In the Spring 2015, my last semester in college, I took by far one of the most interesting and hands on rich classes in the College of Business. As you already guessed it was a Digital Making class taught by professor Vishal Sachdev. The class had about 20 students and was very diverse in the students backgrounds, in fact we had business majors, engineers and journalists. It was nothing like other classes in our college, it was an absolutely unique experience. The mission of the class was “Learn, Make and Share”.
Let me tell you first about the environment we worked in and how the class was structured. The most exciting thing was that we rarely stayed in one place. What I mean by this is that we got to explore the majority of resources available on our campus with regard to “Making”. For example our classes took place in the MakerLab at the College of Business, the Beckman Institute, the FabLab and even the Deloitte office in Chicago. In each of this place we had an opportunity to learn and make something new such as 3D printing at the MakerLab, 3D scanning at the Beckman Institute and Arduino coding at the FabLab. However, not only we as students went to visit some places, but we also had some professionals come to our class and teach us something new. For example, we had an opportunity to learn working on Fusion 360 from real industrial design professionals. Also, we had student organizations such as Design for America as our guest speakers that helped us understand human centered design concept. So, as you can see this class encompasses so much diversity in learning and making.
Here is the picture of the FabLab I mentioned above. FYI the door is not easy to find.
Now since I gave you a little bit of environment and structure of the class let me give you examples of things that we made during this semester and the implications of the learning and making processes. The class had a quite exciting start because the first thing that we made was ourselves. Let me clarify here, what we did is we scanned ourselves with a portable 3D scanner and then printed our sculpts on a 3D printer. I could never imagine that this was possible, so I was quite amazed with this experience. With this experience I realized that there could be many applications one of which I learned at the Beckman Institute. When our very own Alma Mater was sent for reconstruction two years ago, some folks at the Beckman Institute were able to 3D scan it and send it to an app that would allow the graduates to take the famous picture with the Alma Mater. Isn’t this amazing!
This is Travis who worked on the Alma Mater project and his giant 3D scanner @Beckman
As I mentioned above we spend some time at the FabLab. The Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab is an open and collaborative workshop space for computer-driven innovation, design and fabrication. Here, we were able to learn and make quite a few things. The FabLab has several sections such as electronics, textile & fabrics, laser engraving and 3D printing. I personally learned to work on Arduino at the electronics section, digital stitching at the textile & fabrics section and laser cutting at the laser engraving section. Each of these experiences gave me opportunity to learn new skills and look at some things differently. For example, with the knowledge we got from Arduino workshop my teammates and I were able to create a pillbox that was able to notify senior citizens with the LED light on Arduino. This idea was developed at the event called Make-a-thon that was organized by the FabLab community. This was a very exciting event where different teams were able to develop their ideas with regard to the “Senior accessibility” and create their prototypes. In addition, with the digital stitching and laser cutting I realized that it is possible to make personalized gifts to my friends and family. Overall, this experience at the FabLab really showed me that it is possible to create an make things that are both meaningful and affordable.
Here are some of my works at the FabLab.
Now with this amazing experience that I have gotten from the Digital Making class there are certainly some take aways that made me think of how I can apply or further broaden my knowledge about this subject. First of all I really got interested in additive manufacturing which basically is 3D printing. More specifically, I started researching on how people can apply or already applying this knowledge to the construction industry. For example, in China there are already cases when people built houses using additive manufacturing concept (check this articles http://chinadailymail.com/2014/05/12/chinas-new-3-d-printed-houses/ , http://www.computerworld.com/article/2489664/emerging-technology/3d-printer-constructs-10-buildings-in-one-day-from-recycled-materials.html). I think this is truly amazing and soon potentially can become a normal thing. No one thought we could carry phones in our pockets 2-3 decades ago. So, I think 3D printed houses are similar in that sense, it is hard to believe in it but it surely will become a reality. Therefore, as I am thinking on becoming an entrepreneur, I believe the trends such as 3D printing will be important for me to keep an eye on in the coming future.
Additionally, many things that I learned in this class, especially the ones at the FabLab I think should become more popular in many places in the world. In particular, I think children from young age should be taught with this kind of skills and knowledge that will allow them think creatively and give opportunity to make things themselves. As a result this will allow to nurture a generation of makers, creators and innovators.
This was my experience at making things, are you ready to “Learn, Make and Share”?!