Everybody needs a helping hand from time to time.
Young Makers is taking that simple truth to the next level. The student-led social entrepreneurship venture teaches disadvantaged inner-city youth how to use 3D printers so that they, in turn, can help children in developing countries.
The venture began three years ago when Luc Lalande, executive director of the uOttawa Entrepreneurship Hub, supported by donors, gave a 3D printer to The Door Youth Centre, a place in Ottawa where youth aged 12 to 18 can go instead of hanging out on the streets.
Amid the movie nights, ping pong games and information sessions about sexuality and drug awareness, Young Makers taught youth how to develop designs and load plastic filaments at weekly workshops. Pretty soon, participants like Nick McGrath were using the 3D printer to make key chains, phone cases and to repair a drum kit. McGrath, who later took over the 3D printing workshops to train others, says he gained leadership skills and a sense of accomplishment.
Today, Kristina Djukic, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student, and Jocelyn Courneya, a fourth-year communications student, are throwing down the gauntlet once more for youth at The Door. As apprentices at the University of Ottawa’s Entrepreneurship Hub, they dreamt up the idea of enlisting youth to 3D-print inexpensive prosthetic hands for children in developing countries. Djukic is an up-and-coming 3D printing whizz, winning competitions for entrepreneurial ideas and design. Courneya has expertise in PR and community outreach. Together they launched the Give Us a Hand Project campaign to buy a more sophisticated 3D printer for The Door and support the program. This fall, using an open source design from the Enabling the Future online e-NABLE community, youth will begin making $30 assistive devices for those with upper limb differences.
“This project is almost as important to me as my courses,” Djukic says. “It captures what I believe engineering is all about, using the knowledge and skills that I am lucky and privileged to learn to make a positive difference in the world and in the lives of others.”
Courneya, whose minor is in global studies and development, says she has gained hands-on experience in running a real-life campaign, organizing media interviews, building a website and overseeing the production of a promotional video and graphics by two uOttawa arts students.
“We’re teaching philanthropy and what it’s like to give back to others; we’re also teaching advanced 3D printing,” Courneya says. “I just love the fact we can make a difference here at home and in a different country at the same time.”
Lalande says the project is a fine example of what the Entrepreneurship Hub is all about — providing a space where students from various faculties can learn by doing. Instead of working part time in a menial job, students at the E-Hub get paid as they work in their fields of study.
“I want to encourage students to unleash their entrepreneurial mindset,” Lalande says. “Entrepreneurship isn’t just about launching businesses, it’s about talent development.”
Lalande and other donors lend a helping hand by supporting project-driven apprenticeships. Around a dozen experiential learning projects have emerged from the E-Hub so far. You can do more than just applaud: Please donate to support the next wave of apprenticeships.