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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!”
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.
“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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
“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.
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 www.YouthQuestFoundation.org.
As we enter our second decade of serving America’s at-risk youth, we’ve assembled a “greatest hits” video to illustrate how we use 3D printing to help students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, creativity and confidence.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
From PPI, the group headed to nearby Topgolf Loudoun for a fun, hands-on lesson about innovation in action.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.