For Dibble, skipping college is a G.R.E.A.T. idea

3D industry puts Dibble’s future in focus now

By Kevin Spradlin

* July 2014 – Summer of Kainotomia, part two
* June 2014 – Grassroots tech camp features a lotta brain power

It’s not every day that a public school instructor is happy when a student decides to forego college and enter the workforce. But Jeff Epps knows that Ben Dibble is not your average student. And Epps knows it’s the chance of a lifetime.

Dibble, 18, is a 2014 graduate of Richmond Early College and assisted at last summer’s 3D Academy at Richmond County Ninth Grade Academy. Under the guidance of Epps and Chad Osborne, Dibble helped younger students explore digital creations that were turned into reality by way of a 3D printer.

Submitted photo Ben Dibble, a 2014 Richmond Early College graduate, has accepted a job with 3D Systems in Rock Hill, S.C.

Submitted photo
Ben Dibble, a 2014 Richmond Early College graduate, has accepted a job with 3D Systems in Rock Hill, S.C.

It’s the wave of the future, and Dibble confirmed on Wednesday his future is now. While he earned an associate’s degree from Richmond Community College, it was always his plan to transfer to a four-year school to continue his education. That’s not going to happen now — at least not yet.

Instead, Dibble is currently searching for a new apartment after accepting a job with 3D Systems in Rock Hill, S.C. As a printing technician, he’ll be running a lab of 3-D printers for the company and manufacturing products that will appear in store displays across the country.

“I had a feeling I could use those skills gained when I graduated from the Early College into a career,” Dibble said. “It turned out I could. I still haven’t ruled out college anytime in the future.”

In fact, 3D Systems has a hefty benefits package, including a retirement plan and tuition reimbursement.

“I fully intend to take advantage of (the latter,” Dibble said. “I’m more interested in a long-term education where I gain skills that are applicable at the time and an education that gives me skills that allow me to learn even more. I don’t think that desire fits into a bachelor’s degree.”

Epps couldn’t immediately be reached in time to comment for this story, but a YouTube video published Tuesday entitled “Ben: A G.R.E.A.T. Story” made his feelings quite clear. It is, no matter how one looks at it, a success story.

Dibble entered the GREAT — Globally Ready Engineering and Technology — Academy in 2010 while in the eighth grade. Even at that young age, Dibble was exposed to 3D modeling, 3D simulation and computer programming coding.

During Dibble’s sophomore year, Epps finalized a partnership between Richmond County Schools, 3D Systems and GoMeasure3D and was, along with others, exposed to the idea of 3D scanning and printing.

In Epps’ words, “Ben was all over it.”

Still, Dibble presumed at this point he’d still enroll in college after a semester off. But life took an unexpectedly pleasant turn. While browsing the 3D Systems website, Dibble saw a job advertisement. He was, again, all over it.

“I’m always looking for opportunities like that,” Dibble said.

And it turns out 3D Systems was looking for someone just like Dibble. In the video, Epps said that “they were intrigued with his skill set and knowledge of their products.”

The first interview was by telephone. The second was at the company’s Rock Hill location. The job offer came two days later. He didn’t hesitate.

“Yeah, I took it right then,” Dibble said. “I was excited. It’s amazing. I love it because I have an opportunity to grow with this position.”

Epps, through the video, noted that Dibble’s position is one that didn’t even exist five years ago. There’s more than a few positives to that.

“I can make it what I want because it’s never been done before,” Dibble said. “It’s still an emerging technology. This has the opportunity to change the world. I truly believe that.”

As the years passed and Dibble evolved from a stand-on-the-fringe eighth-grader to a classroom leader, he realized he enjoyed the teaching aspect. It’s a component that he said will lure him back to the 3D Academy at the Richmond County Ninth Grade Academy each summer.

“I definitely plan to continue working (there),” Dibble said, “to help out the students and everything. My favorite part of the job I’m going to be doing … kind of ties in with what I’ve done with the 3D Academy. Seeing the look … when I help the kid get something … the look in their eyes …”

It’s hard to explain but the net result is “just awesome,” Dibble said, when a student realizes a digital creation can turn into something that can be held in the student’s hands by way of a 3D printer.

Along with Epps and Osborne, Dibble said his parents “both understand that the career path I wanted to take didn’t require a hundred percent of me going to college (and) taking the normal path. They’ve been supportive about taking my own path.”

To Epps and Osborne, though, “they’ve invested so much in me personally. It’s just an amazing opportunity I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’m grateful.”

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