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:

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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.

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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:


Learning Pathways Final Project: Our Learning Becomes Yours

Our semester project revolved around creating Learning Pathways in Digital Making. While most projects focused on the “Make” aspect of the MakerLab credo, we decided to focus on the other aspects of learning and sharing.

Our project objective was to create a variety of learning pathways consisting of content segmented by interests & needs. These modules would in turn be available to a wide range of audiences via an online platform, currently Instructure. We hope that our project will be used in the future to enable the MakerLab to be not just a printing resource for Illinois Students, but to become an education leader in the digital making space.


3D Printing

The 3D printing subject pathway will introduce the fundamental concepts of 3D printing. This module will focus on helping others understand the process of 3D printing, the various materials that are available to print with, as well as the different printers being used around the world. Additionally, this module will uniquely contain content dedicated to exploring how 3D printing is changing the business environment. Rather than keeping this business environment content as a separate module, this content will be beneficial to a wide range of individuals who may work in different industries.

3D Scanning

3D Scanning will expose readers to the idea of turning physical objects into the digital space and back again into the physical space. This module will focus on describing various commercial scanners and uses as well as delve into ways that the average person can dip their toes into the 3D scanning space through free apps and fun projects.

3D Design

The 3D Design module will explore all of the different aspects of digitally creating objects and modeling techniques. The content within this area will pertain to the different making softwares available, the range of technologies available for users of varying skill levels, and the resources that are available for individuals interested in sharpening their skills in 3D design.


After a basic understanding of the different making technologies: 3D printing, scanning and design, we found it appropriate to look at what 3D printing and these related technologies look like in the many different industries and communities around the world. We’ve broken this down by exploring different types of 3D printing used in industry, applications of the technology, and career opportunities that exist and that may be relevant to technologically and artistically inclined students.

By diving into the different forms of additive manufacturing and how the different processes have their own advantages and disadvantages in use, readers will receive a strong background with the jargon and technological understanding professionals use when dealing with these tools.

Next, exploring industry applications will show the massive scope that digital making technologies have in terms of where they are being used. We dive into medical technology, aerospace & defense and automotive technology and describe how these industries have been revolutionized (and continue to evolve) by additive manufacturing.

Finishing off with the business side of things, we explore the implications that additive manufacturing and digital making will have on the career paths of those who are technologically and artistically inclined (AKA those taking courses through the MakerLab)!


Entrepreneurship: Individuals looking to start their own businesses or leverage technology like 3D printing to innovate on existing products will be able to access links, individuals, and learning resources to use a place like the MakerLab to explore new ideas. This area will also explore the concept of rapid prototyping that  will aid the new product development process.

Product Development: While a subset of entrepreneurship, will focus on taking a product from ideation to prototyping. 3D printing vastly changes the prototyping process, and this module will provide guidance into this process as well as designing products for additive manufacturing.

Education: Individuals seeking to learn more about how the maker movement is transforming education at various levels and wanting to acquire resources to help introduce themselves and others will find this learning path very beneficial. We hope to craft some great connections to communities around the United States that are talking about ways to integrate the ‘making’ process into our school curricula. This module will also discuss the Maker Movement and how this movement is radically transforming the education landscape.

Architecture: The architecture pathway will provide learners with a solid understanding of how 3D printing is having a great impact on the architecture industry. From revolutionizing the ways that architects present their proposals to clients to enabling architects to rapidly prototype models in ways never seen before, 3D printing is profoundly changing the ways that architects design buildings and structures. The resources in this area will focus on providing community pages, links to architecture groups, and tips on designing for individuals wanting to learn more about how to integrate 3D printing technology into their workflows for architecture.

Business Management: This path of resources will help individuals in management or other business process-related roles learn how to leverage areas like 3D printing, scanning, and design to improve their supply chains, enhance product development, or help their employees become literate in emerging technologies. We feel that this resource will also be very useful to students interested in business that want to learn more about how 3D printing is changing the business landscape and how additive manufacturing processes are impacting the value chain of a business.


While our discipline pathways will be more free flowing following the nature of each module, all the subject pathways follow the same basic format. Each module starts off with a high – level overview of each subject to provide the reader with enough background to understand the technologies at work as well as some of the ways they are applied. Then, the module is split into industry applications, discussing how businesses today currently use the technology, and end-user applications, providing insight into how a casual home user would use these technologies. Each module also contains a “For Kids” section, showing how kids or parents of kids, could use this technology to both play and learn. Finally, the reader is invited to try this technology out for themselves, and we provide low cost ways that people could get involved with each technology.


This project has given us all a great perspective into what it looks like to be on the forefront of a large technological movement. By creating content for our modules and thinking of how we could facilitate learning in the digital making space by leveraging an online platform, we’ve seen firsthand the great significance that 3D printing and digital making is having on the world around us. The breadth of all the different things we wanted to include within these modules speaks to the growing need for educational resources for this kind of content. We’ve learned that while it can be difficult moving from the student point of view to the educator’s, it is very exciting to be so young, but still be able to not only learn about concepts like digital making, but share our knowledge to help others across the globe learn as well.

Post written by Gian Luis Delgado, Anthony Matar, and Noah Baird.

Racing Gloves

We were already well into the first month of class, and I still couldn’t decide what I was going to do my semester long project about. Then Vishal told us we were taking a field trip to the Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology, with the assignment of bringing an object to 3D scan. I racked my brain for a while trying to come up with an object that was interesting and maybe held potential to be turned into something more.

2015-03-03 3D Scanning - 5784Then later, at track practice, my coach suggested trying to scan one of the handmade gloves we use to race. Usually the gloves take hours and hours to make- custom fit for each racer, not to mention their 350.00 dollar price tag. One pair will last a long time, but since they are so unique they can never be exactly duplicated. This sounded like the perfect kind of item to try and scan, because having a 3D model that you could print over and over again would open up many possibilities.

Sebastian and Mark were also interested in this project, so the three of us set out to try and make the world’s first 3D printed wheelchair racing glove!
IMG_7091After Travis (from the Vis Lab over at Beckman) completed the scan and cleaned up the glove file, we were off to work! We were incredibly lucky and barely had to manipulate the design at all in Geomagic because the scanner was so precise. Surprisingly, the very first time we tried to print our glove, it worked! Afterwards, when trying to make duplicates, we had a lot of trouble positioning it correctly on the raft so print would not fail, but eventually we figured out the best angle and direction to place the glove in order for the prints to continuously be successful.



Once we had our first printed glove, we got to work testing it. I added the additional materials needed to generate grip when pushing at high speeds- some suede and rubber- and encountered a little trouble getting these materials to stick to a different kind of plastic than I was accustomed to.

IMG_0384Once I discovered that using contact cement was the best method, I started putting the glove to good use! We were very excited that the glove held up after just using it for one training run, but we’re happy to announce that the glove is still working perfectly after over 200 miles of force and exertion.


IMG_7456The next step was mirroring the 3D glove file in order to print another glove for my right hand.  Once we figured that out, I added the same extra materials and used the gloves to race in the 2015 Boston Marathon. They worked beautifully!



The things that make this project so successful though were all of the benefits we discovered after the prints proved their durability. For one thing, the plastic that we printed with is incredibly lightweight. My original gloves weighed 174 grams each, and the printed glove only weighs 70 grams. It may not sound like much, but this, I’ve noticed, makes a significant difference when using the gloves to climb hills and push at high speeds. Their lightweight quality also aids in injury prevention. It is common among wheelchair racers to get tendonitis in the wrist from overuse, but the 100 grams that the printed gloves shave off put less stress on the tendons and hopefully decrease the risk of injury. The cost is another great advantage! To print a single glove cost only 4 dollars, that’s a lot of green left in your pocket from the original pair costing a minimum of 300 dollars. The replicability is probably the greatest benefit here though. The fact that you could print multiple pairs of gloves for different weather conditions could be a huge advantage when racing. Some of the world’s best athletes lose important races because they weren’t prepared for the conditions, whether it was rain, humidity, or even snow. Now that we found a way to print the perfectly fitting glove, it is possible to make many, many varieties.

Our next step is to help everyone on the University of Illinois’ Wheelchair Racing team to get their own pair of printed gloves! We’ve started scanning more and more pairs and the team is getting excited. Eventually we would like to discover a process to create a pair of gloves from scratch- just by scanning an athlete’s hand. Over the summer we will continue to explore different methods so potentially people all across the world could buy a pair by simply sending us a file of their scanned hand.

We are very excited to continue pursuing this project, and hope to see it keep growing into the future! The uses for 3D scanning and printing are endless, and it is so thrilling to be a part of discovering why!

Arielle, Mark, Sebastian

What I made in Digital Making

Through the Digital Making course at the University of Illinois, I’ve been able to pursue something I’ve always wanted to get into: spaceship modeling.

I grew up playing-out space battles with model ships from Star Trek, and little Bionicle and Lego contraptions I thought up. I used bottlecaps and Wint-o-Green mints too. As I played, I imagined an entire universe outside of myself – a universe of aliens and knights, of spaceships and complex alliances.

I’ve taken that imagined universe and written it down, in dozens of pages of notebooks and word docs. My goal is to make it an online book one day, but always another goal of mine was to actually make the ships I thought up in my head, and not just imagine it as a bottlecap. I accomplished that this semester, and made the most important ship in my universe. Give it a gander:


I made the SS Valhalla with Fusion 360, and its took several incarnations to get me to where I am today. It’s finally finished, and as I’m writing this, it’s being printed. You can print it for yourself here.

As I move forward with my universe and eventually publish my stories, I intend to make this ship, and the others that will follow it, integral to the reading experience. I want my readers to read the words and click on them, landing them onto a thingiverse page where they can print it for themselves.

I want my readers to make their own ships and contribute them to the lore.

I want to change and innovate science fiction, making it more than just words on a page. I want to make my universe a digital gateway to imagination in a way that wasn’t possible 10 years ago.

Email me at if you want an email sometime when I’m ready to unveil the project, hopefully over the next year or so.

Biomedical Use of 3D Printing

The medical uses of 3D printing have grown significantly in the past few years with advancements in the technologies available. Not only can exact versions of patient organs be printed using a variety of materials, but there have been advancements that have allowed for real organs to be printed to replace the originals. Also, stem cells, blood vessels, tissues, cartilage, bones, and cancer cells are being printed.

Biomedical imaging is the main source for the files needed to be able to print the organs, cells, tissues, etc. Some types of biomedical imaging include CT scans, MRIs, X-rays, and ultrasounds. Most of these produce DICOM (.dcm) files that can be viewed in OsiriX and edited in Meshlab, both free-to-download software that I used in my research.

1st attempt: Human Skull

Very early on in my research, I learned that DICOM files are hard to find without patient permission and many of the files are hard to work with. My first type of file that I learned how to use the software with was a human skull.

I started in OsiriX and produced a 3D rendering that was very easy to work with since it had very little editing involved. Here is a progression of the file:

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3D surface rendering in OsiriX

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Edited file in Meshlab

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Edited file in Maker software







I found out quickly that while the skull was easy to edit, it was not going to print without some major cuts and super glue.

2nd attempt: Human Heart

I decided to challenge myself to a more advanced file to learn more about the software and the world of biomedical 3D printing. I chose to work with a heart because I knew it was a little more interesting than a skull, but I was not prepared for all the challenges that comes with editing an organ file.

First of all, finding a heart file that rendered clean was pretty much impossible with the resources I had. Most files came up very messy or were not what I was looking for. Also, once I had a file, it was basically impossible to edit to a printable form. Here’s my attempt to edit a human heart:

3D rendering in OsiriX

3D rendering in OsiriX

Edited version in Meshlab

Edited version in Meshlab







Clearly, there was not much I could do with the file I had. There was too much to work with and I didn’t know enough about the file or the software to make it printable.

Final attempt: Human Brain

After a lot of frustration working with heart files, I talked with a good friend of mine from back home who is studying medicine at another university. She was very interested in my project and told me she had some MRI scans laying around from a few years ago. She was a pleomorphic liposarcoma patient and went through 2 surgeries in 2009. The files she gave me were from a check up in 2012.

Her cancer was below her cheek, so the MRI was from her neck up and cut off the very top of her head. This was semi-unfortunate for me, but I still wanted to work with her files because of the story behind it. She is now a 5 year cancer survivor and I was excited to see what I could do with her MRI. Here is a progression of the file:

2D rendering without editing in OsiriX

2D rendering without editing in OsiriX

3D surface rendering in Osirix without editing

3D surface rendering in Osirix without editing

2D slice with individually edited out non-brain parts

2D slice with individually edited out non-brain parts in OsiriX

3D surface rendering of edited version in OsiriX

3D surface rendering of edited version in OsiriX

Ready-to-print file in Maker software

Ready-to-print file in Maker software

Successful print

Successful print

















The top of the file being cut off in the MRI was almost helpful with the actual print because it created a flat surface. I would have liked to have a complete brain, but what ended up printing was enough for me to be satisfied. Also, I learned that it is possible that I cut out too much while I was editing the individual slices, so more knowledge with MRI scans is encouraged before taking on this type of project. But, overall, I am thrilled with the results and I’m excited to give my friend a 3D print of her brain!

Biomedical 3D Printing Community

While there are not many resources to get the files necessary to 3D print organs and such, the small community that exists for this type of work is amazing. I found a great resource here: This resource includes blogs, forums to ask questions, and a source for files ready for printing. It’s great to see that there are people out there that want to teach what they know about 3D printing and making it useful in the biomedical field.

I am very interested to see where biomedical 3D printing goes in the coming years. I believe it will continue to grow and become even more popular as the technology advances.

I encourage anyone interested in the topic to explore the basic software and try out 3D printing at the Maker Lab or your local Makerspace. I’ve learned a lot from just messing around with the different functions in the software, and there are some tutorials that go step-by-step online that are pretty useful for beginners. If you are interested in hearing more about my research, feel free to contact me at or via twitter @ARoseK10.

One Door Closes, and Many More Open: Digital Making 2015

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.

Some of the projects I worked on during my Digital Making semester.

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.

Steps to 3D Printing a Wall Hanging of Your Face

Early on in the semester I was working on 3D printing a miniature model of my head from my shoulders up.  See below:

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As I was tinkering with the file in Tinkercad, I thought, what if I could 3D print this file as a full size head that could hang on a wall.  After maneuvering the file around on Tinkercad, I came up with the right model, downloaded it and printed it.  I have put together my steps in a pdf and shared it with the masses so everyone can have a 3D wall hanging of their face. Below is a representation:

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Here is the guide: 3D Print Your Head as a Wall Hanging


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This week was a work week for everyone. We spent our time making some progress on the many individual and group projects going on for the end of the semester.

Group Semester Project

I talked with my group formed from an event called the Make-a-thon that happened last weekend. We are planning to continue the project past the scope of the event. Here is an explanation of where we are at this point:

During the Make-a-thon we came up with the idea to have a pill box hooked up to an arduino that could sense when you take the pills out. The goals was to set up some kind of alarm system that would alert the user when to take their pills.

We ended up with a semi-working prototype that included a pressure sensor. We had the sensor working perfectly with some simple coding. And we decided to quickly 3D print a small box to represent one of the days of a 7-day pill box.

Here’s what our prototype looked like:

2015-04-11 16.38.18Not too fancy, but we liked the idea and learned a lot during the event.

Since we didn’t stay overnight at the Make-a-thon we didn’t go into detail how the alarm system would be hooked up. We had the readings from the pressure sensor coming in, but we didn’t know how to send that information anywhere to make an alarm.

We are looking to update our prototype in the coming weeks by making a complete 7-day pill box and trying out multiple light sensors since we were limited to only the one pressure sensor. We may even laser cut a press fit pill box, but we are faced with a bit of a challenge with the lid. Watch out for future posts to see where we end up with our idea!

Individual Semester Activity

This week I also worked a bit on my individual semester activity. Over the past few weeks I have been learning about converting medical data such as CT scans or MRIs into a 3D printed object. I have run into a lot of problems, but I have learned so much.

The coolest thing I learned was that there is a community of people out there that do this already. It’s a small community, but what they have done so far is amazing. Here is a website I found where they share their files, write blog posts, and answer questions in a forum regarding anything to do with biomedical 3D printing:

Something I have noticed from my research is that the files I need are very rare. Medical data is not readily available to the public. I have asked around and searched all around the depths of the internet, but everything I have stumbled across is too complex or just not what I’m looking for.

Also, I was hoping to work with a human heart scan, but every file I have tried to edit has been impossible to get to a printable state. Here’s the closest I got:

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 9.32.18 PM

And this was after a long process of cleaning! So, you can tell that this is not an easy task.

At this point I am either going to print one of the ready-to-print files from the biomedical website or switch over to another body part…basically anything but a heart.

When I first was learning how to edit files I tried out a skull, which was super easy and probably was printable with a bit more editing. Here’s that file:

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.08.30 PM

Bones are much easier to work with! I knew that a heart would be a challenge, but it was way more than that. It was a nightmare!

I’m going to play around with files from a friend’s MRI scan later this week and see if I can work with her data. I am super excited that she is allowing me to use her MRI and I hope I can print her something! She’s a medical student, so she would love to have a 3D print of her brain. We’re both super excited to see what I can do! So be sure to keep an eye out for any progress with this project.


Makerlab visitor counter updated!!!

Hi, I’m Hang Yu

My project is to make a reliable visitor counter for our makerlab in Business Faculty building. I am going to use is Arduino uno.




First,The idea is let a laser diode constantly point at a photosensor placed on the breadboard*Hang YU Sensor_bb


What you need:

1, arduino compatible photosensor

2,LED at pin#13 to notify if it’s blocked

3,10K resistor

4,Arduino uno

Plus, Second, it would be great to build a LCD screen displays the number it counts:

LCD_bbScreen Shot 2015-05-09 at 9.10.31 AM


Third, the circuit of laser diode is independent from Arduino and it’s easy to build on bread board.

I am going to work on my project during the summer break.


My project

With this project, I’m working towards a long term goal of mine: to publish a science fiction book and create a universe around it that can be influenced by fans. The book focuses on one vessel, which I’m in the process of building, and its search for other human life in the far-off future. Colonies lost touch with Earth (for reasons I won’t go into), but there are an untold number of colonies, and you know, a couple alien species too.

Anyway, even though the book only focuses on one human civilization and one particular style of ship, the lore behind this universe is really huge. That’s where the readers come in. In my head, users can post ship designs on a forum on the book’s website (linked to thingiverse). If the designs get popular enough, and enough users vote for it in a weekly poll, it gets assigned a civilization with a back story voted for by fans.

This project is going to be me developing the ships for the civilization my book focuses on and printing them. I will also be developing shapes that can be loaded into tinkercad (regarded as the easiest CAD software). These shapes and partial ships can be tinkered with, and people who don’t have the wherewithal to design with Fusion can design variant ship designs, which can also be absorbed into the lore. My goal is to make at least two ships, and design fighters/bombers/interceptors/ and a few frigates that attach to it. From there, I will retrace my footsteps and put the partial versions of my ship in a folder. Another folder will hold presets like turrets, engines, and support ships.