Getting involved. For me, this idea was daunting as I started my freshman year. In college, there is pressure to get involved so that you both have fun and can market yourself well to future employers as an “involved” person. As a freshman, I too felt this pressure to dip my toe into the USC’s vast ocean of possibility so I tentatively went to the involvement fair during my second week of college. After picking up about 30 flyers and narrowing down my choices I got accepted into 3D4E, USC’s 3D printing organization. With absolutely no 3D printing experience under my belt, I joined this club as a true novice. I honestly wasn’t even sure what 3D printing really was before joining this club.
After being a member for a whole year, 3D4E has become one of my favorite involvements on campus. The first months of the club were spent in ideation, developing project ideas and learning the basics of 3D printing. We then split into small project teams based on our interests. The project teams range from prosthetic hands for kids to marble calculators to kinetic speakers. In my project, my team printed a wheelchair for Frenchie, a French Bulldog with paralyzed hind legs. We partnered with Dharma Rescue Center in Torrance, which is a rescue shelter that takes in dogs with disabilities and rehabilitates them in the hopes of getting them adopted into new families. We spent months working on the design and function of our wheelchair. I learned how to use Autofusion 360 which is a design software program. The wheelchair was made using a PVC pipe frame connected by customized 3D printed parts that fit Frenchie’s dimensions.
Although the process was long and involved many trials and errors, we finally delivered his wheelchair at the beginning of April! This day was one of the greatest of my life. Watching Frenchie run down the sidewalk in his wheelchair for the first time must have been what it is like for a mother to watch her child walk for the first time. Getting to see how all of our hard work came together was such a fulfilling experience.
During my freshman year, I went from not knowing anything about 3D printing to crying tears of joy in front of an animal shelter in Torrance. The moral of the story here: get involved in something you are interested in no matter your hesitations. I think that in college we often get too focused on finding the “right” type of activity that we miss out on exploring our own passions and taking risks. Through this experience in 3D4E, I have gotten to learn new skills about 3D printing, meet amazing people, and work on a project that will make a difference in Frenchie’s life. Exploring is definitely worth the initial fear of failure! I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for me!!