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.





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