won’t succeed or have a purpose in whatever you want to do. With that being said, when I become an assistant in the medical field I will have courage and make an effort to change somebody’s life all thanks to 3D printing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going With the Workflow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evaluating 3D Scanners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assembling 3D Printers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A Life-Changing Experience”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Meet YouthQuest Operations Manager Juan Louro

YouthQuest Foundation Operations Manager Juan Louro

We are pleased to welcome Juan Louro to the YouthQuest Foundation team. He joined us as Operations Manager this month.

Juan brings to the job a deep, personal appreciation for YouthQuest’s mission to serve at-risk youth.

“I understand what it means for a child to be at-risk because I experienced it myself growing up,” he said.

Born and raised in a small community outside of Fresno, California, Juan didn’t speak English when he started school. In his hometown, young Latinos like him saw drugs and violence all around them. They were constantly under pressure to join gangs. He credits his mother and his middle school guidance counselor with keeping him away from trouble.

Juan understands the way many at-risk kids look at life – and what it takes to help them see things differently.

“I know they don’t realize there’s a world outside of the three to six blocks where they grow up,” he explained.

Juan’s thinking began to change when his guidance counselor took him and his classmates to visit Fresno State University about 20 years ago.

“That opened my eyes. I remember it just like it was yesterday,” he said. “I’d never seen anything like it and, for the first time, I thought about going to college.”

That new experience at Fresno State planted a seed. A few years later, Juan found himself in a new environment where the seed would grow.

His family moved across the country to Tampa, Florida, where he attended a high school that was unlike anything he’d known in California.

“The expectations were high. Something like 97 percent of the kids from the high school I attended went on to college,” Juan recalled. “The question became not if I was going to graduate from high school, but what I was going to do after I graduated.”

Juan got serious about his education and his future. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a BA in Business Administration. After working as an office manager for a construction company in Tampa, Juan moved to Northern Virginia five years ago. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and their two children, a 3-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter.

Before coming to YouthQuest, he spent two years with the International Association of Chiefs of Police as Executive Assistant to the Executive Office and point of contact for the Global Affairs Department. He also was an Administrative Assistant at Daon Trusted Identity Services, a TSA contractor, for two years.

Juan’s duties at YouthQuest include daily operations management, event coordination and financial oversight. We are confident his skills, experience and insights will be instrumental in expanding our 3D ThinkLink Initiative and other programs for at-risk youth as we enter our second decade as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

3D Systems Gives YouthQuest 35 3D Printers

35 Cube 2 3D printers donated to YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink Initiative by 3D Systems

Santa just made an early delivery to The YouthQuest Foundation. A sleighload of Cube 2 3D printers has arrived from 3D Systems.

“We are so very grateful to 3D Systems for their generosity and continued support of our 3D ThinkLink Initiative. They resonate with our educational goal to provide critical thinking and problem solving skills to America’s at-risk youth, particularly high school dropouts,” said YouthQuest Co-Founder and President Lynda Mann. “3D Systems products are the heart of our program, and this generous donation allows us to expand our initiative to more youth who are working to turn their lives around.”

3D ThinkLink students work with a Cube 2 printer in class at DC's Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy
Students work with a Cube 2 printer in class at Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy

“This also gives us the resources to launch a pilot program in 2016 that will provide training for young adults with high-spectrum autism, and we are very excited about the possibilities in the new year,” she added.

The 3D ThinkLink Initiative uses instruction in 3D design and printing as a tool to teach at-risk youth critical thinking and problem solving skills, and to stimulate interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

The Cube 2 is a basic, easy-to-use printer that’s been a workhorse in the 3D ThinkLink Initiative ever since the project began in 2013. So far, YouthQuest has taught nearly 200 young people how to use it to transform their ideas into 3D-printed reality.

Advanced students with Cube 2 printers during immersion week in the 3D ThinkLink Lab
Advanced students with Cube 2 printers during immersion week in the 3D ThinkLink Lab

Having these additional printers at class sites will mean less waiting and more creating for students, who are always eager to see how the objects they design with 3D modeling software turn out when printed. For those who receive advanced training at the 3D ThinkLink Lab in Chantilly, Virginia, there will be a Cube 2 available for every student.

3D Systems is YouthQuest’s strategic partner in the 3D ThinkLink Initiative. Nearly all the equipment in the lab is made by the company – from the consumer-level Cube 2 and Cube 3 machines to professional-grade printers and scanners.

3D Systems also hosts Vocational Orientation tours of its headquarters in Rock Hill for all 3D ThinkLink students from South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy.

Now in its 10th year as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, YouthQuest ‘s mission is to provide the resources at-risk youth need to become successful adults. Learn more at

YouthQuest Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Casino Night YouthQuest 10th Anniversary

The YouthQuest Foundation marked its 10th anniversary on October 14 with a Casino Night and Open House to showcase the newly upgraded 3D ThinkLink Lab.

Guests play games at Casino Night celebrating YouthQuest's 10th anniversary
Action in our lobby-turned-casino

The atmosphere was festive as guests played casino games in the lobby of our Chantilly, Virginia, headquarters and enjoyed great food and drinks.

They also got to tour the lab and meet some of the at-risk teens they’re helping by supporting YouthQuest.

Several students from DC’s Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy were on hand to show guests what they’re learning in their 3D class.

The 3D ThinkLink Initiative, YouthQuest’s signature STEM education project for at-risk youth, uses 3D design and printing as a vehicle for teaching critical thinking and problem solving skills. We have reached nearly 250 young people since we launched the project three years ago.

Pink Frog 3D printers on display in the 3D ThinkLink Lab during YouthQuest's 10th anniversary celebration
3D printers on display in the lab

Thanks to the generosity of our donors and partners, the 3D ThinkLink Lab is now equipped with a collection of 3D printers and design tools that’s unmatched in the Washington area.

We have created a valuable resource for our advanced students who use the lab for weeklong immersion training sessions, as well as for members of the community who want access to our specialized equipment.

YouthQuest was founded by Lynda Mann and Allen Cage. It was certified by the IRS as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2005.

We are deeply grateful to all the individuals and organizations that have supported our work through the years and we are excited about doing even more to serve America’s at-risk youth in the years ahead.

3DThinkLink Students Explore Innovation in Action

Prototype Productions Inc. Co-Founder and CEO Joe Travez with 3DThinkLink students from Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy during Vocational Orientation October 15, 2015

Vocational Orientation is an important part of YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Initiative because our program does much more than introduce students to 3D design and printing.

Our goal is to teach at-risk youth to think differently so they can achieve their potential as successful adults. Their brains grow when they are exposed to new things. The more they experience, the more they have to draw on when thinking creatively about solving problems.

Prototype Productions, Inc., our 2015 3D ThinkLink Strategic Partner, teamed up with Topgolf Loudoun this month to provide a valuable Vocational Orientation experience for our students from Maryland’s Freestate ChalleNGe Academy and the District of Columbia’s Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy. PPI Co-Founder and CEO Joe Travez organized the October 15 event which focused on innovation.

Innovation in Practice

3DThinkLink students examine 3D-printed objects at Prototype Productions, Inc. during Vocational Orientation
Students examine 3D-printed objects at PPI

As they toured PPI’s headquarters in Ashburn, Virginia, our 3D ThinkLink students discovered that innovative thinking is at the heart of the design, engineering and production work being done there. “Contemplation and action” is how Joe described it to the Cadets.

Chief Technology Officer Ben Feldman explained the ways PPI uses 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, along with traditional subtractive manufacturing methods to solve engineering problems.

For example, our students learned how the powered rail system PPI developed for military rifles not only lightens a soldier’s load by as much as 12 pounds by reducing the number of batteries he must carry, but can also be used for sending and receiving potentially lifesaving information on the battlefield.

Another PPI product they saw is a haptic device that mimics a sense of touch for training medical workers to insert IV needles or catheters into patients. Students selected for our advanced immersion training will get to try 3D modeling using haptic devices we recently added to the 3D ThinkLink Lab.

Visiting PPI showed our students some of the ways the technical knowledge and thinking skills they’re learning in class are applied in the working world. It opened their eyes to career paths they might never have considered.

Applied Innovation

From PPI, the group headed to nearby Topgolf Loudoun for a fun, hands-on lesson about innovation in action.

Topgolf Loudoun Facilities Manager Stephen Coffin explains how RFID chip-embedded golf balls are scanned and sorted
Facilities Manager Stephen Coffin explains the innovative technology behind Topgolf

Topgolf puts an imaginative, high-tech spin on the concept of a driving range. The golf balls are embedded with radio frequency identification (RFID) microchips and players try to hit targets in the outfield that are equipped with sensors that read data from the balls. The information is instantly relayed to computers that process the data, tally scores and display the information on players’ monitors.

The three-tiered facility has more than 100 player bays and hundreds of HDTVs, plus big-screen video games and other electronic goodies, all connected to a roomful of computers by miles of cable.

Director of Sales Cassandra Taylor and Facilities Manager Stephen Coffin led a behind-the-scenes tour to explain how everything works. Afterward, the students picked up the clubs and gave it a try. Few of them had ever played golf, but with a little coaching from the Topgolf pros, some of the kids quickly got into the swing of things.

A Capital Guardian ChalleNGe Academy Cadet hits a drive at Topgolf Loudoun during 3D ThinkLink class Vocational Orientation
A student experiences a high-tech twist on golf

It might have looked like just fun and games, but Topgolf was yet another new experience to stimulate creative thinking.

The Maryland and DC students wrapped up their Vocational Orientation Day by visiting the University of Maryland Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials Lab in College Park to see how researchers are using 3D printing to make medical marvels such as blood vessel grafts and bone replacements.

A week later, 25 Cadets from South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy – our largest 3D ThinkLink class ever – toured 3D Systems in Rock Hill, Duncan-Parnell’s 3D printing division in Charlotte and the University of South Carolina’s Department of Mechanical Engineering in Columbia.

Innovation’s Impact

The young people in ChalleNGe programs used to be turned off to education. For any number of reasons, they dropped out or were kicked out of school. They’ve made a commitment to turn their lives around and we’re helping them turn their brains back on.

Spending a day immersed in innovation can be a profound experience for at-risk children. It inspires them to dream big. It reminds them there’s a wide world of possibilities open to them.

We are grateful to all the companies and schools that provide Vocational Orientation tours for our students. In doing so, they are giving back to the community and investing in tomorrow’s workforce.

1 2 3 7