Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

Author Archive

Final Project

For my final composite, I created a decoration to be placed somewhere in my family’s house. I made this decoration for my mother as she is very near and dear to my heart. I have not gotten her a gift in forever, so I decided making one would be better than buying something generic. This way, I can have fun flexing my creative muscles with purpose. I want something guests can be surprised by when entering the house.  

The decoration idea started as a diorama.  I came up with ideas of pretty 3D models, but I designed the diorama with intention for it to be interactive. Specifically, I wanted something people can pick up or play with within the diorama. For people who do not interact with the composite, the decoration is nothing more than a 3D artwork. While I like art, I appreciate utility even more so I went for the most fun art I could. The decoration is composed of multiple pieces that created individually and then later put together on a stage.

The first piece is a wooden box frame that holds everything together from the background scenery to the main objects on display. Using the MakerCase website, I downloaded a box .svg file to create the stand. I used the laser cutter for the box as well as the various shapes for the background. This was relatively easy as we have done a lot of work with lasers.

I completed my learning goals using the woodshop tools for the first time to clean and connect the wooden pieces together. I was also interested in learning how to use the mill, but I was told it would not perform as well. It takes a lot of time to learn the software and for the mill to make cuts. My goal was to make a gradient landscape. That could easily take 10+ hours depending on how much of a gradient scale it is. Instead I iterated the project with foam to create a colorful grass surface with water down the middle.

The second part was also a set. I borrowed a design online for articulated monkeys. I decided to print two of them in different colors and replace half the corresponding parts for a multi-color effect. Using their curved hands and feet, they are able to clasp on to different parts of the diorama. They can be played with and put back anywhere. Unfortunately, the apes were printed with exact precision to allow moving the limbs but not removing them.

The third and final piece is simply a hidden battery pack attached to a breadboard with a programmable AT Tiny. I attached the wires using basic soldering techniques and programmed blinking and fading patterns for the lights. The soldering and programming were both learning goals of mine. While the soldering was easy, making it aesthetically appealing is difficult. I could have soldered the wires into the breadboard if I had a different one, but it was not really a problem. The wires held on enough to support the weight of both apes.

The programming on Arduino was relatively simple because I had access to sample codes. I took the samples and modified the numbers. The lights shine a bright green from opposite ends of the box. The wires also served as vines from which the apes could hang. A gentle push causes the apes to swing back and forth quickly. 

Image result for arduino sample blink code

The most significant thing I learned over this course was the importance of planning your project. Sketches, prototypes, and write ups help make the process smoother. There were times where I created something and got an unexpected result such as the case with the ape pieces. Had I made room for errors, I could have improved the design and printed it again. However, I learned that I can make quick decisions to find use in my mistakes as well. I am significantly more confident with every tool that we worked with, even though I did not apply all of them in the final project.

I think of myself now as a creative more than before. That is not to say that I was not creative, but I was never able to bring my ideas to fruition. I can definitely consider myself a maker. Thanks to this course I am able to plan steps for a project and follow each one to make the result perfect.  Each step of the process is important and requires equal focus. Similar to a chain, the steps of a project are dependent on one another. If I go over any one step too quickly, it could cost me quality for the rest of the steps. Applied creativity is the true definition of a maker. If you can form ideas and create physical/digital versions of them, you are a maker.

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For my iteration project, I decided to improve my final design from our 3-D printing assignment. The design was a bathroom organizer for my friend and I. Since I did not have a large budget, I cut the project short. It was not scaled the way I wanted it to be, nor was it sturdy enough because of the low fill. I realized the organizer could have more features than I previously thought. The second time around, I cleaned the overall shape and added more features. Here is the original design for reference.

I improved my skills on Tinkercad and Meshmixer, and I wanted to put them to the test. Using only the 3-D printer seemed lackluster, especially since it made prints all with one color. I usually cannot stay in class long enough for a print to finish, so I could not change filament to add colors. The next step was to decorate the organizer. I planned on using vinyl stickers for color, but since it would be exposed to water in the bathroom, I had to be careful. Vinyl made cleaner cuts than paint and the different colors stood out.

The print was done using black filament and it turned out better than the previous one in white. Unfortunately, the file was too big for one print. After printing two separate pieces, I hot glued the halves back together. The soap dispenser base was removed to show our names more clearly.

I took vinyl cuts from older projects and placed them around the organizer. Then, I made specific cuts for our names and the heart. First, I removed all the shapes that were not getting a sticker covering. Then, I brought the shapes down on the plane and exported them as an .svg file. I chose the color orange on top of black since it was bold and aesthetically pleasing.

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Locomoting Pom-Bot

My in-class design for the locomoting pom-bot was based off the paper we were given with the chicken on it. I tried reconstructing the chicken with a moving piece. I chose to make the head movable to mimic the way a chicken would peck grass. For the body, I put together two cut pieces of construction paper. I used brown cloth to cover some logos and feathers for a better look. I wrapped the head in some odd jaguar print to break the pattern. Using skewers and ice cream sticks I made the legs. The servo attached between the cardboard body and connected to the head, allowing for movement.

The overall design was functional and looked pretty cool with all its different features. I wanted to add on to it, so I started thinking of how to shape it into the next model. To improve the design I cleaned up everything that was sticking out, specifically the cardboard. Then, I improved the sticks-for-legs idea with pipe cleaners to make the design more colorful and a thicker base to allow the chicken to stand on its own. I made the tail into a moving piece by attaching a servo to the back and putting feathers and pipe cleaners on it.

The final design was still unable to stand on its own. The moving pieces shook the base enough to shift the entire thing off balance. If I could improve this design it would have to be started all over. I would mainly change the frame and the base. The rest of the pieces, specifically the tail and head, are good enough but could be made to look more neat.

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Arduino Introduction

I found this week’s task to be fun yet simple. Having previously worked with an Arduino, I remembered the basics enough to finish in class. Getting the LED to light up was not difficult because we had example code available.

Our next step was slightly more challenging because we had to make a pattern using the light. This took a little bit of copy/paste and some critical thinking, but it was relatively easy too. 

The touch sensor was something I never worked with before. I was familiar with how it works especially since it allows for new ways to chain together inputs and outputs.

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Sewing and Digital Embroidery

 My prior sewing experience is nonexistent. I did not expect to accomplish much with my first sew. Even though we started with a relatively simple pattern, I could not keep the threading straight. Lines were getting sewed everywhere in very close proximity of one another, creating bundles. The zig-zag was especially difficult since I had to lift the foot every few seconds to turn. 

After the manual controls for a zig-zag stitch, we learned how to use the sewing machine’s zig-zag feature for stitching. This allowed me to sew together shapes with smoother edges. Stitches alternated from inside the circle to the outside without much adjustment. 

Our next challenge was to create a pouch. I call this a challenge because I needed a lot of precision to cut and sew the shapes together. The design included stitching some parts but leaving others to come back and perfect them later. I made the mistake of sewing over the hole for the drawstring, but I modified the drawstring design to look like a handbag.

Digital embroidery is a really cool technique I am thankful for picking up. I really enjoyed creating a design that would be then sewed all in one go (more or less). My embroidery was that of a coral snake. I traced its bitmap, separated the piece using three different shades, and then changed the colors. While sewing, I changed my mind and broke from the regular color scheme.

Image result for coral snake


My final design was a golden apple tree. I used two green layers for the leaves and stitched a layer of brown in between for the trunk. I cut out small yellow circles for the apples. Finally, I made an embroidery of my snake design with four different colors to go over the trunk. The original stitch only had three colors so I inverted them and added a tongue.

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3D Printing

I started off my 3D printing odyssey with a castle using only the most basic shapes available on Tinkercad. My castle had four walls with towers on each corner, two front-facing windows, and a door. I created this design to help me navigate the Tinkercad website. It was not difficult to build, but it took time to make sure everything was flush. I checked to make sure there was no element (specifically the towers) hanging over air.

The next craft started on Tinkercad, but I took it over to Meshmixer for some adjustments. I constructed my alien using a star for the body, boxes for the feet, a sphere for the head, and two parabaloids for the eyes. On Meshmixer, I smoothed out the features to give my alien a more realistic look, but it was still far from it. Tinkercad is a little too blocky for humanoid figures.


Then, I made a 3D scan using both the Kinect and iPad. The iPad was able to scan more details than the Kinect, so I kept it. I moved the scan over to Meshmixer and made some modifications to fill the holes and solidify the entire piece. The bottom half of my scan was torn, so I cut the plane right at my shoulders. 

Next, I made four sketches on paper that could be implemented as a functional, 3D model. The flatware was a three-in-one craft. The culturally modified item was a guitar with a bird as the base. To implement myself inside of an artwork, I replaced the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci with the Mona Amina. The personal item was going to be either a television stand or a toothbrush and toothpaste holder.

The two ideas that I built with extra detail was the flatware and the item for personal use.

To make the most efficient kitchen utensil, I combined a fork, a knife, and a spoon. I started by building a simple spoon on one end of a stick and a fork on the other. Along one of the sides of the fork, I added serrations for a knife. This was one of my personal favorite designs, but I recognize it is not the most practical. I doubt using the plastic knife to cut anything would be an easy process. Nevertheless, the flatware was a unique challenge and I enjoyed making it. I could have improved the fork prongs and the serrations if I had worked on Meshmixer, but I did not. To upgrade this, I would have made the fork prongs circular and thin, while making the serrations sharper and flat.

 I initially came up with an idea to make some kind of television stand, but I changed it to something on a smaller scale. The television stand was too large and too simple to have fun with. Next, I thought to make a stand for pencils, but I already had one. After some existing, I noticed that I could upgrade a nice little spot in my house, specifically my bathroom. My personal item is actually a multi-purpose tool to help make my bathroom more efficient. It acts as a soap, toothpaste, and toothbrush holder to aid in my daily cleanliness. 

Last, but definitely not least, my final printed product was a test of my design skills. After learning what each program can do, I decided to use Tinkercad to create a further-upgraded bathroom utensil holder. I made this neat little organizer because I needed one in my bathroom, but I also wanted to make it personalized. The reason I used Tinkercad was that my craft was essentially a box; block figures were not a problem. The utensil holder has 3 small square holes for toothbrushes, a large square hole under them for toothpaste, a rectangle slot for soap on the left, and two hooks on the right to hang small towels.

In the end, the final .stl file was too large to print ($15 worth) so I scaled it down. The actual print works for all its intended purposes. It wasn’t exactly how I wanted, but I had constraints that led me to this final print.

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Amine Ahmed Yahia – Circuit Boards


I was inspired by everyone’s take on our in-class assignment as well as projects from previous semesters. The LEDs are the highlight (no pun intended) of the project. I was building upon the idea of shedding light to a tough subject (similar to our quotes), but I did not want to introduce negativity. Instead, I used the LEDs as a way to color the page without crayons and give objects a popping-out effect.

While working:

I started this project off with a lot of brainstorming for the right idea. While LED lights are quite interesting and fun to play with, circuitry is no joke. The copper tape, battery, and LEDs are very difficult to work with. One slightly misplaced rod or oddly bent corner could cause the entire circuit to break. Furthermore, we require a very specific equation to decide which resistor to use for a particular LED. On the other hand, at least the paper for the rest of the project was relatively easier to work with. I recommend working at the lab and allocating a lot of time for prototyping before working on the real thing. Otherwise, a mistake on the final product could mean restarting. This project is doable at home, but you would need to take a handful of copper tape, resistors, and LEDs home.

After brainstorming, I jumped into the project with my main idea being to make an aquarium exhibit. I started with a drawing of the entire outline. I marked where to place each LED/resistor then made sure the circuit was complete. I left space at the bottom of the page for water and made it bright using blue LEDs. I used one regular white light at the top of the page to act as a lightbulb shining down on the rest of the paper. The main focus is intentionally not obvious because I did things in reverse. Lighting up the borders of the paper helped me bring focus to the middle of the paper, where I did not shine any light. I simply cutout fish in the middle to break the pattern. Lighting up everything would cause a viewer’s attention to go everywhere and lose focus. Inversely, I could have lit up the fish and left the aquarium as a drawing, but that was what many other projects already did. There are a lot of potential crafts to make using paper and lights. The challenge was making something that is aesthetically pleasing yet functional in a very short period of time. A lot of time in this project was used up to make everything cleaner. A simple circuit itself could take an hour to make with trial and error, and a complicated circuit could take twice as much time.


I feel like I could have used either the copper tape or the paper more creatively. I prefer working simplicity; I would rather make a light-up LED ball on paper than a 2D cardboard masterpiece with nothing else to it. With more time, I would try to make more features in my design 3D and have the LEDs light up without showing circuits. 

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Amine Ahmed Yahia – Vinyl Stickers

This project was mainly inspired by the griffin sticker, but I wanted to add my own twist on one object instead of two. I used an animated cactus borrowed from Google to start. My idea is not entirely different because it has been done before, but my specific design is unique because it includes my personal favorite plants. I had all the tools and knowledge for this project but not prior to our instruction. I was excited about the multiple colors and layers, but I was worried about how to effectively rearrange all of them into one aesthetically pleasing piece. It took four different colors of 4×4 to make the final product, so it costed approximately $2. However, smaller pieces can be printed out multiple times on one sheet so it saves money.

 Image result for cactus stickers

While working:


Hands-on examples are the only way to explain using Inkscape and Silhouette Studio. The handout for multi-layered stickers was effective because it showed step by step. The pitfalls I was looking out for were all technical. Finding the ideal organization of cuts was quite difficult. It took me a while to figure out a background and what shapes I wanted to cut and paste over the next. I care about minor details because although I do not seek perfection, I want to make a quality sticker that is not missing any pieces due to poor cuts. I just downloaded the software so I can start work like this at home. Up until now, I have not done any of the project work at home because I simply do not have enough resources to prototype.



After finishing:


Now that the project is complete, I am looking back to see what could have been done differently. The biggest improvement would be to perform all the cuts in one go. With more time, I would only add more complexity and fine details to the project. There is nothing more I want to do with it except make it look as neat as possible. As I stated earlier, the main inspiration was the griffin with a twist. I like cacti because I think they are cool and sunflowers because they are pretty. I used photos from google so of course I borrowed someone else’s idea. I added to their idea to make it appropriate usage. The instruction on how to work the software was all the help I needed. I decided to complete my project when I started to lose track of the individual layers. I was adding too many changes that my plant-griffin started to look like a blob more than anything else. I made a mistake with alignment of the cactus on its background, but it turned out well. The alignment being off created a popping effect. My goal was to make an intricate, cool sticker for my bike and I surpassed that goal. The stacking of different colors worked well to highlight the individual layers. The biggest revision was removing the backgrounds that did not fit. Three unexpected things that happened include the sticker not peeling off completely, the background sticking off (which did a cool thing), and overlapping cuts. The best moment was putting the stickers together with transfer tape at the end of the cutting process. I did not doubt my completion because there was plenty of time to do multiple tries. I did not give up, but I took pauses from work. Working on the screen for so long (designing) and still losing track of an object is the only frustration. I liked everything in this project especially since we were given such freedom of choice. I am proud of how the final product looks a completely opposite tone compared to the original images. The designing was the most fun and most troubling part of this project.

Second take: 

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Amine Ahmed Yahia – Laser Name Tag

Studio Reflection

First drafts

Second draft

Final draft


What were you inspired by?

            I drew inspiration from other projects as well as random google images.

What idea were you building on? How are yours different?

            I built on a standard name tag design and added a cat with swirls.

Did you have all the tools and knowledge you needed?

            Yes I had everything I needed right in front of me.

What were you excited about? What were you worried about?

            I was excited to see the laser machine work but I was also worried I would cause a malfunction.


While working on your project:


What would help you explain this to a peer?

            It’s almost self-explanatory. I would guide my peer through steps or have them watch a video.

What are some pitfalls others can avoid if they were doing this project too?

            Do not have too many vectors cutting close to one another or they’ll burn.

Why do you care about this?

            The freedom to create/design anything helps me relax and work out my creativity.

Do you do stuff like this at home? Why or why not?

            I make, but I do not have nearly as many resources as I could.


After finishing your project:


What do you need to learn still in order to meet your goal?

            How to vary the shading intensities.

If you had more time, what would you change?

            I would make my tag a lot more involved and maybe handcraft some shapes.

What were you inspired by?

            Other projects as well as the internet gave me the inspiration I needed to start.

Did you end up encountering someone else’s idea in the process that shaped your work?

            I saw many other ideas and used them as examples, but I did not want to steal ideas.

Who/what helped you?

            The professors helped me remember older tutorials for laser cutters.

At what point did you decide you were going to finish your project?

            When I started working on it, I had already decided to finish it.

What mistakes did you make?

            I burned the swirls because the cuts were too small and grouped close.

What was your goal? Did you meet your goal?

            My goal was to make a unique piece of art with my name on it and I did that exactly

What is something that worked?

            The machine worked for all its intended purposes.

When did you make a revision, and why?

            I made a revision right before printing to add the box cutout that was to be the actual tag.

Name 3 unexpected things that happened

            A file failed to save, I forgot to vector the actual box for the tag, and I burned my kitty ☹.

Describe a “big moment” that moved your project forward.

            When I decided to stay after class to finish. I do not efficiently get work done at home nor on weekends, so I knew my best decision was to stay until I had everything mostly done.

What there a time you doubted you could finish? Why? How did you make it through?

            I doubted myself at the start but fixed myself when I got the ball rolling.

Did you give up? Why? What did you do next?

            No. I just kept adjusting and moving on.

What was the most frustrating part?

            Learning how to physically operate the laser cutter, and it was not even bad.

What did you like?

            Everything from the freedom of choice to the design work on Inkscape.

What bit are you most proud of?

            I was supposed to be proud of the swirls, but they came out wrong. Instead, I like the star cutouts that I could glue back on.

Which part of this was the most fun? Why?

            The most fun part was watching the laser etch and cut. After the difficult creation phase, we get to relax and enjoy the machine as it makes our designs.

Second take:

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