Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

Author Archive

Iteration Assignment – Andrew Holler

This week in Makerspace, iteration. One of the core concepts of our Makerspace course is designing, and in design one of the largest topics is iteration. Iteration is the concept of taking a project and repeatedly modifying it to gain new or different value. Our task was to take a past project of the semester and iterate upon it to create something from combining tools, mediums, and methods of making. I immediately knew that I wished to to do something with the Fab Lab’s laser engraver. Since the first project of the semester, name tags (see my original below), I’ve been wanting to laser cut again. This was an opportunity to do that. I particularly enjoy the design and creation process of projects using the laser engraver, and it’s fun to watch your project be made before you. I was excited to make it better so I began thinking of ways to use other experience from the class.


I tried thinking of what other assignments I could integrate into my project. Our assignment suggested using old 3D models that we may have. I found a 3D scan that we took of our head and shoulders (see below), and thought it would be quite fitting to have my profile engraved onto a name tag. I took a screen shot of my scanned 3D profile and included it into my design.

I reworked my old design and included more trees, a different font for my name, two layers of background mountains, and planned to paint two Colorado C’s onto the finished product. I would cut the left and right profiles of my face out of the name tag and replace it with clear acrylic. I would make deeper cuts and layer/burn according to image depth. Below you’ll see my results. I was very happy with how well it went. The only issue I ran into was having to use the Architecture lab’s laser engraver, as the Fab Lab’s was temporarily broken.

Below you’ll see the final product. This was created after laser-cutting my profile out of acrylic plastic, gluing the pieces in place with epoxy, and finally painting it with some acrylic paints.

Overall, I’d have to say that the iteration on my name tag not only worked, but also made it better. The design is more robust, has more elements, but still stays simple enough for a name tag. In addition, it expresses things about my personality and where I am from. This time around I was able to apply laser depths more effectively to give the effect of image depth. I was proud of the idea of using my profiles in my name tag and I think it gives a further personal aspect to the name tag. The font for my name is a more techy font and expresses my personality better. These are all reasons that I believe I made a successful iteration of a past project. An even further iteration of the project might even include LED’s to light up the profiles. However, I am proud and wouldn’t change it as it is now.

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Arduino Locomoting Pom-Pom Bot – Andrew Holler

Initial concept/design

When we initially learned about the pom-pom bots, the fact that Servo motors have a rotation limit of 180° wasn’t mentioned. So, when we got to our lab and we learned this I tried to think of different limbs that move with only 180°. My mind when to fish and their tails. Fish can swim but they don’t walk. They do however manage to flop around on land. So, I figured I would go forward with the fish movement idea.

Though the movement would be that of a fish, I didn’t want to make my bot look like a fish. We had all the supplies to make it look however we wanted at our disposal. Popsicle sticks, pom-poms, hot glue, and tape were our materials. I drew a quick sketch that used all the materials except the hot glue. It’s sticky, hard to work with, and could damage the electronics so I opted to just stick with tape. Later I would find the hot glue necessary. The initial pom-pom was an inspiration on the whim.

Initial construction/prototype

My initial construction of the pom-pom bot was a failure. I worked on it during our lab section but got nowhere but frustration. I tried writing the servo code from scratch to form movement that mimicked what I thought a fish moved like, but it didn’t manage to make anything move in the way I expected. I plan on returning to attempt a round two at coming up with a working, moving design. I’ll restart with the example servo code and redo everything physically. Ultimately I had nothing to show for my initial construction.

To improve the movement design I’ll be making a support structure separate from the rest of the pom-pom bot. This support structure will hold the servo and will hopefully be sufficient enough to move the bot forward. In order to make it move forward better I think I’ll experiment with sandpaper attached to the servo motor. It may create friction in one direction causing the servo arm to slip on the smooth side and move forward on the rough sandpaper side. I’ll also have to use hot glue because tape is making nothing stay secure.

Second construction/prototype

Not pictured is the support structure I added. After restarting completely with a few new ideas I implemented the support structure to house the servo motor separate from the bot body. This actually worked pretty well! I used the example servo code and sped it up to create movement for the bot. It was moving but the bottom half of the bot was dragging along the table. I tried to implement what I thought was a good idea with the sandpaper, but it didn’t work. More tinkering with it could probably result in success.

In the final iteration I plan to fix my problem of the bottom half of the bot dragging along the table. I might be able to speed the bot up a little bit more as well. I’ll also attempt to use the sandpaper again.

Final pom-pom bot

I decided to call the final pom-pom bot Chomp because it sort of looks like it is chomping down every time it moves forward. The chomping and wires mimic the likes of Chain Chomp in Mario games. The last iteration of Chomp added another support structure between the main body of Chomp. This was an upgrade to the one support structure Chomp had before, allowing only one Servo motor to be attached. With the upgrade another servo motor was attached, and when they were synchronized Chomp moved forward with more power as well as moved straighter.

I didn’t expect adding a second servo motor to work in my favor. Initially it didn’t, but once I synchronized the motors inside of the Arduino software to move at the same time, it worked! If I were approaching this same problem differently in the future I would get more creative with the look and creative design of my pom-pom bot. I was so worried about actually getting Chomp to move that I disregarded much of the creativity I know I am capable of. Another experience working with servo motors interests me greatly!


The final pom-pom bot code.

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Arduino Introduction – Andrew Holler

We starting learning and using Arduino right before spring break. When I found out we’d be using Arduino I was slightly relieved. I am a computer science major and I figured that this Arduino section would be easier to handle than other projects because it consists of programming and embedded systems, topics I’m familiar with. I hadn’t ever used Arduino but I was excited because I have heard so much about it. I was excited to see what the practical applications existed and what I was capable of creating without prior experience.

We followed along a tutorial with our TA to make the Arduino light up an LED, flash SOS in Morse code with an LED, and use an ultrasonic sensor input (it tells distance from the sensor). I didn’t experience much issues in learning and troubleshooting the Arduino. For the most part everything worked the first time when I wrote and ran it. When we opened the Arduino software program I immediately noticed that the Arduino code was written with the programming language, C. Hours of slaving away at C programs in my courses came in handy here. I went a step further past the tutorial we were following and combined the LED flashing with the ultrasonic sensor. I programmed it in such a way that the closer an object was to the ultrasonic sensor, the faster the LED flashed. I’m excited to move onto more advanced functions with the Arduino.

My goal from this point forward is to learn more about the different capabilities of Arduino. This includes capabilities of sensors, outputs, and the programming language. Mistakes encountered were easily solved by tinkering with the code. It was quite fun. I was moving relatively quick so the results of the programming and output were seen right away. It has piqued my interest in future projects.

An LED being lit up by an Arduino. I’m unsure as to whether or not it was blinking at the moment.


We were next assigned to imagine an Arduino device of our own, but not to implement it. Below is my idea in storyboard form.

Setting: My idea is aimed at children who are going to measure their height. This device could be implemented anywhere this task might occur. The example I used was at a doctor’s office. I wanted to emphasize a focus on children, so I used a pediatrician. However this could be used at home, too.

Sequence: The sequence of using this device would be very simple. Whoever sets it up would connect it to a light switch or a custom switch attached to the wall. Whoever is measuring could flip the switch to turn the Arduino on. The program would then use a range sensor output and send it to an LED display device. A interesting addition would be to display a fun fact about that height (perhaps it’s the same height as a type of animal).

Satisfaction: The motivation behind the device would to make a simple task more fun for children and perhaps adults too. It acts as both a utility and an education tool. More than likely, a few children would ask how it works. Perhaps they’d even have their own interests piqued and want to build Arduino applications of their own! In the case of a doctor’s office it could make the whole visit more entertaining for children. In addition, the materials are cheap and it’s easy to implement.

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Soft Circuit – Andrew Holler

Every week we learn new skills at the Fab Lab and these past two weeks were no different. We learned skills like digital embroidery, sew-able circuitry, and classic sewing. I hadn’t had much experience with sewing before. I faintly remember taking a home economics class in my middle school where we hand-sewed a stuffed animal and various things but, I hadn’t retained any of the knowledge from it. It was like starting from scratch. Hand-sewing had me concerned just because I know it can be tedious and I can get pretty annoyed when I have to work with such precision. That’s probably why I was more excited about the digital embroidery which has computer precision. It can be used to embroider anything that you can imagine digitally, whether it be a picture or something of your own design. I ended up using it to create my personalized Github patch and golden shield patch below. I was going for a golden shield crest but, the time constraints of our lab turned it into a simpler patch. I still like it.

There are a few key factors to successfully working on these sewing projects. One should plan ahead, dedicate plenty of time, and be patient. These are a few of the pitfalls I ran into when attempting to finish my assignment. I went into the lab to finish my project on Sunday and spent my entire day working on the zipper pouch with the Github patch. When I finished the patch I sat down and started to sew some LED’s and a battery to the patch. I couldn’t manage to get even an LED sewed onto the patch. The only previous hand-sewing experience I had was with the purple heart pictured below. I ended up running out of time and had to finish the pouch without any soft circuitry. It was frustrating and I could have added it if I had less anxiety, more time, and more experience. I may be interested on working on projects like this in the future but only if I have the time to dedicate. These are pretty time-consuming projects in my opinion but they are very satisfying (see zipper pouches).

Overall I’d say this was a pretty valuable learning block. The skills and kinds of things we learned in the past two weeks can be applied to a lot of different projects, not limited to what we did. I’d be interested in combining our upcoming Arduino projects with a sew-able craft. I’m interested in programming and can get more experience with sewing that way. It’s quite frustrating to realize that I wasn’t able to finish the assignment completely, but it also feels as if I had no other choice. The patch zipper bag would have been quite neat with LEDs but, a busy schedule demands many priorities. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to the next project in our makerspace, the Fab Lab.


The Pouch

No lights, such sorrow,
I ran out of time today,
Maybe tomorrow


Pictures of the awesome pouches I learned to make!


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3D Design, Scanning and Printing – Andrew Holler

A popular topic of “making” has been the theme of our class for the past two weeks, 3D printing. A visit to the VisLab at the Beckman Institute showed me the amazing, scientific, and complex sides of 3D modeling and visualization. In contrast, a visit to the Makerlab at BIF showed me the user-friendly and popular side of the same topics. Whether you’re a beginner or expert, there is a way to experience learning and making 3D objects. I was tasked to create something of my own for the class, so I chose to create a coffee table work of art. I wanted to make something that would catch someone’s interest and I didn’t want it to be put down immediately after picked up. I wanted to pique the interest of the holder and inspire them to model things of their own. It could be perhaps act as a segue into beginner modeling.  Because the object would sit on my coffee table, I sat and looked at my coffee table expecting inspiration. I thought it’d be funny if I 3D scanned my coffee table to sit on my coffee table. However, 3D scanning large objects isn’t easy and can take days. That’s when I realized I could use my new skills with Tinkercad to model it instead.

An example of a geometric model made in Tinkercad. Modeling various furniture and a house improved my skills in Tinkercad.

I had been practicing using Tinkercad and was making random furniture. Using the skills I applied to that, I modeled my coffee table. That’s when I realized that I could take the entire project one step further. I could model my entire living room. If someone was sitting on my couch and picked up this mini model of the living room they were sitting in, it would be a little moment of surprise and laughter. At least that’s what I would experience. Tinkercad was the route I chose to implement my model, but below you can see some of the other tools used in 3D modeling.

His name is Fangy. Fangy is an example of how you can make an organic 3D model with tools like Sculptris.

That’s me! Scanned from Skanect. I was surprised at how much detail was captured.

When I finished modeling my living room I selected everything, copied it, pasted it, shrunk it, and placed it onto my 3D model’s coffee table. An fun little matrix effect was thus created. The rest was just printing it, trimming it, and getting it to look the way I like. More than just learning tools of 3D modeling, I got to learn about the field of it as well. The visit to the Beckman Institute was very inspiring and created a personal interest into some complexities of 3D modeling/visualization like macro photography, high-detail scanning, and slow-motion capture. I tried to transfer that into making an art piece of my own. If I can elicit an emotion out of people who might pick up and look at my living room while sitting in it, then that might elicit a feeling of wonder in 3D modeling, just as I experienced.

Further iterations of my design process would probably include enlarging the 3D print. I was working with minute details on a minute model. This inevitably leads to problems in the 3D print process. I would be interested in rinse-away filament so that I could include the hollow details that come with cabinets and tables. Otherwise, I am extremely happy with the 3D modeling unit and satisfied with my print.

Story board explaining my interests in the project and how I hope it to affect friends/guests.

An in-progress shot of my coffee table art in Tinkercad. My living room.

The final print product, my living room. Neon green because white was about to run out. Sorry if it’s hard to see!


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Copper Tape Card – Andrew Holler

This week the INFO490 Makerspace class made copper tape crafts. I thought I had an idea of what this was about before attending lab. I’ve seen videos on various social media sites of circuits and electronics that are made by taping. I was definitely expecting more of the classic circuitry feel from the projects but was pleasantly surprised by how different copper tape circuitry is. I imagine these would be (and are) a fantastic, cost-effective education tool for any age learning about electronics and circuitry. It takes little background knowledge and results are quick. Personally, this week had me a bit worried because I was very crunched for time. I’ve been busy with some tough assignments and yet found time to successfully complete a makerspace project.

The concept behind copper tape circuits is seemingly simple. Connect the positive side of a battery to the negative side using the tape. In between the loop you can put any sort of component that you wish to receive power from the battery, just make sure to create a +- loop. Challenges arose when I attempted to put LEDs in a circuit series instead of parallel. In series, if one of the LEDs fails it will break the circuit and none light up. Conversely in parallel, if one fails all the others will still work. I also found that copper tape circuitry requires a fair amount of dexterity with tape, folding, and tight spaces between paper. My final bear project had some issues due to a lack of said dexterity. I could see this being a fun and cheap hobby at home but, I haven’t and don’t see myself working on it at home.

As I mentioned before, I was crunched for time. An upcoming artificial intelligence deadline was constantly putting pressure on me. I decided to follow the tutorial posted to complete my copper tape card and it helped me finish surprisingly quickly. I ended up customizing it for myself a bit and I used the silhouette cutters to make trees and a bear. I even ended up using the negative cutout of the bear as a background instead of throwing it away. I had trouble when it came to the LEDs lighting up and it was very finicky. It was also hard to see the lights with the classic LEDs. Using the sticky ones probably would have produced better results. With more time I could probably perfect the connections and lighting of the bear.

I had fun with the quote card assignment, too. Firstly, no, I am not that talented at drawing. How did I draw these decent looking hands? The answer lied on my phone, or at least the paper did. I laid it on my phone and traced a zoomed in picture of the hands. It was a fun, clever way of getting the “Love” part of the quote I wished to convey and I liked the results. The “light” part of the quote came in with the lights lighting up the darkness when you touched the hands together as shown. It’s probably what I’m most proud of in this learning block. Another week of making down. Can’t wait for 3D printing!

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

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Multi-layer Vinyl Stickers – Andrew Holler

Before: Once we were told we were moving onto vinyl stickers it didn’t impact me much. Our course had just finished with laser engraving and I figured that they would be very similar. Once again, I had no experience with design or cutter machines. In computer science, there is a large chunk of the major population that has vinyl stickers pasted all over their laptops. It’s what first came to mind. I was hoping to make something unique that might make me finally want to put something onto my own laptop.

During: There were a couple of challenges in the design of the more complicated layered stickers. I found it difficult to find designs from the internet and actually implement in the way that you want. For example, for the fox sticker project I wanted the chest fur of the right fox to also be filled in with holographic vinyl. I wasn’t sure how to join the pieces to isolate the chest fur. I had difficulty with Inkscape’s tools like “ungroup” and “break apart” in separating certain parts of the design for separate sticker cuts as well. In addition, knowing exactly where the cutter margins were was difficult. Unfortunately, it cut off my chicken cat’s ear. I drew inspiration for my fox project from my girlfriend. Her last name is “Lisitza” meaning little fox. The chicken cat “griffin” and holographic panda were spur of the moment ideas.

After: Overall, I had fun with this project. It was exciting to learn new techniques for making the imagination into an actual craft. It makes me excited for further assignments in the makerspace course. If I had more time to work on vinyl sticker projects I would probably explore further sticker color combinations other than holographic and gold (I did like those though). I would like to further my knowledge of Inkscape so I can match what’s in my head to the output. I had a goal in mind when beginning, make a sticker unique enough to me to put on my laptop. I successfully met that and am proud to put chicken cat on my laptop. I quite like it and the sharp edges involved in its design.

Fox objects and their outlines in the Silhouette program.

The design in Inkscape.

Final foxy product.

The chicken cat.

The holographic panda.

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Laser Name Tag – Andrew Holler

My final name tag. I’m very happy with it!


The laser name tag. This is my first assignment in the INFO490 Makerspace course and the results of my first project have me very excited for the rest of the course. At the end of our tour of the Fab Lab we reached the laser engravers. This got me extremely excited because I had seen past videos and media presenting the abilities of these awesome machines. As we worked through the demo name tag with TA Sara, I could hardly keep track as I explored the endless creative possibilities inside of Inkscape. I wanted to stray away, however, I knew paying attention would give me good skills to be creative in the future.

After the first demo name tag, I knew I wanted something very similar for my final product. The demo tag was 3″ x 3″ but I opted for 4″ x 4″ for the final name tag. In addition there was space between the mountains and the base of the name tag in my demo. I changed it so the base of the mountains were the base of the name tag. I also added a bit more space between my name and the mountains and made my name bigger. The feel of the wood felt right with my mountain theme so I decided to keep engraving with balsa wood. In an attempt to be more creative with my design I added multiple layers of engraving. I wanted trees to be growing in front of the mountains for a pleasing silhouette effect. I made my name and the mountains the base layer. The trees and the Colorado “C” were the second layer. During the engraving process I didn’t like how light the design seemed on the wood. I wanted more depth to the designs on my name tag. That’s when I discovered you could repeat various layer runs on the material. I decided to repeat engrave my name, the trees, and the Colorado “C”. Running the engraver on these designs just one more time gave me the desired look for my name tag. Overall during the process I learned several techniques including Inkscape design, design layering, rasterizing, vectorizing, repeat engraving, and how speed/power settings affect laser depth & burn.

I am happy with my final product and proud to say that I made it almost entirely by myself with guidance from Sara. It is super reflective of my personality and where I’m from. If there were anything to change on my name tag it would be the design of the Colorado “C”. It is hard to tell but there are two separate layers to the C. There is the C and then there is a sphere in the middle of the C. If I were to change it, I would engrave the C and the sphere in the middle a bit deeper in order to make it more identifiable as the Colorado “C” from the flag. I hope to do more projects to learn the ins and outs of the laser engravers because it’ll be hard to beat my excitement for this maker machine.

Editing my design in Inkscape. Apologies for taking a picture of the screen instead of a screenshot.

The first layer of my design with my name and mountains.

The second layer of my design with the Colorado “C” and pine trees.

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