Accessibility links

Making Dreams With a 3-D Printer


It all started a year ago when eight-year-old Jacob Leggette and his father visited the Digital Harbor Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Foundation itself is a success story. In 2013, innovators and entrepreneurs transformed a closed recreation center near Baltimore's harbor and turned it into a thriving tech center, that offers training for kids, and adults.

Since then, according to Technology Officer Shawn Grimes, the Foundation has taken off.

"We serve about 1,700 kids a year from all over the greater Baltimore area" Grimes told VOA. He says their summer programs attract kids from as far away as Virginia.

Jacob was one of them, he and his father were impressed with the program and Jacob began attending classes in the summer of 2015. He instantly took to three-dimensional printing.

Jacob Leggette shows off his "Tender Hugs" Bear that he made with help from a 3-D printer. (Courtesy: Digital Harbor Foundation)

Jacob Leggette shows off his "Tender Hugs" Bear that he made with help from a 3-D printer. (Courtesy: Digital Harbor Foundation)

He loves it Jacob says, because it lets him choose what to make.

"My favorite part of 3-D printing is planning what I’m going to print" he says. "I make 3-D print lists and then pick things from the list to print."

He loved it so much he wanted a printer of his own, so with some help from his parents and teachers he began writing letters to 3-D printing companies. In exchange for a printer he wrote, he would offer feedback on how to make them easy for a kid to use.

Grimes was impressed by the maturity of the letters, and evidently so were the companies, and in no time Jacob had his own 3-D printer and was creating toys and designing games.

Building a Bear

His final project for the Digital Harbor Foundation was to create his own toy company, and design his own product. Grimes says it was an exercise in building a business. Each kid "had a toy show and they set up a table and each kid had to present the toy company they created and what their company culture was and what their mainline toy was."

Jacob's entry was the "Tender Hugs" bear, modeled Jacob says "after my own teddy bear that I sleep with every night. I wanted other kids to have the same experience that I had with my Teddy."

It's just one of the things he has invented, but his work caught the eye of the White House and today he is going to show off his work at the sixth annual White House Science Fair 2016, an annual event where the president asks some of the best and brightest young talent in the country to show off their work.

There are a total of 42 different exhibits at this year's fair. They range from Jacob's 3-D printing creations, to a homemade spacecraft, built "out of archery arrows and wood scraps, and launched it into the stratosphere" by two pre-teen sisters from Seattle.

Just a Kid

All of the exhibits are impressive, but for Jacob and his parents it isn't about necessarily being the next generation of leaders in science and technology, it's about harnessing the natural curiosity, and love of learning in each of us.

"Jacob is a very loving and considerate person," his mother Stephanie tells VOA.

"He loves to help others in any way he can. Jacob has always been a sponge when it comes to learning. He picks up subject matter pretty quick and then runs with it, especially when it comes to technology," she says. "That has always been where he shines the most. But most of all, Jacob is persistent. He just keeps trying with everything he does and that takes heart!"

And its the heart that shows in his work.

"My favorite thing he has made is a 'Beauty and the Beast' castle that he made for me," his mother says.

"It sits on my night stand. Coming in a close second would be his Tender Hugs teddy bear. I love that he made it with his own hands," she said. "Jacob’s work is plastered around the house; cups, bowls, game cartridge box, pencil holder, and even a cookie cutter."

But he does think about his future.

What would he like to be when he grows up? "I would like to program robots" he says, "and make artificial organs."

Not so different than most kids with a box of Lego's and an imagination, but with Jacob, it seems likely he'll do just that.

XS
SM
MD
LG