All posts by Jason Arendt

Week 13 Progress in Design

This week, Team Synergy made great strides in our final project and we now have a better focus for our next few steps. Despite our initial struggles with other project ideas, designing ergonomic headphone attachments has been a very successful and informative process. The focus of our project will center around the short waiting period for customers to get their Air Pod attachments. We hope to create three different sizes for our Air Pod attachments, small, medium, and large, allowing us to quickly print the design and deliver to the customer. We hope to print each design in fifteen to twenty-five minutes. Upon reflecting with my team, we have decided the best long-term business strategy is to create a website or app to order the prints ahead of time and pick it up from the lab. Thus far, we have created our own design and printed a fully functioning prototype. The first iteration of the making process has been completed and we are now moving on to the crucial processes of perfecting our model. Our first model functions, however, we noticed a few critical changes we could make to improve the design and performance of the Air Pod attachments. First, the base of the holder could be smaller to fit snuggly around the Air Pod. Second, we need to print out of a more bendable material for comfort and aesthetic appeal. Finally, we will lengthen the tail to fit better around the customer’s ear. Here are a few pictures of me wearing the designs and my team members holding them.



Our team entertained the idea of scanning someone’s head and printing a custom fit earphone attachment, however, we have decided against that idea due to technological limitations. Currently, the technology is not readily available to create accurate 3D models using existing consumer technology (However, an article I shared on Yellowdig shows how this is changing). It would take far too much time to render their head and then design the earphone around it. Our current plan features three different designs, small, medium, and large for all customers. We will use Team Synergy Member Ria’s ear to model the small, my ear to model the medium, and another BADM 395 student for the large. We believe that these three designs will help iPhone users of all shapes and sizes use their Air Pods when working out. Look for more next week from Team Synergy!

Week 12 – Prototyping and Planning

This week, I was stuck at home during class time due to a stomach bug. Despite this setback, I am much happier with the current position my team is in given the challenges we have faced. Our original idea of a solar-powered drink warmer was not feasible because the power generated from the solar panel would not be adequate. If we wanted to have adequate power, we would need to wire the circuit with a nine-volt battery. However, adding a battery to the project reduced the novelty of the project. Upon consulting with the experts at the UIUC FabLab, we decided to bring our project into a different direction. My groupmate Ria, from Team Synergy, had a great idea to solve a common problem. Currently, the Apple Air Pods rest on the lower inner ear and are connected via Bluetooth to the iPhone. However, when consumers try to use the Apple Air Pods while working out, running, or any other strenuous activity, the Air Pods are prone to falling out of the ear. To prevent this, our project aims to stabilize the Air Pods by printing an attachment to keep the Air Pods in the ears.


The design will feature an attachment clip to the base of the Air Pod. This will wrap around the Air Pod and secure the stabilizing mechanism. The stabilizing mechanism is a 3D printed tube that wraps around the outside of the ear. Although we were not having great success with 3D scanning someone’s head and isolating the ears, we were able to come up with a makeshift solution. We would like to make three different sizes of Air Pod holders, small, medium, and large. This will allow us to quickly make the Air Pod holders from a set of premade molds, rather than scanning someone’s head every time we want to print the holders. We visited the UIUC FabLab to talk to Clinton about our idea and he gave us a lot of great feedback. Clinton showed us how to make a spline, an arc made of multiple non-colinear points. Once we made a spline, we used the sweep feature to give depth to our arc. When the stabilizing mechanism design was finished, we attached it to our attachment clip to finish the design. We did not get a chance to print out our prototype, so we will be visiting the MakerLab on Monday to print out a beginning prototype. More to come from Team Synergy!

Week 11 – The scanning revolution

This week in BADM 395, we explored the emerging world of 3D scanning, modeling, and printing. First, we watched a video from Jay Leno’s garage featuring a 3D scan and model of an antique auto part. The 3D modeler was able to scan the part, render it in a 3D workspace, alter key aspects of the piece to reinforce structural stability, and print the piece in a few hours. This was very encouraging to see 3D printing technology used for such a good use by Jay Leno, whose late-night show I thoroughly enjoyed. Professor Sachdev showed us his 3D scanning apps on the iPad, its capabilities, and current uses. Although the first few programs did not properly add our models to the cloud, we were eventually able to access the necessary files. Over the course of an hour and a half, I worked with Vishal to fix the holes in the model and add a base to the bust. Problems with the base and holes prevented me from printing until the last minutes of class. Despite the Cura and the printer estimating a five-and-a-half-hour duration, I revisited the MakerLab three hours after the print to find the printer displaying the “Print Finished” screen without the model. I checked the bin of abandoned finished projects but did not find my print. The models in the bin did not look like me and I did not find one with a base. Either the printer severely distorted my likeness, there was an unforeseen issue with printing, or my model is being kept somewhere else. I will post an update next week with a resolution to this mystery, so for now, here’s my model in Autodesk:


This week, we attempted to further our work on the final project but have ultimately decided to change the course of our final project. Our original idea to have a hot plate powered by a solar panel is not currently feasible with the given technology. Solar technology is still very inefficient and is not viable to quickly heat up a hot plate. Although we were happy with the direction of our project, we cannot worry about the sunk cost time spent on the old idea. Instead, we will be creating custom fit headphones using the technology used in this week’s class session. The 3D scanning technology will allow us to get an accurate model of someone’s ear and create fitted headphones. Runners, hikers, rock climbers, and the hard of hearing could all benefit from our custom-fit headphones.

Week 10 Reflection: The First Prototype

This week in class we were back in the MakerLab after three consecutive weeks in the UIUC FabLab. In this class session, we got to speak with an employee of Shapeways. Shapeways is an independent firm that executes 3D printing projects for consumers. Our guest lecturer spoke to us a bit about the process the projects go through before bringing us on a tour. Although she started in an office setting, we were quickly brought to the printing area which looked more like a laboratory or warehouse. She gave us a lot of great insights on the 3D printing process that I look forward to implementing in our final group project.

This was the first week we got a chance to work on our final projects. Working alongside Maddi, we etched out three quick designs on paper. We abandoned the convoluted idea of having the solar panel trace the sun across the sky due to lack of programming experience and starting capital. Thus, our three designs featured a static solar panel. We settled on a figure eight design for the base. One loop would have the warming plate with an induction coil and the other the solar panel. Upon consultation with Professor Sachdev and the class, we are entertaining the idea of adding a nine-volt battery to provide power even when the sun is not out. If we obtain a rectangular solar panel, we will adjust the sketches as need be. We are currently in contact with the FabLab to obtain a solar panel we can work with for the remainder of the project. Although none of our group members have experience in wiring or solar technology, I am highly confident in our ability to produce a functional, ergonomic, and effective creation. In the coming weeks, we hope to build a few more prototypes before building the working model with working coils, wiring, and solar panel.

In 2001, David Kelley, CEO of IDEO, gave a speech pertaining to the iterative process of designing an innovative product. Kelley stressed the importance of reducing the time of each phase in the making process. Kelley advises the listener to make a lot of poor renditions when starting the making process and then consult with people of different backgrounds to gain unique perspectives on your creations. Kelley values the constructive criticism he receives and tries to reduce the problems with the prototype every iteration. This process can help identify core competencies and strategic advantages of your product while also highlighting the potential shortcomings.

Week 9 Reflection: Lessons from Failure

Week 9 Creations
This week was our final week at the UIUC FabLab. In the first week, Clinton helped me design a Star Wars themed box using a laser cutter. Last week, Duncan helped me design an X-Wing embroidery using an automated sewing machine. This week, we got to improve our embroidery design by adding lights to the fabric. First, Clinton and Duncan taught us how to create a parallel circuit using a small battery, conductive thread, and a few LEDs. Clinton inspired us by informing the class that the LED was invented at the University of Illinois. I drew my original plan as a parallel circuit with three LEDs. I spoke to Clinton about my circuit, he helped me plan out my stitches, so I wouldn’t cross wires. I had not sewn anything since my Home Economics class in 7th grade, so I was a bit pensive about sewing the LEDs properly. After struggling to thread the needle with the conductive thread, I was able to sew a magenta LED and a red LED to my embroidery before realizing I mistook my positive and negative ends.
After speaking with Professor Sachdev about our group project, I decided to restart my sewing. I sewed my LEDs onto the rocket engines of the X-Wing, with a little help from Duncan. Unfortunately, when I started getting confident in my sewing ability, I made another crucial mistake. I crossed my positive and negative wires, meaning the battery would short circuit. I spoke with Clinton and he told me I could restart again, but we only had ten minutes left in class, thus, I decided to use the last few minutes to draw prototype sketches of our final project. Tomorrow, I will present my box to my youngest cousin, a huge Star Wars fan, in hopes that he will get more use out of it than I will.

Looking Forward

When we return from Spring Break, BADM 395 will reconvene in the Maker Lab to work on the final project. My group will be returning to the UIUC FabLab in the coming weeks to utilize their conductive thread, solar panels, and possibly Arduino boards. Clinton showed me a few sensors they had to detect sunlight. Our group’s idea is to create a solar panel heating unit for warm beverages. I look forward to using the lessons learned from the UIUC FabLab to improve the aesthetic appeal of our final project.

Week 8 Reflection

Week two at the UIUC FabLab was constructive and entertaining. When I arrived, I retrieved my laser cut box. The box says “The Force will be with you, always” a quote from Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope. On the bottom of the box, there’s a large Rebel logo. I was able to fasten my box together without any glue, meaning the cuts were precise enough to allow for a friction-fit. I was impressed with my craftsmanship, despite the skinny balsa-like wood.

After retrieving our boxes, we worked with Duncan to create an embroidery pattern. We used a program called PE Design that resembled Adobe Illustrator. Duncan taught us how to use the basic functions of PE Design before we got a chance to delve into our own project. Duncan helped me find a proper silhouette of an X-Wing fighter, also from the Star Wars universe. Duncan counseled me with adding an area to insert my LEDs next week. I ended up removing the front of the X-Wing’s rocket boosters, which I will replace with white or red lights on Wednesday. Duncan encouraged me to add more to my design, but I was quite content with just a simplistic X-Wing design. I explored adding an Imperial logo, but I decided it did not fit with my vision of the finished project. As much as I like my embroidery, I do not think I will end up using a box with a cloth on it for anything. I prefer ergonomics over aesthetics and I do not need the art project for anything. I’d rather use the box for storage of coins, keys, and other knick-knacks. When I return home for Spring Break, I plan on giving my box and embroidery to my little cousin, the biggest Star Wars fan I know.

Not only has laser cutting been used in industrial manufacturing, it has found a second wind in art projects. Laser cutting allows the artist to make very precise impressions that a human could not perform. I checked to see what designs are being sold on the internet. Many of the exquisite designs can cost over a hundred dollars, but many small projects can be purchased for well under a hundred. Many artists made laser cut skylines, maps, and geometric designs. If given another opportunity to make a laser cut art project, I would likely have the skylines and maps of Chicago and Washington, D.C., my two favorite cities.

Week 7

This week the BADM 395 class had the pleasure of working with the technicians at the UIUC FabLab. Previously in BADM 395, we had the director of the FabLab, Jeff Ginger, visit our class to speak about his lab and the artistic creations they’ve recently made. Because of this meeting, I was quite excited to work with Jeff Ginger this week in his lab. Upon arrival, Jeff and his assistants gave us an in-depth tour of the different features of the FabLab. They showed us some of the new 3D printers that had the capability to print with an eclectic range of materials. Jeff showed us some of the patches that had been printed on backpacks, jackets, and pants. I was most interested in some of the 3D printed projects that featured Arduino boards and flashing lights. For instance, Jeff showed us a backpack that had sensors in the straps to detect when the user touches them. When touched, the Arduino sends a signal to lights in the back of the backpack indicating that the user intends to turn on their bike. The FabLab had an extensive supply of finished projects on display. In the middle of the FabLab, a carefully carved piece of wood peaked my interest. This board featured a fractal engraving on it and arrows jutting out from each end. Since a young age, I have been very interested in fractal patterns and their practical uses. Using the same math concepts employed by the creator of the board, you can create perfectly meshing gears.

In week one of three, we bifurcated the class to work on embroidery and 3D printing a box. I found myself in the latter group, using laser cutting to produce a small box. The assistant taught us how to use Inkscape, which I picked up quite quickly. He urged us to design our box around something we really enjoy. Although the new movies leave something to be desired, the original three Star Wars movies will always have a special place in my heart. As a result, I designed my box to have the Rebel Alliance logo on the bottom of the box with the words “The Force will be with you, always” wrapped around the side. I did not have a chance to print my box during class, so I’m excited to see the final project come Wednesday. For my embroidery, I hope I can put a Rebel X-Wing on the top of the box. Once printed, I want to give my box to my little cousin, the biggest Star Wars fan I know. I look forward to working with my group again next week to turn our ideas into finished projects.

Week 6

Required Readings:
This week’s readings pertained to keeping an open mindset when evaluating a project. In 10 Ways To Evaluate A New Business Idea, the author gives ten common questions and answers to note when judging a business prospect. His questions related to the entrepreneur’s dedication to the project, feasibility of the business, and the ability to assess future losses. This article taught me how to properly view a prospective business venture by injecting a healthy dose of skepticism. By playing devil’s advocate to your ideas, you can understand a different point of view and truly come to an understanding as to why your idea will succeed. I think this article would be best used at the inception of the idea and before speaking with investors. In Creative Sparks, Goldenberg, Mazursky, and Solomon discuss the unique nature of human creativity. I, however, disagree with their initial parameters. I do not believe that creativity has ever been or will ever be truly human. Recent discoveries have shown Neanderthals to be the first artists, but plenty of species before them invented creative survival tactics. Just as biological evolution has been creative, the evolution artificial intelligence has been demonstrably creative. Many of our modern artificially intelligent bots can write stories, draw art, and even compose music.
Guest Lecturers:
This week we welcomed two guest speakers, Alan Amling and Dot Silverman. Alan works in Corporate Strategy for the United Postal Service. Alan explained to us the disruption in the supply chain caused by 3D printing. I had the great pleasure of asking Alan a question about intellectual property laws at UPS. Alan told me that my question was very common for their 3D printing customers. Many entrepreneurs worry that their patents will not be protected in the era of 3D printing. Alan assured me that he and UPS were doing everything in their power to protect the rights of the entrepreneurs. He noted, however, that the possibility of their intellectual property being lost in the event of a data breach is possible and could occur in the future.
Our second guest speaker was Dot Silverman, a graduate student here at U of I. When she was attending Pomona College, she was introduced to 3D printing and loved the possibilities at her fingertips. Dot told us about her time at Autodesk and Instructables and passed around some of her most interesting creations. One creation, a light bowl, was made from mycelium. Mycelium, a fungus, holds the record for largest organism on Earth: 10 square kilometers in Oregon. I was intrigued by Dot’s foldscopes but didn’t get a chance to use them. Ultimately, I was intimidated by Dot’s presentation because I have a fear of artificial intelligence progressing to sentience and taking over the world. I think Dot’s biohacking is helping the AI reach the singularity.

Week 5 Reflection

In our fifth week, BADM 395 hosted Design for America. Design for America (DFA) is a registered student organization on the University campus, as well as a nationwide group of creators dedicated to using 3D printing technology to better the world around them. The four guest speakers from DFA introduced us to their six-step plan to solve the issues that arise in any project. The first three steps are based on understanding while the final three steps deal with the creation process. Identify, immerse, reframe, ideate, build, and test makes up the six-step method. One concept the DFA team explained in detail was the interwoven nature of the six steps. While the team often starts with identifying, immersing, and reframing, they often ideate, build, and test prototypes. To truly have an effective finished product, the DFA team must use the six steps multiple times and often out of order. After teaching us their strategy, the DFA team challenged us to make a build for someone with a disability.

This was a great opportunity for us to learn about the challenges and potential solutions for the physically disabled. After some discussion with my team, we settled on Jess because she is a college student just like us. Jess, a blind woman, attends UT Austin and is having a hard time adapting to social situations. The case explained that Jess enjoyed the excitement of football games but couldn’t traverse the stadium without help from her friends. During the understanding phases of our creation, we identified the problem, tried to immerse ourselves in her situation, and reframed the issue. After writing down assumptions, people she interacts with, and her activities, we began designing a walking stick for Jess. Fitted with Bluetooth, GPS, and a motion sensor we aimed to help Jess navigate through Austin. Our prototype was made of pipe cleaners and our final product was made of Play-Doh. We outfitted Jess with Bluetooth headphones that relay important information to her such as incoming objects. We would pair these headphones with Jess’ phone to allow her to quickly communicate with her friends. Overall, the building process was an insightful and humbling project. I look forward to seeing more innovation from DFA.

Working with DFA taught me the importance of having a maker mindset. In the above video, you can see Infosys Foundation sponsoring a creative session for children to let their imagination run wild. At Infosys, they are more interested in teaching students the steps of idea creation rather than restricting their creativity by having an arbitrary goal. Even with the right mindset, you can still fail multiple times. However, having a maker mindset can turn those failures into lessons for future builds. Infosys shows how having the right mindset can ensure success.

Week 4 Reflection

Class Overview

This week in BADM 395, we spoke with Dan Banach as he guided us through AutoDesk Fusion 360. This lecture gave us a unique insight into custom fabrication of 3D printing objects. When I started this class, I was under the impression that we would be modeling our creations in an AutoCAD like product. I have previous experience with AutoCAD in shop classes. Because of my familiarity with CAD software, I was very eager to work with Dan in designing an ice scraper and iPhone stand. Dan first introduced us to the basics of 3D modeling through a 2D sketch. He showed us how to lock values and angles to produce a symmetrical design. We first produced a 2D sketch of the ice scraper before he taught us how to extrude the drawing into three dimensions. After extruding, we tapered the angle of the scraper to improve functionality. Finally, we used the fillet tool to round off the edges. We did this to improve usability and reduce wear and tear over time. Below is a picture of my finished ice scraper.



I tried to use Illini Orange and Blue, however, when the colors rendered, the blue seemed much darker than I remembered. Nonetheless, I was proud of my first creation in AutoDesk. Next, we built an iPhone shelf using the same software. Dan showed us how to shell an object and use midpoints to ensure symmetry. Many of my classmates were able to successfully produce the charger stand, but I was unable to successfully connect the shelf to the charger. I suspect that mistook an axial orientation which caused my shelf to bifurcate instead of rest atop the charger. After seeing my fellow classmates print the 3D charger and shelf, I am somewhat relieved my design failed. Many complained that the dimensions prevented a stable connection between the shell and the charger. Below is my improper attempt at the charger and stand.


Everyone who knows me knows that I take pride in my pens and pencils. I always have a handful of Ticonderoga pencils, Pilot G2-07 pens, and Frixion erasable pens on my person. To organize them when at home, I built a holder for my writing utensils. The larger section in the middle is for my fecundity of erasable pens, while the outside compartments are for the permanent pens and pencils. As I progress in BADM 395, I look forward to creating more useful designs. Speaking with Dan gave me a more holistic view of the 3D printing design process.


Week 3 Reflection

This week, we spoke with Jeff Ginger who walked us through the 3D printing process. From idea to modeling to creation, Jeff presented numerous accounts of creations in the FabLab. I had no idea I was walking by the FabLab every day to get to BIF, but now I know all the cool things that the FabLab has helped create. Although the artistic creations intrigued me, I was most enthralled by the open atmosphere of the FabLab. While 3D printing has been available for architecture, business, and engineering students for a few years, community members have often missed out on the 3D printing opportunities available to students. Nothing exemplifies the openness of the FabLab quite like this picture from Instagram of a Grandmother and Grandson creating a Cubs t-shirt.

Because I am a lifelong Cubs fan, this picture inspired me to combine my love of baseball with my new 3D printing abilities. 3D printing technology is already helping athletes recover from injuries, when will it start affecting gameplay? 3D printed football helmets, baseball bats, tennis rackets, and hockey sticks could soon become the norm.

In this week’s session, we learned the basics of the 3D printing execution phase. Billy and Dash showed us how to use Tinkercad to imagine and design 3D printable objects using geometric shapes. One of my group members made a heart keychain with her name on it, and I created the team logo with the help of the other members. Billy helped me perfect the puzzle piece design with our team name inscribed on the top. Dash taught Team Synergy how to export .stl files to Cura. Billy then showed the class how to choose the right setting for our builds. Although this was very useful, the bottom wall thickness was far too great, leaving some extra building material at the bottom. In addition, the word “SYNERGY” was not well written by the machine. I suspect the .8 mm nozzle or layer height is the cause of this discrepancy.

This week’s class was a humbling experience as I came to a far greater appreciation for some of the magnificent creations on Thingiverse. Rotating structures, world wonders, and puzzles all seem far grander and more intricate. I have come to appreciate the masters of this craft by trying it myself. I look forward to improving my 3D printing skills in the coming weeks.



Week 2 Reflection

The potential of 3D printing is bound only by the creativity of the user. Wednesday’s class taught me to broaden my horizons and open my mind to the endless possibilities that 3D printing creates. Before entering BADM 395, I thought 3D printing was an esoteric technology that would take at least five years to develop into maturity. I now understand that the speed and ubiquity of 3D printed technology is accelerating and has passed its early adopter phase. I hope to implement 3D printing to fix important issues in our society.

My first takeaway from BADM 395 came from guest speaker Arielle Rausin. Rausin’s use of 3D printing to develop form-fitting wheelchair racing gloves opened my mind to the various uses of the technology. If 3D printing can be used to help disabled racers, could it also be used in prosthetics for amputees? Or braces from those suffering from spina bifida? Those most disadvantaged in our society could reap the most benefits from 3D printed tools.

In the article “The Maker Mindset,” Dale Dougherty makes a compelling case that 3D printing technology should be taught in schools to prepare children for the impending technological shift. While adults can become rigid and complacent, children tend to think outside the box and have a propensity to learn. Because of this, children have a growth mindset, meaning impediments are perceived as opportunities to learn and problem solve. Being in the maker mindset requires you to expand your possibilities as you expand your knowledge.

At first, I was pensive about the futuristic notion purported by John Hornick in “Zero Marginal Cost.” The idea of truly reaching zero marginal cost has serious implications for the field of economics and could lead to an economic catastrophe if not well-planned. Just as horse labor became obsolete with the progression of the internal combustion engine, will humans face the same fate with the progression of 3D printing? Or will humans create new jobs to occupy us in the post-zero marginal cost world?

I found 4 interesting objects on Thingiverse that peaked my interest.


This 3D printed marble machine by Tulio interested me because of my love of marble tracks. I used to build elaborate marble tracks in my basement when I was a kid, complete with jumps and an elevator. I have an extensive collection of marbles at home I would love to send down this marble machine.


This 3D printed earbud wrap would help me reduce the clutter of my room. I have far too many earbud cords and power cords congesting my living room. With proper cord management, however, I can eliminate this problem.


This 3D printed sunglasses holder would improve the safety of my car. When I return home, I often forget to bring a pair of sunglasses with me to drive, compromising my vision. If I had this holder, I could eliminate one potential hazard of driving.


This 3D printed Pokémon Chess set is by far the most intriguing item to me. I have had a profound love for both Pokémon and chess since I was 4 years old, but never had a way to couple them. This Generation 1 based chess set is the most unique chess set I have ever seen.