As Digital Making Comes to a Close

As Digital Making comes to a close, I would like to reflect on how much I have learned and changed as a person due to this course. I had never expected a course to take up a lot of my time and make me still love every bit of it in the end. Through this class, my skill set has been taken to another level as I have learned so much about the maker movement and mindset, a set of workshop and design skills, and the ideating/prototyping process.

The Maker Movement and Mindset

Maker Movement

The Maker Movement was the center of discussion for the first few weeks of classes. This movement focused on individual or collaborated effort to produce new products or enhance existing products. The movement encourages and supports the use of open source softwares/hardwares and engineering oriented interests such 3D printing and electronics. Although the movement encourages the use of engineering-oriented pursuits, participants also could have hobbies in non-technological activities which can range from woodworking to traditional arts and crafts. It was in this first few weeks that we not only learned what the movement was, but what it was about. The movement is all about creating, innovating and and sharing, which is why we began these blogs, to share what we have made and learned!

Maker Mindset

The maker mindset is the way in which makers think. There’s many different ways of thinking of a product design. However, in this class we focused  on Design for America’s thought process and Tim Brown’s method of Design Thinking. These two processes shared the similar idea of designing to meet an identified need in a technologically feasible way. You can read more about how we used our new maker mindsets in a Design for America workshop here.

Workshop and Design Skills

3D Modeling

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fusion360 tutorial

In this class, we learned how to use TinkerCAD and Fusion 360. I have never 3D modeled before and it took me a lot of time and practice to get used to it. The more I kept trying to use the programs, the more I realized that the controls are actually very intuitive. My learning curve improved with Jeff Smith’s Fusion 360 workshop, but this skill was still in development for me and was probably my weakest skill.

Lasers and Woodworking

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My first workshop in the FabLab was working with wood, Inkscape and laser cutters. Inkscape which was very similar to Adobe Illustrator.  I’ve had experience with Adobe Illustrator , so I didn’t struggle too much with it. I found it so interesting that so much work came into preparing an image to be cut with a laser. From this workshop, not only have I learned how to cut and engrave with lasers, I have also realized how flexible these laser cutters are and how these laser cutters have a tremendous amount of applications and uses in product design. I found it very fun and expressive to work with lasers. Read more about the designing and laser cutting here.

Circuitry and Coding

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Coding was something I was familiar with from my computer science years in high school. Circuitry however was a whole different area. I found it absolutely satisfying to be able to program something and see a physical response in the form of a blinking light. These two skills became increasingly important in creating our final project of a hydration wristband. Read about my first circuit experience here.


 satisfying macro pcb component soldering GIF


Soldering was actually really interesting and fun to do once I got over my fear of being burned. The process of soldering was quite tricky at first bu once I realized that the led solder should be fed into the soldering iron rather than using the iron to put the led onto the object to be soldered. You can read more about my soldering experience here.

Ideating and Prototyping for our Final Project

This project first taught us how to identify problems and do research to help understand the consumers who we are trying to solve the problem for. We learned how to turn that research into smart product designs for the consumer and start prototyping using what we learned in design workshops at the FabLab to bring those designs into reality. We also learned how design audits can foster an innovative learning environment and help reveal flaws in function or design to help perfect a product. Finally, we learned that the process of bringing an idea to fruition is an exhausting and difficult process which takes time. In all, it was a learning experience that we would remember in the coming years of our lives. Read about our experience here, here and here.


At the beginning of the course, I was hoping to be able to create something that was meant to help people. Looking back, these expectations were met with our groups prototype of the H2Go. This experience was much more difficult yet easier than I had expected. The difficulty came from putting it all together but what I found surprisingly easy is the skills which we learned in our mere semester in Digital Making. From this one semester, I learned more about myself than I thought possible from a class. I learned that I was capable of learning and creating incredible things. If I could learn how to do this, so can anyone. Being a part of the Maker Movement is so empowering.


XNihilo Project Reflection

From the conception of our idea to the final presentation and prototype, our group has grown and learned so much from this project. This project first taught us how to identify problems and do research to help understand the consumers who we are trying to solve the problem for. Then we learned how to turn that research into smart product designs for the consumer and start prototyping using what we learned in design workshops at the FabLab to bring those designs into reality. We also learned cooperation and design audits can foster an innovative learning environment and help reveal flaws in function or design to help perfect a product.. Finally, we learned that the process of bringing an idea to fruition is an exhausting and difficult process which takes time. In all, it was a learning experience that we would remember in the coming years of our lives.


Prototype 1

At the very beginning, we did a feasibility test based on the resource we could access to. The band essentially consists of two parts. One was the band and the other was the circuit. Because the band should be wearable on the wrist, we chose to use the 3D-printer with semi-flex material to print the band. For the sensor, we planned to buy a humidity sensor from the market. However, to minimize the size of the sensor, we decided to make the sensor by ourselves. The logic behind the self-made sensor was very simple. A person’s hydration level would affect the humidity level of the skin and the humidity level of the skin would affect the skin’s resistance. Thus, measuring the resistance of the skin can help estimate whether a person is dehydrated or not. None of us were electric engineering student, so we need to outsource the circuit design. Fortunately, we found a full-time staff, Mr. Rice, at Fab lab to assist us.


The first step for us was to make the sensor. Based on the design logic, we placed two copper tapes on the skin and measure the resistance between them. We did a lot of experiments to test the sensitivity of the copper tapes with different distances to find the best distance. At the end, we determined that 2 mm was the best parameter and we also made a cardboard prototype with basic circuit wires soldered together. The first prototype was non-functional but it gave us a direction to improve our prototype for the rest of our project.



Prototype 2

Prototype 2 was functional and realized our idea. We designed and cut the circuit by our hands. We also integrated the mini-Arduino controller to our handmade circuit with the help of soldering technique. One giant improvement we did for prototype 2 was replacing the LED light by RGB-LED light. RGB-LED light could flash red, green, and blue three colors, which means that we could send three different signals to our users.  As you can see from the picture below: Flashing red means “dehydration”; flashing blue means “functioning well”; flashing green means “sweating”.

Below is the picture for prototype 2

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Prototype 3

Although prototype2 is functional, it is not stable and would malfunction from times to times. Thus, we adopted silhouette technique to improve the precision. More specifically, we designed our circuit on the laptop first and then used the laser machine to print our circuit. Another giant improvement we did was the battery integration. We also designed the circuit to power both the controller and the sensor. The design could not only compress the space for the whole circuit, but also make the sensor contact the skin seamlessly.

After making our 3rd prototype, we were design audited by other teams who gave us many suggestions to improve our product. Some of these suggestions included LED blinking edits, vibrations and possibly a redesign of our product to fit as a water bottle attachment. Additionally, we prototype tested our 3rd prototype with Brandon and he had also suggest having vibrations to notify the user along with the flashing lights.



Following the feedback provided via the design audit and the prototype testing, we had to reevaluated our acceptance criteria for our design. One of the group’s suggestions was to make sure that the user is able to realize they are dehydrated after the blinking, so we reprogrammed our product to blink 6 times and then stay red for as long as the user is considered dehydrated. Additionally, we made circuit backing must be non-conductive. We discovered we needed to make this amendment after we tried to solder the original plastic backing and it burned. Additionally, we decided to remove the fitbit so that the sensor would be able to lie flat on the wrist.


For our fourth and final prototype, Ana reprogrammed the product to follow the new acceptance criteria. Additionally, we changed the plastic backing to a silicon backing on the circuit since silicon is non-conductive. Unfortunately, during this prototyping session, we lost our original mini Arduino and had to replace it with an Arduino Gemma. Furthermore, we redesigned the band to only house the sensor.


The challenges throughout the entire project included finding time which coincided with the FabLab and MakerLab hours, failed prints due to issues with semi-flex material, time constraints and the lost Arduino. The lost Arduino and time constraint heavily impacted our final prototype because unlike the mini Arduino, the Gemma had no serial monitoring capability which had allowed us to set parameters to detect dehydration.


If our group had more time to develop this project, we would consider the suggestions given to us such as making various versions of the H2Go as well as looking at simultaneous vibration notifications. We would also try testing out different ways of detecting dehydration and different materials for a more flexible circuit and band.


From this project, we have all learned not only how to have a maker mindset, but how to utilize it, problem solve and be patient. Although our final prototype did not fully function, we knew that with time, patience, hard work and perseverance, this prototype could be fully functional. In the end, there were a few changes which we could have done but we were very proud at the effort we put in and the presentation we gave with our product.


Please enjoy our presentation and video of our project efforts: 



Week 12 Summary: Design Auditing


Week 12 is the design audit for all the groups. This is where teams act as auditors of another teams in the class. Each group will provide an overviews (both visual and verbal) of their current designs of their projects. The auditing team will actively listen and then ask a series of questions regarding the feasibility, functionality and design of the other teams design. Questions commonly asked at the design audit are shown below:

  1. Why did your team choose this particular design?
  2. What issues is your team trying to resolve?
  3. How will the various parts of this design be fabricated?
  4. How will you test your team’s design?

These questions are design to spark conversations regarding design and functionality of the product. Speaking to other teams fosters a collaborative creative thinking space which allows the group being audited to see a view point which is unbiased. This encourages the DIWO, “do-it-with-others” maker mindset.  This gives the mentality that the people around have diverse experience and can be possibly the missing piece to the puzzle. Having an unbiased team audit the design and functionality of another team could raise possible concerns, limitations and improvements to the group’s design which the group being audited had never thought about. Each team learned so much from others and we were able to help each other perfect our designs and solve issues and flaws in our designs. Below are summaries of what each team learned as well as images of them in a design audit.

XNihilo & BCC Creations

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XNihilo (Ana, Anjali, Yuanzhen “Ben”) – H2Go, the hydration wristband

Feedback: Make the red light blink and then stay red so that the user can still tell that they are dehydrated. Possibly look into vibrations along with light signals or variations of the product in which it can be used as an attachment to a water bottle or just a band for people without a FitBit

“A quick recap of what we did during the past weeks: we are designing a dehydration band to remind the users to drink water. In the last week, we have successfully tested our customized sensor on the regular Arduino and we also generated a hand-made circuit.” – Yuanzhen “Ben”


“According to me, the feedback allowed the groups to get a different perspective on their products. It also gave a sense of how the users would want to change the product and what would benefit them more. We will definitely incorporate the feedback we received and hope to make the product that can be used by everyone.” – Anjali


XNihilo Circuit Prototype

BCC Creations – Brian K., Charlene, Carter – Home Security

Feedback: Think about possibility of having pets in the home and how that would affect product; looking into a reminder to set a home alarm before leaving the house because people may be in a rush to leave and may forget to set the alarm; look at making product more discrete.

“The feedback allowed our group to think about our product from a different perspective, and to also consider situations that we had not though of when we originally came up with the idea.” – Carter


BCC Creations Prototype


AquaPonics & Supra

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AquaPonics – Kenny, Ian & John – Fishtank Aquaponics Self Sustaining Garden

Feedback: Make modules for the garden larger for root growth

“This actually gave us some great insight and the feedback that they provided will prove invaluable in the next couple weeks as we are finishing up our project.” – John

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AquaPonics Prototype

Supra – Olivia, Ben, Veronika – Doorstop

Feedback: Create a much stronger structural base; Minimize the vibration the stopping component the doorstopper experienced; Utilization of either a stronger adhesive or multiple command strips on our prototype base.

“As Marty Cagan testifies in Silicon Valley Product Group’s Prototype Testing, “testing your ideas with real users is probably the single most important activity” in the prototyping process: and I honestly couldn’t agree more.” –Ben



The MakerLax & JJJ Inc.

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The MakerLAX – Peter, Chase, Brian X. – Tie Helper

Feedback: Add some physical grooves to the tie helper not only to make it more flexible, but as a method to make it easier for the user to determine where each end of the tie may go; Look into resizing the design and maybe changing the thickness.

“This was different from our usual group sharing in that we actually had the chance to sit down and really delve deeper into another group’s work and vice-versa. ” –Brian

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JJJ Inc. – Jorge, Jai, Xinlu – Smart Light Switch

Feedback: It is somewhat bulky and maybe arduous to install and/or remove;

“Our team also made huge progress for our own project —  the Smart Light Switch. Based on our experiments in last week, we decided to use a cross-shaped arm instead of gear. We connected the arm to the motor, and connected the motor to the Arduino board. Then, we connected the bluetooth module to the Arduino board. We found a smartphone application that allows us to control the motor to rotate through bluetooth. This app saved us a lot of hassle.” – Xinlu

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JJJ Inc Prototype


Zerott – Taofik, Odelia, Tiffany – Robot

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Feedback: keep our ultrasonic transducer would be better than a button because an ultrasonic transducer would be more interactive and impressive; focus more on the internal hardware versus the outerwear.

“Many of the suggestions that both parties pointed out were important and logical. Obviously, as a team we need to take these suggestions into consideration and figure out if we will use these suggestions.” – Odelia


“My main take away from the design auditing process was to strive for a minimum viable product given the short timeline we have and to learn as much as we can while working on our projects.” – Taofik


Zerott Prototype

Zerott Prototype


It looks like all the teams are well on their way to presenting their wonderful creations!

Week 11: Seeing Lights

Up until this point, my group XNihilo has been working on more of the hardware and design when it comes to our project. As a reminder, our group’s main objective is to create a hydration wristband. The first week of starting our project, we came up with the initial concept and design of our product as well as sourced materials and resources for the product. The second week, we created our cardboard prototype of the product and refined our idea. Additionally, we had tested the moisture sensor from copper tape in order to find the perfect distance to space the strips. The third week, we worked more specifically on the band design and then created the moisture sensor and circuitry from copper wire.

This week in class at the maker lab, Anjali was modeling the wristband on Fusion 360 and taking precise measurements of the FitBit screen while Ben and I were working on our final presentation PowerPoint. Used her amazing design skills and knowledge of Fusion 360 to design a wonderful band for us. This was one of the wonderful maker concepts brought to life in font of our eyes. By doing a project with people who have different backgrounds, we can utilize their skills. In this case, with Anjali’s major in industrial design gave us a sleek design of the wristband. We wanted to make sure that the band would be able to fit the FitBit screen so we attempted to print the design on regular filament rather than the semi-flex that the final design would be printed in due to another group using the semi-flex filament at the same time. We will be printing the final design with semi-flex material in this upcoming week. Unfortunately for us, we were unable to test out our band as the 3D printer could not print our design properly, the edge of one side of the band kept lifting up and we were sadly left with a strip of plastic.

Ben working on PowerPoint

Anjali on Fusion 360

Our band on fusion 360

Band printing

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What were able to print

“You can print in whatever color you like as long as it’s orange” – Professor Vishal Sachdev


On Tuesday and Wednesday, we met up in the FabLab in order to get some coding done. This was the part I was responsible for. I hadn’t coded for about 3 years before taking this class. As aforementioned in my previous blogs, I had coding experience from high school where I coded in Java and Flash. Unfortunately for me, coding for Arduinos only took C/C++ . Although the logic was similar when it came to coding, the syntax threw me off. Additionally, beside the small bit of coding we had done for our flashing light box, I had no idea what I was doing. Luckily for me, the FabLab was equipped with many helpful resources, including our main resource Brandon. While I was coding to make the LED lights flash , Brandon gave me hints and moral support. I learned so much from him as I learned new functions such as millis(), which count the number of milliseconds in which it has been since the program has called the function. With Brandon’s help, I was able to learn C’s syntax and code for the lights to blink different colors  after we had calibrated the sensor by testing people’s skin for moisture sensitivity. It was truly a magical moment when it finally worked after hours of debugging the code and solving logical errors.

Me coding


Testing sensor to calibrate it with code:

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Our sensor is now able to:

  • Blink red 3 times, if the skin moisture is below average/dehyrated.

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  • Blink blue 3 times, every 3 seconds (this will be changed to every 3 hours, as a this is an estimate of how often a person should drink a cup of water)

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  • Blink green 3 times, if the skim moisture is too high, such as when a person is perspiring and losing water.

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Please enjoy this video of me explaining what is happening with our sensor:


Week 9: Crude Prototype

This week is where we put together the culmination of our new found maker knowledge. We are to finally design the dehydration wristband fit bit attachment. In class, we had 3 hours  to work on prototypes, create initial crude prototypes or detailed sketches, start work on any CAD design required, create Final Bill of materials/order or source any parts required, establish contact with any human resource required for the project, finalize information resources for the project, and review work allocations among team members.

We had definitely found research to prove the feasibility of our project in the weeks prior and we also know that people have created an extremely accurate hydration sensor before according to this article. Although we knew that this technology existed, we weren’t able to find the same sensor for sale. So we looked and found a sensor for moisture and heat online. Our next issue was designing the band and having all of our materials fit in one small space. We had known that we would be using Arduinos for our project but we had only seen the larger Arduinos that would not it on our band. With more research, we found out that there were smaller Arduinos that we could utilize. We discovered that we could use either a micro Arduino or a Lilypad which could work better on fabrics. We wanted to know which of these would be the best option for our design. To figure out what other materials we needed for our design, we took a trip to the CU FabLab to see what they could offer us in terms of materials and design advice.


Us on our way to the CU FabLab

on our way

CU Fab Lab in the Distance



Arriving at the FabLab we were greeted with some familiar faces ready to help us figure out hat our projects need. We approached Brandon, who was an ECE major and led the programming workshop for our class, he took interest in our project and agreed to be our contact and resource for this project. Brandon explained that they did have a lot of the materials which we need for the project. He showed us how small Arduinos can be and how they can fit on the Fitbit Charge 2 that we were modeling it after. Furthermore, he told us that we can made a moisture sensor in the lab instead of ordering one online. We made plans to meet with him in the FabLab on Thursday to do some work on our prototype, sensor and the project as a whole. The worries that we had immediately vanished. We knew what materials we were going to use, what design we were going to use, what we were going to do when we meet and who would be responsible for each job on the project.

Size of the micro Arduino we would use compared to the FitBit wristband:


Here’s a summary of what we had decided on:

Materials: 3D printing filament, wires, LEDs, resistors, copper strips and a fitbit.

Jobs: Ana – coding and test subject, Ben – soldering and research, Anjali – Design on fusion. We also had all agreed to collaborate to get the project done in the FabLAb with Brandon and help each other out when help was needed.

Here’s a summary of what had happened after class on Monday:

Wednesday – Met up with Anjali at the MakerLab in the BIF to try to scan the current wristband attachment for Fitbit. We found out that it would just be easier to design the band as one long strip instead of two separate attachments and that designing on Fusion 360 would be easier than to scan the bands. We had found a downloadable link on Thingiverse for a Fitbit wristband attachment which we could edit to fit the Fitbit model which we had (Fitbit Charge 2)

Thursday – The whole team met up with Brandon at 5pm at the CU FabLab to work on our prototype for monday. We decided to use a cardboard material instead of the 3D wristband because we had not had time to edit and print the design we saw. However, during this meeting we had decided to solder some LEDs and wire and start testing out how we would like to create the moisture sensor with the copper strips. We measured out different distances  to see which would pick up the most activity. The strips on the ruler was our control because there should be no moisture on it, and my skin was the experimental factor.  We kept running some tests before time ran out and we went home. However, we at least had an idea of what we were going to do in the weeks going forward. In the next few weeks we plan to meet with Brian to figure out  how to put together the sensor and work on the design overall with the 3D printed wristband.


Here’s some visuals of our time in the Fablab:

Sensor we are modeling our moisture sensor after


Control on ruler compared to skin

skin 2


Skin Experiment


Testing out the sensors


test 3

Cardboard Prototype


Week 8: Putting Together the Puzzle

Today we are back at the CU Fab Lab to continue our workshop rotation. Last week I learned how to use code for Arduinos. This week, I get to learn soldering. I was really intimidated by the equipment in the workshop. Last week, I read someone’s post about how the machines can get up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit! I am so clumsy that  I’m afraid I would burn myself and add to what my family calls my “Hall of Scars”(see picture below, it’s not pretty). However, I’m willing to put my best foot forward and hope to the heavens I don’t hurt myself.

Hall of Scars:


When I got to the lab we went to the soldering room. There was a black board with a few warnings about soldering (see below). Apparently, not only were we working with hot irons, we were also working with toxic items, as the solder is made of lead. I had a bunch of butterflies in my stomach.

Whiteboard Warning:

Workshop space:

My Working Station:

Soldering Iron:

Cleaning Pad to clean solder off iron:


Before we began, we were asked if anyone knew how to or had experience soldering. Not a single person raised their hand. I’m glad I wasn’t alone. The instructor told us that we will be soldering together a circuit to make sure our wiring did not come loose inside of our blinking box. We would be making this circuit using the knowledge we learned about wiring,circuitry and Arduinos

Example of what we were going to make:


Before we could solder two objects together, we had to make sure that the wires were touching so that the electrical current can travel seamlessly around the circuit. If the wires are not soldered together while they are touching, they will not pass the current through the circuit. I found soldering somewhat difficult, until the instructor told me to use the soldering iron to heat the wire before adding the lead solder to it. We made 5 LEDs which had their negative ends wrapped with a resistor and the resistor wrapped to a jumper wire. We then had to connect the other ends together using a black jumper wire and solder it. Once we were finished with that, we had to take a break due to the lead fumes in the room. To finish our soldering, we soldered on the ultrasonic distance sensor to the black jumper wires connecting the LEDs. Finally, we hooked up the circuit to the battery-powered Arduino which was coded in last week’s workshop. ‘

My First Solder:

LED soldered to a resistor and jumper wire:

5 LEDs together:

Ultrasonic Distance soldering:

Circuit attached to Arduino:

Live Action Circuit on Arduino:
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This soldering workshop really helped me understand the use of soldering. While I was participating in the workshop I thought of how for our final project idea, we will most likely need to solder wires together. Our idea was to make a hydration band or fitbit attachment which would blink when the sensor is triggered. Soldering wires could possibly be one of the ways in which we could keep the wires in a circuit. Additionally, while I as soldering, I wondered what other cool projects could utilize soldering. I looked some up and the links are below.

Cool  Soldering Projects:

Soldering Tips and Tricks:

At the end of the class we hot glued our boxes together and glued the LEDs into the holes. Here is the end product. (last white LED was broken and I had to run to class before I could fix it)


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Week 7: Bright Coding Skills, Brighter LEDs

Entering the Fab Lab, I was excited to know what to do next. I really enjoyed the collaborative atmosphere and the hands on work making things. As we began class, I was told that I would be doing coding in the computer lab with Arduinos. My heart jumped for joy when I was told we were coding. It was a flashback to high school. When I was in high school, I took all the computer science classes there were until AP Computer Science and even the game design. There, I was the only girl among a class full of men who learned how to code in Java and Flash. Despite being consistently told that I wouldn’t be good at coding because I was a girl. I worked my little feminine heart out to prove them wrong and within a few months, I was coding circles around them. These classes began my interest in the IT world. I was almost a computer science major before I realized that I love business just as much. With ISIT being basically a harmonious mix between the two, it was the perfect match to me. Although I was happy to be an ISIT major, I didn’t expect to code, so I was happily surprised with this workshop.

Arduino, Breadboard, jumper cable, resistors,and  ultrasonic distance sensor (LEDs not pictured)

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SOS Code


SOS Blinking Demonstration

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When beginning the workshop led by Brandon Rice, we were told what we were going to be learning. The goals of this workshop was to learn about Arduinos and the Arduino process, interface an ultrasonic distance sensor, learn about serial monitors, and finally combine it all to control the LED output to the ultrasonic distance sensor. We started our journey to our ultimate goal by learning how to set up the Arduino to the breadboard with jumper cables, resistors and an LED light to just make the LED output able to work with the pre-written code provided to us on a software called Blink. After we were able to set this up, we were challenged to play with the code to make it signal SOS, wire the breadboard with 5 LEDs, and finally attach the ultrasonic distance sensor. This workshop was extremely beneficial as learning how to code for Arduinos to make the LEDs light up can help my group with whichever of our two main ideas for our final project, a light up hydration wristband and a lamp which is solar powered and dims based on the noise activity levels in the room. With further research, I actually found out how to code for fading and dimming the LED lights (link is below). Additionally, for the both the hydration band lamp, knowing how to code for the ultrasonic distance sensor helped give me an idea on how I could code the sensors appropriately. Regardless of the project, I am extremely excited about getting my hands on coding again and playing around with the code. The language is easy to understand thanks to my years of computer science but I still have so much more to learn. I can’t wait to learn more about how to code for LEDs and Arduinos!

How I wired the breadboard for 5 LEDs
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5 LEDs Blinking (I programmed the code a little differently than others because I figured out how some of the code functions to create a different pattern)

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Ultrasonic distance sensor attached to breadboard (The closer an object is to the sensor, the faster the lights blink!)

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Fading LEDs Code

Here’s a Tutorial on How to Wire a Breadboard for LEDs

Here’s Really Cool 8×8 Arduino Controlled LED Cube

Week 6: Laser Focused on Learning

This Monday we entered a whole new world and expanded our knowledge by going to the Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab. The CU Fab Lab was one of the most creative spaces I have ever seen with stickers coloring the walls and trinkets hanging from the ceilings. However, it wasn’t the décor that was the main star of the Fab Lab. It was the type of machines and the shared knowledge available to the public. The Fab Lab provided those in the Champaign-Urbana area with access to a plethora of fabrication tools such as a laser engraver, CNC routers, 3D printers, scanners, electronic cutters, digital textile machines, small board electronics, graphic drawing tablets, and advanced software. We were fortunate enough to take a tour, with Jeff Ginger, of the colorful facilities as shown below. The place was a well-organized fascinating maze with areas such as a computer lab, 3D printing area, textile workshop, electronics section, soldering stations, circuit board milling, milling machines, digital area, laser area and wood working.


Panoramic of Fab Lab Entrance


Map of Fab Lab


Colorful wall of Fab Lab


Awesome models near the entrance


Cool Display from Textile Area


I truly loved that this workshop was a haven for makers. There were so many resources to spark imagination, develop designs and create. My favorite part of this space, was that it encouraged collaboration. Many projects were DIW which means “do it with others”. This gives the mentality that the people around have diverse experience and can be possibly the missing piece to the puzzle. This idea was further implemented when our groups for our final presentation was split up so that each member learned and did something different in the workshop after the tour. Each week we would rotate into another area. I think that this is extremely beneficial as each member would have an entirely unique experience with each workshop. This would allow each group to work together and ultimately do the project with each other and utilize each individual experience.
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Textiles Tour

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Amazing Watercolor Machine

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Woodworking Tour

When the tour was over, I was placed in a group led by Holly Brown (Lab Manager and Instructor) and Clinton Gandy (Lab Assistant) where we learned how to prepare laser cutters. We were using a universal laser cutter to create a personalized box. We sat at the computers in the woodworking area and utilized the advanced open source software. We used Inkscape which was very similar to Adobe Illustrator.  I’ve had experience with Adobe Illustrator in my high school graphic design class, so I didn’t struggle too much with it. I found it so interesting that so much work came into preparing an image to be cut with a laser. Each line to be cut must be RGB (255,0,0) with a strike width of .001.  Images to be rastorized must be black and white. I asked to if I could venture into the gray-scale area, but for simplicity’s sake, Holly advised me to do a straight black and white image. She did however mention that gray-scale images could be etched on, but it requires more preparation and time which we did not have. I however researched more on this and found a wonderful YouTube video on how to prepare gray-scale images to engrave on wood. Expanding my knowledge in how to cut and engrave with a laser printer helps me become prepared to execute my final group project given the need of laser cutting or rastorizing. Additionally, this knowledge and experience can help me further assist my fellow peers should they approach me for help.


Woodworking and Laser Area


Press Fit Box Example


Holly Modeling a Press Fit Box


Black and White Design I chose

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Press Fit Box Parts Preparted on Inkscape


While going through the workshop, I was able to follow very quickly and intuitively, most likely due to my previous experience with Adobe Illustrator. I ended up finishing my project first. I had help with calibrating the laser (as shown in the instructions on the wall in the images below), and then I started the laser cutter. I found this laser cutting and rastorizing so fascinating. The design image that I chose was etched on the wood so easily. The design I chose was very detailed and I did not think that the laser would capture so much detail in a small area but the laser was so fine and precise that the image turned out beautifully. From this workshop, not only have I learned how to cut and engrave with lasers, I have also realized how flexible these laser cutters are and how these laser cutters have a tremendous amount of applications and uses in product design (here’s a video on many of the applications!). Overall, I hope to use this knowledge in creating my groups project.


Universal Laser Cutter


Instructions to Calibrate Laser Cutter

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My Box Design Being Printed

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Intricate Design

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Pieces attached to each other before put in a cube.

Week 5: To the Drawing Board

It was finally time to harness the maker mindset we had spent weeks of preparation building. Today was the day in which our group would go to the drawing board and put pen to paper. Of course we had tossed around a few ideas in passing, but now was the day which we try to figure out a few ideas to fine tune.

To set the mood, Professor Sachdev played part of a documentary about Ideo, an international product design company founded in 1991. The documentary spoke on how diverse groups and collaboration can help encourage and build ideas. The video also talked about empathy for the consumer, figuring out what people want and understanding their pain through observation. There was quote about design thinking which truly spoke out to me. The quote was “it’s not rocket science, it’s empathetic.

That quote rang in my ears as my group and I came up with ideas. At the beginning stages of our brainstorm, we came up with “how can we statements” as taught from our Design for America workshop. These “how can we” statements allow us to think about how we want our product work and help other people. We tried to think empathetically. We thought of problems in which we, as a diverse group of individuals have in common. Our list of statements included

  • How can we get busy individuals who are working or in college to drink more water?
    Problem: dehydration.
  • How can we create a laptop case which can fit all laptops and keep them from breaking?
    Problem: no uniform fit for all laptops, lack of cases for non-Apple laptops.
  • How can we get households around the world to save energy?
    Problem: wasted energy when using lights.
  • How can we get bikers in college to wear helmets and keep their bikes safe?
    Problem: biker safety, not enough storage room for bulky helmets, bikes can get stolen often.
  • How can we get people in working areas such as college or the workplace to keep their whiteboards clean?
    Problem: Dirty whiteboards, erasers are not environmentally friendly, dirty erasers cause streaks on board, erasers are difficult to clean.

Once these statements were created, we draw on our creativity to find ways to solve these problems. As the Creative Sparks article mentioned that to have creative ideas “total freedom is necessary—no directional guidance, constraints, criticism, or thinking within bounded scope. Then ideas can be drawn and contemplated from an infinite space during the creativity process.” So while we thought of possible products, we listed many ways in which we could answer each problem, regardless of whether we believe that it was possible. We brainstormed the different ways (This idea is supported by psychology in this article), but ultimately came up with one idea which we drew as shown below.


Fitbit wristband attachment – solves issue of dehydration

Universal laptop case – solves the issue of lack of non-Apple laptop cases
universal laptopcase

Ecosmart lamp – solves the issue of wasted energy while using lamps

Expandable helmet – solves the issue of bulky helmets and bikes being stolen.

Bioeraser  – solves the issue of dirty whiteboards and makes erasers more eco friendly


After presenting these ideas, we had a guest speaker who was a maker himself. His name is Mike Bohlmann and he is the assistant dean of technology for the college of media by day and by night a maker. He spoke about his journey into making and the ideas that have come to fruition for him. He also spoke about the resources he used to help create his projects. I later spoke to him about our ideas and asked about what resources we can utilize and what parts we can use. This conversation made me so excited about what our team can learn, utilize and make!

xnihilo maker logo

Here are some other sources which helps the creative juices flow:

Design Thinking and Innovation at Apple:

6 Ways To Brainstorm Ideas:

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson


Week 4 Reflection: An Attempt to Finesse Fusion 360

After a rough night of trying to figure out the Fusion 360 software from the set of 20 minute YouTube videos, I was already so frustrated with Fusion 360. This was so difficult for me to accept since it seemed as if everyone else finished their tutorial while it took me nearly 2 and a half hours just to get half way through with designing my object. I kept having to re-watch and rewind portions of the video because the right click on my history didn’t work the right way, or I couldn’t see what was really going on in the video, or I simply just messed up. I felt so defeated. Usually, I am really good and quick at learning to new programs. I guess I just have to keep practicing.

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fusion360 tutorial


In high hopes of bettering myself, I attended class at the Armory to hear a lecture on the Fusion 360 Software by Jeff Smith. Jeff Smith works for Autodesk which sells the Fusion 360 software. Smith gave us an overview of Fusion 360 similar to the video playlist we viewed as homework, except he divulged more details on the many ways the user can zoom, change views, object visibility and move around. This was extremely useful to me as it really helped me navigate through the site and can help me build quicker in the future. Smith taught us how intuitive Fusion 360 really is during class. He said that Fusion 360 is positionally aware and allows for “time travel” in a timeline. Additionally, he taught us about parametric modeling, explained the difference between bodies and components, and how to create joints. It took some time but I eventually go the hang of some of the things he taught us. However, sometimes, I got hopelessly lost as shown in the gif below. I have to keep practicing if I want to become better and use the software flawlessly for our project.  Thankfully, I have wonderful team members and being in a group often helps foster learning and creativity. Each member is a piece of a puzzle. Some of us understand how to do certain function of the Fusion software and some of us don’t. It’s a matter of teaching each other and helping each other grow to put the pieces together. With each other’s help, I was able to make a few object in fusion (shown below).

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I still have a lot to learn so I plan on working harder on learning how to utilize this software and fully understand how to navigate and build on it. I plan on trying to learn how to make many objects through step by step videos similar to the tutorial video playlist I reviewed as homework earlier in the week. Additionally, my group and I have talked about possibly setting a time and date for us to collaborate and teach each other what we know. A few resources I plan to use to supplement my learning are shown below as follows:

Shortcuts in Fusion 360 to help navigate:

Making Parametric Models in Fusion 360:

Fusion 360 Projects on Instructables:

Puzzle Cube Project