3D Printing Travels with Mobile Invention Lab

Dr. Jeanne Cairns Sinquefield has supported the Boy Scouts of America for over 25 years. She has acted as Den Mother, Chairperson, District Chairperson, and Council Board Member, and has received the Silver Beaver Award and the Americanism Award. She is currently a board member for the Great Rivers Council, and is the force behind the Sinquefield Invention Lab.

Building a Better Future

Dr. Jeanne Sinquefield is passionate about the future. Specifically, for creating opportunities for youth in the fields of music, art, and education. One of her recent ventures included bringing the Boy Scouts of American access to 3D printing. “My foundation agreed to build an invention lab at the Boy Scout Lake of the Ozarks camp,” explains Dr. Sinquefield. “Our mission is to facilitate hands-on education and invention of new ideas and technologies, while utilizing problem solving skills, creativity, and imagination in a team environment.”

“Since we wanted to make sure many kids had access to our invention materials, we also made a mobile invention lab that travels within the Great Rivers Council. It is our way of providing Scouts with easier access to technology. With the mobile lab, we’re able to travel to District and Council events, as well as schools.”

Fully Stocked for Invention and Fun

Afinia 3D Printers in Sinquefield Mobile Invention Lab“We had a professional inventor helping us determine the supplies that we needed for the invention lab.” The list of equipment to complete the lab adds up. “It will essentially have a quarter-million dollars worth of equipment,” says Sinquefield. The list of equipment includes embroidery machines, sewing machines, and vinyl cutters. “The 3D printer seems to engage the kids the most,” admits Dr. Sinquefield.

The professional inventor that Dr. Sinquefield worked with to build the list suggested the Afinia 3D printer after visiting Maker Faires, looking at equipment, and talking to various representatives. “Overall, he thought Afinia would be the best fit for what we wanted: something easy to use, yet reliable. We bought 3 for the camp and 3 for the trailer.”

Venturing Out

“Our Invention Labs are used for Venturing. Venturing is a program in Boy Scouts that focuses on youth development, with a lot of emphasis on STEM. Venturing participants are co-ed and range from 14-21 years old,” explains Dr. Sinquefield.

Dr. Sinquefield’s idea behind implementing our invention lab into Venturing was to set up diversified crews to focus on inventions. “A typical crew would consist of someone who is good at print and design, someone excelling in electronics, someone with solid computer knowledge, someone good at hands-on making, and someone who is good with business. The crew would then work together on inventions,” Dr. Sinquefield clarifies.

“We want it to mirror how invention works, with all aspects included. There is a lot of creativity that goes into the invention process, spanning many fields. We provide the facility and equipment, and bring in people to teach. Ultimately, everyone will use the skills they have, but they will also learn new things and discover new talents.”

Creating Their Own Path

Sinquefield Mobile Invention Lab
Dr. Sinquefield wants to make a difference, and she’s chosen a specific path of doing so. “That I’m aware of, nobody else in the country is doing something like this,” says Dr. Sinquefield. “Other places are creating makerspaces, and some schools have access to certain equipment, but unfortunately, not all kids can access it. With our a mobile invention lab, I could start 100 venture crews, which means 5,000 kids across the Counsel could access the equipment.”

“Venturing makes a difference and we do it with volunteers,” says Dr. Sinquefield. “Last summer, we took our mobile lab to a camp. Right away, the staff came over to check out the equipment. One of the counselors, who teaches blacksmith merit badge, convinced the kids to 3D print him something. It worked out perfectly – the kids who were working toward their blacksmith merit badge designed some jewelry in SketchUp and printed it as a mold.”

Printing with Ease

Afinia 3D Printer in Sinquefield Mobile Invention LabDr. Sinquefield and her team had their Afinia 3D printers up and running within 30 minutes of opening the boxes, even though none of them had previous experience. “The Afinia 3D printers worked exactly as we were told they would: just take them out of the box and run them. This was a big attraction for us. We didn’t want something with much of a chance for things to go wrong. The two boys running the invention lab were brand new Eagle Scouts going off to college and very familiar with computers and technology, even if they didn’t have a lot of experience with the specific equipment.”

New Equipment Brings New Possibilities

“The kids are fearless,” Dr. Sinquefield exclaimed. “Two weeks after we got it, they were doing crazy things with something they had never seen before! They had no previous experience with 3D design or SketchUp, but they are curious and comfortable with computers, and are quick to learn things. Again, the Afinia 3D printers ended up being a perfect fit, as Scouts participating in the invention lab and using 3D printers are able to receive their invention merit badge.”

“It is very fun to have access to this equipment. We are using it to make furniture for the lab instead of buying furniture. It gives the scouts a sense of accomplishment, and they can engrave what they’ve made with their troop number, the date, etc. We built a chair using the CNC router, and used Epilog laser to engrave back of chair, and the 3D printers to make cup holders. The scouts loved it.”

Taking Action, Realizing Possibilities

“For the Cub Scouts, we used the 3d printers to make action figures. They made ones out of the filament and decorated them with paints and other materials so they had a custom action figure. It was a great way to expose them to 3D printing. The goal is to get kids familiar with new technology and equipment and teach them to be makers. We want them to see something, and realize that they can create it. You can’t do things if you don’t realize what is possible.”

Focusing on the Future

“One of my favorite things about the invention lab is that young people get to work with those who have experience working in the industries represented by these tools. They can learn how to use the tools and hear first-hand accounts of how they are used in a place of work. Moving forward, we would also like to go to various schools that participate in engineering, fashion design, or architectures – places where invention is part of what they do.”

Dr. Sinquefield and the Boy Scouts are dreaming big for the future, and are accepting donations to help reach those dreams. You can support them by giving through the Boy Scouts of America Great Rivers Council donation site.

The Invention Scout’s have also created their own website, which you can visit here.