All posts by Aubrey Haskett

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.

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Expectations

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.

Speakers

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.

Skills

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.

Friends

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.

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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:

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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.

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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

Testing & Feedback (Week 12)

What Happened?

Our 7-segment, 3-digit screen came in this week! Our group scrambled to add it to our board in the hour of class we had before prototype testing began. To assemble our counter using the clicker, we were using a combination of instructables, professor/FabLab advice, and our own tinkering. We were able to get a few segments of the display to light up, but the code we had was originally written for a 1-digit display. This caused one segment of each of the three digits to light up, but no one digit had a full set of segments filled in.

We explained our problem to the first group who analyzed our prototype. We also explained what we hoped to make the counter into – a fully functioning, light-sensitive and compact product that can be mounted on the door frames of local businesses. They gave us some good ideas about overall business ideas and how we should present the finalized product, but we still needed to fix the segment display and transition to the PIR sensors before we could apply any of their recommendations.

When the next group audited our prototype, Norman offered a ton of advice on how to connect the sensors, remove the mess of wires we have, and get the board to work with a new setup. He and his team are working on the planter that senses light and soil moisture and are also using an Arduino and 3-digit counter. Norman is someone who tinkers around with this tech a lot and has a knack for finding his own solutions – he helped us learn how to move away from the instructables and start to find our own solutions!

Why does it matter?

At first, I didn’t think having other groups prototype our product would be effective until we got all the code and wires working. However, the session was very helpful in refining our business ideas and what we will do to improve the product after we get it working. Also, we would have never gotten the help from Norman and his group if we hadn’t has this session! So thanks to both groups and especially to Norman for all of your help.

What are our next steps?

We will move forward with the light sensors – no more push button for us! Now, we need to modify the code to count up and down. We will do this by programming sensor 1 to count up if something passes in front of it, and sensor 2 to count down if something passes in front of it. This can be done with simple “if” statements in the Arduino code.

If we have enough time, we will look into placing the external memory on top of our Arduino, allowing the users to remove the SD card at the end of the work day and download all of that historical data.

Then, we will print a simple case for the system to cover the exposed wires and make the counter easier to attach to the door frame of a business.

Here is a video of our prototype. 

Building & Testing (Week 12)

Hello, everyone!

This week, my group focused on building our working prototype and uploading our code to the Arduino board. We spent past weeks learning what the laser sensors were, how the Arduino worked, and really getting an idea of how the more complicated pieces in our people counter operate. However, when we started to put the first working model together, we found that we had missed learning about some of the little things! Is there a positive and negative end to the LEDs? Can we connect resistors to each other? Can we put the resistors directly on the Arduino or do we need to put them on the perf-board? Does it matter?!

We learned that it’s important not to overlook these little things, but we were able to figure them out as we went. We did not have a 470 ohm resistor (called for in our guide), so we connected 2 resitors of lessor values to get to that 470 ohms. Here is the website we used to learn how to determine how much resistance one resistor has. If you didn’t know, ohm resistors use colored bands to show the user what resistance they carry. You read the bands left to right – each color has a number attached to it. Below is a chart you can look at o determine what resistance your resistor might have.

Since our 7-digit display had not yet arrived,  we made our first working prototype with individual LEDs. A 7-digit display is just many LEDs put together in a particular oder. Organization of the lights aside, connecting a few LEDs to our perf board allowed us to get a similar effect.

We were able to upload our code to the Arduino and connect all the wires we needed to. We did not have a battery on hand, but we used the Arduino connector in conjunction with a 5V cell phone converter and plugged the counter into the wall socket. Regular sockets run at about 120V, so it was important to have the converter in order to not overload our creation.

We were able to hook up the counter to power and run the program – we made a few of the LEDs blink! We are currently using the push button, not the laser sensors, so every time I pushed the button, we’d have a light blink. It was gratifying to see all our wire connecting and learnings pay off.

Another thing my group discussed was memory. An Arduino can hold the memory of the program its running, but needs extra memory to hold anything else. If we want our counter to hold historical data, we have to add a chip or another board to our Arduino. This will require us to solder some wires, so we will look more into this next week. I found this forum online discussing Arduino memory that has been helpful to me. It might also be helpful to groups also using Arduinos.

3D Printing: Making Music More Accessible (Once A Semester Activity)

Throughout my semester in the Digital Making Seminar, I have been thinking about 3D printing and music. I am a musician myself, as are my parents and many others in my extended family. I was fortunate enough to attend a school and come from a family where instruments were provided to me from the very beginning. As I progressed both in age and ability, the quality of my instruments did as well. I am a percussionist, so not only did my instrument need upgrading as my skills grew (like any musician), but all of my instruments needed upgrading. My school had most of the percussion instruments called “toys” and other small instruments I could practice on, but I owned my own marimba, drum set, and concert drums. For any instrumentalist (and a percussionist in particular), the cost of upgrading instruments (or even buying them in the first place) is staggering.

I’d seen plastic trombones and trumpets at music conventions before – I knew that brass wasn’t the only material that could be used to make those instruments. I’d seen cheaper, plastic tambourines, flutes, and other instruments before, so I knew it could be done. But this class got me thinking – could they be 3D printed? And furthermore, could this be a way to introduce entry-level instruments to beginning musicians from underserved schools?

My mom used to do instrument contracting with Quilan & Fabish, a music company that sells and rents out instruments primarily to schools in the Midwest. To rent the lowest grade, entry-level trombone, the cost is nearly $40 per month. If a student is in school for 7 months, that’s $280. If they practice over the summer, that’s $480. Many underserved schools don’t have the budget to buy instruments outright and rent them to students cost-free as my middle and high schools did. These underserved schools often have to fight for the budget for a music program, so you can imagine how absurd a teacher requesting 12 trombones plus any other instruments for the students might be. Additionally, many of the parents of these children in underserved schools do not have the money to rent or purchase the instruments. My mom recounts visiting several underfunded schools in the Chicago Public School system with Quinlan & Fabish and watching parents take their children home empty-handed from the instrument try-out session because they could not afford the instrument.

There have been plenty of studies pointing to the benefits of music and the arts in childhood development (you can download and read some of those studies here, here and here). The National Association of Music Merchants has reported that music programs in schools keep students engaged in the classroom, improve early cognitive development as well as math and reading skills, and develop critical thinking skills. These findings all point to an obvious course of action – making sure public schools offer music programs – but the stark reality is that music is often one of the first things to be cut, from both the parent’s budget and the school’s. According to Children’s Music Workshop, 1.3 million elementary schools do not have access to music classes or band/choir programs. That is why I’d like to take the rest of this activity to explore how 3D printing may be able to bridge this gap and provide children with the affordable instruments they deserve.

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Currently, 3D printing and the music industry are intertwined, but not in the way that would bridge the previously mentioned music education gap. Artists and musicians are collaborating to produce instruments or shells for instruments with interesting designs and patterns. Below, you can see the 3D printed body of an electric guitar and the 3D printed shells of a drum set. The last picture is of the shell of an electric keyboard. In this case, 3D printing has only been used to enhance the beauty of the instrument – making it novel and futuristic, but unfortunately, not bringing down its cost. As you can tell form these exhibits, 3D printing can be found in the world of music, but not quite in the capacity I had originally hoped.

 

Guitar (Picture from Created Digital Music)

 Drum Set (Picture from 3D Printing News)

Piano (Picture from 3D Printing News)

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I did find some 3D printed instruments that were more targeted towards function rather than form – this is the research an idea like mine would need in order to begin developing more realistic instruments (rather than the whimsical ones we see above). Here is a Thingaverse file for a 3D printed ukulele. A video of the creator playing the final product can be found here. However, the ukulele and many of the other instrument files available on Thingiverse are more eclectic than they are useful. A school band program does not have ukuleles or ocarinas. These programs need violins, flutes, brass, and other traditional instruments that can be found in band and orchestral music.

Outside of Thingiverse, I stumbled across a very special company: Hola. Using Autodesk’s Fusion 360 software, Hola has created a full-sized, completely playable violin. The company has demoed the instrument at conventions and online. Hola has also made the file open-source. The company calls this violin the Holavin. And, with correct strings and tuning, the Holavin sounds really good! Here is a video of Kaitlyn Hova, the founder of the company/Hovalin, playing her 3D printed instrument. And here is a video of an 11-year old who printed and now plays his own Hovalin.

Hovalin Picture

On Quilan & Fanish’s website, a beginner violin can be rented for $69 per month. For An entire school year and summer, that is $828. The Hovalin can be printed for around $70. The printer it can be made on is about $600. The printer and materials combined are less than a year or renting (towards the purchase of) a beginner violin. And once the printer is purchased, many violins can be printed. This is so exciting, because the Hovalin is the first real example of an expensive, traditional instrument being produced at an extremely low-cost with only a small reduction in quality. Keep in mind that usually, no beginner instrument for children will be high quality. The purpose of the instrument is to teach fingering, notes, rhythm, and technique. If a child continues to play and improve, higher quality instruments will follow. But the Hovalin will do just fine for a school of students who don’t have anything at the movement.

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There is not much research or many open-source files of working, 3D printed instruments out there, but the Hovalin proves it can be done. If this momentum in the music/3D printing world continues, there is hope that one day, all children will have the opportunity to pick up an instrument.

Scanning and Prototyping (Week 11)

This week, we learned how to scan with the Kinect hardware attached to the iPad. Kinect is a motion-sensing input device that Microsoft developed for Xbox. I was surprised that it could so easily be used for 3D scanning. However, the hardware and app we used to scan each other worked really well! Below is a picture of the Kinect and stand used for Xbox.

When the Kinect was attached to the iPad, it looked like this:

We had to move slowly around the subject we were scanning. It was important to have good lighting and no objects that could distract the sensor in the background.

Above is a picture of someone being 3D scanned. Since we were having trouble uploading new images, I’ve just attached photos from Google. So the above isn’t someone in our class!

We learned how to use Meshmixer to refine the scan and get it ready for printing. I wasn’t able to print mine this week, but hope to be able to do it some time in the next.

This week, my group also made our Project Testing Plan and began assembly of our people counter. For project testing, we will use other students and a contact at BrewLab as well as CU At Home.

Our first prototype will not use the laser sensors. Instead, it will use a push button. It will count up every time the button is pushed. Once we figure out how to connect all the wires and upload the code, we will move on to the more complex laser sensors.

One other thing I learned this week is that an OBJ file carries color with it. The hope is that this will be the standard file in the future, but some softwares can’t handle the color and will convert it to monochrome.

 

Arduino, PIR Sensors and more! (Week 10)

Hello all!

Shapeways

This week, we had a guest speaker from Shapeways, a 3D printing service and marketplace company. She took us around the facility and showed us their printers and office space. You can print with anything from ceramic to precious metals! The link to the website is here. I will be attempting to design a necklace for my mom – I’ll post the results in the next blog!

Darwin's Silver Cladogram Tree 3d printed

Our Project

My group is making an Arduino/IR sensor that will count the number of people moving in and out of a building. Our idea is that this product will be a low-cost option for local restaurants, shops, and even places like homeless shelters to count how many customers are in their establishment at a time, as well as store that information and build up historical data that will be useful in predicting foot traffic and demand in the future.

This week, we took a full inventory of the parts Vishal and the FabLab have given us – we have almost everything we need! Believe it or not, our counter requires a lot of tiny senors, lasers, and other parts that are easy to lose (fingers crossed we can keep everything in one place). A large part of our meeting this week consisted of actually understanding what each of these parts do and where they will connect. I was able to teach my group members a few things I learned from my ECE course, but we still had a lot to look up! We are following a rough Instructables outline of the project which I’m infinitely grateful to have. Below are a few pictures of parts.

 

Above is a 7-segment display and a PIR sensor. The display will work just like that of a digital alarm clock – it will show the number of people present in the building at any time. The PIR sensor measures infrared radiation emitted from a field of view. This is what will “measure” how many people walk in and out. 

STMicroelectronics

Above we have a light dependent resistor (LDR) and a voltage regulator. The LDR has a variable resistance that will change when different lighting falls over it. The voltage regulator will allow us to maintain the proper voltage level when the product is up and running. We will be using a 9-volt battery to run the counter, so we need to make sure the electricity running through it is monitored. 

This is the main part of our project – the Arduino! This is what will make all the parts work. Arduino is an open-source hardware (& accompanying software) company which makes this little, single-board microprocessor you see above. In simple terms, you can code commands in a special software, connect this board to your computer, download the commands you’ve written onto it, then take the board and put it on any project you like! I’ve used it before to makes LEDs flicker and blink in specific patterns.  For our project, we will command it to count every time the lighting (detected by the PIRs and LDRs) changes.

These are not all the components of our project – just a few of the most interesting. I am trying to get some of the coding some this weekend, so we will see if it works next week!

Better Understanding Circuits (Week 9)

Hello everyone! Since I was not able to complete my full box, I thought I would spend this post brushing up on my circuitry knowledge – I’ve taken an ECE course here at UIUC before, but I feel like I’ve already forgotten all the little technical things you should know about a circuit.

Did you know that the LEDs used in class (and in many other places and in many other things in the world) were invented here at U of I? Light emitting diodes (LEDs) were invented by Professor Nick Holonyak Jr., a PhD student of Nobel Prize winner John Bardeen. Holonyak went on to produce the first version of the LED. There’s a UIUC-published article about him here. Put simply, LEDs use a p–n junction diode that will emit light when activated. I studied the p-n junction in one of my classes, but always thought it was a bit confusing to understand!

A circuit can be in series or parallel. What does this mean? In a series circuit,  the components (a resistor, for example) are connected along a single path. When you look at a drawing of a series circuit, you will see  that you can put your finger on a start point and essentially draw a box around the entire circuit, hitting each component along the way. A series picture can be found below. Try following it around with your finger!

Conversely, a parallel circuit’s components are connected along multiple paths. You can’t trace your finger around the entire circuit without taking a diversion. Look at the image below to understand exactly what I mean by that.

This video does a good job explaining the differences. It’s important to know the differences between series and parallel  because they are both used in real-life applications, from your twinkly lights to the switches in your house. You’ve seen how we used LEDs and knowing how parallel versus series worked as well as ensuring oppositely charged lines didn’t cross were key in ensuring the LEDs behind our embroidery pieces worked.

I hope everyone’s boxes turned out well and hope you all have a great spring break!

Embroidery Design Software @ The FabLab (Week 8)

This week, I was able to go to the FabLab (unlike last week when I was sick!) and I worked on the embroidery machines.

My neighbor has a pretty fancy embroidery machine that has all sorts of different patterns and designs you can download onto it and make the machine sew. I never thought of designing my own embroidery pattern before this class because the machine always had ones pre-made for me!

The software we used worked much like Illustrator. You could select areas of an image, change text, and simulate what it would look like before it was embroidered. We used Brother branded machines and accompanying software. My machine got its thread caught part-way through my design, so I had a bit of a mishap the has resulted in my design not looking like it was originally intended to. I wanted to make a mountain range – the points were relatively easy to draw and layer by hand in the software. Images are below:

This first image is of the completed design. It is three layered mountains with a moon in the corner. 

This is me pointing to the areas where you can see that the machine got caught and offset my design. I had to use a thread ripper to fix it.

This is the back of my design. I used a white thread on the bobbin, so that’s why the outlines on the front of my design and the back is all white. 

Next week, we will add LEDs behind our fabric and attach it to our boxes. Since I wasn’t in the lab the first week, I think the lab techs are going to make me a plain box to use.

My group decided on our final project idea – we will be creating a “counter”, likely using infrared technology, that will count the number of people entering and leaving an establishment. Currently, only mass retail stores use them, and they can be quite expensive. If we can create a low-cost version, it can be deployed to businesses across town and tracked in an app all consumers can use to monitor when the best time to go to a restaurant, store, or other business is. Additionally, our counter can be used in a more social entrepreneurial manner – we could use it at homeless shelters or emergency waiting rooms to track capacity levels.

Here are some links that we’ll use to make our own counter:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Infrared-based-digital-object-counter-DIY-kit/

How to make a digital object counter using, infrared sensor, CD4026 and seven segment display

Because I will be working in the aerospace industry after graduation, I wanted to know if laser cutting was common in commercial plane production. It seems that, in the past, it has been used to cut the aluminum side-plates that make up the fuselage of the plane. However, I haven’t found any articles on how the increased use of carbon fiber (take the Boeing 787, for example) affects old cutting techniques. I expect laser-cutting is still used as it can reduce the jagged edges you get when you cut carbon fiber.

Laser Cutting & Conductive Thread (Week 7)

This week, our class met at the Fab Lab and learned how to laser cut wood and how to sew conductive thread into fabric. Unfortunately, I was sick this week and was not able to attend. Therefore, for my weekly reflection, I’ve researched these two activities and will share what I’ve learned.

Laser Cutting Wood

I am not sure which laser cutter the Fab Lab uses, so I researched a little bit on the machines themselves. Makezine published an article called A Guide to Buying Your First Laser Cutter, which talks about how laser cutters are popular in maker spaces and guides you through the first steps of buying one. A laser cutter can power through many materials with consistent, high precision. This is something drag knife cutters, paper cutters, and vinyl cutters can’t do. And while a CNC router may be able to make the cut deep enough, it cannot do it with precision. Laser cutting requires some design on the computer before printing – just like 3D printing. The laser operates much like the print head in a 3D printer. In fact, MakerBot, Printrbot, SeeMeCNC, Ultimaker, and many other companies started out producing 3D printers made from laser-cut parts. Epilog and Full Spectrum are popular brands for individuals buying their own, smaller laser cutters.

I’ve found that Illustrator’s Pathfinder and Inkscape are popular software programs used to design laser cuts objects. The two pictures below are screenshots of the programs. This website takes you through everything from setup of your laser cutter to designing on Illustrator. It is an article specifically targeted towards makerspace laser cutters.

Conductive Thread

I found an article literally titled Sewing With Conductive Thread, which is very helpful considering that’s exactly what one group learned in class this week. Conductive thread carries current like wires can, so it can be used like a circuit if arranged the correct way. With this thread, you can create a flexible circuit that requires no soldering. There are many types of thread with conductive metals in then, but you should know what size and give you want your thread to have before sewing. 2-ply silver-coated thread is small enough to be threaded in a sewing machine and fine enough to allow fabrics to hang normally. Another popular material for thread is stainless steel.

I know how to sew both by hand and machine, and it looks like sewing with conductive thread is not much different. I’ve read a few warnings about how the ends can fray easily and how the thread is not insulated. It is recommended that thick fabric, fabric paint, or electrical tape be used to cover the thread. You should be very careful not to create a short circuit, which can lead to heat, smoke, scorching, or smoking. Sewable components like LilyPad, Aniomagic, and Flora lines are available to purchase and are made from printed circuit board (PCB).

I’ve used a laser cutter before, so I hope to learn more about conductive threads in class next week (if I get to choose my rotation). I think both of these are important skills to know in the makerspace. I can see immediate uses for laser cut prints and products, but the I believe the application of conductive thread lies in the future where we all have wearable electronics. I’m excited to see how conductive thread will be included with fashion and tech in the future.

Biohacking, 3D Printing Networks, and a Lamp (Week 6)

This week, we printed our Fusion 360 models, heard from biohacker Dot Silverman, and was taught about UPS and 3D printing from Alan Amling.

I thought the UPS talk was very interesting – we are not yet part of a world where customized 3D printed parts are ordered regularly everywhere and by everyone. But UPS imagines a world where this can happen and has realized that, to obtain that future, we must start now.

During my sophomore year internship with Boeing, the engineering team I supported was working on producing certain tooling and equipment parts with a 3D printer. They didn’t need to be super strong – the just needed to be cheap and in large quantities. The team spent the entire summer getting the massive 3D printer up and running and conducting tests/printing prototypes. If we could have ordered from UPS’s on-demand manufacturing network, we would have had a lot more time to pursue other ventures or to perfect this one.

UPS has launched an on-demand manufacturing network that links its global logistics network with 3D printers at UPS stores. More on this can be found in a post by UPS here. As the 3D printing tech matures, it’s only natural that we start using that tech to disrupt the market in bigger ways.

Our next speaker, Dot Silverman, taught us about biohacking and how 3D printing can be one method used to biohack. Biohacking is known as “do it yourself biology”. It employs the maker mindset we’ve been learning about in class and is often used to teach and explore new and exciting facets of science. The PBS News Hour wrote an interesting article about biohacking here. I read one particularly helpful excerpt from it: “[Biohacking] takes place in small labs — mostly non-university — where all sorts of people get together to explore biology…It often is aimed at producing a product…It is experimenting on the cheap, usually without the benefit of a fancy university laboratory, and it often involves DNA and genes.”

I’ve found a website that contains biohacking lessons that can be taught in a school environment. BioHack Academy has courses on microbiology, electronics, biomaterials, and even 3D printing lessons like design and CAD!

Learning about biohacking has expanded my knowledge of the maker community and made me really excited for future students. Biohacking lends itself so well to education and makes biology fun and hands-on. Of course, Dot told us all about how bigger companies are starting to make bones and more potentially profitable products, but I really loved the smaller scale educational side of biohacking.

I’m excited to get into the Fablab and see what it has to offer. I am inspired by the lamp I was able to print out and want to learn how I can design more cool and useful things at the Fablab. The hanging lamp shade I made in Fusion 360 finished printing. It took around 11 hours! I learned how to resize it for the Ultimaker while making sure the openings were still the right size. I printed it without supports because Cura wanted to generate a support for every diagonal intersection (which would have been overboard). It printed out perfectly without any mistakes! I am very happy with it and can’t wait to take it home to use with the light fixture I have there.

My group went through several ideas and began to narrow down the ones that are realistic but still creative. We have a pretty long list of ideas that range from very technical to not at all. Many of them address different need groups. I think we still need a few more days to make a final decision, but I’m confident that all our options would yield an awesome project!

 

Design thinking is more than just common sense (Week 5)

What happened this week?

This week, we learned about design thinking. Design For America presented and led a small workshop during the class period. Taken from the group’s website, “Design for America is an idea incubator, a motivated community, and a way of approaching complicated challenges. DFA shapes the next generation of social innovators.” I am in a social entrepreneurial group on campus called Enactus – previously, I thought we were the only organization devoted to social good not through volunteerism, but through sustainable solutions. I was pleasantly surprised to learn more about Design For America and how the group creates designs (of both products and processes) to help others help themselves. I’m sad I’m a senior now and do not have the time to join the organization!

So what?

Design thinking is a strategy designers use to create new solutions. The process is first to understand then to create. Under the pillar of “understand” comes identifying, immersing, and reframing. One of the most important parts of the design process is to correctly identify the need. Something the DFA team said that really stood out to me was that a designer should look at the need first then make several different, creative solutions. It seems like common sense, but more often than not, I am thinking more of the product in the beginning of my design thinking process than the need group. I will try to thoroughly assess the need first in the future.

Under the pillar of “create” comes the last three steps of the design thinking process. Ideation, building, and testing are the more tangible parts of the process. At any time, a designer can go back to any point in the process – it’s not supposed to be static.

I’ve found an interesting article on “music thinking” and how it’s connected to design thinking. When musicians create a piece of music, they also go through the design thinking process. The only difference is that their product isn’t tangible. And steps like collecting user stories are accomplished through showing compositions to friends, fellow musicians, and professionals in the industry. According to the article, music thinking “reflects the dynamics of daily business, working together with different experts, have to perform everyday on an high expectation level in different performance venues for an changing audience. Music thinking also knows ‘radical change’ in style, technical innovation and behavior of the crowd, customer, consumer, user, downloader. Music thinking is the behavioral side of design thinking.”

The article goes on to apply this thinking to a dancer’s routine creation. Find the article here. We learn a lot about things like design or music thinking in classes that might seem like common sense – but I believe we can’t fully grasp the concepts of these things unless we acknowledge them and apply a name to them. So, while it might be true that starting with a lot of ideas, narrowing them down, and making a few iterations of a final product can be done by someone who does not know what design thinking is, there is power in acknowledging the concept and being able to check each step off the list as you design.

Now What?

I have also found this TedTalk on design thinking. The speaker talks about how sometimes, designers have to be taught to relive their childhoods in order to effectively create innovative designs. The talk is very interesting and goes into a lot more than I mention – it can be found here. I previously mentioned that I have been thinking too much about the product before I correctly identify the need group. Going forward with the group project and my own designs, I am going to spend longer on the identifying and reframing aspects of design thinking. I will also try to maintain that “child-like” creativity by not limiting my ideas before I put them on paper.

 

 

Putting Skills Behind The Idea (Week 4)

What happened this week?

This week, Dan Banach from Autodesk led a workshop on Autodesk’s Fusion 360. Fusion 360 is a 3D CAD, CAM, and CAE tool. The software allows modeling for both on and off-screen objects – you can create an onscreen model to share across the cloud or create a model intended to become a physical reality. I’ve used a couple of simple CAD software before, but Fusion 360 has a lot more capabilities than Sketch Up or other beginner CAD programs.

 

What did I learn?

The workshop was indeed helpful. Sometimes students just need someone to go through the material slowly and work the problem all the way through. This is exactly what Dan did when he taught us how to make an ice scraper and phone charger/holder. Throughout my college experience, I’ve found that there is little I can’t learn myself if I have the material. But as a student in several classes, a member of RSOs, and a student worker, I know I do NOT have the time to teach myself everything I’d like to know! That’s why Dan’s workshop was so effective for me. I technically could have sat down and learned all the beginning commands for Fusion 360 by myself (and I did a bit through looking at the prep videos), but having an instructor take you through step by step kind of forces you to learn it. I have so many programs and things I want to learn about myself, but I never seem to get to it. I guess this commentary lends to the overarching reason I’m taking this class – not only does Vishal and his speakers, students workers, and lab resources provide me with incredible learning tools, it forces me to confront this interest of mine and actually do something about it.

 

That being said, my ice scraper turned out perfectly, but my phone charger/holder very much did not. I spent the last 15 minutes of class trying to figure out how to change the plane my rectangle (to become the phone rest part) was on. I’ll attach the pictures of both designs below. As you can see, the ice scraper is pretty cool, but my phone charger/holder is not finished. I’ll need to figure out how to move that plane and finish my design, so I know what to do when that problem pops up again in the future. Unfortunately, I do not own a car and when I do get a car this summer when I begin work, I won’t need one (I’ll be in L.A. where it never snows)! So, I won’t waste the material and print out my ice scraper, but I hope to design something I can use out in L.A. in the future.

 

So what?

Truth be told, I was really inspired by Jeff Ginger’s talk last week and am still thinking about the incredible work he and the FabLab does. The past two weeks, I’ve been more focused on “how can I use 3D printing and the making world to create a job for myself and help others”. But this week was really about adding to my technical skills, so I can make that a reality in the future. I realize I am not an engineer and don’t have the base-level technical skills many people in entrepreneurship and the more technical making world have. So, while I will continue to think about my big, long-term business ideas, I’ll shift more of my focus to adding to my technical skills so I can actually carry out those ideas.

 

Now what?

My group needs to start narrowing down our product ideas in the next couple weeks. As we learn more about the printers and design programs, it’s becoming clearer which of our ideas can and can’t become realities based off our current capabilities. Next week, our class is centered on design thinking, something I’ve covered in a T&M product design class before. I’m excited to hear about how the 3D printing and making world changes the framework of this lesson.

Learn More about Fusion 360:

Why 360 over other softwares?

The 5 Things That Made Me Take Another Look At Fusion 360

Beginner Projects for Fusion 360:

https://gallery.autodesk.com/fusion360/projects/beginner-project

 

Fusion 360 Assignment

I used a tutorial to make a lampshade for a cord and light kit I have. Here is the shared link: http://a360.co/2G3q2vS.

I learned how to create a circular pattern, how to insert planes, and how to rotate a parameter to create a 3D image. I hope I can actually print this!

 

Makers in the Community (Week 3)

This week, Jeff Ginger, director of the CUC Fablab, spoke to our class about the Fablab, its global network, open-source software, and how the Fablab enhances maker education in the community. We also began making! My group designed our logo and successfully printed it. But more on that later – let’s jump back to Jeff and the incredible work he is doing with the Fablab and the CUC community.

Jeff received his PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Library and Information Science. His research focus is digital literacy, community informatics, public engagement, makerspaces, learning, and user experience design. In addition to his position at the Fablab, he is an adjunct lecturer at the university as well as the program coordinator of the Illinois Informatics Institute. His background and current jobs allow him to be perfectly poised to tie the maker world and his local community together – something he does very well.

Jess spoke on the public-school system and how many schools “teach to the test”, disallowing children to develop a more creative, “maker” mindset. Public schools receive government funding based on standardized test scores. Meeting the grade threshold, making certain yearly improvements, and ensuring a set number of children pass the tests becomes the primary goals of many teachers and their schools because the school’s future (and inadvertently, the teachers’ salaries) relies on these metrics. So, while Jeff is currently offering 3D printing workshops at the Champaign Public Library after school hours, his long-term goal is to get the 3D printing and other maker lessons into the curriculum of the schools themselves.

Illinois Enactus, a group I am heavily involved with on campus, has a space in the Fablab. We own a wet-saw and use the lab for glass-cutting and laser etching. The lab is a great space to receive advice from the employees, work on our projects, and get inspired by the amazing work that is taking place there. Each Fablab around the world has a standardized set of equipment and software – you should be able to visit a Fablab across the world and be able to create the same things. I hope to utilize the Fablab this semester more for my personal development and experience in the maker space.

Also, in class this week, my group created and printed our logo. We named out group “FF” or Fast Forward, to signify our focus on the future and how 3D printing is becoming more necessity than a novelty. 3D printing is a disruptive technology that will continue to change the world, and my group hopes to learn all we can about how we can use 3D printing and the maker space to make the world a better place. Our logo is a fast forward symbol (two arrows) with a capital F inside each of them. We used a transparent png file of the symbol we found online and converted it into svg (one of the files Tinkercad and Cura can use). We learned how to scale and group our objects and how to orient the text within our design, so it printed out with proper supports on Tinkercad. We also learned how to set up our 3D printer and transfer the files from Cura to an SD card. I didn’t know that the sizes of the nozzle and other little settings were so important! I got a better sense of how finicky the 3D printers can be and how using them does require trial and error.

The first time we printed our logo, the edges curled upwards and the plastic couldn’t quite grip the receiving plate on one part of the print. We were on the mini printer right next to the door and I suspect the strong draft had something to do with it. The second time we printed, we used a larger printer further into the lab and our design was nearly flawless! In the picture you see below, we just have to peel the supportive skirt off and ta-da! My group was really excited to see how well this turned out.

Through the videos we had to prepare for the class this week, I learned more about the materials 3D printers can use – I was surprised to learn that PLA is derived from corn. I hope to be able to print with the wood-based filament sometime. At the Engineering Open House a few years ago (when I was a prospective student), I was able to make a Lego block using stereo lithography. I explored this primitive 3D printing-type process again in the materials science and engineering course I took through The Hoeft T&M Program. I think this was a really good basis for me to understand how 3D printing works with all the layers it breaks the design into.

This was a packed week! I hope to get more acquainted with Tinkercad, Cura, and other 3D printing software next week. Until then, here are some sources I’ve found that can help myself and other students learn a bit more about 3D printing:

 

 

 

 

Getting Started with 3D Printing (Week 2)

Hi everyone – my name is Aubrey and I look forward to getting to know you in class and through our blog posts this semester!

Week 2 Reflection

This week, we delved further into the implications of 3D printing in industry as well as how the market currently operates. I found it interesting how creative and collaborative the 3D printing world is. The idea that everyone is a “maker” or “creator” really makes the community feel rather open and welcoming. Many makers have the dream of breaking the consumer glass ceiling. This is such a radical idea that I truly admire – Fortune 500 companies control what we do and what we consume simply because they are usually the only option for us. But 3D printing can change all of that. We can customize what we need to our personal needs. We can share ideas and make products at a zero marginal cost. I really value this way of thinking as it puts power back in the hands of everyday people. I really enjoyed the video clip we watched from the Danish Design Center. If we can make products at zero marginal cost, if everyone can be their own employer or employee when it comes to consumer goods, we can begin focusing on saving our environment – the things that keep us tied up or reluctant to make environmental changes now will be eliminated.

We also began brainstorming our semester project product with our groups. I realized how hard it is to create a new product that will benefit society beyond trivial application. It is also hard to create a product for a need group when you yourself are not part of that need group. However, our group did note a few ideas already. 3D printing instruments could allow lower income schools to purchase beginner instruments and keep the arts and their teachings alive and relevant. A 3D printed alcohol and drug sensor could keep students safe on campus and abroad. Customized knee braces could save female soccer players hundreds of dollars (especially when insurance won’t cover the purchase). My group wants to make a positive difference in society – we just need to find the right need group and product.

Design 1: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:72671 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

This design is a capo for a ukulele. Capos allow a string player to change the key of the instrument without having to change fingerings. For example, if a chord progression is C, F, Am, C, but the key is too low for my voice and I don’t want to transpose the piece into different chords (which can be a lot of work), I can put the capo clip on which will increase the pitch of every string and allow me to play the same strings but sing in the higher range that better fits my voice. These can be up to $20 at a music store (precisely the reason I do not have one for my ukulele yet), but can be printed very cheaply on a 3D printer! I would have to add some soft rubber to the design to ensure the pressure on the strings is enough to change the key.

Design 2: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:240454 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

This design is to make a desk ornament/toy of one of the space shuttles. I work for Boeing and love all things space, but the shuttle has a special place in my heart! I think this would be an awesome addition to my desk when I start work this summer. If possible, I would add more details to the rockets or switch the rockets for the shuttle’s Boeing 747 carrier.

Design 3: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2515531 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

This design is just a fork. I am trying to be more green and one thing I want to do is to carry my own silverware in my backpack so that, when I eat out, I do not use the disposable plastic silverware many to-go or counter service restaurants have. I might add a spoon to the other side.

Design 4: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:952915 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

This is a more complicated/bigger design, but I bike everywhere everyday. This wind-bike is a pretty cool design, and if I was able to print with something like carbon fiber, it would be a pretty cool and useful design! I really wish I had a light bike I could carry up the three flights of my apartment and leave in my living room. However, those bikes are generally around $1000+. Looking at the comments, it seems the wheel spokes don’t print/work very well. I would probably modify this design and opt for regularly manufactured wheels.