Category Archives: Final Reflection

Team Money Makers Final Reflection

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

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

Design Sketch

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

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

Seven Segment Display Test 

Final Prototype of Vertical Garden 

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

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

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

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

– Team Money Makers

Instructable Link:

Presentation Link:

3Dream’s Final Reflection

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

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

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


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

User Testing

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

Future Improvements

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

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


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

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

Link to presentation:

Link to Instructable:


Final Reflection

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


3D printing

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

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

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

Guest Speakers

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

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

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


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

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

Key Takeaways

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

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

Reflecting on a Semester of Creations


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

My Experience

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

Designing & 3D Printing

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

FabLab Laser Cutting & Embroidery

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

Vast Resources for the Maker Community

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Final Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

Final Reflection and Parting Thoughts

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

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

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

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

  • Modeling with Fusion360

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

  • Design Workshop with Design for America

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

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

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


My digital embroidery creation

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

my laser cutting designs for the wooden box

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

the initial sketch of the circuit layout

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

  • 3D Scanning

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

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

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

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

Final Reflection: e-Portfolio

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

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

Below are my final remarks regarding the course.



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

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


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


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


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


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

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

– Aubrey

Team Project Reflection (Fast Forward)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Instructables Link can be found here.

Presentation Slides can be found here.

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

Thank you for a great semester!

– Team Fast Forward

BADM 395 Wrap-Up

This semester in Digital Making, I learned far more than I anticipated. Not only did I learn how to 3D print and use software like Fusion360 to design prints, which is what I expected to learn, I also learned how to do digital scanning, digital embroidery, wood cutting, laser engraving, and even a bit of coding and Arduino use. This ended up being my favorite class in my Undergraduate career, which is saying a lot because I actually hate waking up early. Below, I will summarize what I have learned in a few of my favorite areas.


I am choosing to talk about scanning first because my mini-Shayna scan gave my friends and me unlimited amounts of entertainment. I was surprised at how easy it was to scan someone using a simple add-on to an iPad. The scan was extremely accurate and looked exactly like me, as did the print that resulted. There was a slight mishap with my nose, which didn’t get quite scanned correctly, but the “fill” option on the software allowed me to fill in the missing chunk of my nose before printing.

I mentioned earlier that the print provided my friends and me with a great deal of entertainment. My friends all thought the scan of me was pretty funny, and thus dubbed it “Lil’ Shay,” insisting that Lil’ Shay come with us on our trip to Nashville that weekend. We documented all of Lil’ Shay’s antics and compiled them on Snapchat- I know this is not the most practical business use of a product but I thought it was fun and worth mentioning nonetheless. Below are a few of the photos we compiled, so I hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed taking them.

Digital Embroidery:

One of the things that was most surprising about this class was that we got to learn how to make embroidery with sewing machines that were equipped with digital embroidery capabilities. I decided to embroider the Chicago skyline and Duncan helped us find images online that would translate well into the embroidery software. He showed us how to clean it up to ensure the stitching would come out in the way we want. I wanted a very colorful embroidered piece but I failed to realize that this would mean I would be constantly switching out thread. I also didn’t realize that I could have had the machine stitch ALL of the thread that was the same color at the same time, leaving space for the other colors in between; this also contributed to how long the piece took, but if I were to use a machine like this again I would be better prepared to tackle the project. One thing I especially liked about this part of our learning at the FabLab was that I could see the real-life applications of this activity. I used to Irish Dance and the costumes we had to wear were all intricately embroidered, unique, and could cost up to a few thousand dollars to purchase. If I had the knowledge and capabilities to embroider back when I was still dancing, I could perhaps have made my own costumes! I have attached what I made in the FabLab as well as a photo of an Irish Dance dress for reference. 


I was lucky enough to be put into a group with Scott and Aubrey, both of whom have technical experience- Aubrey is not only an ISIT major like Scott and me but is in the T&M program where she has used Arduinos before. Scott, on the other hand, has had some experience coding in R and SQL. They were great guides, as I am a pretty poor coder (SQL only) and had never used anything like an Arduino before. I was so surprised how much we were able to accomplish in just one class period per week- from conceptualizing our idea for a digital counter for people entering and leaving a space to the realization that this product may not be the most useful thanks to Google Analytics. When we came to this realization, we altered our prototype to register movement in different areas. This opens up the possibility of tracking what products or displays are the most interesting to customers based on the amount of time they spend in an area. I’m really proud of how well our project turned out, as well as how we presented. I think this is actually a viable business idea if we were to follow through with producing it.

Final Thoughts:

I loved this class and felt that I was able to learn more than in any other class because of the hands-on nature of each lesson. I thoroughly enjoyed producing physical products that I could be proud of and actually inspired a few of my friends to try out the MakerLab and FabLab spaces because of my not-so-subtle bragging about what I made. I hope to stay involved in the Maker World in some facet as I enter into my career, which shouldn’t be hard as there are many maker spaces in the Chicagoland area where I will be post-graduation. Thank you to Vishal and to my classmates for such a fun semester!

Link to my previous posts in this course:


My Experience in BADM 395, Digital Making Seminar

Reflection on the Past Semester

Hi there! I’m tuning in one last time before ending this semester. Thank you for taking the time to read my posts and being interested in what I have been learning throughout this semester. I can honestly say that this course has taught me the most tangible skills out of any class I’ve ever taken at U of I.

At the beginning of this course, I simply expected to learn how to utilize 3D printers. My advisor told me that that course was all about 3D printing and its implications in business. I had no idea that I would be learning how to code, use laser cutters, use conductive threading, etc. I loved learning more than I had expected because it helped broaden my skill set to areas beyond just 3D printing. It really showed me how 3D printing goes hand in hand with so many other activities, and it can be used a supplement to creating rather than a standalone creation tool.

Additionally, I also expected to heavily focus on 3D printing wheelchairs at the beginning of this semester. I was intrigued by Arielle’s talk that she gave to our class on day 1. She noted that 3D printing in the realm of wheelchairs could use extra support, so I was set on filling that gap throughout the semester. I interviewed Arielle (see post here:, and I quickly realized that 3D printing a wheelchair on our smaller-scale printers was not necessarily feasible. My takeaway from chatting with Arielle is that there are many non-profit organizations that help individuals with disabilities that offer great opportunities to get involved. As for the making aspect, the devices being created must satisfy an individual’s need and be mechanically-feasible to make through 3D printing (wheelchairs are large with complex parts, which is not feasible). While my group did not choose this as our project for the semester, I am still very grateful to have gotten exposure to this area.

Overall, my expectations were met throughout the semester in that I was able to learn more about the implications of 3D printing, how companies are using this technology to improve lives, and also how to build something from the bottom up. My group’s work on the Arduino Motion Sensor showed me how to break down a seemingly-complex device. This break down allowed me to grasp a firm understanding of how electronics/prototypes work, and thus allowed me to fully comprehend the work I was doing.

As I mentioned, my work was different from what I expected in that I originally thought I would only be working with 3D printers over the semester. I am ecstatic with the fact that I was not only able to gain skills with 3D printing but also with coding/modeling/etc. I recommend this course to all of my younger peers because it allows students in the college of business to learn skills past what we are used to (e.g. Business plans that are solely written out and not necessarily executed with prototypes).

Pertaining to myself, I learned that I often become so excited to learn a new skill that I tend to get too far ahead of myself. For instance, when it came to 3D printing, I was so eager to print that I originally rushed through the Cura program to print my item faster. This was not good because it sometimes resulted in my file having incorrect settings, and thus an unsuccessful print. I also noticed this when I was working with the Arduino coding program. I began by quickly trying to write code and getting my prototype to work (which also failed upon first trying). These experiences taught me the importance to slowing down and grasping a firm understanding the basics before trying to reach an end goal. Each time I slowed down and took the time to understand how my work was impacting the final result, my success became much more apparent.


In Summary

Overall, this course taught me how to take an idea and bring it to reality. When first meeting with my group earlier this semester, we were throwing around crazy ideas of what we could create. Each of our ideas seemed very daunting at first as they were all in our minds and we did not have any materials/resources to create. Slowly but surely, our team took the creation process step-by-step. Laying out what needed to be done in steps helped keep us on track and progress forward each week. It was so rewarding when we finally saw successful results after we got our last wires plugged in and our last code typed out. That is when we knew we had successfully gone from the idea to reality.


Thank You

Thank you for sticking with me each week to watch how I’ve progressed through the course. I would also like to give a big thank you to our instructor, Vishal, who has invested so much time and energy into helping us learn. He is hands-down one of the most thoughtful, kind, and intelligent teachers I have ever had at UIUC! It has been a pleasure sharing my experiences with you, and I would love to stay connected! Add me on LinkedIn:


Wishing you all the best!


-Scott Provenzano

And That Is A Wrap!

Before I start, I want to say that I am happy I took this course. I loved how it was a small group so that we all were friends by the end. I think that made it special and we were all on this journey together.

I thought this class was going to be extremely hard for me because I lack a lot of technical skills. I was nervous that I would not be able to keep up with the pace of the class. I knew it was going to take a lot of work. Also, I do not consider myself very creative so I thought I would be bad at coming up with ideas for the project.

Looking back these expectations were not met! This class was all about learning at your own pace. Each workshop, guest speaker, and project gave me hands on opportunity to learn new skills. For example, Fusion took me a while to understand, but with practice and patience I learned how to create and print my own model. Also, our sessions in the fab lab gave me an opportunity to create a design step by step. I used the platforms to import my personal pictures and all the way up to the final stage of printing and sewing. This freedom at first was scary because I felt lost, but I was able to problem solve through my projects.

I learned that I have very low confidence in my tech abilities. Whenever we were introduced to something new I was easy to give up and depend on teachers or students for help. Usually I get the help I need, but in this class I was pushed to out of my comfort zone and forced to learn new skills on my own. It was then I realized I can take on the task, but my initial mindset is that I cannot do it. I am smarter than I know.

I also learned teamwork in this class. For the past month my team worked together to build an idea from scratch. There were a lot of opinions and ideas involved, but we worked together to create the best prototype we could. I think we all contributed and were dedicated to this class. I hope to utilize these teamwork skills in my next job!

Finally, in this course I learned A LOT! Walking into class was the first time I had ever seen a 3D printer, I did not even know how to turn it on! From 3D printing, to fusion, to the fab lab, the design process, and more I decided to reflect back on my previous posts.

We learned about “The Maker Mindset” which is starting to be integrated into the education system. I learned that everyone learns differently and grasps to ideas in different ways. Personally, I have struggled with a reading comprehension disability and school has always been difficult for me. It makes me so hopeful for the future of students who struggle form learning disabilities that they will be able to demonstrate their knowledge through different ways of learning.

I learned about the six-step process that Design for America taught us. This workshop not only set us up for the remainder of the course, but also for our future careers. This process is a way to take a step back and really break down the problem. It helps you dissect your thoughts, which leads to better outcomes.

Our week with Dan Banach form Autodesk taught me fusion. He showed me how to build our own ideas. Getting an understanding of this platform has allowed me to try other platforms. What stood out to me about Dan was he teaching style. He made it easy to follow along and learn. I really appreciate that because I feel like I learned more. I am very grateful for learning this tool because I know I will continue to use it.

My most recent blog posts have been about our vertical garden project. I learned how to work with fusion on a more specific level in terms of measurements and shapes. But I also learned the importance of persistence and adaptability. A lot of our project did not go our way, for example the WiFi shield. Instead of putting energy into that aspect, we adapted and used sensors. I am very proud of the progress my team made and happy with our final product.

Thank you again Vishal!! This was a great class; it was unique in the best way. I cannot wait to show off my technical skills next year in Chicago!