More than 70 students from across the United States and Canada attended the YouthQuest Foundation’s 3D printing workshops at the Annual National Society of Black Engineers Convention on March 26.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.