Smart Pillbox Prototype

A few weeks ago, I attended the CU Make-A-Thon. At the event, we were given the task of prototyping a solution for a problem faced by much of the senior community.

These are the categories provided:

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 11.00.31 PM




With my group, we decided to focus on the health tracking category. A large problem faced by many seniors is being reliable with taking their pills. Most people are very familiar with the basic pillbox prototype which includes seven slots, one for the pills of the week the senior must take. However, there are several problems that this prototype fails to address:

  • Many seniors simply forgetting to take their pills
  • Overdoses
  • Pills getting mixed up in slots


Because addressing all three of these issues required making skills outside of our current abilities, we focused on the first bullet point. During our class’ time at the Fab Lab, we had learned how to code some basic functions for Arduinos, including making some LED’s turn on and off. My group decided on using these skills we had learned to create a pillbox design that would light up when the user touched the correct pillbox slot to take their pills.

Expanding on this idea, we wanted to be able to use this information to connect to a wristband which would some how set off an alarm if the senior failed to take their designated pills at the correct time. However, we did not have the technology available to be able to fabricate this idea, so we focused on the light up pillbox first.

First Prototype

One of our members, Amanda, learned how to code with Arduinos very quickly, so she was able to use her knowledge of Arduinos to set up a pressure sensor. We 3D printed one slot of a pillbox that we found on Thingiverse to get an idea of how the prototype would work. When the user touched the pressure sensor to open the lid of the pillbox, the readings on the pressure sensor changed in accordance.

2015-04-11 16.38.18



Our first prototype was a good start, but it wasn’t perfect. We didn’t have the ability to use the information from the touch sensor have any real use to us without having it hooked up to the wristwatch alarm system which we had no idea of how to attempt.

During our class sessions after the Make-A-Thon, we decided to expand upon this basic prototype. Our group decided upon attempting a simpler design in which an LED would switch off when all the pills were taken out of a slot in the pillbox in order to remind seniors to refill the box. Amanda did all of her coding magic and with that we were able to create the final prototype.


Although I played a part in the brainstorming of this project, I was not able to play a huge role in the making of our prototype because of my very limited knowledge using Arduinos. What makes a great team is everyone utilizing their abilities to add to the team effort. With extensive knowledge using Prezi, I decided to create a visually interactive presentation for our project in order to share with others the making process.

Here is a visual representation of our prototyping process:


Digital Making Journey

The day prior to the start of second semester classes, I was reviewing the classes I had registered for: Accounting 201, Economic Statistics 203, Calculus 234, and Communications 101 to name a few. None of these topics sparked even the slightest excitement in me. Being a creative minded person, none of these classes offered me with the opportunity to utilize these skills. An hour later, as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, I noticed that one of my friends had posted about a new 3D printing class, encouraging students to sign up. At first, I scrolled right past it, knowing my severe limitations when it comes to anything technical. However, minutes later, I searched through my Facebook feed for the post. It being my freshman year, I didn’t want to waste another semester going from on drawling class to another. So I took the risk, dropped my Communications class due to credit hour restrictions, and applied to register for the class. Looking back, dropping Communications for Digital Making was one of the best decisions I have made in college yet.

Walking into the MakerLab was one of the first times I really felt excitement in one of my classes all year. With MakerBots whirring around the room, creating real objects from digital files as blueprints and plastic filament as substance, I felt extremely overwhelmed by the potential in that room. I might have flooded my friends’ Snapchat inboxes that day with endless videos of the MakerBots in action due to my fascination.

The class began and everyone introduced themselves as instructed. Immediately, I noticed three distinctions between myself and my classmates: A) I was the only freshman, B) many had had some experience with creating or a technical background at least and C) most already had a clear idea about what they wanted to do as a career. I had come into this class with zero technical experience and a very slim idea of what I wanted as a career. Already, I was starting to doubt my chances of being successful in this class.

It soon became clear to me that my lack of experience would not hinder my success in the class. What makes Digital Making so special is that every individual is able to pursue their own unique path. Each student enters the MakerLab with a different background and is able to use the technology to build themselves up to wherever they want to go.

So, here is my path, as an unexperienced Freshman with no background in making whatsoever:

3D Modeling

We started the course by playing around with Tinkercad. A very elementary modeling program, Tinkercad gets you started with the basics. Through playing around with basic shapes, you begin to realize the potential of even a simple website like Tinkercad for creation. Through this, you can build robots, phone cases, model planes, dragons, and anything you can imagine up.

Although Tinkercad is a great website for beginners, the class learned very quickly that it is severely limited. We were soon introduced to Fusion360, which is free for students. The day we learned Fusion360 ended up being the most frustrating class I have ever sat through. However, after downloading the software on my computer and playing with it on my own, even I was able to learn the basics…kinda.

Headphone tutorial:

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 9.23.01 PM



Below is my beginning attempts at modeling a snitch.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 9.26.33 PM





After those failures, I settled for modeling something a little simpler…

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 9.25.34 PM

At this point in the course, I began reflecting on the skills I had learned and how I could apply them to the real world. Obviously, 3D modeling is not my forte. However, I believe with this technology, there is something for everyone. The key is blending your passions with the ability to create. My issue was finding that passion to blend with my new making skills.

Learning Alternative Making Technologies

As we neared the end of this course, we began holding our class sessions at the Fab Lab, where we expanded our knowledge of making to various other types of technology. We spent three weeks at the Fab Lab, and each week we learned about a new technology. The weeks we spent at the Fab Lab were my favorite, because the technologies were very easy to use, so I was better able to express my creativity. During these weeks, I used a vinyl cutter, laser engraver, coded with Arduinos, and used an embroidery machine. I began to realize my own potential for making during these sessions. Anyone with an idea is capable of making using the technologies we learned. Creativity is so powerful in that it harnesses the creation of billions of unique ideas. The technologies we now have at our hands are equally as powerful in that they can fabricate these thoughts into existence and make an impact on others’ lives.

For example, during my first session in the Fab Lab, we learned how to use the digital engraver. As it was my best friend’s little sister’s birthday, I decided to use the technology I had just learned to make her a birthday present. Because she is a huge Harry Potter fanatic, I engraved this journal for her with the Marauder’s map on the back and her name engraved in as well. As soon as she received it from her mom, she screamed out loud in the car in excitement, which made me super happy that I had been able to make that kind of impact.

Snapchat-2074414919149340740 Snapchat-7795614530539748959


In addition, I was also able to get my own sister a gift because of this course. When she heard I was taking a 3D printing class, she gave me one request: find a way to 3D print our cat. Although I never was able to accomplish that, during our 3rd session in the Fab Lab, I was able to embroider our cat for her.



From 2D to 3D

After spending some time in the Fab Lab, I began to think about the things I was passionate about and how I could fabricate those passions. Being one of those people who loves to learn new hobbies, this summer I ventured into learning how to do typography. During one of our class sessions, we were given a lot of free time to work on individual projects. I ceased this opportunity to do a bit of research about the potential of 3D typography. Using what I had learned in the Fab Lab and with a little help from fellow maker Kay, I was able to 3D print one of my typography drawings. I couldn’t find one of my original typography designs, so I had to use one that I had replicated.



The file in Tinkercad:


Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 10.29.28 PM


Test print:



Going through this process allowed me to realize that although I may not be able to proficiently use 3D modeling software to make the next big thing, there still exists a sector in making for me to make my impact through art. I plan on expanding on what I learned about 3D printing the 2D to create even more intricate typography designs this summer.


At the start of this class, I did not think I would be able to create anything useful. However, even though I came in this class with zero technological experience, I can now 3D model and code with Arduinos, which are two things I never imagined myself doing.

In the making world, it doesn’t matter what you start out as. Regardless of if you are an engineer, business major, art student, etc., there is an area for everyone to be able to fabricate their ideas. Everyone is a maker. All one needs is a working mind, a few ideas, and everything is possible. The thing about 3D printing is its potential is as large as the creativity of the maker. The more minds that get involved with this technology, the greater its power will become as more and more ideas will accumulate into greater and greater things to come.

I will end this with a picture of me and my 3D printed face. Twenty years ago, this was an impossible. The possibilities for the future are now endless.


Fab Times in the Fab Lab! (Part 3/3)

Unfortunately, this was the last of our weeks in the Fab Lab. However, I fully intend on coming back next year and starting all my various Etsy shops which include journal making, 3d printing people’s pets, and after this week, embroidering people’s pets. Yes, these are going to happen.

Throughout this whole semester, I have been searching for a way to be able to 3D print my cat…because she is perfect. However, sadly, unless I can find a way to get my cat to stop moving long enough to scan her (which might not be particularly moral,) there aren’t any any good ways to be able to accomplish this task that I know of. However, this week at the Fab Lab, I decided to embroider her instead!

The task of embroidering her was difficult, because there were about 500 colors in the original picture of her. Using the software taught to us, I was able to reduce the colors in the photo to about 7. The embroidery machine was intelligent enough to break down those 7 colors into 7 sections, so each time it finished a section I had to change the string color. This was a bit of a tedious task; however, I am now an expert at changing the thread in a sewing machine!

All in all, the mission of embroidering my cat was successful! She kind of looks like a mountain, but I think that’s just because she’s fat.


Fab times in the Fab Lab! (Part 2/2)

This week at the Fab Lab, I dabbled in using Arduinos. Having never coded before in my life, using an Arduino came as a bit of a challenge. We started out using a basic Blink code, which caused a light on the Arduino to blink. Using the code, we were able to change the code so the light would pulse faster or slower depending on the numbers we inputted.

After completing this, we expanded on the concept through wiring our Arduino up to an LED, so this time the code corresponded to the LED light. After, I found a code online to make the LED fade in and out. Wanting to test my new knowledge of coding, I attempted to combine the Blink and Fade codes, which ended up failing. I still found other ways to play around with what I learned, however, such as by hooking up a second LED to the Arduino and modifying the code so that the two LED’s flashed at different times.

After playing around with LED’s, we were given light sensors to play with. With the code associated with them, they were able to pick up on data about how much light was around them. We then also had an LED hooked up and found an “if” function online so that when the light it sensed was above a certain level, the light turned on. We then reversed this code to program the light to be like an automatic nightlight so that when the light was below a certain reading the light would turn on.

Although coding probably is not my thing, learning about it made me realize that anyone now has the capability to add innovation to society. There are a lot of people with highly creative abilities who are now able to make their ideas reality because of the ability to just copy and paste codes from online.

Fab times in the Fab Lab! (Part 1/3)

Upon walking inside the Fab Lab, you would never guess that you were walking into the third oldest building on campus. The space houses laser engravers, 3d printers, electronic cutters, an electronics room, a milling room, embroidery machines, and more. The possibilities for creation are endless.

Our class split up into groups, each utilizing different tools in the space; my group started out with the laser engravers. We were directed by Jeff Ginger, who was super friendly and approachable.

This was the first time I had ever seen a laser engraver, and it was absolutely fascinating. However, before we got to touch the laser engraver, we worked on the computers to find images that we wanted laser engraved on small Moleskine journals. Nerdy me took a screenshot of the sheet music to Chopin’s Tristesse to put on my journal. We took these images and put them imported them in Inkscape to put them in the correct format for printing.

Although the sheet music was a bit off-center, I am still really pleased with how my journal came out! Unfortunately, I love it so much that there is too much pressure to write in it now.


(I enthusiastically made this my Snap Story seconds after its completion)

After completing my first journal, I got a little too excited and stayed after class to make a second one that was two-sided this time. I made this as a gift for my best friend’s little sister’s birthday who is a huge Harry Potter fan.


Snapchat-2074414919149340740 Snapchat-7795614530539748959


After seeing how quick and easy it was to create a polished product, I want to look further into the possibility of starting my own Etsy shop for laser engraving journals, phone cases, etc. As we learned with 3D printing, people love the ability of customization, so my shop would provide customers with that option.

Fusion Frustration

Two weeks ago, our class was introduced to Fusion 360, a modeling software free to download for students. A speaker came in to walk us through a tutorial of making a lamp. Glancing at the lamp on the projector, I did not think modeling it would be very difficult. I was very wrong. Not being very adept at technology, I experienced great difficulty going through the basic functions to make the lamp which I later attributed to my lack of knowledge about the basic commands of Fusion 360. Therefore, I would highly recommend that anyone looking to take advantage of this software watch a few tutorials on the basic functions of Fusion. All in all, I did not end up with a lamp…

Before last week’s class, we were assigned to model an object based on a youtube tutorial. This provided me with the opportunity to learn at a more slower pace how to actually work Fusion. Even though I kept stopping and restarting the tutorial, my headphones came out very…interesting.  Although they look normal, I could not figure out how to do a normal bridge between the two earbuds, so my headphones ended up with an awkward indentation. I’m working on it.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 11.01.55 PM

At this point, I have come to terms with the face that I will not be an immediate pro at Fusion. If you have many issues with basic technology, then Fusion 360 is a long learning experience. For this reason, I was very grateful when we were given the opportunity to tinker around with Fusion during last week’s class. Our mission was to fully model and print something during the three hour time. However, being very picky, I think I spent the whole three hours figuring out what to model. Coming to terms with my lack of ability with Fusion, I settled on modeling a handle-less panda mug (the handle was too complicated.)

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 11.04.46 PM

During my own free time, I have taken on the challenge of modeling a snitch from Harry Potter. It has proved to be very time consuming, and I only have the sphere and part of one wing complete. I have not yet finished adding pegs and cutting into them to make the wing more wing-shaped, but here is an update of where I am at.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 11.06.08 PM


Although my skills at Fusion are not yet sufficient enough to make anything worthwhile, learning Fusion has made me realize the full potential of 3D printing. It is completely limitless and as time goes on and as we become more acquainted with modeling softwares, we will start to see more and more incredible things being created.