Dreams and Opportunities

by Paul Nishihira

The TITAN-American Built reality TV show continues to inspire and shape the manufacturing industry by bringing production back to the USA and by giving back to the community along the way.  In Episode 2, Team Titan and GoEngineer were presented with a great opportunity to change the path of young adults at the Maxine Singer Youth Facility.

Maxine Singer Youth Correctional Facility – “Shape Your World”

This year I was presented with a unique opportunity to instruct SOLIDWORKS to at-risk youth for a series of workshops at what is affectionately known as “Camp Singer” in Marysville, California.

We were fortunate to have the use of two new training computers, monitors (complete with SOLIDWORKS Student License versions) and related equipment donated by GoEngineer and SOLIDWORKS. For that touch of 21st century, 3D printing technology to interact with SOLIDWORKS, Stratasys donated the MakerBot Replicator 2 for the students.

Little did I realize how much of an impact this experience would have on my own view of life, “making a difference”, and the value of knowing that you can shape your world and improve your situation no matter what the circumstance.

First Training Session – “SOLID-Whaaat!?”

Equipped with my trusty laptop in one hand and portable projector in the other, I met with Michael Tablit, Program Director for Maxine Singer Youth Correctional Facility, for my initial briefing on expectations for the SOLIDWORKS training course.

It was simple: “Paul, you pretty much have free reign on how you would like to teach the course. If there is ANY trouble, let me know and I will take care of it.”

That being said, I set forth my course of SOLIDWORKS instruction to the following students: (Left to Right) Marques, Christian and Triston.

Paul at Camp SInger

Bear in mind that these students have never heard of SOLIDWORKS, let alone its powerful capabilities. As I progressed along with my first SOLIDWORKS lesson plan, questions such as “SOLIDWORKS is able to do whaat!?” or “Can SOLIDWORKS make this (part)?” That was the catalyst for them to starting thinking and more importantly, dreaming. With an enthusiastic reply of “Yes, SOLIDWORKS is able to do that.” or “If you are able to visually imagine what you want to create, you can design it in SOLIDWORKS.” would always be my reply to their questions.

Successive Training Sessions – “Aha! That’s how it’s done!”

I was quite amazed at how quickly all of the students acquired skills to navigate through SOLIDWORKS. It was during my fourth visit that all of them had that “Aha!” moment with SOLIDWORKS:

  • Christian wanted to create his own custom cell phone cover, and with minimal guidance, he was able to create his own design and 3D print it on the MakerBot Replicator 2 machine.
  • Triston, ever curious with 3D printing technology, took the initiative to perform preventative maintenance and calibration of the MakerBot Replicator 2. He even suggested creating part models in SOLIDWORKS to maintain part consumables for the MakerBot Replicator 2 machine.
  • Marques, who is fascinated with aircraft and aeronautical engineering, was always creating aviation-themed part models in SOLIDWORKS and asking questions about aviation in general.

I also had an opportunity to find out more about the students, their backgrounds and their perceptions on life. Due to their at-risk nature, it was pretty bad. However, all of them had one thing now in common; they looked forward to each SOLIDWORKS training session as it gave them a brief chance to dream and create tangible parts without the worries of their current realities.

After talking with Michael, I realized that this was a unique opportunity for this group and gave them hope to become someone better. I was also made aware that each student follows strict protocol for courtesy, good behavior, team building/participation exercises and other subjects crucial to the “normal world.” Matter-of-fact, Michael mentioned to each student participating in this program that they had to, “Check your attitude at the door before entering. You’re given a great opportunity to learn; and it’s called SOLIDWORKS.”

Final Design Project

As my time for training sessions was coming to a close, I solicited ideas from the students on what their final design-to-print project was going to be. Suggestions ranged from a new-style iPhone/smartphone case to a small scale miniature rocket. It was during that time I noticed a damaged square cap sitting by itself on one of the desks. Curious, I asked the students what the story was for this part. They mentioned that it was the cap portion of one of the parking bollards outside of Camp Singer which was recently damaged. Bingo! Why not reverse engineer this part utilizing SOLIDWORKS and then 3D print it with the MakerBot Replicator 2?

I suggested this idea to the students. With an enthusiastic response of: “Cool! Let’s go for it!” from all, we set the wheels in motion for their final design project. I also had an opportunity to teach them some basic disciplines of manufacturing:

  • Planning and collaboration as a team.
  • Reverse-engineer damaged part (via introduction to measurement tools – Caliper & Steel rule scale).
  • Design Intent. How to improve on existing part design. (SOLIDWORKS)
  • Model Validation (Fit, Form and Function). (SOLIDWORKS)
  • MakerBot Replicator 2 software introduction.
  • 3D printing using FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) technology. Part orientation for best print efficiency. Preventative maintenance which maintains integrity of machine.
  • Application of actual part (Fit, Form and Function).

Here is a quick pictorial story of my visit:

MS1 - Copy

Final Design Project – Design Phase  (Above) Here we have all students collaboratively working on designing a replacement cap for one of Camp Singer’s parking bollards.

MS2 - Copy

Final Design Project – 3D Printing Interface
(Above) Triston familiarizing himself with the MakerBot Replicator 2 program.


Final Design Project – 3D Printing Completed!  (Left to Right) Christian, Marques and Triston with  their “as-built” parking bollard from the MakerBot Replicator 2 machine.


Final Design Project – Fit Check Complete!  (Left to Right) Marques, Triston and Christian (along with Instructor, Paul, far left) proudly displaying their final design project, as installed on the parking bollard. It’s a perfect fit; with some light sanding and a coat of spray paint, it’s complete!

*Note – Several staff members and visitors were impressed with the fact that these students were able to plan, design (model) and 3D print a part for real-world applications.

At The End of The Day

I am very proud of these students. Over the course of 2-1/2 months, I personally witnessed a transformation within all of these students from apathy, hopelessness and frustration, to now having dreams of what their own future will bring, an overall positive outlook on life itself. I really enjoyed my time teaching there and can now relate to the phrase “making a difference”. Marques has his goals set in the field of Aeronautical Engineering and Aviation; Triston, always curious with 3D printing technology, would like to further his education in that field; and Christian, who has ideas utilizing SOLIDWORKS for his own designs, then creating parts using 3D printing technology.

Many thanks to Michael Tablit, the staff members of Maxine Singer Youth Correctional Facility, SOLIDWORKS, Stratasys, and Team Titan for allowing me this experience.  Together, we are changing lives.

Dreams and Opportunities…what a powerful combination.



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