Wearing a college hoodie paired with jeans and tennis shoes, Ben Dibble looks like your average 18 year old. But, the recent Richmond Early College graduate is anything but ordinary.
Instead of making Spring Break plans like most college freshmen, Dibble is settling into his new role as a 3D Printing Technician for Rock Hill, South Carolina based 3D Systems.
Here, he runs a lab of 3D printers making models for the consumer market. But, Dibble explains it was his time with Richmond County Schools that turned his love of digital creations into an actual post-graduate position.
“It all started at Rohanen Middle School; my friend and I would stay late every day to use the computers because they had video game design software,” said Dibble.
And, from there it took off.
Under the guidance of Jeff Epps and Chad Osborne, Dibble entered the G.R.E.A.T.-Globally Ready Engineering and Technology-Academy in the eighth grade, where he was first exposed to coding, 3D modeling and 3D simulations.
The Academy began as a free two week class called Summer of Kainotomoia, but Epps and Osborne soon decided they wanted to reach more students. So, in addition to the summer intensive, they added a monthly four hour class.
“Saturdays are about failing to fail through failure,” said Epps. “Because students have seen what happens when the 3D printer jams, they instantly go into troubleshooting mode. By the time they graduate, they’ll know what to do.”
Fast forward five years, and it’s now Dibble who, although once a student, now aids in teaching coding and 3D basics.
3D technology is the skill of the future. Effortlessly marrying math and science, it exposes students to engineering and critical thinking skills while they’re still in elementary school. It helps them now in their academics and in the future with their job prospects.
It was knowing “errors are just pitfalls; they aren’t mountains you can’t climb” that ultimately set Dibble apart from the other, older candidates up for the job.
“I was taught real life skills instead of just being on a degree path,” said Dibble. “I gained the experience needed to do this job, and it actually culminated into me receiving this position.”
But don’t think Dibble’s stopping his education now that he’s got his own apartment, insurance and 401k.
Thanks to 3D Systems’ tuition assistance, he plans to continue with his long-term education goal of gaining skills, as opposed to diplomas, that apply to on the job training.
Additionally, Dibble hopes to bring industry and high tech jobs back to Richmond County.
“It’s like a supply and demand chain,” said Dibble. “If there are technically skilled employees here who would know how to do this job, it just makes since for companies to come here and set up shop where they can take students directly from high school to being their employee.”
“The 3D printing industry is going to happen somewhere,” added Osborne. “It’s our choice whether or not it happens in Richmond County.
Michael Chapman, the principal at Richmond Early College, called Dibble the epitome of what the Early College is about.
“He benefited from having this small environment where he could sport his strength...and now realizes he has the potential to change our community.”
Dibble claims “not to be super special.” He took the normal Early College path and earned an Associates Degree in Arts. He said he was just at the right place, at the right time, with the right interests.
“This is possible for every student in Richmond County,” said Dibble. “This program is what made me the person I am today, and I really want more kids to have that same opportunity.”