Team MakerLax Tie Assistant Project Reflection


The MakerLax Team consists of three members with very diverse backgrounds. Brian is a freshman majoring in electrical engineering, Peter is a senior in advertising, and Chase is a senior in business. Having three strongly uncorrelated majors allowed us to experience a wide range of perspectives throughout the semester. While at times one of us were unfamiliar with a certain part of the making process, the others would step in and help fill the knowledge void.


While our initial ideas proved to be either too complex or out of the scope of this course, we ultimately decided on our final topic based on an article Vishal shared during one of our classes. The article focused on creating a “How Can We?” statement, which essentially stated that, in order for an idea to become a reality and a finished product, it must first meet three criteria. First, the idea needed to be narrow in its scope. Users should be able to understand the capabilities and capacity of the product without needing an extensive manual to guide them. Next, the idea should be local in its presence, meaning that the product should serve some type of purpose that fulfills a need in the surrounding community. By doing this, the creators will already be familiar with the problem and can devise more intuitive solutions. The final requirement for this product was that the answer needed to be realistic. Users cannot be expected to have advanced knowledge of programming, for example, in order to fully utilize it. Drawing from these three requirements, we ultimately decided to gear our making efforts towards aiding students in preparing for professional engagements, such as interviews, career fairs, or networking events.


The very first crude prototypes that we created were paper models. They were quickly fashioned to act as both visuals, as well as to test different shapes for our design. After we decided on one, we recreated that form in Fusion 360. Our very first print was only meant as a test for the shape that we decided to implement. Initially, we considered making the design modular in some way. Either by adding tabs for the parts to lock into, or by creating a “puzzle piece” design. Eventually, we decided to keep the design as a single unit. Afterwards, we shifted to TinkerCAD as we believed it would better for our purposes. We then printed more models to test various clip designs. After we found a suitable one, we moved to testing. The size and shape seemed fine, but it was a bit cumbersome to wrap the tie around the sturdy print. It was this that caused us to move on to the semi-flex filament for our last design. After reprinting the last model in semi-flex and testing it, we found it satisfactory and used everything we gathered to create the final product.

Final Product:

Our final product was, at first, our second to last model. After producing and testing the semi-flex model, we thought it was suitable enough to be our final design. However, somewhat last minute, we decided to improve upon it further. We decreased the dimensions, and redid the shape to make it more versatile. Physical features such as grooves and numbering were added to act as guides and “mini-instructions” to improve the ease of usage. It still is not necessarily perfect, and the print itself did not turn out that well, but it is quite an improvement on the original.

Features & Benefits:

Our final design has a thin and sleek profile, making for easy storage. It can easily fit within a pocket or portfolio. The flex material makes it very malleable and not very prone to breaking. This also allows one to utilize it with ties of varying shapes and sizes, and work it with ease. The clip is barely noticeable and and the physical structure of the design allows it to hold a tie snugly while at the same time allowing for easy removal. The indentations in the front face of the model are of different depths, allowing a user to feel around for the different steps. A number and arrow system are also engraved into the face that coincide with the instruction manual. Aside from allowing one to tie a tie around oneself, it can also be used to store a premade tie, in the event that the user foresees a circumstance for it.

User Feedback:

Overall, we found user feedback to be incredibly helpful during our prototyping phase. We had both in class feedback along with feedback from students outside the classroom. During the sessions, we were able to observe how our products were used the and difficulties that occurred. One student said, “I suggest adding instructions or some kind of step-by-step process to make using the product easier.” We took their advice and created a pamphlet as part of the packaging and adjusted the clip size and indents on our original prototype.

Future Improvements

We hope to utilize more materials in future prototypes. Semi-flex filament was different to handle and took the 3D printers multiple tries to print out our prototype, so we hope to test different types of semi-flexible materials. One feature would be to have a collapsible, modular format. The benefit would is that the user can easily remove the product once they had completed tying their tie. From the user feedback, the other suggestion we were given was to incorporate electronics into our design. The product would have an LED guidance where different sections would light up green to guide the user to tie the tie. The LED guidance would require coding and implementing a small arduino and a battery into the product.  


After the conclusion of this project, our team came away with three main conclusions from the experience. Firstly, it was incredibly satisfying to see our weeks of efforts and labor culminate in a working and usable model. One of our team members who previously was unfamiliar with how to tie a tie was able to learn how, with the guidance of our product. After seeing it be put to use, we can say with complete certainty that our efforts proved worth it. Additionally, we learned that rapid prototyping is critical to the making process, and to creating an effective final product. We spent the majority of our initial efforts attempting to make the perfect first prototype, when in reality the majority of our progress came upon the third and fourth iterations. Similarly, our team realized the immense importance of receiving user feedback. While we had certain connotations of the direction we wanted to pursue with our product, obtaining feedback from users that were unfamiliar with the making process gave us great insight as to what the average user would actually prefer.

Slide Presentation:

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.


Wrapping up Making at the Makerlab

Expectations and Reflections: 

It was out of curiosity and a suggestion from a friend that made me pick this class from a extensive list of Electives I could have picked in my last semester as a Senior. I had briefly heard interesting things about 3-D printing and making almost anything you wanted from scratch. I hoped to learn how to prototype, design and apply myself in a way which I had never done before. Looking back after the semester long course I have come a long way as not only an engineer but also as someone who cares deeply about the things around us and making a difference in our community.

The Experience: 

My experience kicked off with some motivating and inspirational Guest Lectures from Jeff Gringer and John Hornick who talked about the Maker movement and where its headed. It instilled in me some kind of responsibility to be a part of the movement and make a difference in a way where I could leverage my skills as a Materials Engineer.

In the next few weeks we had an opportunity to attend a workshop conducted by representatives from the Design for America team at UIUC. I gained a deep understanding about what designing actually is and what it entails from the user and who it impacts. As a team we came up with a novel idea about using Goggle Glasses for deep sea diver which was pretty awesome. This experience helped me shape ideas during my next few weeks of the course and was fundamentally very important to the success of our tea, JJJ inc. Displaying 20170206_144220.jpg

The next week we got a chance to work with Fusion 360 which was of great use moving into our final projects. This powerful application helped us create almost any object we could think of and was pivotal in our making journey. More about this software can be found using this link.

This is the part where everything kicked off into full steam where we were not only thinking about the next big idea but also making it. Our final semester project started off with a brainstorming session, we came up with 3 issues we each faced in our day to day life and ideated some crude solutions to those problems. I learnt how much we over emphasize coming up with a product rather than solving the problem with the product in hand. Here are our initial few ideas we sketched for the final project this semester :

Week 6,7 and 8 the class spend learning and making at the Champaign Urbanas Fab lab! From learning how to code an Arduino to soldering and laser cutting plywood we learnt useful skills which we could implement while making our final project.

It was finally time to put our CADing, ideation and prototyping skills into action. Our group, JJJ inc, is designing a smart switch which can potentially pave way for cheaper smart homes and user customization. The next few classes we worked on designing and prototyping our Smart light switch. Here are some images from our initial sketches, mechanical designs and our final working switch seen as the bottom most picture.

I was so content with myself and overall really happy with the hard work, time and effort put by team JJJ inc to make the project from a mere idea to something which actually works like how we had imagined it. This class led me to belief that if you want to make something happen, there are enough resources, technology and like minded people to help you along, you just need to apply yourself and grind till you see the results unfold. I would finally like to thank Vishal Sachedva for his expertise and help!

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: 



MakerLab: Putting It All Together

This has been one of the best classes I’ve decided to take throughout all four years of my college career. It fulfilled my expectations and provided me with even more, and I’ve already recommended this course to my underclassmen classmates. When I first heard about this class, I thought it was solely about how to create 3D printing designs and operate the 3D printers. Boy did I underestimate the things I’d learn! In this next section of this post, I will provide a list of the main things I’ve learned throughout the semester.


3D Printing

During the first few sessions of BADM 395, we learned how to use a 3D printing slicing software called Cura and the Ultimaker machine to print out 3D products. We were also exposed to many open communities and sources like Thingiverse to gather creative ideas. Here’s a link to my first blog post.


Autodesk Fusion 360

Learning how to use this 3D printing designing program was both challenging and fascinating. There were just so many functions available to make the perfect design that it definitely felt very overwhelming in the beginning. However, after following video instructions and watching guest speaker, Jeff Smith, demonstrate how to use Fusion 360, it became an amazing tool. Here’s my post about my first experience with this great program.

model 1


Later in the semester, we had the opportunity to learn about the Arduino, soldering, and laser cutting at the CU Fab Lab. The Arduino is a programmable microcontroller which contains pieces of codes that execute on demand. The Arduino is then connected to LEDs, motors, and motion sensors via IO pins. We first learned how to wire the board. Then, we moved on to connecting it to a computer software and inputting codes that control the Arduino. Read more about it here.



Also at the Fab Lab, I was exposed to soldering for the first time. It required steady hands and a lot of patience but was very well worth it in the end. I was able to solder wires together and connect them to the board and LED lights. Here’s more.


Laser Cutting with Inkscape

The last thing I learned at the Fab Lab was using Inkscape to create laser cutting designs. I learned the difference between cutting and rastering and how to safely operate the laser cutting machine. I had a lot of fun putting everything I’ve learned in the Fab Lab together and creating the final product shown in the picture below. Read more here.



I cannot express how impressed I am in this Digital Making seminar and really encourage anyone, no matter your major or year, to take this course. For me personally, I’ve never thought of myself to have much to do with the area of art/design/technology, though ironically I’m a daughter of an artist. This class, however, changed my point of view on the maker world. It taught me that ANYBODY can be a maker, as long as you have a curious mind and willingness to learn and solve problems. In the future, I’ll definitely be more aware about the maker world and maybe utilize some of the things I’ve learned described above in my future career.

Semester Reflection

It seems like so long ago when I first stepped into the MakerLab that January evening. I remember that the first time, I had trouble finding the room in BIF, but it soon became a course that I always looked forward to on Monday afternoons. Sad to see it all go, but I’ve learned and experienced so much in my time here that it was well worth the time spent. After signing up for the course, I initially believed it would be exclusively about 3D printing, and a good way to keep up with my hobby. And while the course was indeed mainly centered on additive manufacturing, we explored many other related aspects. I got to experience other non-conventional uses of 3D printing, other making processes such as laser cutting, and get more intuitive with the art of the creative process in general. It’s been a fantastic semester, and I’m happy to recap it all here.

Intro to 3D Printing:

I’ve already a lot of experience with 3D printers ever since high school, which is the main reason that I took up this course. It had been a while since I had used one, but when we began to go over the basics of 3D printing everything started to flow back in. I was really excited to work with the Ultimakers as they were the highest quality printers that I have ever worked with aside from maybe Makerbots. For my first print in the lab, I printed a simple whistle.

Design Thinking:

I used multiple CAD programs for a variety of projects ever since I got into 3D printing. And before I took the Digital Making course I believed that all their was to it was creating a model in CAD and printing it. If it didn’t work, just try again. On the very surface, it really is that simple; but if you dig deeper there is much more behind it. Every idea; every design; every creation is born out of necessity. They each have their own purpose decided by the user. I used to believe that everything I did in my creative process just came out of thin air, but in reality I was following a similar pattern. Design thinking is the basis of all problem-solving.

The Design Thinking Process

Fusion 360:

Fusion was the most complex software I had ever dealt with, and I am very glad I was introduced to it in the course. For the most part, all my designs were created with simpler softwares such as TinkerCAD and 123D design. Fusion 360 was quite the step up. It’s a complex yet vivid software the contains a plethora of tools and allows the user to operate and edit their model with much greater freedom than most other CAD programs. While difficult to get used to, in the proper hands it can create anything.

Breakdown of a mechanical pencil

The Fab Lab:

Our adventures at the CU community Fab Lab might just be my favorite part of the course. I was amazed that such a wonderful and innovative place was practically hidden on campus. Unless you had prior knowledge you’d probably never realize it was here. It was satisfying to know that there was a place on campus where makers could go to explore and innovate. It’s a place where ides flourish and become reality. Those 3 weeks we spent there, learning the different making processes (Programming, Electronics, and Laser Cutting) and being able to create our own special projects was incredibly fun and very memorable. I’m sure to remember the Fab Lab for the rest of my time here at UIUC and if I ever need anything for a special endeavor, I know where to look.


Laser Cutting

Arduino IDE

The result of all three

Art Annex 2

1301 South Goodwin Avenue

Urbana, IL 61801

3D Scanning:

Being able to scan a 3D model of one’s own bust for printing is about as old as 3D printing itself. While I didn’t actually partake in it, it was a good experience to actually see it first hand. It’s a shame we couldn’t incorporate something like it into our project, or that the desktop 3D scanner didn’t seem to work well. But they are both still quite fascinating and amusing.



Taking this course was really a delight for me. I became very passionate about 3D printing a few years ago, and was overjoyed when I found out there was a class available involving it. I got to explore my hobby again, and discuss it with other individuals who were also interested. I was able to improve upon my existing skills, as well as gain some new ones. To wrap it all up, I got the opportunity to use what I’ve gained and know to create one big final project to share with the rest of the class. Being able to see what everyone else had created and sharing our ideas was a pleasure. It’s been a fun semester, and I’m glad I was able to experience this my freshman year, which means I’ll have plenty of time to be in the MakerLab. I’d like to extend my thanks to Vishal for teaching the class, the MakerLab gurus for being so helpful, all the guest speakers, the folks at the Fab Lab, and my fellow makers who ventured this course with me. It’s been a blast!

Semester Reflection



In my freshman year, I took a lesson in material science and explored different 3D printing techniques. I visited the MakerLab at that time but never imagined that I’ll be able to take a lesson in my last semester. After learning that the digital making class will be held in the MakerLab, I’m really excited and applied to take the class to learn more about 3D printing.

Before taking the course, I expect Digital Making will be a interesting class with extensive hands-on experience. Based on the classroom location, I thought this is going to be a class based off 3D designing and printing. I was expecting us learning modeling techniques using softwares and developing business ideas using the 3D modeling and printing.


As I take on this class, I realized that this class went far beyond my expectation. We not only gained a lot of exposures of 3D printing, but also on other useful skills that can be extremely valuable for entrepreneurship. The skills we learned include but not limited to:

  • Design Thinking
    • We learned design thinking in one of the first few lessons and it benefited me throughout the whole semester. Design thinking is a powerful conceptual tool for designers to figure out what product they are going to make and what are the functionalities mostly wanted by the users. For our term project, we used the design thinking process to determine our project idea and we all believe that it is a crucial part to the success in our project.
  • Designing Software
    • After the ideation process, the designing softwares help the designers to visualize their idea. In the class, we’ve explored several designing softwares, such as TinkerCAD and Fusion 360. TinkerCAD is a web based tool that is easy to learn and operate. Fusion 360 contains more advanced functions and is able to deliver polished rendered graphs. TinkerCAD allows users to build stuff based on the existing building blocks, whereas Fusion 360 allows users to derive 3D models from 2D graphs. Using Fusion 360 is a whole new set of experience to me. In our final project, we used Fusion 360 to build the models (although we didn’t end up using it).
  • 3D Scanning
    • As the inspirational speech from Arielle demonstrated, 3D scanning can help the designers to customize the designs. In the class, we experienced the 3D scanning process with handheld device. We are able to recognize the advantages and things needs attention from the hands-on experience with 3D scanning.
  • Laser Cutter and 3D Printer
    • I learned to use machines such as laser cutter and 3D printer to make prototypes for our design. During the lessons in the FabLab, we learned how does the laser cutter work and its features comparing to other machines.
    • In our final project, we built the housing using a laser cutter because it is fast and convenient. We also tried to use the 3D printer but we didn’t end up using the 3D printed model.
  • Coding and Circuits
    • In the FabLab, we also learned coding with Arduino. We learned how code on the screen can be transferred into the actual LED signal. Besides, we learned how to solder to realize permanent circuit connection. Both of these skills are integrated to our final project.
  • Project Managing
    • We spent a lot of time working on the project and have learned extensive project management skill. Realizing a project idea can be a iterative process that requires us to go back and think over. In addition, teamwork plays an important role in our project experience. It’s important for everyone in the team to utilize their strengths so we could use the time efficiently.
    • Getting feedback is a really beneficial process for our project. From the project audit process, we gained valuable feedback from other teams. From the project tests, we got what our end users think. Both of these processes greatly improved our understanding to the project.

Overall, the Digital Making class brought me great experience picking up new skills, working in the team, and creating incredible things. I learned different ways of thinking and making things. Although I probably won’t be an entrepreneur with my own product produced in the short future, I believe the skills I learned from the class will alter my view as a project manager or product user. What I learned from this class exceeded my expectation and I would recommend this class to anyone who are innovative and enjoy learning!

A Reflection Of My Digital Making Experience

My learning experience throughout this course had gone beyond my expectations. Though we only had class once a week the Digital Making Seminar had impacted my thinking process and brought in a different perspective of the world. Now, I would like to describe my journey and the various learnings and knowledge I had picked up on the way.

The first two weeks were more of introductory classes, allowing all the students to have a better understanding of what we would be delving into. We immediately were given the hands on experience to create our own 3D printed object after given a quick tutorial. I had learned about various sites and chose to use Tinkercad to print out an Illinois keychain. During the class we learned about the large amount of resources (ex. FabLab) available on campus for making and creating.


During the third week of class, Vishal had brought in UIUC’s Design For America. I really enjoyed their presentation because it truly helped my group, BCC Creations get our creative juices flowing. I realized how naturally creative the human kind is, it is easy for anyone to have the ability to design products or services through the design thinking process in order to meet a consumers demand. The group had taught us through a hands-on activity to create a prototype that would benefit our customer group: senior citizens. We had brainstormed various products that would allow a senior citizen to be more at ease.

Our fourth week we met with Jeff Smith from Autodesk who was teaching us about Fusion 360, the software allowed designers to design products or services from what used to many hours to only a couple of minute. Each of the tools in Fusion 360 were incredibly powerful unlike other softwares. With the step-by-step tutorial given by Jeff, I was able to create my own version of a perfume bottle I had through Fusion 360 after the session,


By the fifth week of class I had learned about different websites and softwares that could be used for designing, now I was excited to see how this could be incorporated to my final project. We met with our groups to brainstorm needs people have on the daily and create “how can we” statements. Furthermore, we had to make sure the statements were broad enough to solve the need and we weren’t delving into finding the perfect product for the need.

Week six, seven and eight we were at the FabLab working on creating a blinky box through three steps: Inkscape/laser cutting, soldering, and coding, My group started out with learning how to use Inkscape, we were given a template of the press fit box, we learned to change the settings for the laser cutting and added designs to our boxes. Once our designs were done we laser cut them, it was an interesting experience and the laser cutter had to be carefully monitored. The next week I learned how to make the lights blink on the hardware through coding. It was an incredible experience and a great learning process for me as my core classes don’t touch computer science coding or work with hardware pieces. In the final class we learned how to solder, it was a new experience for me and I learned how soldering melted filler metal onto metal joined objects by creating an established thin layer. Overall, I had a strong understanding of how everything came together to create the box and learned how all the components could be used, which would come in handy for my final project.


During weeks nine, ten, eleven and twelve we focused on our project, we went through prototyping, researching, improvements, auditing and making final adjustments. Once we decided on creating our “cheap” alarm system we began the prototyping process. We researched on the components needed for the hardware as well as the software side. Then we drew up a diagram so we had a clear understanding of how the hardware would look, what the software would need to accomplish and the shape of the housing. We gathered our components from Vishal and the FabLab. Throughout the process we had challenges, we had received help from the FabLab on useful components and my friend, Alvin Wu (Electrical Engineering) to assist us with the coding and putting together the hardware. In the four weeks I had learned so much about the product we were creating, I learned how to use the Raspberry Pi, searching up code as well as the incorporation of them, how the components worked and starting up Twilio so we could send text messages to the user. Once we were done with the product we worked on the housing which was a bit difficult to make the adjustments as we started out using Fusion 360 and moved on to Tinkercad. We made several adjustments to our housing so all the components could fit inside. FInally, we began our testing process of how our consumers would use it, we added on an extra text message so users would know when the security system was on and once it turned on there would be 60 seconds before startup.


Prior to taking the Digital Making Seminar course I had heard great things about it, not only from Vishal during an advisor meeting but also from students who had taken the course or were about to take the course during the same semester. I was very excited to see where this class would take me, as I had no experience with 3D Printing and all the functions we learned throughout the course. Thus, coming in I had little expectations but I was ready to experience a different side of what IT could offer. Now, that I have reached the end of the course and reflected on my learnings and experience I can definitely say the course reached beyond my expectation. I had not expected to be able to learn so many different aspects on designing and was really amazed by all the results as well as support. Throughout the process, I learned that even though I never saw myself as being a creative mind I was still able to create a final product design that would be suitable for our consumers need. I will definitely be taking all my knowledge from this course and apply it into my future career.

Exceeding Expectations : 3 Things I Will Takeaway from Digital Making

When I first was able to take the Digital Making course, I was  excited at the prospect of being able to work with 3D printers for the first time and perhaps learn some new types of software. While I certainly did the above, the first hand experience of creating a 3D printed product solution with help from multiple campus resources showed me the vast capabilities 3D printing as well as other digital technologies can have.  As a Recreation, Sport, & Tourism  grad student taking this course, I am interested to see how the capabilities of 3D printing can impact entire industries as well as daily life with the maker movement  .  I am very glad to have been in this class as I learned so much from VIshal, the people who spoke in class, and my classmates. Using 3D printers,  Fusion / TinkerCad/ Scanning software, and even programing  Arduinos / Rasberry Pi within the Fab Lab were all new experiences I have not had before. Overall I have 3 main lessons that stood out from my experience in particular.

  1. Ideating and Design Thinking

My team came up with several idea solutions that could solve a problem. Going through this process of ideating to lead to a potential solution was often challenging. However being able to learn from how the process went was a really good experience. For example our team tried out a few ideas that we thought we can create a solution for, and ended up scrapping them because of a lack of need for the product or ability to create it. We eventually created a security product that does solve a need, however the road to get to that solution and idea was harder than an idea just popping into our heads. Having gone through the process and better understanding the capabilities of the technology, I believe we would be more prepared to go through the creation process again and be more effective with a product solution. Lastly, understanding the capabilities now makes it  a bit easier for me to draw inspiration on potential projects I may undertake in the future.

2. Learning through Trial and Error

From creating multiple attempts at a product  solution,  to my personal struggles using CAD Fusion 360 software, there were  plenty of times that failure would get frustrating. Although it is cliche, I learned the most when I faced roadblocks in using Fusion 360, programming Arduinos, or even soldering. It was in the moments of trial and error of multiple failed attempts to get a certain part of the product to work, that I felt as though I learned the most. Figuring out why something did not work, such as a sensor on our product, lead to me having a better understanding of the  technology / process. In this way I have a much bette appreciation for the the prototyping and testing phase of a product. While it can be frustrating due to all of the imperfections being displayed, it is also the time where your product benefits the most from the improvement in my opinion.

3. Broad  / Endless possibilities of 3D printing

Within our class we had people make product solutions which contained some sort of 3D printing. The products ranged from an at home security system, to a friendly bot that records video when you interact with it, to an object that helps individuals tie their tie, to an at home aquaponics system, etc….  The idea being that 3D printing capabilities are extremely broad in scope, which to me is an amazing part of the technology. Some products are entirely 3D printed solutions, while others may just be a tiny yet necessary part to fulfilling a need through a product.

This is a wrap Maker Lab, you will be missed!

My Expectations and Experience:

To be completely honest walking into Digital Making Seminar, I had relatively high expectations for Badm 395.  However, looking back in retrospect I can know confidently proclaim that all my expectations had been superseded. Originally, I wanted to take Digital Making Seminar because I had very little background knowledge in 3D printing and wanted to gain a more comprehensive understanding of innovative and groundbreaking technology available today. I had envisioned Digital Making Seminar to be class that only encompassed 3D printing and different business solutions that could be formulated from 3D printing, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. This class transcended the provisional scope of my expectations for this class: we covered CAD Software, Circuiting, Arduino and Breadboards, Laser Cutting, Design Thinking, Rapid Prototyping and so much more that I will touch upon in just a little bit. Coming into class, I thought Digital Making Seminar would be an excellent opportunity to allow me to gain comprehensive knowledge in the digital world but relatively unrelated to my post graduation plans. However, as I leave class I know realize that everything I learned in Digital Making Seminar is SO APPLICABLE. I will be going full-time in July doing technology consulting and the digital practice in all technology consulting practices are growing exponentially. With all this being said, I can’t wait to have the potential opportunity to explore digital practices within IBM so that I can apply skills that I’ve gained in this class to the workplace enviorment.  Looking back on this class now, I am so glad I took the opportunity to continue to expand my horizons and challenge myself as a second semester senior, make so great friends, and of course take another great class with Professor Vishal who inspired me to become an Information Systems major (and you can’t forget about the pizza either! haha).

My Learning:

CAD Software

In CAD, I learned how to utilize TinkerCad and Fusion 360 software. While difficult at first, I was able to ultimately successfully craft both the tutorial structure as well as my own personalized heel prototype in Fusion 360 after a couple of iterations and failures. While perseverance truly led me to create the prototypes, without the help of Jeff Smith and all his excellent teaching of AutoDesk Fusion 360 there would have been no way I could have accomplished the following two prototypes:

Ben's Heel

Special Water Bottle

Fusion 350 First Take

Circuits & Coding with Arduinos:

The Fab Lab was an absolutely unbelievable experience. The amount that I was able to learn in three weeks was amazing. From never soldering wires before, I was able to not only successfully solder wires but also successfully wire both an arduino board and breadboard to act as a light sensor, with LED lights indicating on a spectrum whether little to a lot light was present within a room. Additionally, I was able to get my hands dirty and do some coding in Arduino to program the arduino to have that specific functionality. While I had a little bit of coding experience in VBA and R previously, Fab Lab really gave me the opportunity to have a 360 degree view of the digital world and all the innovative steps the digital community is striving to make a difference in today’s world.



In Laser cutting and wood engraving, I learned that while the digital revolution is innovative and groundbreaking it’s always imperative to have fun with technology. And, what better way to have fun with wood engraving and laser cutting that to express yourself: Here is my arduino board circuit box with images that best describe myself:


Big Data and Its Implication on 3D printing:

For my own personalized project, I examined how 3D printing and Big Data complemented each other in today’s business world. It was amazing to see what MIT students had accomplished with data visualization and 3D printing. By printing a 3D structure of the campus of MIT and overlaying it with unstructured Twitter Data, so many powerful insights could be drawn on students at MIT:

MIT Picture

Additionally, General Electric was also utilizing Big data to help rapidly prototype some of its turbine engine parts take a look:

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 4.50.29 PM

Innovation By Simplicity:

Through Team Supra’s DoorJar, I learned that innovation doesn’t always have to fall in the category of groundbreaking or new-to-the-world product development. But much rather sometimes, the greatest innovations truly stem from simplicity. For instance, innovation by simplicity yields easy constructability, low costs, and room for continuous improvement without drastically increasing the price. And in turn, commercializing these innovations and bringing them to market they also have a high likelihood of generating profits for a company. And, that is exactly why Team Supra chose to create DoorJar.


Design Thinking & Rapid Prototyping:

Lastly, Design Thinking & Rapid Prototyping are two crucial concepts that I learned in class that will be carried over in my life post graduation. Realizing how design thinking and agile software develop framework (which I was fortunate to work in this summer) go hand in hand was truly a unique experience as well to see how applicable the concepts we were learning in Digital Making Seminar truly applied in the real business world. Rapid Prototyping opens opportunities in manufacturing to medical to renewable energy to software development and so many other industries, and I honestly cannot wait to have an opportunity to utilize rapid prototyping again.


Personal Professional Development & Growth:

Lastly, the greatest thing I learned in this class cannot be quantified by a subject title or concept. But much rather, Digital Making Seminar taught to continually challenge myself, expanding my horizons, and keeping my mind open. I remember all the times I walked into Fab Lab and thought to myself “no way can I solder wires together”, “no way do I know how to circuit arduino board and I definitely don’t know how to code it”, “I have no experience in Fusion 360 of CAD software how can I possibly be good at this?” But it’s because that I had the courage to try and challenge myself that I was able to solder wires, circuit and code and arduino board, and even help build DoorJar’s prototype in TinkerCad. By keeping my mind open in the future and my hunger for learning, there are so many opportunities in life that will be opened for me in my future.