Why 3D Printing Is a Great Teaching Tool for At-Risk Youth

Cadets at the Freestate ChalleNGe Academy are the first to take part in our Fab Lab program. The pilot project at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland introduces at-risk youth to the cutting-edge technology of additive manufacturing. The Fab Lab is sponsored by The YouthQuest Foundation and its strategic partners; 3D Systems, which provided the Cube 3D printers, and Triple Squid Software Design, which donated the Moment of Inspiration 3D modeling software. The class instructor is YouthQuest volunteer Tom Meeks.

The YouthQuest Foundation launched a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) project to teach 3D printing.  “3D printing is not an end in itself. It’s a means to an end, and that end is to grow our brains,” explains YouthQuest Volunteer of the Year Tom Meeks, who taught the class at Freestate ChalleNGe Academy.

Learning Through Failure

“It’s not about making cheap plastic parts. That’s the first thing I tell people about 3D printing,” says Tom. “It’s about being able to come up with a vision and then realize that vision in some concrete way.”

Life-Changing Lessons

“Every one of them said that it changed their life in some way,” he recalls, “It changed their attitude toward life, the way they looked at life, the way they were going to go forward and meet challenges in the future. Every one of them.”


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