A Semester of Creativity


Having the pleasure of fully immersing myself into the MakerLab this semester with the BADM 395: Digital Making Things class, I can now confidently say that 3D printing has the potential to uproot the basics of how we use and purchase products. The ability to think about something, and then model it on some softwares and then print a physical piece within a few hours means that there are endless possibilities when it comes to what one can create.

Coming into the class, I had no idea what to expect, but I knew that it would be unlike any other class I have previously taken on campus. The knowledge and skills that I have accumulated within the short 16 weeks will last for years to come. I believe that this has been one of the most enjoyable classes I have taken and I would like to thank Vishal for that.

The journey that the class has taken me on started with Design Thinking, specifically human-centered design thinking, where one starts with a problem, a need, for a product and develop it that way. This allows for consistent user feedback and to give the product a purpose rather than being a potential paperweight. Design for America, a student organization on campus, held a design workshop to allow the students to visualize this new idea in action.

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The next step in the course was the introduction to 3D modeling softwares and websites that would be useful for us. This included Fusion 360, Cura and TinkerCad. This process was very crucial as it allowed my team to be able to manipulate our object in a virtual 3D space and it has very advanced skills that gave it a bit of a learning curve but I was soon able to master it.


The FabLab portion of the class taught me more skills that I had anticipated. From soldering to laser cutting, to coding Arduino, these skills are immensely useful, not only for this course but any future project that could require some fine tuning. This portion we made a press box that had an Arduino inside of it with LEDs and a light sensor to trigger specific lights at different light intensities. This was a really interesting and cool way for us to know and become familiar with the tools and services offered at the FabLab.


The final portion of the semester was centered around the ability to create our project with the tools and materials that we have had at our disposal for the past few weeks. This was the most time consuming and challenging part but most rewarding as well. The idea we were tackling was to create an aquaponics system for a college student to be able to have plants and a pet. The challenge was big as we were trying to emulate nature within a confined system. We encountered many roadblocks, such as failed prints, delays in shipping for acrylic and leakages. However, with my team’s hard work and determination, we were able to overcome the obstacles and build a product we were proud of.


Looking back at the beginning of the semester, I had no idea I would be learning so much, and at the same time being so hands on and developing a working product within 16 short weeks. I believe that my expectations of this class were supremely surpassed. It was different because of the way the class as laid out, it allowed us to learn at a gradual rate all the resources at our disposal and how to fully benefit from them. I learned that I was able to tackle problems as they come and being able to be flexible and having a backup plan is crucial. I learned how important it is to constantly change and adapt, whether its designs in a product or user feedback on functionality. Being able to adapt and change with any issues gave me an edge to think on my feet. I learned a lot about softwares, tools, machines and facilities, all of which I will continue to refine for years to come, in my professional life as well as personal endeavors. If anyone that is reading this and is teetering on whether to take this course or anything similar, do it, it breaks conventional classroom politics and provides a fun and creative atmosphere where students different backgrounds can interact with each other. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact me at khnguyn2@illinois.edu.