Category Archives: week6

Biohacking, Mycelium, and more

This week we had the pleasure of welcoming Dot Silverman. She graduated with a physics degree and began working for Autodesk, and now she is back here at school. Dot introduced me to the world of biohacking. Her past projects include printing with mycelium, human organs on chips, and portable DNA recovery devices. The mycelium plant pot, which is mainly mushroom fungi, was my favorite item she passed around. Despite how complicated these projects seem, Dot learned most of her technical skills on the job. She thinks that the lines between different disciplines are beginning to disappear. Projects nowadays are almost exclusively multi-disciplined. Students should be aware of this and continuously expand their minds. Their ability to work with those of different technical backgrounds is extremely valuable in the workforce.

If you’re like me, you have zero prior knowledge about biohacking. Biohacking is the activity of exploiting genetic material experimentally1. To put it another way, “if you think of biology as a computer, and the way a hacker can infiltrate the system to make it work the way they want it to, biohacking can be easier to understand. The process of biohacking can involve a distinct combination of medical, nutritional and electronic methods to make the body function exactly as you want2.” So despite the nefarious sounding name, biohacking actually improves our health and quality of life.

Dot’s thoughts and experiences in the biohacking field were incredibly interesting. She also provided additional learning resources for the class to explore topics of interest. I dug deeper into the environmental characteristics associated with biohacking hoping to find a project idea. Ideally, my final class project will involve environmental sustainability in some way. I believe the planet is a critical issue that my generation must embrace, as mentioned in a prior blog post.

You’ll have to check back next week for my project selection. Though I haven’t finalized an idea yet, I was inspired by a company called Ecovative, a world leader in mycelium printing technology. Ecovative cultivates mycelium using farm waste, before “planting” it in 3D printed structures. As the fungus grows, the object materializes and becomes strong. These products are more normal-looking than you would otherwise think. If you don’t believe me, check them out. Mycelium is cheap, strong, and environmentally friendly, and thus Ecocative has profited from its unique business model. I appreciate the fact the company can operate while actively making our Earth a better place to live.




Biology meets 3D Printing

Alan Amling

This week was filled with great guest lecturers. We got to hear from Alan Amling on UPS’s business model with 3D printing. UPS has included additive micro manufacturing which is essentially taking 3D printing factories and integrating them into their model. UPS currently has 23 makerbots for prototypes and models which are typically used by small businesses. They have done this to stay at the forefront of this disruptive technology and to fit demand manufacturing since people will soon be shipping and storing less, some of UPS’s main services.

Alan discussed two interesting usages for 3D printing. He mentioned how smaller factories are building parts , prototypes, and mass personalized goods. An example would be printing customized tools to prevent slippage and injury at the work place. Another example Alan used was Nike’s matrix structure sole being 3D printed for an exact fit. Later this year, they are going to use a scan for your foot ( measure weight, etc) and create a customized shoe.

Nike’s first 3D-printed football cleat prototype.

Dot Silverman

Our next guest lecturer was Dot Silverman, who introduced me to the topic of biohacking. The use of biohacking materials to create 3D structures, and using special bioinks made up of living cells to print messages and patterns. A product of biohacking may be seen below:

Human cells cultured into a decellularized apple slice (left) and an apple carved into an ear shape (right)

Fascinated by the human ear prototype, I looked into other Apple ears and found Pelling Lab’s creating them with existing 3D structure as a scaffold for cells. Andrew Pelling describes the process: “You slice an apple, wash it in soap and water, then sterilize it. What’s left is a fine mesh of cellulose into which you can inject human cells — and they grow.”

Pelling Lab’s “Apple ears” during the decellularization process.

Final Project

Additionally, my team is considering the incorporation of 3D printing into vertical gardens, window farms or urban farming solutions. I am drawn to this project because I believe that air pollution is a major problem and plants can assist with making the air cleaner. As a college student, I found it to be difficult owning and caring for plants with the limited backyard space and found window farms to be very appealing and manageable.  I would like to create a window farm that uses various sensors and a micro-controller to sense its environment and adapt accordingly.  I will have to do additional research to better understand window farms  if my team selects it for the final project.
Thank you for reading and see you next week!

Week 6 Reflection

Speaker 1 –Alan Amling:

This week we had the pleasure of having Alan Amling present to us about how 3D printing is making an impact in UPS where he currently works. He explained to us how UPS delivers some tools and hardware to many companies and locations that was becoming difficult to maintain as these items had to be kept in storage until needed. He mentioned, however, how the company is beginning to partake in the use of 3D Printing in order to make it more feasible to have these tools and hardware available when needed by just creating them upon request. This is very interesting to hear as it shows that not only are pieces going to be more affordable thru the use of 3D printing but how the company will be more efficient altogether by also maximizing the efficiency of their storage spaces.

Speaker 2 –Dot Silverman:

We then had another speaker, Dot Silverman, who came in and spoke to us  about biohacking and a lot of interesting forms of biohacking/physiology with 3D printers and “Biofabrication”. One thing that really stayed on my mind after this presentation was her section on how organs and bones are now beginning to be 3D printed that have substances that can actually promote the regrowth of bones and organs which can be an amazing substitute to the current use of metal plates for current health issues. It was really interesting to hear about the biological science side of 3D printed that is not as publicized.

After the speakers presented, we were able to pitch some potential ideas for our projects, and although there wasn’t as much peer critiques as I expected, it was still a very beneficial exercise to get our ideas out there and see how people reacted to them. It was even more helpful to hear other people’s ideas as they can give other groups a little more motivation to challenge ourselves and make a more complicated pitch to kind of match the level of complexity as another team’s pitch.

Additionally, we were given time in class to attempt to 3D print something that we would like and I took that time to create a design as well as 3D print a dog tag for my dog, Toby.  It was printed pretty quickly as it is a small object and is now hanging around my dog’s neck. It is so cool for me to be able to say that I designed his dog tag even if it is not the most complex. Here is a link to the design:





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.

Ideas Stem From Need

This week in class was a very interesting and productive. We first had a guest presentation from Alan Amling, who works for UPS. He talked about how UPS has started creating 3D printing factories so that they can custom print parts for a variety of companies and how their research into 3D Printing materials. I had heard about UPS’s endeavors into 3D printing in a class I took last semester about Logistics so it was really cool to hear from Alan about how they have accepted this technology because they realized that 3D printing is going to revolutionize the industry that they operate in. It was also very insightful to hear Alan’s thoughts about how the industry landscape is changing and why we have an advantage being able to take a class that embraces 3D printing and the maker culture.

Our next guest lecturer was from Dot Silverman who talked about her work in Biohacking. This is an area that I have always read about the cool stuff that has been going on but don’t really have a lot of knowledge of. It was really cool to hear from someone with a lot of knowledge and excitement about biohacking. It was also great that she brought in example of some of the things that she has worked on and allowed us to look at them. My favorite has to be the Mini PCR because I was able to figure out what it did before she even talked about it.

In class, we also had time with our groups to start coming up with an idea for our semester project. The night before class, both my basement and Chelly’s basement flooded due to the intense rains that we had that week. I was forced to stay up all night to deal fight the 8 inches of water in my basement. That got us thinking about our first idea which is a low-cost mat that someone would place in an area that is prone to flooding that would give the user an early warning of the presence of water. Vishal gave us some good guidance and asked us to think of a solution that would alert the user that a flood was going to happen even before the presence of water. Our other main idea is a vertical farm solution that would be tailored towards college students. The idea is that college students often don’t have the time or space to grow their own produce. This concept would give students an opportunity to grow plants that would be used in cooking in their own living rooms. We even thought about adding sensors that track the amount of water in the plants or even a tank of water that waters the plants automatically. Vishal again gave us good advice and challenged us to make it a product that can be easily replicated by regular college students.

Business and Biology in 3D Printing

Class Summary

This week’s class brought us even more examples of 3D printing in the real world. We heard from two individuals heavily involved in 3D printing, in completely different worlds. One was seeking how 3D printing could be used in business, the other in human biology.

First, we heard from Alan Amling at UPS. I thought it was really cool to see 3D printing being used to drive big businesses in the real world, today. Alan spoke of many of the challenges he faces in trying to implement this technology into the business. He noted that his greatest challenge is convincing firms that they won’t be sacrificing any of their intellectual property by making the switch to 3D printing, which confirms the challenges we have previously discussed in class.

Next, we had the opportunity to learn from Dot Silverman’s journey through biohacking and 3D printing. Dot opened my eyes to the possibilities that 3D printing can have on humanity beyond business. Being a business major, I often only think of things from a certain perspective. Dot showed us that 3D printing can change how we live – with the potential to custom print pieces of the human anatomy. Transplants will become much safer as 3D printing will allow some of these transplants to take place without the need of another human being. There is even a 3D printed heart that actually pumps blood. It seems like the possibilities that this technology can bring the world of medicine are endless.

Towards the end of class, our team came up with several ideas for what we want to make for our project. Overall, there was a definite theme of practicality to each of our ideas. We thought of a headphone untangler and a steering wheel attachment before settling on a grocery bag holder that looks something like this:

This holder will allow someone to simply slide the bags onto the little slot and hold from the top, grey grip. This would allow one to easily carry several bags at once.

In the News

Miami University Researchers Work Together to 3D Print Better Bones

This article dives into more of the discussion on 3D printing and bones that Dot detailed in her talk. The article describes how broken bones are being mended with the use of 3D printing through ‘scaffolds’ and ‘bridges’ that better mend the broken bone.

This video outlines how 3D printing can create human tissue in an easy-to-follow way. I thought it broke down the process of printer to person quite well and the speakers were quite engaging.

A Swirl of New Ideas

UPS Speaker Takeaways:

This week we heard from 2 inspiring speakers on very different topics. The first was Alan Amling who works for UPS on their Corporate strategy and global on-demand manufacturing team. He gave us an interesting look into how UPS is shifting their business model and opening up new 3D printing labs to reach some of the products on-demand market. The part that I found most interesting about his talk was that unlike most of the other speakers we’ve heard from, he admitted that 3D printing is not going to single-handedly take over the world and revolutionize everything. Throughout each of the talks we’ve heard, I’ve had some skepticism about how fast 3D printing is going to take over manufacturing and the ability it has to completely replace certain processes. Alan compared the relationship between 3D printing and manufacturing to microwave ovens versus traditional ovens. When the microwave was first invented, many believed it would replace traditional ovens. It has not replaced traditional ovens however it has become a regular household device alongside the oven. This, Alan believes is exactly how 3D printing and manufacturing will become. 3D printers will become prevalent in most manufacturing processes however will not completely replace traditional manufacturing but rather complement it.

Additionally, Alan had an interesting comment stating that a device or process does not need to be everywhere or take over a space to revolutionize an industry. He brought up Ecommerce and retail discussing how currently Ecommerce accounts for only 9% of all retail however it has still completely revolutionized the way retail businesses operate. The last takeaway I got from Alan was to “Get on a fast-moving train, you’ll excel faster than your peers”. By this, he meant to learn the skills that are becoming more prevalent now before they are everywhere because that will only help excel our careers in the future, specifically this 3D printing course provides a unique skillset that is very marketable to future employers.

Biohacking Takeaways:

The second speaker was Dot Silverman who introduced us to the idea of Biohacking and several amazing projects and products currently on the market or in the works. One of the projects that she had worked with was a material from Ecovative that is a sustainable replacement for polystyrene. This material is grown from a combination of processed agricultural waste and mycelium which then is set in growth trays to grow and take the shape of the trays in which they are set.

This material is incredibly promising as it provides a compostable alternative to polystyrene which takes from 500 years-forever to break down according to this study on biodegradability This idea was the most interesting to me as I care a lot about the waste created daily and finding sustainable substitutes to single-use everyday products.

Team Ideas:

Our team has been exploring various ideas for potential final products. For a while we were looking at 3D printing a map of the campus for DRES however this week, inspired by the speakers we decided to change topics and go in another direction. We are interested in exploring the capabilities of the Ecovative polystyrene substitute that Dot introduced and coming up with a common object replacement such as polystyrene coffee cups, plastic bags, or plates made out of this material.  The second idea we are exploring is the potential of using 3D printing on nails combined with a sustainable and healthier nail glue that would be more natural than current nails on the market today. A third idea we are currently discussing is participating in the “Growing Local Community” project led by Ultimaker ( ) and incorporating the Mycelium material into our 3D printed garden design. We still have quite a bit of brainstorming and going discussing as a team however our goal for this week is to look further into each of these ideas and determine the most realistic and interesting route to take for our project.

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!


3D Printing is Changing the World One Industry at a Time

This past week our class had two guest speakers, both of whom spoke about how 3D printing is revolutionizing the areas they operate in. In addition to learning more about the applications and power of 3D printing in these areas, we also collaborated with our teams to finalize our final project ideas.

Guest Speakers

Our first guest speaker was Alan Amling, the VP of Corporate Strategy for the United States Postal Service (UPS). Amling has extensive experience working in logistics, product development, and distribution. He talked abut how 3D printing has become an integral part of UPS’s operations. Opening of a 3D printing factory in Kentucky is going to allow them to streamline the manufacturing and logistics processes.

I researched some more about ow 3D printing is impacting UPS operations, and I came across a Forbes article explaining how in 2016 UPS started on a mission to be abel to print out plastic parts and ship them to any location the world. It was quite interesting to see that two years later UPS now operates its own 3D printing factory. Another part of Alan’s talk that I found really interesting was the idea he mentioned of “best fit.” He used the example of shoe sizes and explained that they currently only exist in 0.5 increments (i.e. 8, 8.5). However, with 3D printing technology Alan stated that in the future, for all products, exact sizes and measurements will be able to be made for all products.

The next guest speaker we had was Dot Silverman. Dot is a graduate student studying education at the University of Illinois. Her interest in 3D printing started in her undergraduate career at Pomona College where she studied Physics. Dot has worked for instructables and Autodesk, and has also worked on projects through Harvard University. I really enjoyed her energy and passion for Bio-Hacking. It was interesting to learn about Bio-Hacking and how anyone can learn more about it(even if you are a non-technical person) with today’s online resources.

Out of all the various Bio-Hacking projects Dot talked about, I was most intrigued by the Backyard Brains project. The tool is extremely powerful and it allows anyone to learn more about neurology and the science behind it through the study of electrical impulses and brains.


From the readings this past week. I really enjoyed “Ten Ways to Evaluate a New Business idea”. The article’s explanation of the ten key tips needed to assess how “sticky” your idea is was very helpful to read about. Specifically, the question “Does this business idea meet a need or solve a problem?” the article posed was quite interesting. I think this idea of impact and value created is often lost when going through the process of starting a business venture.

From the article about “Generating New ideas”, I was reminded about how important creativity is in the workplace. Often times, I believe that creative ideas and innovation are often overlooked as we get into routine. The article’s point about breaking patterns by rewording problems and challenging assumptions are two ways I found to be effective in challenging yourself to be more creative.

Project Idea

  1. Grocery bag holder

Our team came up with the idea of creating a holder capable of carrying multiple grocery bags. The problem we identified was the struggle to move multiple bags of grocery in one trip. This item would help solve that problem and make the grocery shopping process easier for everyone.

2. Steering wheel knob

My team’s second idea is to 3D print a ball that will make it easier to turn a steering wheel. This product would help older individuals who no longer possess the strength to easily turn a car. The ball would make it extremely easy to make a turn and it would require very little power.


Hack Everything

Guest Speakers

Our first guest speaker this week was Alan Amling from UPS. Alan had a wealth of experience in the 3D printing and making space – at present, he worked in a logistics division of UPS.

Alan shared about how UPS is a redefining how the industry views logistics/supply-chain companies. The company is preparing to launch their own on-demand 3D printing manufacturing network. They plan to link their global logistics network with 3D printers at UPS Stores around the United States. Alan shared about how they’ve established a key partnership with a 3D printing factory in Louisville, KY. They are essentially creating a new, single-stop solution for additive manufacturing and logistics. The new platform will make 3D printing more accessible to a wide variety of potential users, from small businesses to mid-size companies.

Alan shared how the current business model of consumer-facing production is “best fit.” For example, we get to select from size 8.0, 8.5, and 9.0 for shoes – these sizes are already set and mass-produced. We choose whatever size happens to fit us “bes”t, although it may not be “perfect” fit. Alan shared that UPS is essentially breaking into the space of custom production on a user-by-user basis. He referenced Adidas, who has paired up with a rising new Silicon Valley printing company called Carbon. Using their new proprietary Continuous Liquid Interface Production technology, Adidas can custom-make shoes to exact scans of users’ feet.

Following Alan, we had the privilege of hearing from Dot Silverman, who truly embodies the maker mindset. She is a graduate student in Educational Psychology here at the University of Illinois. She studied Physics at Pomona College, and went on to work for Instructables, Autodesk, and the Harvard Wyss Institute. As she spoke to us, I found myself captivate by her engaging and outgoing personality.

She introduced to the amazing frontier of Bio-Hacking. Dot explained to us that traditional mindset of making calls printers, lasers, and fabrication to mind. In contrast, Bio-Hacking by definition  is a fairly new practice that could lead to major changes in our lives. It would be fair to call it “do-it-yourself” biology. It is the freedom to explore biology, growing organic things, and understanding different aspects of our physical world. Dot helped me understand that creating a microcomputer to control the movements of a cockroach is just as much “making” as printing a 3D widget is. I was particularly interested in what she shared about Backyard Brains, which is an educational tool targeting young students. It allows anyone to learn practically about neuro-scientific principals by studying our own brains, electrical impulses, and even those of insects.

Final Project Ideas

At the end of class, we had time to ideate potential final project ideas with our teams. My team, Animakers, thought of 2 potential ideas we could focus on this semester:

  1. Grocery bag holder

We came to a common pain point of trying to carry dozens of grocery bags in our hands to our cars/homes during our weekly trips. We realized we could potentially create a solution that would target college students at the grocery store. We would improve on some ideas for this product that already exist (and at a lower cost!)

2. Steering wheel ball

Secondly, this idea is specifically targeted at elderly drivers, or those with low arm strength. which makes turning a wheel into a tight turn significantly strenuous. This ball/tool would allow an easier contact point to turn the wheel using significantly less force. We also looked into existing designs and considered how we could make it even more accessible.

Accessibility Across Industry Lines with Digital Making

Our class was lucky to have two guest speakers this week—Alan Amling from UPS spoke about how the company is leveraging 3D printing technology in new ways in order to grow its business and cater to the growing demand from its clients, and Dot Silverman spoke about biohacking, and its various applications from education, to industry.

It was really interesting to learn about how UPS has integrated additive manufacturing into its offerings to clients, and has consistently been able to stay ahead of the curve. Their services now enable anyone from a large manufacturer to a solo entrepreneur to order prints and access technology that they might not be able to invest in themselves.

In addition to speaking about how the technology has impacted UPS, Alan shared insights about other companies that now rely on digital making to customize for or deliver additional value to their customers. One example I thought was quite interesting was that of Nike, which is using 3D printing to create customized shoe soles based off of a scan of one’s foot. After doing additional research, I learned that several other footwear companies are using the same approach. This Fortune article talks about how New Balance, Adidas, and Nike are all investing in on-demand manufacturing processes for the long term.

I also really enjoyed hearing from Dot, because I thought her background was quite unique. She studied physics during her undergraduate years and has worked at several research labs, but is currently pursuing a graduate degree in education. Many of the projects she highlighted within the biohacking realm had to do with making science education more accessible for all, and it was really inspiring because she seemed to perfectly exemplify someone with a maker mindset. I was particularly impressed by the Foldscope, which is essentially a microscope that can provide up to 2000x magnification, and costs less than $1 to make. It was invented by two Stanford graduate students, and has now fostered a global learning community across 135 countries. I found the Microcosmos page of their website to be quite touching– it features stories from various users who have documented their learning processes while using the Foldscope.

The Foldscope

In summary, I’d say that this week’s learnings offered a lot of practical insight as to how the maker community is so deeply rooted in making learning via technology far more accessible. While one might expect this from academia/educators, the same holds true for large corporations like UPS, who are actually able to drive profitability by adhering to the same principle.

UPS, Biohacking, & Final Project


Our class was spoiled this week with having two very influential people speak to our class. Our first speaker, Alan Amling, taught us about the advancements that UPS is making in the realm of 3D printing. Our second speaker, Dot Silverman, taught us about her work in biohacking and the exciting projects she is working on. During the second half of the class, we were able to meet with our teams to begin narrowing down our ideas for the semester project.


What is UPS Doing?

Alan informed us that UPS is taking major strides in utilizing 3D printing. The company has facilities that are capable of 3D printing on both the small and large scale. Alan mentioned that UPS’s Louisville, KY facility center can print something out by midnight and then be anywhere in the United States the next day. Such a capability is revolutionary for any company. Currently, it is common for consumers to have to wait multiple days before receiving an item they purchase. However, as more and more 3D printing facilities pop up throughout the country, it will be much more likely that future consumers can order custom 3D-printed products and expect to receive them the same day (maybe even within hours).

One of my biggest takeaways from Alan is the importance of consistency. It’s incredible that 3D printers can create almost anything, but Alan noted that if a company wants to be successful, then they will need to be consistent. For instance, many current manufacturing processes are standardized and effective enough to produce identical objects on a large scale. Since 3D printing technology is still relatively new, there are still areas in which errors are made (thus reducing consistency). Moving forward, I will remain conscious of these potential limitations of 3D printers, and I hope to play a part in identifying ways in which consistency can more likely be achieved at the industrial scale.


What is Biohacking?

Dot shared a bunch of exciting projects with our class in the realm of biohacking, which essentially is combining biology with making/3D-printing. One of Dot’s projects that stood out to me was one in which she had previously worked on a team that created human organs-on-chips; these chips emulate organ-level functions. What was really neat was that Dot and her team were able to combine a bunch of different organs-on-chips and connect them to simulate an actual human body. They then were able to simulate cocaine entering the body and the implications that it had on each organ. These devices (pictured below) may be a great alternative to animal-testing (which remains to be controversial among many consumers). Ultimately, these creations are extremely exciting and could lead to incredible breakthroughs in the medical industry.


Progress on Final Project

My group and I have narrowed down our list of final project ideas. Two of the ideas that I feel most passionate about are the creation of assistive devices for individuals with disabilities and a Neopixel Traffic Map. The types of assistive devices we are looking into are for individuals with limited motor-movements. For instance, individuals with arthritis may no longer be able to hold a pen like they used to. Such a disability can be devastating to many people as they may find joy in sending handwritten notes to their friends and family. 3D printing objects are able to extend an individual’s motor capabilities and increase precision. It would be neat for my group to talk with individuals who have arthritis/limited motor capabilities to understand what challenges they face most often in order to develop an all-in-one tool to help them navigate through their days more easily (see an example in the picture below). Another assistive device that we may look into printing would be wheelchairs, and you can learn more about this idea’s potential through one of my previous blog posts by clicking here.


The second idea that I find interesting is a Neopixel Traffic map (example pictured below). Essentially, we would be creating a way for a user to know the traffic conditions of a certain area before leaving their home/work. This would be accomplished through inserting LED lights into a picture map and connecting them to an Arduino board that would relay real-time traffic conditions via a paired Google Maps API (Application Program Interface). This project would involve us learning to code, working with API’s, and utilizing circuit boards–and we know we are up to the test!


Thank you

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. As mentioned, my team is finalizing our idea for our semester project, and I can’t wait to share with you what we end up deciding to pursue!


-Scott Provenzano



Becoming a Tinkerer

Guest Speaker

“Are you a professor?” I asked Mr. Banach, our guest speaker for this week’s class session. “No – but I’ve written 24 books and have taught thousands of people all over the world. So, you could call me a teacher.”

It was an excellent experience being walked through using Fusion 360 with Mr. Banach. It was evident that he has taught many students – he was patient and methodical in his teaching style. We gathered in a classroom instead of the MakerLab this week, to get a hands-on tutorial on using this common CAD software. Mr. Banach walked us through drawing lines to create shapes, extruding them to give them mass, and cutting them to give them depth. Together, we designed an ice-scraper that we could actually print and utilize. After our session, I felt like I understood the basic controls of using Fusion 360 to bring ideas into reality.

Class Takeaways & Activities

Overall, this class was an extremely informative one and a key session, I believe, as we begin to start digitally tinkering. Beyond the simple physical controls of using Fusion 360, I learned some key concepts about design aesthetics. For example, using the ‘Filet’ tool to round out edges really made designs much more aesthetic than cold cut lines.

Furthermore, we learned the importance of design practicality, in terms of strength, material, and feasibility. We had to be aware of what material we were using to print a design based on its intended purpose. For example, using a brittle plastic (although cheaper!) would likely shatter our 3D printer ice scraper. We learned how to interpret stress simulations on our objects (very similar to a heat map), to see where the weakest points were. However, upping material design involves a much higher cost and “resolution” of the print. All these factors need to be considered when printing an object – it’s not as simple as design, click, print.


For my personal project, I decided to explore making my very own iPhone Amplifier. I looked at various designs on Thingiverse for inspiration, and then decided to take it my own direction. The iPhone would sit directly into the amplifier, sending the sound waves bouncing around the corner, amplifying in resonance, and coming out of the circular hole in front.

I’m not sure if this is a feasible design – my first thought is that there is a lot of excess waste with this model. Regardless, doing this personal project showed me that I am actually able to independently use Fusion 360 to model. I want to continue refining this design and see how I can potentially improve it.

Going Forward

Going forward, I want to grow my skillset in Fusion 360. Ultimately, I only know a few tools – extrude, filet, taper, etc. However, I believe that as I continue learning skills, my designs will get more complex and more feasible. I look forward to gaining this hands-on experience as I tinker – but I found an excellent additional resource online from AutoCad. It is a quick-start guide on using Fusion 360 and could be very helpful to our class,