My Semester of Digital Making

I have learned so much about digital making this semester! I’m going to break down some of the main things I learned, then talk about what this experience means to me as well as what I plan to use this knowledge for in the future.

What I Learned:

3D Printing and Scanning
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One of the first things I learned this semester was 3D printing and scanning, which makes sense since our class was held in the Maker Lab. We were introduced to the many sources to find 3D printable files, the software to edit files, and then how to print the files.

The first thing I edited and printed myself…was myself! We learned how to use a scanner that was very easy to use, then got to edit it however we liked. I went with a simple stand to create a bust of myself.

I later printed many objects including detailed jewelry, a candle holder, and a brain.

Fusion 360
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The next thing I learned about in class was how to create 3D objects in a software called Fusion 360. It is a way to make 3D designs into almost anything imaginable. It is quite complicated to learn, but once you understand some of the basic functions the possibilities are endless.

I followed the in-class tutorial to create a lamp and also tried to make some other objects outside of class including headphones. I’m not sure I will be using Fusion 360 beyond this semester, but I know it is available to me if I have a use for it.

InkScape (for laser engraving and vinyl cutting)

2015-03-31 17.45.49The first week in the Fab Lab I was introduced to InkScape and learned how to edit images in order to create amazing things. I first used a laser cutter to engrave a journal. I also used an electronic cutter to cut out a vinyl sticker.

I had a lot of fun making both of these items. I was able to use InkScape in other projects as well this semester including the digital embroidery patch below.

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The second week in the Fab Lab I got to learn about Arduinos. I used the Arduino Uno and we were given basic items to get started on our learning. I followed online tutorials to run programs like the basic blink and fade, then added in an LED.

I also got to learn about different types of sensors that can be used with Arduinos. I was able to use this in the CU Make-a-thon in my group project for the semester to create a pillbox for the elderly that senses when you take a pill out of the container.

Digital Embroidery

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The last week in the Fab Lab I learned about digital embroidery. I had created a design in InkScape in preparation for class because I wanted to make a gift for my roommate’s birthday, so I got to focus on learning how the process works rather than designing.

I chose different patterns for each part of the design then threaded the sewing machine and watched the magic happen. I was amazed by how accurate the stitches were.

This project, as well as all of the others mentioned above, can be found with more details on my previous blog posts:

Take Aways:

This class taught me so much about the world of digital making. I am very grateful for the experience and I wish I could take this class again next semester.

I started in the class having no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t know anything about 3D printing or other digital making technologies. Also, I didn’t know about the other digital making spaces that are around campus. I was amazed from all of the information I learned in the first few class sessions. The scope of the technology that exists is so far beyond what I initially imagined.

Now that I have completed the course I can say that I am much more aware of what is available to me and have a better insight into the digital making world. And I have loved sharing my learning with my friends and family.

I plan to return to the Maker Lab and the Fab Lab next semester to teach my sister (an incoming Freshman) all about what I have learned this semester. Hopefully we can learn even more together. I look forward to exploring deeper into the technologies I learned about and beyond. I can’t wait to see all the projects that can come out of it!

I encourage everyone to try out digital making in any or all of its forms because the technology is useful to anyone no matter the age, gender, ethnicity, or interests. The digital making world welcomes all makers, no experience necessary!

Any questions about my projects or experiences in this class can be directed to my email or message me on twitter @ARoseK10.

Laser Cutting @ the FabLab

LaserCutting @ the UI FabLabThis week we met at the UIUC FabLab the third – and last time. This time, I did not print. I cut things precisely.

UI FabLab has an Epilog Mini 24 Laser Cutter. It can cut or engrave a lot of materials. Paper, Wood, Glas, … You can find the full list here. It can even engrave cylindrical elements by using a “Rotary Attachment”. Now, I’ve already mentioned the two basic purposes you can use the Epilog for. You can either cut things or just engrave on the surface. It uses a laser that makes that job pretty precise.

We started our experience by using the software InkScape. In fact, you don’t have to use that specific software, as the Epilog just needs a PDF file to start the “print”. InkScape, however, makes a quite good job in converting images that you import into Black & White (without any grey-scales). The trick to tell the Epilog when to cut and when to engrave is the thickness of a line. A thin line of 0.001 inch tells him to cut. Any other black line or object will be engraved.

I engraved an image on small paper booklet. As it was pretty easy and worked well I decided to engrave and cut a small pice of wood. However, both things will be gifts and that’s why I won’t upload pictures of them at this time.

Fab Lab – Week 2

This week in the Fab Lab I learned about arduinos. I was a little nervous at first because I didn’t know anything about them or where to begin in order to code them. I have taken an introductory computer science class, but it was awhile ago and I assumed the coding for arduinos was going to be harder.

I was completely wrong! Arduinos were nothing to be afraid of. They are very beginner friendly and a lot of the coding is available online.

Here’s an arduino for anyone who hasn’t seen one before:

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We started with the simple blink program. As you can probably guess, a small light on the arduino blinks when you run the program.

It wasn’t too exciting, but it was a way to learn the basic steps of uploading a few lines of code to the arduino to make it do something. We also ran the fade code to see the same light fade on and off.

The next step was to connect it to a led light and run a similar code sequence to make it blink or fade. We used a breadboard to connect all the wiring and the led.

Here’s the completed sequence:

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Not too complicated. It kind of reminded me of taking physics in high school. The arduino was like a power source and the wiring connected to the light to complete the circuit. Of course there was no blinking or fading in basic physics circuits.

Next we learned how to use a light sensor. It is a very similar process as hooking up the led, but the output isn’t a light, it’s a bunch readings that show up on the arduino software.

Here’s the setup for it:

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I messed around with different light levels to see how high and how low I could get it. A reading of 0 means no light, so I covered the sensor completely so no light can reach it. And I was able to get a reading of just over 1000 when I flashed a light directly on the sensor. The room lighting read between 500 and 700 depending on the angle of the sensor to the room lighting.

We also were able to connect a led to the light sensor and told it to turn the light on or off depending on the light level (sorry I don’t have a picture of that setup – basically, imagine the last two setups on the same breadboard).

Overall, the main thing I learned about arduinos is that there is a lot of trial and error!

Just with the coding part, a lot of things can go wrong. I didn’t do much coding myself because a lot of it was online and easy to understand. But when I tried to add things in or change parts of the code, I ran into some difficulties.

Also, the arduino setups take a lot of trial and error as well. The good thing is wiring an arduino incorrectly doesn’t hurt the device in any way. I was very glad that I couldn’t break the device by running crazy programs on it because it meant that I can play around with it. Messing up was frustrating, but also expected.

I learned a lot in this class session and even incorporated some of it in my semester project, which will be posted soon!

Stitching @ FabLab!

Do you know the company brand “Brother”? Yes that company that sells printers. I thought they only sell desktop (paper) printers? However, they sell printers that “print” using threads!

At the UIUC’s FabLab you can find multiple of these printers! One of these I used today!

  1. The first step was to find a picture you wanted the printer to stitch. It should not have to many details. I started with a simple drawing of two hearts.
  2. We loaded that picture into the program SewArt. A software that converts a jpg, png, etc. into a specific file format for the printer.
  3. Basically we used the tools “Color Reduction” and “Merge Colors”. That is because we don’t wanted to stitch 250 different colors. We tried to simplify the image to use about 5 different colors.
  4. Then we saved the file using “Stitch image” and Fill and Auto-sew Color.
  5. The file is then loaded to the printer, which appears as disk on the computer.
  6. The file will then appear on the printer’s display. And you can start sticking!


Arduino Fun

When I first signed up for this class I thought it would focus only on 3D printing, but this past week we visited the Fab Lab in Urbana where my group got to work on tinkering with Arduinos. We were introduced to the Fab Lab staff; most of them were previous students and then Virginia and Colten led us through some basic code and set up for the first half hour of class.

The first thing we did was set up the board to make an LED light blink. I’ve never worked with anything electrical before so it was a really awesome experience to see that type of process and the code that makes it happen. We were given a breadboard, a light, an Arduino Uno board, and some wires. All that was needed was to plug in the wires to their respective ports and the LED light into the breadboard. Next, we added a light sensor where you could changes its sensitivity. The lower the sensitivity reading was the less likely it was to blink. In order to make it blink you would have to cover the light sensor with your palm, given that the sensitivity was low. After the light sensor, we began to work on putting a speaker into the board. It just needed to be plugged in correctly and it would start to beep. We were also able to change the sound level and tone.

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With about an hour and a half left of class, we continued to play around with Arduino and Virginia showed a few of us how to solder wires onto a magnet. The soldering station is pictured below:


I learned a lot while at the Fab Lab and I’m really looking forward to what’s in store next week!

A Dab of the Fab Lab

I was at Denison University (a small school outside Columbus, OH) this past weekend visiting a friend, when I noticed that he had a 3D Printed version of the European Cup (for soccer). A small conversation about 3D Printing ensued and I came to learn that his school, home to over two thousand students had a just one 3D Printer, a MakerBot Replicator 2. The software resources weren’t fab either. The weekend made me realize how lucky I was to have attended Illinois for the past three and a half years, but it also made me regret not having been able to make use of some of the really awesome resources, like the fab lab.

I spend a good twenty hours a week working at the ACES Library, not even a block away from the lab. I even park right outside the entrance to the fab lab, always thinking of the somewhat old exterior as something that probably housed a pesticide laboratory.

Alas, it is one of the coolest buildings on campus! I did not have the opportunity to explore every nook and corner of the space in our one session there, but I am really excited for the next two sessions. The group that I was part of was learning about laser cutting, a tool/process that can be used in a wide variety of fields, from notebook engravings (which we did) to milling pieces of wood or metal right down to the wire. A friend of mine in India decided to go the entrepreneurial route after college and now sells notebooks and other easily customizable objects with her artwork printed on it and I have since had a conversation with her discussing new possibilities for her business if she were to incorporate laser cutting (which she now certainly plans on doing).

I only got a glimpse of what Lin (from our class) was doing last week in the digital fabrication area of the lab but it was enough to get me, and keep me, excited till the next class, where I have some cool ideas for what to ‘print’ out.


Week 11

This week we had a class at a wonderful place called FabLab. Essentially, FabLab is a maker place with many resources such as 3D printers, 3D scanners, sewing machines and many other cool things. As I understood, FabLab is divided into 3 sections: 3D printing, arts&crafts and electronics.



So, this time again I worked with arduino at the electronic section. This time I learned two very cool things that can be done with arduino. First, I learned how to install a sensor chip. I made a light bulb to turn off when I cover the sensor and turn on when I don’t cover the senser. The second feature of arduino that I learned was the sound. I installed a sound device on arduino which later I connected to a senser device. So, I was able to control the level of the sound by placing my hand closer or further from the sensor.


Next time at FabLab I am looking forward to try making something new. Hopefully will learn some skills that will be helpful for Make-a-thon and develop some ideas to get a head start.

Week 10 – Stitching @ the FabLab


3D Printing except with textiles! Also I guess it’s technically 2D printing. Anyways, that’s what I worked with at my premier FabLab experience last week. A few of us had already messed around with Arduinos so we were moved to the sewing machine stations. We were explained that the machines were purchased late last year after they saw how they could be powerful making tools that could enable just about anyone no matter what sewing aptitude. Here are some of my biggest takeaways/observations:

  • The sewing machine was operated like a 3D/standard ink printer in that it put design onto the canvas based of off coordinates
  • The process is accurate, but not 100% accurate
    • volunteers showed examples of hand stitched embroidery by professionals which showed how the machine could only be so detailed
  • The process was fast!
  • Colors add a painless complexity to the process (takes more time, have to switch out string)
  • Possibilities are endless
    • In terms of patches, this empowers students to make whatever they want. For instance, I have the idea to make a team USA soccer patch. Besides ordering one online, I would have never believed I could make one for myself for $5
  • Could make for a great present!
    • The cost to make a patch is a couple of bucks. I’ve already brainstormed possible gift ideas (mostly sports patches for my younger brother’s backpack)

Arduino @ FabLab!

Arduino?? No, that’s not a dog’s name. It is a toy. A toy not for small kids, but for big kids. Like we are! 🙂

Arduino is a tiny computer, which does what you tell him. You can use your computer to write some code that is later transferred to the Arduino via USB. The Arduino then runs your program. If you have ever written any kind of code, you won’t get into any trouble. If you have not, you will also be able to program your Arduino! The language is easy to understand and the coding application comes with lots of examples.

We started by writing code that blinks an LED. Yes, that alone is not very useful in “real life”, however, you could combine it with some other code … or some other Arduino parts! We added a light sensor and of course some code to the Arduino. We told the Arduino to turn on the LED when there was less daylight and turn it off again when we had more daylight again.

Arduino and a Light Sensor

For me, the Arduino seems to be a powerful and useful device! I’m a fan (and user) of home automation devices like the Nest Thermostat. Maybe the Arduino will be the next nerdy device at my home 🙂

Here’s another inspiration what you could do with an Arduino! Found at 



The FabLab is so stinkin’ cool.

I had no idea what a vector was or why in the world it was relevant to anything cool I could be doing. I tried to use a laser cutter before, but I struggled so hard, had no idea what I was doing, and it completely turned me off trying to learn the software. Jeff walked us through the easiest program possible, InkScape, made sense of all the ridiculous vectors, and showed us how do to some really cool stuff in a way that made so much sense.

I suddenly understood why each step was required, which is integral in how I learn. If I don’t get why I’m doing something, Nothing sticks. I created a super cool little notebook, enjoyed making that one so much, I made another one! After all of that, I was inspired to just up and open an Etsy account selling barnyard themed journals. IMG_4037


I also was super stoked about learning how to make a sticker. It’s proudly sitting on the back of my laptop as I type. I loved the experience because it made doing all of this cool stuff so so simple. It showed me all of the potential of things I could create in a way that got me excited to do it. I’m pumped to see what we do this week. I’m really interested in the Minecraft stuff they do there and I really would love to work with Jeff over the course of the summer to learn and teach it!