Time has flown by and the end of the semester is quickly approaching. Though this is a relief in some of my classes, in Digital Making it is a sad goodbye. I signed up for the class wanting to learn all I could about Digital Making, and am going to miss having three hours set aside every Tuesday afternoon to do just that.
This class has definitely been a journey for me and has taught me about a whole new world of resources (and people) out there that will be helpful to me as I continue my making journey here at UIUC and beyond. From gaining new knowledge about 3D modeling and printing through the BIF MakerLab classes and our session with Autodesk, to learning all about scanning and preparing them for printing in our sessions with the Beckman Lab, to discovering the plethora of resources-including digital embroidery machines, laser cutters, and Arduinos (to name a few)-available to us through the Champaign Urbana Community Fab lab, to learning all about the amazing organization that is e-NABLING the Future through my semester-long project, my Digital Making semester has truly been an eye opening experience. Its sad for me to see the semester ending feeling like there’s so much more to learn, but I definitely feel prepared to do so if I can get myself to set aside the time.
If there’s one key thing I took away from this semester it is not to be intimidated to try things out. Though the idea of building 3D printed prosthetic hands, or creating something with a laser cutter, or coding an Ardiuno to sense light levels would all have sounded super intimidating to me at the start of this spring, I’ve done all of these things in Digital Making and none of them were really that hard! Moving forward, I’m definitely going to have a much easier time taking on scary sounding projects and using the resources available to me to figure out how to make them a reality. One example of this is a project I’m thinking about taking on myself this summer: building a 3D printer from scratch. My department offers some small grants for students to take on research and projects over the summer, and as soon as I saw the email about the offer I thought, “There has to be some way I can use this to continue with Digital Making!.” Not long after Vishal posted something about building a $200 3D printer and immediately I thought, “This is perfect!”. I’m still waiting to hear back from my advisor about sponsorship, but I think this is a great example of how I’ve grown. Building a 3D printer would have sounded crazy to me before this class, but now I’m thinking of it as an adventure I could definitely figure out with some persistence.
And I see that as just the start. I still have three more semesters to spend time tinkering at the CU Fab Lab and now working at the BIF MakerLab and lots of projects I want to take on and tools I want to explore. This curiosity in combination with the people I’ve meet-both inside the class and outside of it-are a great starting point for me to take my making skills and knowledge to the next level. And its obvious I’m not the only one who feels that way. Through my classmates presentations in our last class reflecting on their semester long projects and their own journeys of learning and their own recent reflections, it seems pretty clear that I will not be the only one hanging out in the MakerLab next semester.
Its very exciting to see how everyone has grown and interpreted the class materials in their own unique way. From Kays project Making 3D art with Math to Arielle and Cos. project making wheelchair racing gloves with 3D printing and scanning, we’ve each brought making skills into our life in different (and awesome!) ways. For me personally this has been a great addition to my concentration in Product Design and a very interesting way to apply my engineering education to actually making real things (something that doesn’t happen very often in theoretically-focused undergraduate classed). Talking to additive manufacturing-focused companies and visiting Deloitte through this class has opened my eyes to the new areas of opportunity opening up to people with making knowledge and has helped encourage me to seek out and apply for opportunities in this area-like hackathons and additive manufacturing related jobs and internships. Already a number of doors have been opened to me, including the opportunity to attend hackathons at Stanford and NYU Abu Dhabi and the grant I mentioned earlier on, partially because of the new skills I’ve gained in this class. All in all, it has been a very productive semester and I am looking forward to all the making opportunities and projects the future holds for me.