Projects With a Purpose

By Phill Powell

The video clip lasts only 3 minutes, but it’s long enough to both move you and inspire you. It shows how University of Central Florida student Albert Manero is putting tech to work to help kids get prosthetic limbs.


See how one techie is making a profound difference. “The world needs more Alberts!” says DMA Assistant Director of Curriculum & Instruction Marcus Duvoisin.

The Fulbright Scholar is using 3D printing to make replacement limbs that not only function well, but also give their young owners a chance to express themselves by customizing the new limbs as they want!

It’s a heartwarming example of how tech can make wonderful things happen for people who really deserve a break. And it inspires us at DMA to launch “Projects with a Purpose.”

Building with a Purpose

A chance to give back to the community. A way to say thanks. A method of “paying it forward.”

At DMA, we call them “Projects with a Purpose” and they mark a new initiative at Digital Media Academy. We also think of it as “Building with a Purpose,” because the focus with these camp projects is not only on learning great tech, but also actively designing a better world for others.

Inspired for Life

Marcus Duvoisin, DMA Assistant Director of Curriculum & Instruction, sees many benefits to these projects, perhaps none greater than the ability to get kids and teenagers focused on trying to do good, and instilling that desire in a lasting way while they’re still young.

“It gets our students to think about making for others,” says Duvoisin. “It’s a mindset that could start here, and carry on with them for the rest of their lives.”

Putting Positivity into Action

Duvoisin’s a true believer; he’s seen the concept in action and knows it works. During our Summer 2015 camp season, Duvoisin reached out to a non-profit group called Playground Ideas, which specializes in constructing cool playgrounds for kids who live in low-income areas.

Duvoisin set up a final project assignment for about 100 3D printing tech camp students, based on his meeting with Playground Ideas, which informed him that the organization had an immediate need for playground equipment for a large number of rural areas.

DMA students were then encouraged to come up with radically innovative and cool ideas for playground equipment.

DMA_3D_printing_for_girls
Marcus Duvoisin demonstrates the technical power of 3D printing for a school audience.

Discovering the Design Process & Learning Life Lessons

Duvoisin’s students rose to the challenge brilliantly, and the exercise fully demonstrated the design process, since the students not only created ideas, but used 123D Design software to digitize those concepts, and then fed those designs into a 3D printer. The resulting miniatures produced provided great models for Playground Ideas to consider.

And the students were pumped about the project. “Our students had a great response to this,” Duvoisin recalls. “It was a huge motivator!” And from a broader perspective, the project served as a great introduction to making a worthwhile difference in peoples’ lives. “It’s the fact that we have kids doing something that will positively impact other kids that they’ve never even met before.”

Bonus Benefits

There are personal advantages for DMA students who work on Projects with a Purpose. In addition to the good feeling they get to share by participating, the initiative also gets young people thinking like Silicon Valley tech giants. There’s significant value in that, considering that major tech corporations now devote vast resources of money and personnel to various philanthropic pursuits.

Likewise, employers now often look into the personal lives of potential employees and are extra-impressed when they consider a job candidate who has a record of volunteerism. Projects with a Purpose gets kids into that mindset, into the flow of positive community action.

Our students had a great response to this. It was a huge motivator!
– DMA Assistant Director of Curriculum & Instruction Marcus Duvoisin

Playground_Ideas_Uganda
Playground Ideas constructs playground equipment all over the world, like this planned project in Uganda.

Expect to read more in coming months about how DMA classes are “building with a purpose” during our coming 2016 camp season!

Duvoisin is ready. “I’d love to see this ‘building for a purpose’ theme carry into all our classes!” he says. “It’s something we’re hard at work to tackle!”

At DMA, we’re encouraging “building for a purpose,” because the purpose is people. And helping people is always the best reason.