3D Printing & Education

The use of printing as a tool has gone through dramatic changes over the centuries. From the printing press to the home printer, it has gotten objectively easier for 3D objects to be read across all kinds of platforms. However, with the advent of 3D printing becoming a pipe dream during the 1980’s and now a legitimate form of printing during the 21st century, so too have the ways students obtain access to these tools to further the development of 3D printing.

Many high schools have begun to incorporate engineering into their school curriculum, offering those the opportunity to engage in the field of engineering as a potential career path. Now that 3D printing has become more readily available, so too has the use of the 3D printer in the curriculum of high schools, not just engineering. 3D printing has offered a variety of uses for not only high school students but also K-8 students as well. In an article published by EdTech Magazine, designed to report on news about K-12 across the nation, many teachers interviewed were praising the use of 3D printing as a learning device.

For example, although it is an expensive way to keep up a learning opportunity, Campbell-Tintah Public School District Teacher Richard Osman found a way to incorporate this expensive technology for his school. “Osman incorporates trips to local plants and engineering offices into his classes. The goal: to show students how 3D printing is used in industry. After the tours, students devise 3D printing projects that mimic what they’ve seen. Campbell-Tintah PSD serves 160 pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students, all in a single school building. The high school students get first crack at the 3D printer. Once they are proficient with the technology, they show the sixth-grade students how to use it,” (Peterson, EdTech Magazine).

My sister, who currently attends Benet Academy in Lisle, IL, says that although she knows a fair amount about the use of 3D printing, she doesn’t know about many practical applications for it in education below the college level. Benet has not begun to incorporate 3D printing into the school’s curriculum, unlike other local high schools like New Trier Township High School in Winnetka, IL. She said, “I’m not sure of many other practical uses of 3D printing currently or how often they are used though. My school doesn’t offer any 3D printing opportunities and haven’t announced any plans to incorporate it into the learning environment.”

Illinois high schools across the state have begun to incorporate 3D printing in their curriculum’s. One way that 3D printing has been incorporated is through the use of STEAM projects encouraging students to think about entering the engineering field in the future. Specifically, these programs target female students as the representation of women in the field continues to grow. One example of this is the “GOT STEAM” program at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, IL. “A group of girls from Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, IL took it upon themselves to show their younger counterparts—from fifth to eighth grades—just how much fun STEAM can be, creating a mentorship program called Got STEAM. The girls offer workshops once a month, featuring subjects such as 3D printing, robotics, and coding. The sessions are held either at their high school or the Glenview Public Library. Kate Stack is a high school sophomore and acts as a program leader in the new mentorship program, which began during this school year. She states that the program is open to all, with boys welcomed—although the program has primarily targeted membership by girls,” (O’Neal, 3Dprint.com).

Many schools in Illinois have begun to acquire access to 3D printing technology through the use of educational grants and other means. Equipment for 3D printing can be expensive, however as the technology becomes more readily available, the price for the equipment and materials have begun to be more cost-efficient. “Those units can cost around $2,000 each, with metal, plastic, wax and other materials costing 30 cents per gram. Top-of-the-line models cost $7,000 or more with materials at 30 cents per gram,” (Poremba, District Administration). While that might seem like a high cost still, federal and state grants have made the burden of buying expensive equipment and materials a little easier.

3D printing was once thought to be a fad. Now, as 3D printing becomes commonly used to build auto parts and even human body parts, so too does the incorporation in the school. If trends in education continue to go the way they are now, many K-12 schools will begin to use 3D printing for not only engineering curriculums but also math and science, giving the world a whole new generation of engineers, mathematicians, and scientists.


Works Cited

O’Neal, Bridget Butler. “Illinois: High School Girls Mentoring Younger Counterparts in STEAM Technology & 3D Printing.” 3DPrint.Com | The Voice of 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing, 6 Jan. 2018, 3dprint.com/199443/girls-mentoring-younger-steam/.

Peterson, Tommy. “3D Printers Add a New Dimension to Classrooms.” EdTech, 13 Jan. 2015, edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2015/01/3d-printers-add-new-dimension-classrooms.

Poremba, Sue. “Finding Purpose for 3D Printers in Schools.” District Administration Magazine, 25 Aug. 2015, www.districtadministration.com/article/finding-purpose-3d-printers-schools.


Closing Time

Our class spent the first half of the semester focused on understanding the capabilities of digital making and developing our technical skills.  Many of my classmates, including myself, signed up for this class blissfully unaware of the digital canvas at our fingertips. Vishal did an excellent job helping the class quickly overcome the apparent digital learning curve. I especially appreciated class conversations with industry insiders because I enjoyed learning how digital making is currently being integrated into their business practices. Slowly but surely I began thinking in a digital making mindset.

Reading over my previous blog posts in my current mindset, it’s comical how easily 3d printing impressed me. In my first blog post, I wrote about how I was awestruck by the ways 3d printing is changing the supply chain… years after 3d printing was invented. Part of the Maker Mindset reading that week stated that students at play are the ones actually learning. I agreed with the idea then, and more strongly now having worked on a project with virtually complete freedom to create. This idea also inspired my research paper into digital making educational policy.

My next blog post is titled “creative freedom,” which I believe is one of the most valuable aspects of digital making. With the right technical skills, you can build any 3d object you could possibly imagine. This particular week I was introduced to the Fusion360 software. Despite the user-friendly software, I still struggled to keep up with the demonstrations. I learned that 3d modeling is definitely not one of my strengths. This experienced helped demonstrate the importance of developing your technical skills. for example, you could have a genius idea that will change the world, but it may never be more than an idea without the Fusion360 skills needed to conceptualize it. Learning these technical skills is just as important as learning the alphabet.

In the following weeks, I continued to stay creative at the FabLab. I made a laser cut box, an embroidery lighthouse, and worked with sewable LCD lights. I never imagined I would do any of these activities when I signed up for this class. It seemed like a poor use of my time attempting to master each software program I used for the mini projects. A universal design platform would help minimize time spent learning the same functions on different interfaces. I have learned that collaboration is a pillar of the digital making community, and I believe it would benefit from such a design platform.

At this point, I began thinking about design more and more frequently. It applies to large parts of our lives, but most of the time goes completely unnoticed.  The U of I Design for America presentation was one of my favorite throughout the semester. One of the major learning points was that design affects effectiveness, aesthetics, user experience, practicality, etc.  I learned to take a step back from the surface and focus on the problem I wished to solve, rather than the solution. Innovation happens throughout the entire design process.

During the second half of the semester, the skills I learned were put to the test. Incorporating what I had learned into a project seemed broad at first, but by focusing on a problem my group came up with a legitimate idea.  “How can we” statements helped my group solidify the objectives we were going to tackle head-on.  Our early discussions were focused on our design. There different types of hydroponic systems, sensors, and hardware decisions was overwhelming.

I was still narrowing down these choices the following week. Looking back, I am lucky to have had the ample resources around me at my disposal. Staff at the FabLab saved my group hours of research time because we were able to ask the right people the right questions. Most of our questions regarded feasibility, both technologically and financially.  During this week I also wrote about drafting the testing protocol. I thought it was a unique opportunity to re-evaluate assumptions that we had made up until this point.  The valued the feedback the prototype received because I had taken the time to properly design the questions.  I will try to take advantage of these opportunities in the future now that I understand how valuable a single suggestion can be.

I don’t think this class necessarily met my expectations because I didn’t have any genuine expectations coming into this. I came into this class with an open mind, and I’ve earned a long-lasting learning experience. My favorite part of this course has been the freedom to design and create. When I was building the hydroponic system prototype, I would sometimes think to myself, “I have no idea what I’m building.” My thought process always circled back to the problem at hand.  I would ask myself, “What do I need to do?” and “How am I going to do it?” It seems idiotic, building something while at the same time not knowing exactly what you are building, but don’t be afraid to deviate from your original plans. Think outside the box. There is genuine inspiration inside us all. This mindset truly changes the way you perceive the world. Don’t forget, your digital canvas is always at your fingertips….


Once again, thank you Vishal for the pizza filled semester. This class has been a change of pace that has been long overdue.





All great things come to an end

Expectations vs. Reality

Coming into the course, as I mentioned in my first blog post, I was expecting to make and create 3D prints and objects similar to the things that I saw my friend who was an art major from freshman year was creating in his art class such as 3D busts of myself and other small devices and contraptions to teach us the basics of 3D modeling and printing. Looking back throughout the semester and past blog posts I see that those expectations were met to a degree that was much higher than I thought. I was not only taught beginner skills of 3D modeling and printing but was also thought to have a maker mindset! Through the structure of the course, I felt as though I hit the ground running as we moved from learning designing skills such as using software like Fusion 360 and Cura to having real physical prints made in the classroom at a quick pace. It helped keep the entire class on their toes as well as very engaged and attentive considering the next step would be coming just as fast so there was very little time to waste.

Throughout the semester there were class days that were used as workshop days in which there was an experienced user or professional of a specific 3D designing software would teach us how to use the software by designing a variety of objects that we could actually print out on technology in the MakerLab or the FAB lab on campus if we wanted to. At the FAB lab we were able to do this and actually print out what we designed each step of the way to have a physical ending prototype or in some people’s cases an actual finished product to take home after putting in the time to design it. These workshops were very beneficial and helped mold us into makers more than just thinkers.

The class continuously fed into the idea of us having making mindsets through all the presentations and articles that we were exposed to that taught us about different ways of integrating modern technology into different career fields to speed up processes and develop new innovative creations. We heard from an alum who was in the course that took their semester project and turned it into a business, from a very intelligent scientist about biohacking and bio-fabrication that can be done through the use of 3D designing and modeling software and hardware, from experienced members of the FAB lab that make use of modern technology including things such as embroidery software, electrical lighting, laser cutting, etc and many other influential and intriguing speakers that are making a difference using their making mindset out in the real world. Through exposure to content like this, we realize that modern technology can be integrated with nearly any field there is and were able to begin to think of something we were each passionate about that we could creatively incorporate the use of modern technology to improve.


Internal Enlightenment

Throughout the course, being exposed to all the content of the material and presentations as well as having a semester project to work on where I had to make use of the skills I was learning about made me realize that I am a lot more capable of making a difference than I thought. Many of my other classes focus a lot on analyzing the situation and coming up with recommendations that could improve a process of situation, but this class goes past the design process and more into actually creating the solution. I was able to learn about so much amazing technology that we have at our disposal and use it to make things like a team emblem for our project team, an embroidered and light up wooden box that was custom carved with a laser-cutter, and a pour-over coffee assistant. Most important for me, I was able to scan a 3D printable model of myself to create a 3D printed bust of myself like the one I saw my best friend make of himself my freshman year! Through the fulfillment of creating these things, I gained a sort of confidence to go past just thinking and move towards making solutions. And with that I thank and chuck the deuces to this class as I did in this 3D scan of myself:

Curtains Down

Course expectations

At the beginning of this course, I expected to work extremely hands-on with 3D modeling software and printing hardware. I’ve only heard really positive things about the course and have taken a class with Vishal in the past. I was expecting to do a lot of self-learning – in a good way! I knew that the online community for MakerLabs was very extensive and that we would rely a lot on teaching ourselves concepts and then applying then. I also expected the course to be a great way to end out my senior year with a class that provided some practical, applicable, hands-on knowledge that could be transferable to industry and beyond. I also expected a great deal of industry knowledge via guest speakers and pizza!

Expectations exceed

Many of my expectations were met this semester in BADM395! Even from the first day of class, we were exposed to online design databases like Thingiverse and were able to tinker with the 3D printers. I found myself doing a lot of self-learning. Most times I had a question about Fusion 360 or modeling software, Vishal would send me a learning resource rather than simply doing it for me (which is what I was expecting)! Though this was frustrating at first, it helped me learn skills in a very impressionable way. Furthermore, we got to hear from some amazing guest speakers including executives from Thingiverse and Shapeways!

Different than what I expected

My experience was different than I expected in that I thoroughly enjoyed attending this class. Most of my classes in college have been about showing up, mindlessly retaining information to score well on exams, and leaving with course credit. However, the unique structure of this class made actual knowledge the end goal, not a simple grade. I truly appreciated that because it allowed the class to really grow and not simply check off assignments. I was not expecting Vishal’s ideology of “it doesn’t matter if it works, it matters if you learned.” I think that ideology is so beneficial for college students as it encourages creativity and higher learning!

Learned about myself

Through this course, I learned that I am capable of doing a lot more than what I expected I could. In all my years of school, I was used to an instructor teaching me an initial methodology and then having me practice it. However, in this class, there were of a lot of guest-lecturers and big ideas. After some brief tutorials on maker software, we were expected to do the majority of the work with our hands, on our own. I initially did not think I had “what it took” to be such a self-driven, motivated learner. Despite this, I found myself looking up tutorials, wikis, and ‘guru’ assistance to accomplish many of my goals in BADM395. I learned that given the right resources, I can develop myself professionally and academically without as much personal guidance as I expected.

Takeaways from the course

At a practical level, I learned many tangible skills in this course. I learned how to navigate and utilize Autodesk Fusion 360 to create custom designs for print. I learned how to export these designs into an .stl and have them printed on an Ultimaker 3D printer. However, some of the most important lessons I take away from this course have to do with the iterative design process as well as prototyping. I never truly understood what iterative design was until taking this class – I would print out model after model, trying to get the correct dimensions for a particular screw, and thought each was a waste. However, in reality, each failed iteration gave me a key insight for the next model. Having this process was essential, because making a physical 3D printed product is never a simple as it seems on a computer. Secondly, I learned that the prototyping process is an incredibly frustrating yet extremely gratifying process. It was maybe 5 iterations before we had a prototype that actually accomplished its original goal – but it was amazing to see our product actually worked. I learned that having a functioning prototype is absolutely essential to gain the buy-in of potential sponsors and clients.

Thanks for a great class, Vishal! Best wishes to you and our class for the future.

Team Money Makers Final Reflection

Hello everyone! Our team spent this semester creating a smart vertical garden. We were inspired the Growing Local Community project posted on Ultimaker’s website in which the challenge was to design and incorporate 3D printing into vertical garden. We decided to take this challenge even further and design a vertical garden that would be tailored towards college students as often times college students do not have access to a location that they can grow their own produce or flowers and therefore are less likely to eat healthy and participate in gardening in general. In addition, college students also are incredibly busy and do not have time to constantly monitor the status of something they are trying to grow so making this garden “smart” would make it even easier for students to be involved in growing their own food.

This idea led our group to the How Can We statement of “How can we give college students a convenient way to grow their own produce, leading to a healthier diet and lifestyle”. We decided to move forward and attempt to solve this problem because we are all college students and understand how busy our lives can and how constraining it can be to live in campus housing such as a dorm, apartment, or rental house. We were also interested in creating a vertical garden that was cheap and easy to maintain and was also easy to replicate. The idea is that any regular college student can walk into a maker space, such as the Maker Lab, and recreate our project without having any prior experience in 3D printing or small electronics at all.

Design Sketch

We started off our design process with a simple drawn sketch consisting of 2 planter boxes and some support beams with a box next to it to hold the electronics going into the garden. This sketch ended up really guiding our design as we began to model it in fusion as it gave a clear understanding of what we wanted our vertical garden to look like. We then began the process of prototyping our design by printing our a smaller scale of our first garden box. Needless to say, it did not go very well as we learned that we would need a brim to keep the print flat on the printer and that our design would need some changes so that it would print correctly. At the same time, we began tinkering with the sensors that we wanted to include in the garden by figuring out how to connect soil moisture sensors to an Arduino Uno and getting them to read values in real time and also connecting an LDR ( a sensor that detects light) and getting it to display values on the computer as well. The original concept of the smart aspect of this garden is that it would connect to the internet and send a text message to the user whenever the garden needed something but we soon found out that it would not be possible to acquire one in our given time frame and we had to adjust our plan. As we printed out the second version of our planter boxes, we connected a simple red LED to the arduino so that if the garden needed water or sunlight, the red light would illuminate. With that, it was time for user testing.

We decided to test out our prototype with 2 University of Illinois students since they were our primary focus. We showed the test subjects sketches of our design as well as the models we had created in fusion as well as demonstrating how the Arduino technology works. Both test subjects were impressed with our prototype and stated that they would use a finished version of our vertical garden if possible. The biggest take away from the user testing was that they both expressed interest in a display that told them more information about the status of the vertical garden instead of the simple LED. With that suggestion, we decided to add a 3 digit seven segment display to our garden that would display if the garden needed water, sunlight, or a combination of the 2. With the knowledge gained from user testing, we were ready to create our final product.

Seven Segment Display Test 

Final Prototype of Vertical Garden 

This entire process led to the creation of a 2 tiered vertical smart garden. Our final version came out to be 6in by 6in and 4in deep with an overall height of around 12 in. This size is perfect for a desk or window sill but this design can also be scaled up or down and be printed out at whatever size the user desires and can include more planter boxes if desired. The smart features of the garden include 2 soil moisture sensors, 1 LDR (light dependent resistor),  and a 3 digit seven segment display, all powered by an arduino uno. These sensors allow the garden to display to the seven segment display if it needs water (H20), sunlight, (Sun), or a combination of them (All). If all variables are satisfied, the display will be blank.

We hope that in future versions of this project we can include the things we learned throughout this process and things that we did not have time for. Some of these additions would include a WIFI Shield to make it a true internet of things device,  using a pcb to make the electronics alot more organized, a bigger seven segment display so that we can display more information, and a better enclosure for the electronics.

The process of taking an idea and turning it into a functional prototype was very rewarding for us. We learned that prototyping really is an iterative process and that a project will come together step by step over time. We also learned that the maker community is incredible. All the knowledge that we used to create our garden was found online through people who documented their own journeys of creation. Lastly, we learned that 3D printing is the future. Over the course of this process we became familiar with just how powerful this technology is and understood the scope of how many problems 3D printing can solve.

Overall, we enjoyed learning so much in this class and we would like to thank you all for a wonderful semester!

– Team Money Makers

Instructable Link: https://www.instructables.com/id/3D-Printed-Smart-Vertical-Garden

Presentation Link: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1IDzFDHrQp4gE23HTlMCCMBqrQyKVJB0DUkna7VQseQ8/edit?usp=sharing

3Dream’s Final Reflection

Our team, 3Dream, has had a lot of fun this semester going through the iterative process of ideation, design, prototyping, and testing a new product. During the ideation phase of this project, we thought of several different ideas however when we started discussing interests among our team, we found a common theme of the environment and plants. From there, we took this interest and started thinking about common problems among people our age in order to come up with a good “How Can We Statement”. We were drawn to the idea of a smart vertical hydroponic system as it solves a few common issues: rising air pollution in cities and stuffy apartments as well as providing a source of fresh produce or herbs in a small space (rather than needing a large yard to garden). We came up with three main guiding questions that we based most of the decisions in our project on.

  • How can we improve the quality of life for city dwellers?
    • From this, we came to a gardening system to improve the apartment atmosphere by improving air quality and hopefully reducing air pollution as well as providing psychological benefits such as improved mood, higher creativity and to de-stress the user
  • How can we make it easier for young people to grow fresh produce or herbs within their apartment?
  • How can we make this system affordable for the target market?

From these How Can We Statements, we developed a “smart” vertical hydroponic drip system. There are three main components that we focused on and divided up amongst the team. The Structure, which ended up being composed primarily of PVC piping and joint units with a 5 gallon bucket as the base and tubing for the water to run through within the PVC piping. The design for the main structure of our product was heavily dependant upon the available resources we had. As mentioned above, one goal was to keep this project very affordable and therefore we mainly borrowed or used scrap parts we were able to find (Specifically for the PVC piping, this was leftover in the basement of the FabLab and therefore we did not have to pay for it). The second main component of the project was how the plants were going to attach to the structure. We decided on a voronoi patterned bottle cage holder in order to be visually appealing. A voronoi pattern transforms a simple structure into a interesting, organic looking model and would provide nice design for the otherwise plain structure. The third and final aspect of the product was incorporating sensors into the system in order to make it a “smart” system. After much debate, we decided to incorporate a water level sensor into the bucket since the pH sensor was too expensive for our budget ($50) and the air quality sensor we had considered did not benefit the user as much as the water level sensor.


The final prototype changed drastically from the initial sketch of our idea. 3Dream decided to make changes after user testing and group discussions about the practicality of our design. In the first sketch you can see that there were initially two main support poles and an external water basin. 3Dream concluded that having one main support would be more stable than two. For the base of the system, we initially wanted to 3D print a stand in a similar design to a Christmas tree stand with a water basin within however we did not realize at that point in the design phase that PLA printed products do not do well with water over time. We also believed that a connected water basin would be more stable, especially once it was filled with water and therefore this changed to be a 5-gallon bucket. There were several changes for the sensors, as mentioned previously. We initially wanted to be able to test the pH of the water in order to reduce the risk of poisoning plants with too many nutrients however due to the high cost of the sensor, we decided to incorporate a water level sensor instead so that the user would be able to tell how full the water bucket was and when to fill it with more water or turn off the pump (if the water was too low). Lastly, we reduced the amount of plants the system could hold so that the system would be more compact. While most design changes were motivated by pursuing different goals, the design was also highly dependent upon the materials 3Dream was able to gather. We kept costs extremely low by repurposing scrap materials and recycling consumer products. Our prototype would likely differ had we purchased all the materials from a store.

User Testing

Some of the improvements to the prototype design are directly attributable to user testing. 3Dream spent ample time drafting the testing protocol in hopes of constructive feedback. Test subjects were asked various questions regarding their knowledge and opinions of hydroponics. Next, the test subjects assembled the prototype with as little direction as possible. During this time the test subjects responded to more prepared questions about design aspects and consumer demand. 3Dream realized the prototype looked more like a science project than commercial products in stores. The feedback the team received definitely confirmed that idea, as well as the belief that this product would serve a smaller, niche market. The user testing helped to determine a few different aspects of the project (such as the amount of plants or the sensors incorporated) however we mainly used the feedback gained to lead into things we could improve on for future prototypes and the final product if it were to go to market.

Future Improvements

User testing shed light on the path towards future improvements. First and foremost, aesthetics was the most obvious improvement. The tricky part is that ideal aesthetics vary drastically from consumer to consumer. 3Dream has several ideas to address this issue, which include: adding felt coating around the bucket, painting the pvc pipe, and printing a comprehensive Arduino box to showcase the LCD display while hiding the electronics components and arduino. Varying consumer tastes demonstrated that customers desired more customization. To better align the prototype with those values, 3Dream will develop multiple variations of the drip system. Some customers might want taller systems so that they can grow more plants. Other customers may want wheels on the bottom of the bucket for mobility or wall attachments to hang the system. Carrying the prototype from the FabLab to the classroom showed 3Dream how difficult moving the hydroponic system currently was. Adding air quality and pH sensors would drastically increase the cost, but experienced growers could find these features improve the product. Many people, including the test subjects, might be turned off by these features and the complexity they would add. Multiple product variations give 3Dream the versatility needed to satisfy both groups of customers.

Cost and time restraints prevented 3Dream from attempting to grow plants. Plants would automatically improve the prototype’s aesthetics. 3Dream identified 2 types of plants a user of this system may consider: air purifying plants and garden herbs. Depending on the primary objective of the user one may by the system to increase air quality while another may only want the system to grow herbs and vegetables. In terms of air purifying there are three top plants that grow well hydroponically while simultaneously cleaning the air. The first plant is the garden mum, which is the air purifying champion according to NASA. It should be planted at the top because it needs direct sunlight. Next up is the boston fern, which also excels at purifying the air. It doesn’t need as much direct sunlight as the garden mum, so it can be grown in the middle of the system. Last but not least is the peace lily. This plant is shade loving, so grow it in the first pot up from the ground.


Building this comprehensive prototype has taught our team many lessons, the first of which is to utilize resources on campus. These resources were essential when dealing with the challenges that arose each step of the way. We saved hours of time that otherwise would have been spent researching by asking the right people the right questions. One employee at the FabLab, Brandon, gave 3Dream potential solutions for the functional requirements of the prototype. Humans have learned to solve many problems throughout the years. You should utilize this progress instead of reinventing the wheel when problems arise. It’s always a good idea to leverage resources when available.

User feedback is another area that should be leveraged to create a product that users desire. Designing the testing protocol forces you to evaluate prior assumptions in a more objective manner. Using this as a basis, your questions will yield better results. Your mindset should be focused on continuously improving your idea, not validating your beliefs. Finally, this project allowed our team to expand our knowledge of several different systems. We were able to improve our Autocad skills designing the plant cages, acquired electronics skills programming an Arduino and LCD screen, while also learning about hydroponics systems and what it takes to design and create a working prototype.

Link to presentation: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1cobksQYS-JXenx-w7A9ZiX_uKf4AMBK-8y2yNzubJXo/edit?usp=sharing

Link to Instructable:



Final Team Reflections


When deciding what product we wanted to make for our final deliverable, we wanted to make something that we were all interested in and could help other students our age. When brainstorming, we realized we all drink coffee and find ourselves spending hundreds of dollars on coffee. We saw an issue with pour over coffee and thought we could find a way to help people make pour over coffee easier. Thus, we came up with the coffee pour over assistant. Essentially, our product would allow people to pour water into a water reservoir which would then slowly drip the water through the coffee grinds and pour a perfect cup of coffee.

Next, to make sure we were making a product that was useful and had a need we came up with a few ‘How Can We’ statements. The first one we asked was “How can we replicate popular, existing coffee brewing machines for a cost-efficient price?” We wanted to be able to make sure it was cheap enough, especially for college students, to buy. Next, we asked, “How can we make the process of pour over coffee the most efficient for the user?” The biggest issue we wanted to tackle with pour over coffee was the fact that the user has to slowly pour the water over the coffee grinds which can take a long time depending on the flavor you want your coffee. Lastly, we asked, “How can we match the coffee taste to the user’s need?” One of the benefits of pour over coffee is that you can determine how strong each cup of coffee is. We wanted to make sure we replicated this same benefit with our product. After we asked the ‘How Can We’ questions and found a need for our product, we started developing our product.

Product Development

After we identified the need for our product and how can we statements for this product, we started developing our product. The first thing we had to decide was how many different parts we wanted to make. For the first iteration we chose to make it into two pieces. The water reservoir was on top. We made it into a cylinder shape with large holes on the bottom with the hope that it would slow the water down. The bottom section had three legs attached to a cylinder with a funnel on the inside where the coffee grinds go. After testing the first prototype we decided to make a couple changes.

For the second iteration, the first change we made was to make the base bigger and eliminate the legs. The reason for this is because we wanted the person printing the object to be able to change the height of the leg if they wanted it higher for larger cups. We also wanted to make the base bigger so it would be easier for the user to fit more coffee grinds in the base.

When we were making the different parts for the second iteration, we had to decide how we wanted to fit the top part onto the bottom base. Our options were to make it latch on, slide into the base, or twist on. After we printed the larger base, the water reservoir from the first iteration happened to slide perfectly into the base. Therefore, we decided to keep the water reservoir the same size so it can slide into the base, and just eliminate the larger holes on the bottom since it did not slow down the water at all. After we had our base and water reservoir we just needed to make the legs and the different slides we would place in the base to slow down the water flow. We made the legs 4 inches tall which worked well for an average mug size. The slide we made had several small holes in it which worked well to slow down the water. In the end, we had three legs, the base to hold the coffee grinds and also fit the water reservoir into, the water reservoir, and a slide.


Testing and Next Steps

Once we had developed our product and had a prototype, we had to test it. For the first test, which unfortunately we do not have footage on, there was a lot of leaking from the funnel because there were gaps I and the holes were too big that the water was flowing through. The coffee was very watered down and was not drinkable by users. Granted, this was a very rough prototype, and the goal for our first iteration was to see how users responded to the design of the product and the overall usefulness of a coffee pour over assistant.

When testing the second iteration, we found more consistency in the coffee. The slide that we developed for the second iteration made a huge change to the coffee. We also made the funnel on the second iteration smaller so that the water would not leak as much. Additionally, since we made the legs longer and not connected to the base, it was easier to fit the coffee cup under the funnel. Unfortunately, in the video included in the presentation, we did not have the legs glued on, but it shows the flow of the water through the funnel.

For the next steps of our project, we want to make the design more reliable and eventually make it available to users on Shapeways and other sharing websites so people can print our design with their own material that is more water-friendly. Additionally, make the legs and hole size on the slides easily adjustable so it can fit the user’s needs as closely as possible. Another idea we had was to make an attachment to an existing coffee pour over that would moderate the flow of water, so our product would not actually contain the coffee grinds and filters.

Overall, our team learned so much from this project, and we feel we all came a long way from the beginning when we were discussing project ideas. We had so many different ideas about the product and it could have gone several different ways. The greatest part was seeing our ideas being printed into an actual product. It would be nice to continue to develop our product and make something that users would be excited to make and use!

In the link below, you can find our final presentation and Instructables, respectively!



Endings & Beginnings

I’m really happy I took this class! I knew a lot of people in the class before taking it from other classes, but I feel like I got to know them a lot better through the course. We became friends learning about all the different tools and machinery. I thought it was so interesting to see people’s interests through the work they created and how they customized all their projects.

I’m not really sure what I was expecting from this course. My knowledge on 3D printing was not very extensive, but I have a lot of friends that use it and I always wanted to learn. I had taken a lot of artistic, creative classes through my time at U of I, but never within the College of Business. I consider myself a creative individual and I knew I was excited to try a new form of expression. I was familiar with a lot of machinery like the CNC machine prior to taking the class, but I had never actually used one and created something with it although I have always wanted to! I expected the class to be very technical and maybe a bit hard. I took an industrial design class my Junior year and I had used CAD software so I was expecting the 3D software to be similar to that.


Looking back now, I think that 3D printing is easier than I expected although it can be challenging at times. I loved using Fusion 360 and I’m very grateful Dan Banach was able to come in and teach us how to use it. It’s so much harder trying to learn these softwares just by teaching ourselves and having a professional come in and teach it made it a more meaningful experience for me. Fusion 360 is easy to use and has a nice, aesthetically pleasing interface which I really enjoyed. It makes me want to go out and learn more softwares through other classes or opportunities I may encounter.

Probably my favorite part of the class was the weeks we went to the FabLab. I had heard so much about the FabLab during my four years here, but I never actually ventured there myself. It’s an amazing place! I loved doing digital embroidery. I didn’t ever know that was a thing until we went to the FabLab. I have friends who are clothing designers and they always hand stitch all their embroidery so I was under the impression that was the only low-cost way to do it. My grandma also stitches clothing for fun and I think about all the time and effort she puts into her beautiful designs that could also be done using the machinery. I feel like I could easily make my own designs now leveraging the digital embroidery technology. I also loved learning the CNC machine and seeing it in action was very cool. My dad is a carpenter and I’ve seen wood being worked in all sorts of ways, but he doesn’t need a CNC machine so that was the first time I actually encountered it. It’s so cool! I want to go back and make a more complicated design with the technology and burn it onto a bigger surface. I’m glad we incorporated the lights into our designs as well. I’ve taken a lot of electrical engineering classes over the years and it was nice to literally weave the concept into our design.

I liked when the Design for America kids came in to talk to us too. I am a member of Illinois Enactus and we work to create sustainable change through entrepreneurial action. We actually have a lot of projects that leverage 3D printing and the FabLab so Design for America is really up my alley in terms of interests. I liked hearing about the different projects they’ve sourced and the ways in which they are trying to improve our community. I think anyone can be innovative and more people should use their creative abilities to help people. It was great seeing the Design for America people be so passionate and willing to teach.

Overall, the course taught me a lot of not only technical skills I will leverage, but also how to think like an innovator and creator. I’m grateful I got to experience the ‘maker’ mentality and I will definitely be 3D printing in the future. I enjoyed how open-ended our project was. We got to pick our idea and really leverage all available tools to make it come to life. It was a great time and I will be sure to recommend it to friends in the future. Thanks for a great semester!

Final Reflection- It’s All Over!

Hi everyone! This semester really opened my eyes to a lot of technologies, ideas and concepts. Before coming into this class, I had a strictly logical mind. Creativity and innovation were never at the forefront of my brain. However, this was necessary to do in this class. Walking into class the first day, I was intrigued by the 3D printers and prints around the room.  The printers seemed so foreign and complicated to me. However, after two weeks of class I was comfortable printing a design on the printer.

Getting a “maker mindset” is harder than you may think. Although, being surrounded around my classmates with similar mindsets made it easier to become a “maker.” This is one of the first classes I have been in where the students actually were invested in their projects and actively trying to make their projects better. This wasn’t a forced project; it was something everyone was fully invested in. Being surrounded around this made it easy and fun to get into the class.

The designing aspect of the course was the most difficult part of the course for me. Because most of the classes I have taken have not been focused on building the physical product, I was not aware of all the struggles and roadblocks that can and will happen in the designing process. Learning Fusion 360 was an interesting experience. I was not able to come to class that week, so I learned it all on my own. I watched multiple YouTube videos and learned the basics of Fusion 360.

The first thing I made was a keychain shaped like an ‘M’.  This first print was simple, but it was super cool to see my design come to life. After that, I watched my classmates print more complex things every week. Seeing the final projects BLEW my mind and I was so happy to have been there through the whole process. It is amazing to me how creative a group of students can get.

Exploring thingiverse and pinshape was a fun activity as well. You don’t realize how many things makers have made. Having these websites allow makers to build off of other maker’s ideas and designs. Before this class, I didn’t realize 3D printing was as prevalent as it is and seeing all of these designs made me excited about the future of 3D printing.

The three weeks at the FabLab were my favorite weeks of the whole course. We created a box with an embroidered top with LED lights. Every week we learned a new skill, allowing us to explore all that the FabLab had to offer. Although I had trouble with the digital embroidery, it was my favorite part of the FabLab. Creating something that is unique to you is invaluable and unique.

The guest speakers we had in this course were also very interesting. Not only did I enjoy getting pizza whenever we had a guest speaker, but I enjoyed the unique perspectives of makers across the country.  My favorite speaker was Arielle. She was very inspirational with her entrepreneurship capabilities. She took a small problem that a small group of people had, and created something amazing and effective for it. Arielle was one of my group’s inspirations for our final project. In addition, Jeff Ginger was very enthusiastic about the Fablab and the maker community, which translated to us, making us curious about it as well.

Overall, this class was very beneficial. It allowed me to stretch my imagination and take a class that wasn’t like my regular curriculum.  It allowed me to work with other students and build off of their creative thoughts. I believe this class is beneficial for all future business men and woman because we will eventually be managing engineers and designs. Knowing the design process is helpful in this case. Thank you to all my fellow classmates for taking this journey with me and I wish you all the best!

Final Remarks

Hi everyone!

With this being my last reflection for this summer, I want to say that it has been a pleasure working with all of you throughout the semester. Having the opportunity to interact with students and faculty in various making spaces has encouraged and inspired me to adopt a “making” mindset in all things I do now. I am grateful and thankful to have taken this class during my final semester here at the University of Illinois.

Below are my final thoughts regarding my experiences and takeaways from taking this course.

 My Expectations

When I first entered this course, I had no idea what to expect. My knowledge of 3D printing was very limited, and I had no prior experience with 3D printing. My first real experience with 3D printing occurred during my sophomore year when I went on a trip to Argentina to study the effects of subsistence marketing. During that trip, I sat in on a presentation from a professor to Argentinian high school students on the benefits of 3D printing. Since that trip, I have been absolutely absolutely fascinated by the applications of 3D printing which is what led me to enroll in this course.

After the first day of class, I was most excited to learn about the various design software and to create tangible products with 3D printing. Looking back at everything now, I can definitely say that my expectations were met. Through this class, I learned how to utilize two new types of software, became more familiar with resources at the Makerlab and the Fablab, and collaborated with two other students to design and create 3 prototypes for a final project.

Additionally, I was blown away by the size and communal environment of the maker community. The people I have met at the Fablab and the Makerlab are all innovators and creators who are more than willing to help others with their endeavors. The tightknit community I was exposed to these past few months was something very inspiring to see.


For me, the most impactful speakers this semester were Jeff Ginger and Arielle Rausin. I’ve had the opportunity to work closely on a few entrepreneurial projects during my time here at Illinois, so I really enjoyed hearing about all the resources at the Fablab and Arielle’s business. Here is my post about Arielle Rausin’s business and here is my post about Jeff Ginger and the Fablab. I think both of these speakers an amazing example of the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of the making community.


Besides the speakers, my absolute favorite part of this class was working with team, the Animakers. The Animakers comprised of me, Jake price, and Ajie Matthwes. Jake is incredibly bold with his ideas and always brought an entrepreneurial vison and perspective to our brainstorming discussions. Ajie is someone who is extremely detailed oriented and phenomenal with media. He was the one who put together an awesome video for our final presentation which can be found here.  It has been an absolute privilege working with this team, and I have learned so much from them.

Key Takeaways

This class served as a reminder to me about how innovation and collaboration can help solve some critical problems in the world. The ingenious solutions that come out of collaboration is powerful and holds the power to change the world. Learning about 3D printing constantly inspired me to think about how concepts like 3D printing can be applied to create solutions to some of today’s most pressing issues.

Additionally, I learned the important of embracing failure and acting more. The fear of not getting it the right the first time is something that definitely held me back when working with my team to create prototypes for our final project. In the future, I want to use the experience I have gained from this course as a reminder to take more calculated risks and to be more action-oriented.

Lastly, I was reminded to think more about the type of impact I want to make in my future career. The Yellowdig activity I participated in throughout the semester led me to read and discover so many cool things people are doing with 3D printing. I have come to realize that even if my future career does not directly relate to 3D printing, I still hope to make a meaningful difference through my work.

Thank you all for a great semester and to Professor Sachdev for bringing in so many wonderful speakers!

Team Animaker Final Reflection

Our team, The Animakers, shared an incredible experience in building “The Steering Buddy” this semester. As we embarked on our first journeys in Digital Making, the group set a goal of improving the safety of our roads – and the experience of the drivers on them. We began working on a concept for a steering wheel attachment that would serve as a turning and steering assistant for drivers driving any type of vehicle. Our first step was to craft a “How can we” statement. We drew from the knowledge we gained from when Design for America held a workshop for our class. Once we identified the problem that steering a car be immensely difficult if you have any type of physical impairment, we created the following how can we statement: How can we build a customizable steering solution for these individuals in a way that is cheap, easy to add/remove, and safe for any and all drivers to use.

Next, our focus was directed towards identifying who would use this attachment. We envisioned a driver with low muscle tone, arthritis, carpal tunnel, or other physical disabilities around the hand that needs a bit of extra help in maintaining control over their vehicle. If “The Steering Buddy” can help this driver steer their vehicle more easily then we will create not only a better experience for the user, but for other drivers on the road as well. The road requires significant trust that other drivers are equally capable and alert – our purpose in creating “The Steering Buddy” was to improve upon this level of trust in both our users and other drivers on the road.

After coming to a shared understanding of our problem and solution, the three of us began to work on designing and building “The Steering Buddy”. The process, though sometimes challenging, gave each of us new knowledge in Digital Making which will serve as an excellent foundation for how we approach problem solving moving forward.

Our first step was to see if there were similar products already out there. We didn’t get too far along in our search before discovering The Brodie Knob, an attachment quite similar to the one we originally envisioned. Nonetheless, we used this new information to think about how we can improve upon The Brodie Knob. We set out to find the biggest issue with Brodie Knobs which we ultimately determined was its price point. Standard Brodie Knobs cost an individual roughly $60 to purchase. Additionally, the Brodie Knobs currently out on the market are not customizable nor seamless to add and remove from the steering wheel. In light of this new understanding of what is already out there, we set out to create an attachment that was cheap, easy to add and remove from the wheel, and customizable for the given driver.

Even after achieving this, our number one priority remains the safety of all drivers on the road. We understood this even more clearly after receiving some insightful feedback from our fellow classmate, Scott. Scott mentioned to us early on that we would be wise to ensure the strength of our product – we wouldn’t want a driver using “The Steering Buddy” to steer only to have it come off the wheel. Users of our attachment will likely be relying heavily on its sturdiness as the whole point of the device is to create leverage for physically impaired drivers. We used Scott’s feedback and our own ideas in order to create the base of our design. We decided that the best way to ensure durability (while also achieving our other goals for the product) is to utilize a 3D printed screw to bind each part of the attachment. Creating this screw became quite tricky as we had to find exact measurements just to get the parts to attach. When we tried to widen, elongate, or shrink the screw, it also impacted the distance between the grooves on the screw. As a result, the other pieces of “The Steering Buddy” were also impacted by these changes because the screw connects each piece of the whole attachment.

The last part our team focused on was prototype creation & user testing of our prototypes. Utilizing Meshmixer and Autodesk Fusion, we were able to design, create, and 3d print out all of our prototypes. Our prototypes included a bracket that universally fit on a steering wheel of any size, a flat surface with a strap, and a sphere attachment. For testing, we utilized an SUV and Camry. We created a short video documenting the process and made sure to only test our prototypes in parking lots for safety reasons. After testing, we noted a lot of changes we wanted to make. Although we were not able to get to it this semester, we noted that more testing needed to occur. Not only did we want to create more prototypes and conduct more testing with motor vehicles, we also wanted to test or prototypes with individuals who have physical impairments. This type of testing would allow us to get valuable user feedback and better understand how we can customize our products to match our target consumer’s needs.

 Overall, our group found this entire product design and reaction process very iterative. We learned to focus less on planning and more on action. Working with each other and our classmates taught us to dare to fail, and to continue to push forward even when we do fail. It has been a wonderful experience taking this class! Thank you for a great semester!

–       Team Animakers

Link to Instructables Post: https://www.instructables.com/id/3D-Printed-Steering-Wheel-Assist-Tool/

Link to Final Presentation:


Final Reflection

I had a blast learning Digital Making and 3D printing this semester. This course was far more hands-on than any of my previous learning experiences. My experiences with emerging technology to date had been almost exclusively on a screen. Unquestionably, I now have a different understanding of what 3D printing can do for the world around us than I had prior to the course. It was really cool to take Digital Making Seminar at a time when 3D printing is beginning to take off in mainstream society. As the semester unfolded, I became more and more comfortable with making.


3D printing

This semester, I had the opportunity to 3D print a wide range of objects ranging from an ice scraper to our final project steering wheel attachment. We learned about 3D printing in the news about everything from the military use of 3D printed smart, soft-robots to a 3D printed bus that communicates with its passengers. I think the most intriguing aspect of 3D printing is its versatility. 3D printing can improve every part of our lives. It can help us get places faster, it can help us defend our country, and it can help us be safer. I have been blown away by everything 3D printing can do for us.

Towards the end of the semester, we learned the seamless act of 3D scanning which allows us to easily recreate objects in the real world. This technology led me to wonder about an application that would take a 3D scan of an individual and create a working digital image of themselves. Then, that person could use their 3D scanned image to create a better online shopping experience by visualizing themselves in the clothing they are about to buy. The process of scanning is so simple that even the least tech-savvy person can perform it with ease.

Overall, 3D printing presents us with endless opportunities to make our world more efficient, customized, and useful. I’m grateful to have had the opportunities to explore its possibilities this semester. But as much as I can learn about 3D printing on my own, there are no people better than the guest speakers who shared their endless knowledge with the course.

Guest Speakers

The most engaging guest speaker that I learned from this semester was undoubtedly Jeff Ginger at the Fab Lab. Jeff’s passion and enthusiasm for digital making will propel the future of the industry and undoubtedly create several entrepreneurial ventures for others. Jeff represents the sharing culture that is living within the digital making space. Most notably, Jeff talked about the idea that for 3D printing to work, we need people to discover the endless possibilities that the subject can offer. In order to get those people to discover those possibilities, the space of 3D printing must be as free and open as our libraries.

Beyond Jeff’s teachings, we had the opportunity to learn from many other wonderful speakers. The entrepreneur in me loved learning from Arielle, who created 3D printed custom gloves for wheelchair racers. Her gloves help racers save hundreds of dollars and achieve a more comfortable ride.  Anytime I see a product that saves people money and improves their experience, I see a winner. It is yet another example of how digital making is going to change the world.

End products and speakers aside, we were given a plethora of tools to enlarge our interest and knowledge in the making space.


Beyond the Champaign Fab Lab, we had the opportunity to learn multiple different software programs and websites that would ultimately make 3D printing less intimidating and more actionable for me. Some of the resources I found most engaging this semester included, Fusion 360, MeshMixer, Inkscape, and Thingiverse.com. In learning Fusion, we found the quintessential software for digital making. We used Fusion to make our initial Ice Scrapers and smartphone holders which were among the first of our 3D printed creations. Later, we would go on to use MeshMixer in our final project, Inkscape for a laser-engraved box project, and Thingiverse for inspiration for new ideas.

Working with these technologies made 3D making a fun, achievable endeavor. These software applications combined with our guest speakers and hands-on learning were an amazing introduction to digital making.

Key Takeaways

Coming into the semester, I was a bit nervous about digital making seminar as I felt like I didn’t possess the skills required to create some of the things I saw in the Maker Lab on the first day. I’m certainly pleased to say that I feel confident about my understanding of digital making today.

Digital Making Seminar blew away my expectations – I could not have imagined reaching my current level of understanding by the end of my group’s final project. But if there is one thing I will take away from this course it will be my eyes opening up to the infinite possibilities that digital making offers to the world.

Reflecting on a Semester of Creations


Coming into this course, I was excited by the prospect of making a previously foreign idea (3D printing) much more tangible. I expected to learn the ins and outs of creating objects with a 3D printer as well as learning more about the capabilities of 3D printing. Inspired by the first guest lecturer, Arielle, a previous class alum, I was very excited to see what product or creation my team would come up with by the end of the semester.

My Experience

My experience in this class has been much more wholesome than I expected. I would venture to say that I gained a more creative mindset that is no longer limited by the unknown possibilities of maker-spaces. If you had asked me at the beginning of the semester to define a “maker mindset” I don’t think I would have been able to. Each of the guest lectures and workshops we experienced this semester contributed to a growing knowledge of the resources and possibilities out there. I expected to be focused on 3D printing skills and printing items each week, however I was pleasantly surprised to pick up embroidery, Arduino, digital scanning, 3D modeling/ designing, and many more skills! In this post I’ll highlight my favorite takeaways from this course.

Designing & 3D Printing

I thoroughly enjoyed the iterative design process that goes into making things. I came into this class with no knowledge on how 3D printers worked so each time I printed something I learned something else to look out for. Taking an idea into Fusion 360 Cad designing software was a new experience for me and taught me that patience is required in order to create the object you are aiming for especially when you are not an expert with the software. One of the first things I printed was a phone stand (shown below) however it was too lightweight to support the weight of a phone. Additionally, I designed and printed a cord organizer for my desk however by reducing the infill percentage (in order to print in less time), it was not as strong and therefore the dividers shortly after ended up breaking off. Read about my experience with Fusion 360 here. With each print there was a new discovery but it was always fun to pick up a freshly printed item and test it out! I am excited to expand upon my 3D printing skills now that I am aware of all of the free resources by which to do so and hopefully utilize some of the things I have learned in my career!

FabLab Laser Cutting & Embroidery

One of my favorite series of courses were the ones at the FabLab. I was constantly inspired by all of the creations on display in this neat makerspace. We had 3 lessons at the FabLab focusing on creating a laser cut wooden box, digital embroidery, and then working with conductive thread. To read more about each creation, check out the three linked blog posts. A big takeaway for me from our time at the FabLab was how much of a resource they can be for any and every idea you may have. They have experts in so many different fields as long as you have an idea, they can help make your idea come to fruition! We spent many hours at the FabLab during our final project and enjoyed bouncing ideas off of the experts and hearing their opinions our project.

Vast Resources for the Maker Community

Each guest speaker we had this semester provided a little more insight into different areas of innovation within the maker community. I had not realized before the vast amount of resources that were available for anyone to use. Some of the online resources that I’ve found most eyeopening and will potentially use in the future are the 3D printing online libraries (primarily https://www.thingiverse.com/ and https://pinshape.com/). Additionally https://www.shapeways.com/ and https://voodoomfg.com/ both provide the machines, materials, and guidance in order to print anything that you design and have it shipped to you. All of these cites help to make 3D printing even more user friendly. A neat resource to learn new skills from that I was made aware of through this course is https://www.instructables.com/ which provides tutorials on almost any DIY project you can imagine.

Final Thoughts

One of my biggest takeaways from this course is that I am so much more capable of building and creating things than I expected. I learned how to program an arduino simply through expert advice at the Fablab and by watching Youtube tutorials. I learned how to design in CAD through a class workshop and then continued online tutorials. We learned how to create a vertical hydroponic garden through hours of online research, Instructible tutorials and advice from fellow makers and gardeners. I learned the iterative process of prototyping and the pride that comes from a final working prototype. The resources are out there and just waiting to be utilized to bring ideas into creation! This class has been one of my all time favorites and I am so happy to have had the chance to learn and grow with such a great group of people!

Thanks for following along on this journey, I hope you’ve been able to learn a little from my experiences or that you’ve gained a new interest as I certainly have!

Final Reflection

I came into this class extremely excited to learn how to make things. My original course plan left me without the ability to take this course but, like most plans, things did not work out and I was lucky enough to have the ability to enroll in Digital Making Seminar. I had originally thought that this class would focus mostly on 3D printing and getting hands on experience through structured assignments that maybe let us explore different technologies a little. What I did not expect was how much this class would teach me about the entire process of making something from simply coming up with a concept to turning it in to a functional object and the wide range of skills that this class would leave me with. My experiences in this class definitely exceeded my original expectations

My favorite part of this class was all of the things that I learned. To start, I was able to refine my skills with 3D printing and become familiar with a more powerful modeling tool than I had ever used before. As I described in this post, Fusion can be an incredible software to use once you have mastered all of the tricks that come along with using it. In the future I definitely hope to continue refine my skills in modeling in hopes that I can eventually design my own replacement parts for my cars and my professional audio equipment. I also learned about design thinking and how creating something is an iterative process. I enjoyed the class activity that I described here because it showed how it is possible to take a problem and work through it to come up with a solution and especially how creating a How Can We statement helps you stay focused on the problem you are trying to solve.

My time at the Fab Lab was also full of learning. Over the course of those 3 weeks, I got to experience three different ways of making things that I never thought I would have learned. The first of those was embroidery as I got to see how simple it was to take a concept and create a colorful piece of art. This is a skill I hope to teach to my mom as she’s always wanted to learn how to embroider. Laser Cutting was also really cool to learn because it was surprisingly easy to design objects to be laser cut and it was a great experience working with a machine that costs thousands of dollars. Getting to learn about e-textiles difficult but extremely rewarding. This was one of those skills that I had no idea I would learn about in this class but was happy to get hands on experience in. I will admit that although I have plenty experiences in sewing, adding lights on to the embroidery was pretty difficult as I was working with pretty small parts. I also hope to show my mom how this works as she enjoys arts and crafts.

Finally, one of the biggest skills I learned was how to work with Arduinos and small electronics. I have had experiences working with electronics in the past but the components that I needed for our final project was all new to me. I was excited to get hands on experience with Arduinos. I learned pretty early on that it is important to take working with an Arduino slowly and step by step so that you don’t get overwhelmed. I also discovered that the maker community has an incredible presence online that that everything I needed to learn was available. That being said, I also learned that it is incredibly important to really understand what a piece of code does or what a particular pin in a sensor or display does. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck trying to piece together other people’s work and will never truly learn anything useful. Getting to use what I learned about Arduinos to create a fully functional prototype of a vertical garden that let the user know if the plants needed water or sunlight was an incredible experience and extremely satisfying.

Overall, I think the biggest thing that I learned from taking this class is that I am more capable than I think I am. Having learned all of these skills myself, I have gained the confidence that I can pick up whatever knew skill or technology that I am interested in and drive myself to master that skill. This class will by far be one of my most favorite classes that I have taken during my undergraduate career and I am thankful for the opportunity to have taken it.

Final Project Reflection- Team Synergy

Hello everyone! We are team Synergy. We had a great time this semester working, creating and talking with you all! When deciding on our final project, we had a little trouble. Our first idea of creating a solar powered coffee/tea heater fell through. When in the prototyping stage, e realized that this project wasn’t feasible. Although this was a huge step backwards, we gathered together and decided upon a simple, yet effective design. Airpods are becoming increasingly popular. How can we find a way to keep the pods in the user’s ears even when doing intense physical activity? In addition to this, we wanted to find a way to get more students involved in the making process and 3D printing. If there is anything we learned from this course, it is that 3D printing is on the up and coming and will be very useful and important in businesses in the near future. Therefore, we thought it was important for students to learn the basics of 3D printing to further them in their careers. Our final project of “iClips” allows students to make a customizable headphone clip to fit snug on their ears, allowing them to use Apple Airpods to work out and do any physical activity they would like.  

Designing the iClip was not as simple as you would think. Thankfully, our friends at the Fablab helped us out a lot. They explained the process of splining and sweeping which was the basis of our project. After a lot of tinkering and perfecting was required, but eventually we made our design!


Then, the prototyping process began. We received many useful insights from test subjects during the prototype testing phase. We asked two college of business students and one alum for their thoughts on our initial design. The first respondent, Tanmay, was enthusiastic about the product. He felt that the fit was comfortable and sturdy. He did, however, suggest that the product be modified to clip onto other types of earphones, since he was not an iPhone user himself.



The second respondent, Christina, exercises frequently and was also very excited about the product. While she mainly uses over the ear headphones in the gym, she said that she could see how others might find the product very useful. The product did not provide a comfortable fit over her ear, because it was too large but she said she’d be willing to use it if it came in a smaller size. When asked how much she would be willing to pay for a custom-fitted set, she said she’d pay up to $15.

The third respondent, Elsie, had a difficult time figuring out how to wear the ear clips. She said it was a bit confusing to figure out by herself, and suggested providing some sort of illustration to show people how to put on the ear clips correctly. Once she was able to position the ear clips, she thought they were quite comfortable. In order to improve the design, she suggested making sure that the material was sweat resistant, particularly for those who use the ear clips while exercising.

Next Steps

Based off of the feedback we received, we wanted to continue focusing on creating different sizes based on each user’s ear, and on creating a universal clip. We relied on a mobile application called Ruler to try and see if there was a way that people could take measurements of their ears through a photograph. That way, users could send us their measurements and we could determine the size of the ear clip best suited for them.

We found the app to be quite precise in its measurements, which were taken by the user holding up a quarter next to the object they wanted to measure (in this case, their ear.) These photos demonstrate some of the ear measurements of users using the Ruler app:

However, after gathering more test subjects, we found that there wasn’t enough variation in ear sizes to justify creating multiple sized ear clips. Instead, we found that some test subjects prefered a more flexible fit, while others wanted a firmer grip. We were able to create a range of fits by adjusting the infill amount while printing our base ear clip design. We finally selected three infills– 20%, 30%, and 40% and gave test subjects each clip to try. Those who preferred a loose fit liked the 20% clips, while others preferred the 40% clips.

Had we had more time, we would have liked to print our prototype using a natural flexible PLA instead of the regular PLA material we used. This material would’ve not only provided more comfort, but would probably have also been more sweat resistant, to Elsie’s point. We would have also liked to perfect the universal ear clip–however, we found that our design worked well on both Apple earphones and airpods, which was our original intent.  

All in all, we felt grateful for having had the experience of ideating, designing, and testing our prototype, with so many helpful resources at our disposal. We had changed our project idea halfway through this course, so while it was difficult to catch up with the other groups, we were proud of our end product, despite its shortcomings. Our takeaways were:

  • A design is important, even if it solves just one person’s problem
    • While our ear clip design wasn’t nearly as complex as our original solar-powered hot plate idea, it still solved a problem and that was something to be proud of.
  • Design is an iterative process
    • As told throughout this course by multiple guest lecturers, the prototype testing process turned out to be the most useful and necessary step towards creating a better product.
  • Marketing your idea is just as important as designing a good product
    • We wanted this product to be centered around the idea of bringing students into the MakerLab. As seniors who had minimal interaction with the maker community during our 4 years on campus, we felt incentivized to inform unaware students of the resources available to them. Given the simplicity of our ear clip design, we felt that students would be excited to either design or print their own in the future.

Here is the link to our final presentation! Enjoy!


Final Reflection and Parting Thoughts

I came into this course equipped with virtually zero skills in digital making, and an open mind. I had a baseline understanding of 3D printing and the MakerLab, but I had no idea how many other resources I’d come across over the course of the semester. I was primarily interested in developing modeling skills because I wanted to understand the more technical side of digital making. Thankfully, I had plenty of opportunities to practice modeling across a variety of platforms like Autodesk’s Fusion360, MeshMixer, and TinkerCAD. The tools were more intuitive than I thought, although there were definitely times when I found myself frustrated during the modeling process.

What I did not expect was to develop skills in a range of areas beyond those involving a computer. From digital embroidery to the principles of design, our classes focused on a variety of topics that really opened my eyes to the breadth of the maker movement. I’d always assumed that 3D printing and digital making catered to engineers, but I loved learning about how people across disciplines have pursued their passions or solved problems with the help of the maker community. I have always identified as an artistic person, so I really enjoyed being able to engage my more creative side and see my own designs or ideas come to life.

I think the greatest takeaway from this course for me, personally, was the importance of having a maker mindset. Upon learning what a “maker mindset” is, I thought I had one—however, this course has proven that I still have a long way to go. I only used a fraction of the resources we had available to us this semester, and I often found myself feeling overwhelmed with the possibilities presented to us for our final project. My personal goal is to take the learnings from this course and become more comfortable dealing with the unknown. I would love to become more of a “tinkerer” and problem solver, and this class has really inspired me to keep working towards developing in that regard.

Here are a few of the skills I’ve developed over this semester:

  • Modeling with Fusion360

We were lucky to have Dan Banach from Autodesk personally come and provide us with a workshop on Fusion360. I was so nervous about falling behind during the tutorial, but with the help of classmates, I was able to keep up and I realized that I wasn’t so bad at modeling! The very first object I fully modeled out was this Illini-themed ice scraper.

  • Design Workshop with Design for America

This was probably my favorite class of the entire semester. The students from DFA taught us about various design principles and then led us through an activity where we were able to brainstorm ways to solve a certain problem for a user. My group chose to create a solution for a blind user who wanted to participate more in student life at a large university. We came up with the idea of a Wi-Fi and GPS-enabled walking stick to ensure her security and sense of comfort at crowded football games. We learned about the importance of prototype testing and the principle of design as an iterative process. All in all, it was incredibly eye opening and really helped me try to embrace more of a maker mindset.

  • Digital Embroidery, Laser Cutting, Circuits, and Sewing at the FabLab

The workshops at the FabLab closely follow the DFA workshop when it comes to my favorite part of the course. I thoroughly enjoyed the digital embroidery tutorial, led by Duncan.


My digital embroidery creation

I had no idea that such machines even existed, and I was even more impressed by the speed at which they operate. I also enjoyed learning how to use to laser cutting machine with the help of Clinton.

my laser cutting designs for the wooden box

If there’s anything I didn’t love as much, it was having to sew the LED lights onto our final box covers. I appreciated the quick review of how circuits work, but having to sew those tiny lights onto canvas by hand was no easy feat!

the initial sketch of the circuit layout

As I mentioned before, I really enjoy engaging my more artistic side, and both of these workshops left me feeling satisfied with a beautiful end product. I’d love to revisit these skills—I think they’d help make a great personalized gift in the future!

  • 3D Scanning

This was the tool I was most excited to get my hands on! Our original idea was to use the 3D scanner for our final project of creating customizable earphones. We wanted to scan the user’s ear to print out a mold to use for the shape of the earphones. We quickly realized, however, that the scanner could not capture the depth and detail necessary for this. That didn’t make it any less fun though—I enjoyed scanning various classmates’ ears for half an hour before realizing that it was a futile attempt.

The ear I scanned didn’t quite scale correctly when printed, leaving me with this humorous attempt and end product

I think I’ll stick to scanning peoples’ heads for 3D printed busts in the future.

As you can see, this truly was a semester of learning for me. And there’s so much more I want to explore! I’m glad I decided to take this course—it has really challenged me to seek out a variety of resources I never even knew existed. I couldn’t think of a better way to end my undergraduate journey—thank you Vishal, and fellow makers for a wonderful final semester!

Final Reflection: e-Portfolio

Hello again, everyone! I enjoyed meeting you and working with you throughout the semester.

I found it so refreshing to be in an interactive class with all IS/IT majors. I am also an Accounting major, and I feel that people tend to know each other a lot better in the Accy Track. This class allowed me to meet and learn from all my fellow IT majors! Additionally, I work with a lot of other majors (engineering, poly-sci, english, etc.) in my minor and organizations. So while I think I would have also benefitted from a more diverse class (in terms of majors), I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from those within my major.

Below are my final remarks regarding the course.



When I signed up for this course, I expected to be 3D printing gadgets and learning about how 3D printing will “rock the world”. Maybe I just didn’t read the course description close enough, but I was surprised to learn we had (almost) total freedom when it came to our final project and learnings over the course of the semester. I was also surprised to learn that not all of the in-class speakers were specialists in 3D printing.

Surprised, but not disappointed! Vishal introduced me to the maker community and what it really means to create and share. I learned that 3D printing is just a small part of this huge maker community.


To me, the most impactful guest speakers were Jeff Ginger and Dot Silverman. I have been involved in social entrepreneurship through Illinois Enactus and was interested in learning more about how 3D printing and the maker community are involved in it. Here is my post on Jeff. Here is my post on Dot. I really appreciated how Jeff works a lot in the local community, ensuring that the many underserved schools around us can get access to 3D printing and other important maker tools that contribute to STEM learning. Dot is studying to be a STEM educator and talked a lot about biohacking and how it can be used to teach science more effectively. I also admire how she talked about how biohacking may reduce costs and increase accessibility of certain medical devices or implants in the future.


This semester, I learned how to use Fusion 360, Meshmixer, rewire the 3D printers, operate a Kinect device, and much more. I printed my first 3D printed pieces out of PLA. Here is one of the creations I  printed (it’s in the same post that Dot is featured in)! I also became more familiar with Arduino, coding, and assembling a bread board through my group’s final project! And let’s not forget the FabLab. Laser etching and auto-embroidery are both awesome skills I picked up as well. Here is the link to my embroidery post.


As I mentioned above, I am so happy to have been able to spend more time in a smaller setting with my fellow IS/IT majors. My group (Shayna and Scott) were amazing as well! I couldn’t have asked for a better group to end my college career with. We all learned new skills together, and I was constantly astonished at how willing they were to work (we all have had those past group project experiences that have made us lose all hope)! Additionally, Norman was a huge help and inspiration. I learned a lot about just figuring things out yourself from him. This may sound small and silly, but my team wasted a couple weeks trying to cobble together instructables to complete our project. We spent that time not really being sure of what we were doing to our breadboard, but if we had left the instructables aside and just started learning what each connection did piece by piece, I think we would have understood how our motion detector worked much earlier.


I had a blast during this course. I appreciated the freedom, lack of formal assessments, and encouragement of learning. The maker community is an amazing place, and I will continue to find ways to be part of it in the future!

Thank you to Vishal and all the amazing speakers. And thank you to my team members and fellow classmates!

– Aubrey

Team Project Reflection (Fast Forward)

Hi class – we enjoyed meeting and working with all of you throughout the semester! Below are our final remarks:


When working together toward our final project in BADM 395, our group benefited from the unique experiences and skill sets each of us had. Scott and Shayna are both ISIT and Marketing Majors, while Aubrey is majoring in ISIT and Accounting and also has a Technology and Management minor. Aubrey was able to bring her past experiences with using Arduino to the table, as our final project ended up revolving heavily around this area. Scott has had exposure to R and SQL coding, which was very beneficial in the creation of the code that was ultimately uploaded to our Arduino. Finally, Shayna has Business Plan Development experience and used soft-skills when crafting the different deliverables.

Our initial idea generation had us considering projects as diverse as 3D printed wheelchairs and musical instruments to a breathalyzer bracelet. We finally settled on this motion detector to count the number of people coming into and out of a building. The idea was that this would help restaurants, bars, shelters, and various businesses keep track of their traffic so that they would know things like when they reach capacity, how much inventory they might need for certain weeks and days, and how many workers they should have based on how busy they get at certain times.

In our needs analysis, we covered many “How Can We” statements about how to prevent overcrowding in certain businesses and buildings, how to count the number of people in a place without a full-time person to count, how to detect movement, and more. We also contacted a few businesses such as BrewLab and CU at Home homeless shelter, as well as a few on campus bars. We researched online and found that professional versions of our idea cost anywhere from $120 to almost $1000, which most of these small businesses can’t afford. We were confident that our version would be able to be made for far less, even including labor.

Our resources came mainly from the MakerLab and the Fablab. We received help from Brandon at the FabLab, who suggested that we use PIR (Passive Infrared) sensors instead of our initial idea of a laser and a sensor across from each other. We also got plenty of advice from Vishal as well as our classmates. Norman, especially, helped extensively with our coding process. In the end, we used a laptop with Arduino software, two PIR sensors, one Arduino, ten conducting wires (where six were in-to-out and four were out-to-out), one perfboard, and one USB-A to USB-B cable.

Our prototyping efforts went through many different iterations. We began with our people-counter, and were trying over and over again to get the code just right in order for our push-button version to work. This version was just supposed to “count up” when a button was pressed. Our prototype was very messy and filled with tape to keep things in place and to separate wires. We became frustrated when this wasn’t working and asked Norman for some help. He advised us to skip the push button step and go straight for motion detection, which we helped us develop a code for and attach the sensors to the Arduino and board. We first started with one simple PIR sensor and attached it to the Arduino to test if the code worked. When it did, we moved on to the two sensors connected to the Arduino through the Perf Board and had the code read “Motion Detected at Sensor 1” and “Motion Detected at Sensor 2” depending on which was triggered. We are pretty proud of how user-friendly our code is and how much cleaner we were able to make our final prototype appear.

To make our final product feasible to put into businesses, we felt that we would need to contain the wires and the Arduino in some sort of unobtrusive container. We found one in the MakerLab that had been left there and used this as our inspiration. We created a long, thin box with holes for the USB port as well as for the sensors. Our model, however, went through a lot of change in a small amount of time, and therefore become much smaller than we had originally thought. For this reason, the box that we found in the lab turned out to be a better fit for our needs, so we gave it a purpose and used it as our Arduino and Perf Board container with the idea that it could be attached to a wall for use in stores. Our final product took only $33 to complete, not including labor hours. We are proud of how affordable our model is, as it would be a great competitor in a market where the next cheapest product is over $100.

In summary, our design started as one thing and became something significantly different. Through speaking with possible end-users, we found that many places can simply use Google Analytics data to track how busy they are at different times. While some may still have use for a people counter (such as bars for capacity reasons and homeless shelters due to lack of cell phone GPS data for Google Analytics to track), we felt that moving forward with an area sensor would be the more practical choice. One business owner said that they would appreciate this both so that they could keep track of where people are in their store for security reasons but also as a measure for the effectiveness of displays or the desirability of certain products. Soldering on an attachment for an SD card to record data would have been our next step for this project.

We see sales potential for a product like this as a cheap alternative to existing products on the market. If we were to start this business, we would begin trying to sell to small businesses in the area and grow the business to other areas if this is successful. The ultimate goal would be to sell in the online space to directly compete with the other models available. While we were able to get a lot of good feedback from different businesses, we were never able to test this product in-store or track and store real-time data.


Instructables Link can be found here.

Presentation Slides can be found here.

We learned a lot from this project! We learned that tinkering and taking time to try, fail, and try again is very important. We also learned that the project you start on might not be the project you end with. Finally, we learned how beneficial classmates, teachers, and other makers can be when we actually ask for help. We have loved this class, this project, and can all say we learned a great deal since January.

Thank you for a great semester!

– Team Fast Forward