Week 9: Astounded by Arduinos

Arduino Technology: WOW!

This past week, our class had the privilege of learning how to use Arduino technology and how to program an Arduino for a variety of different purposes. As a student currently learning about digital making, I was very impressed by the ease and incredible capabilities that the Arduino has to create in digital ways. We programmed in an interface that directly loads programs we coded into the computing board. Having coded in Java and Python a little bit before, I found the process of writing the program fairly natural. I’m definitely not a developer, but creating the framework and instructions for the digital creation was not incredibly difficult. The challenge came when we had to create the circuits that would enable the program to carry out its various functions and operations. With other forms of digital making, we typically do not have the ability to interact with computer hardware. However, this past week we had the responsibility to enable the hardware to work in order to ensure the work we were doing in software performed the way we intended. My friend and I were able to write a program that made a light flicker on and off at various intervals. While this program may be fairly rudimentary and not necessarily something ground-breaking, it was my first Arduino program!

Arduino Uno

Arduino Uno

Moving Forward Using Arduino Technology

In addition to learning about Arduinos, we also had the Champaign Fab Lab give us a brief presentation about the different projects they have. As we move forward learning more about the various forms of digital making that are available, I believe that we will be able to see the many ways that Arduinos and smaller computers are being used to create inventions that can become a useful product or platform for learning. For our class, I believe that Arduinos and similar pieces of technology will be an excellent way for us to learn about how computers running programs that manifest themselves on delivery platforms other than typical computers. Whether it’s an e-textile or using an Arduino to help turn an every day purse into a solar powered bag that can charge personal electronic devices, the applications of Arduino technology are infinite. I’m excited to learn more about how to program these unique platforms and discover ways that organizations like the Fab Lab can help me find beneficial uses of the technology to create new products or excellent learning opportunities for ourselves and other students.

Scanning is Magic!

The past couple of weeks, the digital making class went to the Beckman Institute where we met Geomagic guru, Travis Ross. There, he began to introduce us to the scanning equipment at Beckman and to Geomagic software in the second week.

2015-03-03 3D Scanning - 5800 2015-03-03 3D Scanning - 57942015-03-03 3D Scanning - 5784

Geomagic is a CAD software that focuses mainly on preparing 3D products for print. It’s an extremely useful yet complex tool. Some classmates expressed the issues they encountered when using the software. Sebastian voiced in his post that the “software was a bit too powerful for us to learn in such a short time.” Kay, as well, expressed in her post that “we still have a lot to delve into about this software.”

In class, Travis went through a tutorial for the class that consisted of working with a scan done on a clay model. He went through the process of trimming, filling, smoothing, and dividing parts of the object all done in Geomagic. It is a fairly complicated process and the class tried their best to keep up with Travis.


Travis also worked on cleaning up the racing glove that Arielle brought to Beckman for scanning. Anthony provided some background on the glove in his post:

“The plastic glove is custom made and extremely difficult to replicate for racers. Having a digital copy of a good glove means the ability for a user to create multiple copies using 3D printing!”

During the scanning process of the glove the week before, there were some issues capturing the surface of the glove. Travis decided to spray it with talcum powder so the beams from the scanner could bounce back to the computer. It took multiple scans to make a complete model in the software. It seems that with the right practice and expertise in this type of software that amazing things can be done.

Snapshot of the scanning process for the racing glove

Snapshot of the scanning process for the racing glove

Many classmates started to apply their knowledge of Geomagic to their lives. For example, Jill noted:

“I have a Tupperware container that I absolutely love to carry places when I want lunch on the go. Problem with it is, there’s no great way to carry cutlery with it. I want to scan this existing container, and further add on a pocket that carries forks and knives.”

Noah as well stated:

“…with this software caused me to think about the various economic applications of this technology. Perhaps, I will be able to create my own business concept around this technology. I still will need help to operate the scanner and software, but having this high level overview allows me to be able to think critically about using this technology in my own field.”

Geomagic is a powerful tool in 3D printing that has great potential. It is a little on the pricey side so I would recommend trying to obtain a free trial.