Somerset Community College to provide 3D printing technology training for those in need

The Somerset Community College’s Additive Manufacturing Center has been awarded a grant by the USDA Rural Development program to fund 3D printing education for those in need.

Elevate Kentucky through Additive Manufacturing is a year-long initiative that will provide 3D printing equipment, training, and support to charitable organizations such as Refuge for Women and Red Bird Mission. 

By offering access to additive manufacturing in an accessible way, the initiative hopes to give individuals in rural regions and unfortunate backgrounds a chance at employment in STEM.

“We are so grateful to the USDA Rural Development Program for funding this project,” says Heather Beebe, an Additive Manufacturing Center team member. “This small project could be the initial push that creates an enormous social and economic movement.”

A metal 3D printer at SCC’s Additive Manufacturing Center. Photo via Somerset Community College.

Red Bird Mission

Red Bird Mission can be found in the woodlands of Kentucky and has been providing aid in the Appalachian Mountain region since the 1920s. The area it supports has some of the highest poverty rates in the US, with Red Bird Mission helping out with education, health, economic opportunities, and housing improvements. The organization also sponsors the Craft Marketing Program, which helps local artisans market their goods both locally and throughout the US.

The Elevate Kentucky through Additive Manufacturing project will provide Red Bird Mission with the resources it needs to enhance the Craft Marketing Program via the use of 3D printing. As well as bolstering the artisan product line, it will introduce new concepts such as smart art, whereby creators will learn to manufacture products that are digitally active.

Eric Wooldridge, Director of the Additive Manufacturing Center and the leader for the project, said, “We often see a great deal of news about 3D printing being used by the big industries, but it is important for us not to forget that this is also a technology for everyone, and from every walk of life.”

The Red Bird Mission site in the woodlands of Kentucky. Photo via Red Bird Mission.
The Red Bird Mission site in the woodlands of Kentucky. Photo via Red Bird Mission.

Refuge for Women

On the other hand, Refuge for Women is a nonprofit with ten sites across the US. It mainly supports women that have been rescued from the human trafficking industry, helping them start on a journey of healing and education. In order to develop employable skills and help keep Refuge for Women up and running, the women of the organization manufacture and sell goods for the Survivor Made product line.

In this case, Elevate Kentucky through Additive Manufacturing will provide 3D printing equipment, training, and marketing consultation services to help the organization bolster its manufacturing capabilities. The women will also be trained to use Autodesk Fusion 360 CAD software, enabling them to upskill and digitize their operations to create more career opportunities. Somerset Community College states that Autodesk has been a major supporter of the Additive Manufacturing Center for years, offering free access to its products and services.

Wooldridge adds, “Sure, AM certainly has the power to transform rockets and cars, but it also has the power to transform the life of a single, unique individual. To give someone that literally has nothing, not just a chance at a brand new career, but an opportunity to seize an idea or a dream and make it into a reality. That is the type of work that brings real meaning to what we do.”

The Survivor Made product line will be bolstered with additive manufacturing. Photo via Refuge for Women.
The Survivor Made product line will be bolstered with additive manufacturing. Photo via Refuge for Women.

Additive manufacturing education is a cornerstone of industry progression and growth. Just last month, The CREATE Education Project, a provider of 3D printing equipment for education, became the first UK sales partner dedicated to education and research of 3D printer OEM Meltio. Through the new partnership, CREATE Education will play a key role in the distribution and support of Meltio’s 3D printing technologies within the UK’s education market, and will aim to build a research-driven ecosystem for the firm’s technology within the UK’s leading education and research establishments.

Elsewhere, leading 3D printer manufacturer EOS has previously launched a student scholarship program, EOS Affirms, that seeks to further open up STEM education programs to minority groups and people of color. The program provides funding in the form of scholarship awards and endowments in the hope that this financial support can help lower barriers to students of color in completing STEM degrees.

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Featured image shows the Survivor Made product line. Photo via Refuge for Women.

Somerset Community College to provide 3D printing technology training for those in need

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