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

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Final Project- CitySpace – Amanda Wolfe

For my final project I created an Urban Planning themed Board Game called CITYSPACE. I wanted to explore designing a game that would engage people with the field of urban planning, putting them in the position of being an urban planner in the game to deal with “building” a city by completing plans to get points to win the game. I faced many obstacles with this project, first being that I have never designed a board game before. I had to spend a lot of time researching game design and thinking through the game play while also thinking about how I could make all the pieces in time to have a product for people to play with before the final presentation. In the end I feel I didn’t leave quite enough time to build all the pieces, I ended up with 2 player beta version of the game, but started out wanting to make it a 4 player game. I also didn’t get to make multiple prototypes for all the different parts, for example, I wanted to redo the cards, but ran out of time at the end. 

I feel that after taking this course I have not only gained many skills in making: laser cutting, 3D printing and designing, Arduino, etc., but also gained a better understanding of how I learn. I tend to spend a lot of time on the idea of a project, fleshing the idea out, which if I leave enough time to execute the idea helps me to create a project when I am proud of by the end. However, if I either underestimate the amount of time something will take to put together or don’t spend enough time on the idea then I get frustrated with the outcome. For example, with the pom pom bot lab I spent most of that lab just trying things, putting different parts together and seeing how the bot would work, and not enough time on thinking through how the design of the bot should look first. I ended up not submitting this lab because I was unhappy with what I had completed. Also, with this final project I spent a ton of time developing the game design, I enjoyed this part, but let myself get a bit too bogged down in the details and felt I didn’t leave quite enough time to execute the project to what I had imagined in the beginning.

I am beginning to acknowledge that producing something in an “unfinished” or early stage is acceptable for some things, and that I need to be less critical. With the pom pom bot I was too critical when I didn’t produce something to my expectations, yet, I knew and could acknowledge that I didn’t spend enough time developing an idea. Instead of submitting what I had done and thinking about it as a learning experience I just didn’t submit it. For the final project, I tried to remain less critical, even when the game wasn’t at a stage that I wanted, I presented what I had and talked about next steps. I got some really useful feedback and encouragement during the presentation from everyone and realized the benefit of allowing myself to show something in it’s early stages to make it better. Being less of a perfectionist has been something I have been working on in general, and I think experiencing these things with making (as opposed to less physical things like writing ) has helped me to see in a tangible form that how I can actually improve something by letting people see things in earlier stages.

My learning goals for this project were:

  • I want to challenge myself to talk to people inside and outside of the field of urban planning while developing the project to understand the many different perceptions of urban planning. I hope that this will help me to refine my project by incorporating what I have observed so that I can create a tool for planners to engage with people so that they can better understand the field.
  • I hope to further develop my collaboration and critical thinking skills by working with the other graduate students in developing a podcast to discuss the connections between the maker movement and urban planning. Collaboration is a key skill in urban planning as all of work I will do involves working in teams, so I hope to think critically throughout this process about how we can each use our strengths to create a unique podcast experience.

I realized as the final deadline approached that my first learning goal was a bit ambitious. I struggled to ask people outside of urban planning about my board game and get useful feedback. I had to spend a lot of time explaining the game instructions and I realized that since many of the people I asked didn’t know anything about Urban Planning they couldn’t really give me any feedback on what they didn’t know. I did get some useful feedback from a friend of mmine, Sabrina, she thought it would be unique if players had to purchase a vehicle of sorts in the beginning of the game, a car or bus etc, and based off which piece you got it could costed more, and would help you travel farther faster, or cost less but you would move slower. I didn’t end up putting this in the game but this is what gave me the idea to explore putting a player piece in the game and making people build roads to reach the places they would build on. But after exploring asking more people outside of planning I realized it may not be a good use of my time to continue this in the early stages of game development and ended up focusing on asking planners what they thought about it. I mostly got positive feedback, people were truly excited to see the level of detail in the game design. I had some useful feedback from a fellow planner Richa Singh who asked me questions about the design to help me think through simplifying the game design. She also helped me to identify plans to use in my plan deck (20 cards) which gives players an objective in planning to complete for points, an example being “a subdivision with 5 houses and 2 parks in suburbia”.

For my second goal I thoroughly enjoyed the process of thinking about, designing questions, and recording and editing the podcast. Susie, Sarah, Kelly and I all have such a range of interests in planning and have enjoyed this class and each have gotten different things from it so I felt that our collaboration made for an intriguing dialog. Making this podcast, thinking about various connections and ways to ask questions to get the person being interviewed to dig a bit deeper helped me to reflect on my experiences in this class and my learning.

Lastly, my final project means a great deal to me. I feel motivated to see it through past the current version and improve upon it. I think it would be a fun way to engage with my friends outside of planning and I might continue thinking of other ways to expand on it in the future. Furthermore, when I reflect on whether or not I consider myself a maker, I would say yes. I think everyone is a maker in their own way. I have never considered myself a very creative person, before coming into Urban Planning I was in environmental science and I mostly did research. I enjoyed doing things that were more “creative” but never felt very encouraged to pursue more hands on making. Through the course of my work in the master’s program here, including this class I feel I have gotten to explore more kinds of “creative” work and making. Yet, the coolest part of this is how I began to see an appreciate the other aspects of my life that are not making in the traditional sense, but now I see them as opportunities for creativity and making. I gained a better appreciation of the other skills I do have through learning more about myself through these projects, and I think that is one of the more significant lessons I have learned. 

Early Stages of Design:

Game Board and Pieces:

  

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Project 8- Iteration on 3D Printing

For this week’s project we got to work on a previous project in the class and redo the project to expand upon the idea, utilizing the skills we have learned in this class to improve upon the concept and design. I chose to work on the 3D printing lab, the prompt I used in this lab was, 

Imagine a themed set of flatware or dishes for dining that is more interesting or creative than existing versions. This will involve designing several parts for a set that are tied together in some substantive way. You may wish to consider certain sorts of users as well as places people eat, or specific kinds of foods that they might match.” 

The design I came up with the first time is shown above. I worked in tinkercad to develop a set of flatware that could be carried in a portable manner for people who pack a lunch and want to conserve plastic (from plastic one use silverware). The design I came up with was a “swiss army flatware”. When I got into the designing of this the first time I was unable to complete all the parts I imagined, and I was only able to print a small version of the flatware. In my previous blog post I stated,

“I think conceptually I had the right ideas, however I should print another iteration to solve these problems and still need to see how the capsule would function with the moving pieces, to see if my ideas will actually function well.”

So I was excited to revisit this project and see what all I could accomplish. First, I knew I needed to print the design to be bigger, so that they were a realistic size that could fit in someone’s hand. I printed the design at the Illinois Makerlab. It took about 5 hours. I though the larger print would solve the previous issue I had with my knife being a bit thin and fragile, however, I think looking at how the print came out I should’ve increased the thickness of this a bit before printing.

I also had to design how the silverware would be enclosed. In class I drew out some options, fabric capsules, acrylic, 3D-printed, and wood. After discussions with my TA, Sara, about the pros and cons of different options, I decided to design a press-fit box version using wood. I lazer cut a first prototype of the box after printing the flatware to see the dimensions of the object and figure out how I wanted the moving parts to function within the box, I had to think through how the silverware would come out of the capsule one at a time. This was a bit tricky. I ended up lazer cutting 2 press fit boxes.

 

 

A lot of options I came up with that would aid in pulling the silverware out of the box, hindered the use of the silverware or the design of the box. I came up with a solution, after talking through some different ideas, and I realized I needed a few other parts to be 3D printed. I chose to create spacers that would hold the 3 silverware pieces at specific heights, and I created a handle to attach to the back of the silverware so that the pieces could be “swung” out of the slots on the box. I also had to measure slots for the silverware to come out of the box, and estimate the height of each so they lined up with the silverware on the peg. Above are the designs for the box and the extra 3D pieces, and below this are the in progress images of me putting all these different parts together.

 

I ran into many issues with this iteration project that I had to spend time thinking and designing alternative solutions for as I went. Before starting this I thought the iteration of my first idea would be relatively simple, however there were so many aspects I hadn’t considered. Like how the parts would move out of the capsule, how would the silverware remain at the height they needed to be to get out of the slots smoothly, and how would someone actually use this? The one thing I still feel concerned about with this design is that it’s too large and cumbersome for someone to actually use. Also the box shape, with sharp corners do not fit comfortably in my hand, and the silver ware only move 90 degrees, making it impossible to use the tool (180 would be much better). However, I think given the materials and skills I have that this gave me an opportunity to think more about moving parts and physical design issues and that I feel I succeeded in building upon my previous idea. 

“Inside the box” problem solving

  

Final Product

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Project 6- Arduino Introduction

Last week’s exercise in introducing Arduino was an interesting way to get started with coding with inputs and outputs. The only coding experience I have is in data analysis and it didn’t interact with something as physical in nature as this, so I was intrigued to learn about the hardware/software interaction of this week’s exercise. When we were finished with the guided part of the exercise looking at outputs (aka LEDs) we explored using an input device on our own. I first looked online and in the collection of sensors available to see what kinds of inputs connect to Arduino. I decided to try and find a code online to hack to help me connect to a motion sensor, with the goal of if there is a motion, it would turn on the LED. However, I never successfully got the motion detector set up with the Arduino to detect my motion let alone turn on a light in response. I had planned to return to the lab at another time to troubleshoot this more thoroughly, but unfortunately ran out of time. I was using this website (http://www.instructables.com/id/Arduino-Motion-Sensor-Control-Led-Light/)  to try and guide me, but I wasn’t able to figure out where I went wrong in the code. I hope to return to it again and figure out what went wrong, so that I can better understand the relationship between the input and outputs. I also realized I didn’t save any pictures of the hardware to show for this blog so hopefully I can capture some when I repeat the process and update this post later.

 

For the storyboard of what I might design, I went back to a project I had worked on designing a smart city site proposal for a block in NYC. We had suggested a wide range of ideas that would better improve the site or a person’s experience of the site. I decided to base my story board off one of the proposals given to try and think through the idea a bit more in depth to determine how this might actually work using the skills I learned about programming sensors to affect an output. I did a little more research on responsive place making/design to see if I could find better examples to work from as well. I’ve included an image from the project I am taking my inspiration from as well as a link to some installations by others that can better illustrate this idea.

Site design from my report to inspire this idea.

http://www.future-cities-lab.net/projects/

The idea behind this is specifically tied to sensors hidden in public spaces, to detect the volume of pedestrians, time of day, light levels, and more to create a responsive public space that sets the mood for the space behind the scenes. The idea is that it goes unseen, you don’t exactly know what is making you comfortable in this space over another it just does. Using sensors such as motion detectors and outputs like speakers with music, and lighting you can create a more responsive environment that encourages more people to gather in the space.

 

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Project 5- E-Textiles- Amanda Wolfe

For the past two weeks we learned about sewing, digital embroidery, and soft circuits. I was excited as I have done basic hand sewing and some clothing alteration using a sewing machine before, but have never tried embroidery or soft circuits before. I think having some prior knowledge about sewing did help me to complete this assignment as I was able to problem solve as I went instead of having to focus solely on how to do each step. I found an image on the internet of some cacti that I thought could be simple and cute sewn onto a bag. I edited the image in Photoshop first to reduce the number of colors, then added it to PE Design 10. I struggled with this for a while, trying the different options for converting the image into stitching, and for some reason it was creating really strange results, making shapes that looked nothing like the image. I eventually realized if you keep the image REALLY large before transforming it to the stitch that it created a much better result. If I knew this before, it would have saved me 2 hours of fiddling with the program, so others might be able to avoid this problem if they complete this with images from google as well. The embroidery was a tad difficult as I chose a thin stretchy fabric, and after my first attempt failed, I ironed on a backing to make it a bit more sturdy and this solved the issue.

Original Image:                                                  Photoshopped:

 

Embroidery Design and Execution:

I think the embroidery came out really clean, I liked the design I chose, and the fabrics and zipper coordinate well. I was able to sew the soft circuit without any issues, making sure to strategically place the LEDs so the conductive thread would not cross, and the stitches would not be too awkwardly placed in the front embroidery. And I attached the zipper without issue, but when I sewed the bag together the zipper area was a bit difficult to line up, there is a gap in the bag. I also would try to clean up the fabric before closing the bag, because I chose such a thin white fabric you can see the excess through the front.

Soft Circuit:

Putting together the bag:              Mistake in sewing:

 

Overall, I felt I reached the goals I set out, one disappointing thing was the soft circuit now only works once and awhile because I chose to sew it inside the bag- on the back of the outside liner. This means I can’t fiddle with the strings to make sure they are taught to fix the connection without cutting a hole in the inner liner to reach the circuit, but then the bag wouldn’t function as well, because something inside might mess with the circuit. I enjoyed this lab, it was a bit stressful as so many people needed the tools in the lab at one time. I am interested in learning and attempting more e-textile projects in the future.

Final Product:

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Project 4: 3D Printing- Amanda Wolfe

Over the past 2 weeks we learned about 3D modelling, scanning and printing. As we learned Sculptris and TinkerCAD, I didn’t have many ideas for what I might do for this lab, I thought that maybe I would 3D scan something and alter it to be some sort of functional art piece. I liked the example Duncan mentioned in class about someone 3D scanning themselves then altering their appearance into Link from the Legend of Zelda, and making it into a pencil holder. However, when we actually did the scanning and had difficulty getting the obj into Sculptris I decided I wanted to do something else as I think it would be easiest to edit this type of project in Sculptris instead of TinkerCAD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, I shifted my attention to the second prompt:

“Imagine a themed set of flatware or dishes for dining that is more interesting or creative than existing versions. This will involve designing several parts for a set that are tied together in some substantive way. You may wish to consider certain sorts of users as well as places people eat, or specific kinds of foods that they might match.”

And searched for some ideas in class to get started. I first thought of designing a new/interesting shaped wine glass, with some design inside the cup portion, however I realized this design would be much more effective if the material was transparent. I began next to think about how wasteful plastic silverware is and how annoying it is to transport real silverware back and forth when you pack a lunch (coming home having to clean it, carrying around dirty silverware all day, etc.). I considered how it might be useful to have a contained silverware, that can be reused and kept with you to be washed at home (without it being loose in your bag) and decided to attempt a Swiss Army style silverware set.

I created my storyboard prior to designing the product. The first image is someone short on time trying to eat lunch at the office, however, they are upset by their options, disposable silverware, or having to carry silverware from home and wash it. They realize the implications of completing both options for every lunch they take at work (M-F). Someone introduces the product, “swiss army silverware”, which makes them happier to have a convenient and sustainable option for reusable takeout silverware. 

Next, I began the design process in TinkerCAD, and I realized how difficult it was going to be to even make a super simplified version of this technology. I utilized the different shapes, stars merged into points for the fork, squares, and cylinders and all relatively basic shapes merged as “holes” and solid pieces to create 3 silverware: fork, spoon, and knife to be included in the set, all movable around a peg.

         

I wanted to also create the capsule for these to be contained, with pieces to hold it all together, however, upon speaking with the cu fab lab staff they suggested the capsule be made with 3D laser cutting. I was unable to do this portion, but hope to at some point. I did make the connection points with the 3D printer for where the peg would insert into the capsule for when I am able to make the capsule.

 Image result for swiss army knife inside 

Example of what I mean by capsule( the part that encloses the set of tools)

(Source: https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-swiss-army-knife-multiple-tools-inside-there-scissors-saw-screwdriver-tin-can-opener-other-tools-ink-drawn-image36179281)

        

The design in TinkerCAD was very time consuming and I had to think about functionality (the moving parts) as well as the practicality of the object being printed. I also had to think about some spatial and physical design aspects I don’t usually get to work through and I enjoyed it! I realized I am not bad at solving physical/spatial problems, which I have previously thought and been told. I was very skeptical about the design printing as we discussed in lab, things that have a large base are best, and my final design was raised above in the air and needed tree supports. I originally considered printing each flatware piece across a base, and the post separately and putting the whole thing together after, but decided to risk printing it stacked on the pin.

       

One issue, I ran into was when we scaled down the design the knife printed very thin and should be redone to be much thicker. Also the handles have some holes as a similar problem of the thinness of design. I think conceptually I had the right ideas, however I should print another iteration to solve these problems and still need to see how the capsule would function with the moving pieces, to see if my ideas will actually function well.

 

Overall I feel proud of myself for taking on something that forced me to work through 3D design structurally, how the moving parts function, and how these separate entities would work together. I enjoyed pushing myself a bit into a conceptual space I am usually uncomfortable with and feel that I accomplished what I set out to do.

 

Final product and the storyboard “happy ending” depicted in real life 

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Project 3- Copper Tape Circuit- Amanda Wolfe

For this lab I was interested in trying to do an origami figure with a copper tape circuit incorporated into it. Originally, I found a relatively simple tulip origami instruction page that I folded to see if there was a way to create a circuit inside, but the tulip had 2 separate pieces and there was no way to connect the circuit to both pieces, and the flower part would be too heavy with the battery and would probably not stand up if the circuit was inside, but the stem would not allow the light through. So, I decided to pick something more simple. I folded a fortune teller, the only origami I still remember how to make without instructions from when I was a kid. I thought this would be more interactive than the tulip as the game requires the use of different colors usually drawn on the surface of the paper, and by using lights it would have a similar effect! I folded a draft one and examined it to see where all the parts might fit best. I drew a draft circuit of this with the help of my peer in the class Sarah Bucchorn, as she had already completed an origami circuit and I had a hard time remembering how to draw the parallel circuits.

 

As I was short on time, I did not actually put the draft one together, instead I chose the origami paper I wanted to use, and just created the circuit drawing from the draft onto my final version with the copper tape, batteries, and 4 LED sticker lights. I got lucky and everything connected and worked the first try! I made two different circuits, with one battery each, and 2 LEDs in parallel. I knew I wanted to use 4 different colors, for the colors you choose in the beginning of the game, but I knew the colors needed to be near each other on the visible spectrum to be on the same circuit, so I used red and orange on one, and blue and green on the other.

 

I didn’t realize that the origami paper I chose was a bit thicker, and the pattern covered the lights a bit, so I think I would chose a white paper if I made the project again. I also realized that the way the paper was folded I couldn’t get the lights all the way in the corner to best show through the top, so I might would consider using the regular lights instead of the sticker ones as they might be a bit more flexible in where I can place them. I also accidentally made the switches in slightly different locations so when you squeeze the fortune teller you have to place one hand slightly lower on one side than the other to get all 4 lights on at the same time. Overall, I think I was most proud of creating a product more efficiently than I have been able to complete the others so far. I think the demos in class helped me to think through any issues before creating this final project.

Draft Circuit

First Circuit 

Full Circuit

Both Switches

Final Product

(There is also a video of the final product that for some reason is making the whole blog post disappear)

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Project #2: Multilayer Vinyle – Amanda Wolfe

Before coming to the lab on Vinyl Stickers I knew I had looked ahead at some of the tutorials and knew I wanted to make an Austin, Texas themed sticker, something that I associate with home and that I could put on my laptop or car. I began searching Pinterest and Google for ideas and eventually came across “Austin” written in a font I liked, and Itraced this by hand in Adobe Illustrator. This took some time, but I wanted to use a creative hand drawn font to make it more unique. From this I had originally thought of adding different elements for all the things I liked about Austin, and sketched out a first draft before class.

When I actually went through the exercises to learn how the silhouette machines worked I quickly realized that this first draft I made would be too messy, just adding Bluebonnets on such a small design would make it look to chaotic. So, I simplified things and found some Austin Skyline silhouettes to work with. I found one that had many colored layers (13+) and I separated these out to only 2 layers that I wanted to add to the design to make it more two dimensional (as I felt only one silhouette would be too flat).

I realized the silhouettes went outside my circle sticker base, and were too short for the circle (there would be a hole at the bottom. So, I added a rectangle to the bottom of the skylines to lengthen them and clipped the features by the circle outline. I had to do this step a couple times because I realized my silhouettes were not lined up at the same spot in the circle.

In the lab I printed 2 versions of this sticker, first one with a light background and dark lettering than one with a dark background and light lettering I wanted to play with the contrasting colors to see how it affected the overall look of the design. I liked both versions, even with the same design the colors added a different tone to the overall design.

I think if I could print another I would add a few more layers to the city skyline, and maybe utilize a gradient of colors, rather than unique colors to enhance the dimension of that graphic. I think the multiple colors are a bit distracting for such a small design. I am rather proud of these stickers, mostly I enjoyed spending a lot of time thinking about the design before learning how to utilize the machines I think this helped me to be more creative and not limited by any previous sticker cutting experiences.

 

Final Stickers

Layers of the Stickers

Adobe Draft Before Class

Hand Traced Text

City Skyline Inspiration

Font Inspiration

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Project 1- Laser Name Tag

For the first project, we made laser cut name tags. I have attempted to make laser cut business cards before, so I had tinkered with the laser cutter once prior to this project and knew the basics of raster versus vector for the machine. I had never utilized Inkscape before, but found it had similar tools to other programs I had used before, so it wasn’t difficult to learn before making a design.

I decided that I first wanted to explore the materials as I think what material you use can change what design elements I could use. I chose to utilize acrylic, first, before making my design. I found the green acrylic and liked that it was matte on side and shiny on the other. I realized this might make the design more interesting with the different textures.

I noticed some acrylic sheets in the lab that had names cut out as a vector, and thought this would look nice on this material. I found out from Sara that there is a font (STENCIL) that would be able to keep the smaller pieces attached. I tried to find other stencil fonts online to download into Inkscape, but struggled to import these and went with the one available on Inkscape. I liked the green color and felt that if used a nature themed name tag, it would compliment the material and I also like designs that are based off nature. I went with a sunflower (raster), and the tag in the shape of a leaf with some etched details on the edge.

I really liked how it came out, I think I would’ve liked to make a more complicated design, but I think I will get more ideas as I delve further into making. 

 

 

Finished Name Tag

Inkscape file

In progress

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