It’s easy to think about 3D printing only in terms of the objects it actually creates. It’s easy to think it couldn’t possibly help kids get on the right track. But when you hear YouthQuest STEM instructor Tom Meeks talk, conventional thinking about the effect of 3D printing gets flipped on its head. In fact, says Meeks, 3D printing is changing lives.
YouthQuest, in conjunction with the National Guard, is intervening in the lives of at-risk kids to get them headed in the right direction at the Freestate ChalleNGe Academy. One of classes is a 3D printing STEM class, which exposes cadets to 3D design. They’re using 3D Systems’ Cube to print those designs. Under Meeks’ instruction, each cadet imagines, engineers and creates simple machines. But it’s about much more than simply making; it’s about using this technology to mentor cadets in teamwork, creativity and persistence, and teaching them how to navigate around challenges that arise.
“3D printing offered a lot to encourage students to be more creative, to learn about thinking,” says Meeks. “When we learn how to think, we learn how to be creative and use our brains in different ways than we normally use them, then we can use that in any part of our lives.”

Click here to see YouthQuest’s fantastic video about the difference their 3D printing class is making.