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Labor and Economic Opportunity

Blind Students Gain Employability Skills at First-Ever 3D Kit Build Print Weekend at BSBP's Training Center in Kalamazoo

Media Contact: LARA Communications 517-373-9280

September 13, 2018 - “I can print that!” This past weekend in Kalamazoo 11 blind and visually impaired students were visualizing in 3D using models printed from 3D printers that each student assembled from a kit.

Student holding a finished 3D printed red dogLARA’s Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP) and its Training Center in Kalamazoo, hosted a first-ever 3D Print Weekend for students to develop workplace readiness skills for the 21st century.

“The weekend was a first of its kind in the nation,” said the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP) Director Bill Robinson. “I am extremely proud of our Pre-Employment Transition staff who worked hard to plan the event.”

Express Printing Solutions sponsored the 3D kit build weekend. Sean Nagle, President and CEO; Chance Scott, Vice President, and Kyle Mendez, Director of Mechanical Operations, all were present Saturday providing technical assistance as needed. Sean Nagle, who served in the Army and recently founded this fast-growing start-up stated, “We hope the impact to the community provides the opportunity to expand this innovative program to other organizations, allowing other students to be inspired with their own 3D printer. A big thanks to BSBP for the opportunity and we wish the students the best of luck with their printing endeavors.” Robinson praised the partnership with a local

Kalamazoo business, “It is extremely satisfying to meet someone like Sean who is willing to give back to the community. It is also important that businesses engage with BSBP to develop talent for the 21st century Michigan workforce.”

Also lending technical assistance and assisting with the curriculum was Dr. Thomas Madura, professor of Physics and Astronomy, San Jose State University. Dr. Madura exclaimed "The hands-on 3D printer program organized by the BSBP and Express Printing Solutions is an amazing and exciting new way to motivate students with visual impairments to pursue STEM. As far as I am aware, this is the first time a program such as this, where students with visual impairments assemble, test, and get to keep their own 3D printer, has been tried anywhere in the world. I am honored to be able to be involved in such a project.” Dr. Madura was a key contributor to the development of this unique event as well as a key contributor to the STEM camp that BSBP sponsored earlier this summer. Click here to read the LARA Press Release on the STEM Camp held earlier this summer.

Student putting pieces of the 3D printer togetherShannon McVoy, BSBP’s statewide transition coordinator, stated, “Science, Technology, Math and Engineering [STEM] programming is extremely important to the students BSBP serves. Allowing our blind and visually impaired students to build a 3D printer exposes them not only to emerging technology, but also to in-demand careers. This program enhanced their workplace readiness skills as well as introducing them to STEM careers. Students were passionate about this program, they left with a knowledge of how 3D printers work, how to operate them in a safe manner and how to use them in their studies.”

Taylor Ardnt, a BSBP student said, “I really learned a lot during this weekend. I was able to use slicing software to create an image to be printed. I’m looking forward to using the printer to allow me to make things to make my life easier and save me money, meaning I can make things like Braille dice that I would have to special order. I plan to use it for my college classes for things like making flow charts and other tactile objects that I will need for school.”

BSBP continues to expand its programming for Pre-Employment Transition Services which includes job exploration and counseling; work-based learning; postsecondary exploration; workplace readiness training; social skills and independent living skills; and self-advocacy instruction. BSBP makes available Pre-Employment Transition Services statewide through its seven field offices and training center and through partners such as intermediate school districts.

Students lay out pieces of the printer to begin the 3D printer building processBSBP provides training and other services for individuals who are blind or visually impaired to achieve employment and/or independence in the careers of their choice. For more information about BSBP visit or call toll-free: 800-292-4200, TTY 888-864-1212. BSBP is a part of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).

According to the Governor’s Talent Investment Board, Michigan will have more than 800,000 job openings by 2024. Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) in Michigan partners with business to meet the demands for talent in the state. Michigan VR has two main points of contact for the VR National Employment Team (NET), Jenny Piatt, Michigan Rehabilitation Services and Lisa Kisiel, BSBP. See for more information about the NET.

The pre-employment transition services provided under the Vocational Rehabilitation program described in this press release are funded 100 percent through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. For federal fiscal year 2018, the total amount of grant funds used for these services is expected to approximate or exceed $2 million.


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