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

Author Archive

Makeathon: Accessible Design

I participated in the Accessible Design Makeathon in place of the iteration assignment and joined Team Solestice from Vishal’s class. Our goal was to create an attachable shoe tread that could be used to travel in a variety of terrains. The tread would be lightweight and one that prosthetics users could use to walk around icy terrains more safely and confidently. As the fab lab consultant on this team my goal was to become familiar with the project they had been working on all semester, help make the prototype, and to help them with the tools and resources. I attended the initial meet-up for presentation which is where I meet and talked to various teams, need-knowers, mentors, and team Solestice. I then met with them to discuss their progress, research, goals, their mentor’s perspective, and to prepare for the makeathon weekend.

During the Makeathon weekend I spent 10+ hours with my team to create a useable prototype of their designs. It started off with making a tread mold out of a shoe using a ready made molding mix that we only had to add water too. The first time we did this it didn’t work because it stuck to the shoe because we didn’t oil or put baby powder on the shoe. The second time we used baby powder and got it to work well. Here’s the result:

Then we had to fill the mold with a material that would work well with the mold, created stabilizing friction, was lightweight, and a little flexible. We were advised to use silicone or hot glue. We choose to use hot glue because it was better for black ice and creates enough friction to prevent falling. I spent about 3 hours filling the mold with hot glue. Then to smooth out the top of the mold I used a heat gun to melt and resettle the top layer. In hindsight, using the heat gun and laying glue sticks in the mold may have worked and been more time-efficient, but doing it the way we did resulted in a better prototype that filled all the small cracks in the tread mold. 


Meanwhile the other members of our team worked on the Arduino pressure sensor for the attachable tread. The Arduino would light up attached LED’s to indicate how much pressure the wearer was putting on their heel. We deicide to add this component because prosthetic leg users indicated that they had trouble knowing how much pressure they were putting on it. Adding this would help maximize stability and make our product unique from other attachable shoe treads. 

After the thermal glue tread was finished we started attaching the velcro straps to the tread with hot glue. These straps were stable and tested many time to ensure maximum stability on the shoe when walking. Then we attached the pressure sensor to the back of the tread with the lights on the side. Our final prototype turned out pretty well but we ran out of time toward the end so we were unable to create an enclosure that would contain all the Arduino cords and parts on the back. Future improvements we would have made would include a 3D printed enclosure for the Arduino, a smaller Arduino board and a more aesthetic looking sensor and shoe attachments. 


We also created a poster and powerpoint presentation for the judging and presentation part of the Makeathon and were interviewed by a TV station. The product we ended up with would be beneficial for many people who have difficulty walking outside when it’s icy out including prosthetic leg users, older adults, and people with brittle bones. Overall, it was a long exhausting weekend but I’m really glad that I was able to be a part of this great team and participate in this Makeathon.

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Final Project Proposal: Nature Themed Infinity Mirror

For the final project I would like to make a nature themed infinity mirror which can be hung on a wall and will create an illusion that makes the mirror seem to have a deeper field of depth. My interest in doing this project was inspired by instructables I watched and the upcoming Champaign-Urbana Immersion Festival. 

Mirror Instructable:

I’ll be using a broken mirror frame I already have. For the front piece I’ll need plexiglass, clear glass, or a clear acrylic sheet that’s 14 inches by 16 inches, glass would be preferable as it has better results.  

Using the laser cutter I would cut this sheet into the specific oval shape I need for the mirror frame. I would also need a mirror that is 14 inches by 16 inches and would cut this using the laser cutter or a glass cutter. If the Fab Lab doesn’t have a glass cutter I would order a mirror piece that is already cut to the exact oval shape I need. Then using an Arduino and a 41in (~3.3ft or 1m) string of LED’s, I would program the LED’s to go off in a certain pattern. I wanted to decorate the outside of this project as well so I could add a new tool or technique to this project. I could do this by making decorative mushrooms using 3D resin printers, sound activated glowing mushrooms, or Ecovative fungus mold. Preferably, I will be able to use Ecovative and make the mold made using 3D printing or milling. From the video’s I watched it seems like it will take about 2 weeks but this may be cutting it close to the immersion festival.


Grow it yourself:

Glowing Mushroom Instructable:

Thingyverse 3D mushrooms:

Supplies Needed:

14x16in plexiglass (or clear acrylic)

1.5ft x 2ft mirror film 

14x16in mirror

3.3ft string of LED’s 

Ecovative supplies


+ Do research beforehand to understand the process of the project I’m trying to do to make sure it’s possible and to reflect a lot on the project before fully deciding on one 

+I want to challenge myself to become more comfortable with using and programming Arduinos through this project

+I want to push myself to learn about and use Ecovative material if possible within time constraints and to use this material or other types of decorations using a new technique to make my project unique from other infinity mirrors

+ Submit my piece to the Immersion Festival in Urbana-Champaign and participate if selected 

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Pom-Pom Bee Bot

For this Assignment I started off by drawing an initial concept/design on paper. In this initial design I wanted to have the motors held together with a rubber band and have the motor attachments act as feet which was inspired by the way penguins walk. My goal with this design was to use jerking motions to make it move from point A to B. Then I attached the foam and pom outfit of the bot on the outside with arms made of pipe cleaners. 


 This design resulted in this little prototype bot to the left. However, the way the feet moved made the bot fall over a lot while moving. As shown in the video here: IMG_3553

I tried to stabilize the bot with a popsicle stick that was hot glued to the back. This helped but it still would eventually fall over. Making the bot shorter could’ve helped this too but since the movement of the motors wasn’t letting it remain balanced and move far I tried to come at it from a different approach with wheels for the second iteration to improve the movement. I also decided to change the pom pom bot costume to look like a bee and used hot glue to make the costume more stable instead of tape and rubber bands.


For the 2nd prototype I used a hot glue gun and yellow foam to make the wheels. Inside the wheels I used pipe cleaners to attach the motor feet to the inside of the wheels which looked similar to a bike wheel hub with axels and a rim. I again stabilized the motor’s together using a rubber band but this time with the motors in different positions. The costume was made with poms, black foam, and fabric. Although I fixed the falling over problem, the wheels were too small to have the Bee move much and the motors we have only go 180 degrees which made coding them as normal wheels impossible. Although I knew to begin with that it could only go 180 degree’s, I didn’t realize that you couldn’t continuously make it go 180 degrees and that the motor would have to go back to it’s initial starting point every time. 

Video: IMG_3581


For my final design I decided to have the bee lay on it’s belly, made the wheels bigger, and programmed the code so that the wheels would move as close to wheels as I could get them for maximum movement. This required coding them to go forward very fast and then backwards slowly. Although it might take the bee a while to get anywhere since it does move back and forth it can still move about 2 inches after going through a couple cycles of the code. Here is a video which shows how the bee bot moves: IMG_3587.1

This final design ended up looking very different from the first prototype. I improved upon the first design by adding wheels, changing the costume, changing the placement of the motors, and changing the coding to work with the wheels. The costume part went well and I enjoyed it because I used to make a lot of pom pom creatures when I was a kid but the design with wheels would have worked a lot better with motors that had 360 degree motion. 

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Arduino 1 Project

In class for this assignment we programmed LED lights using an Arduino UNO. This in class exercise really helped me better understand the process and I was able to make the lights blink S.O.S. in Morse code. Having the code already written really helped this part go smoothly.

For the storyboard assignment I looked at the materials that were available at the Fab Lab and decided to storyboard and attempt to make an Arduino that used a humidity and temperature input sensor and a LCD output screen that would be able to tell me what temperature and importantly what humidity it was inside. This would be a great device for people with many indoor plants and was inspired by my plant loving friends. 

When I went into the lab and tried to make this Arduino, I had a lot of issues. I tried to use online resources to help me understand how to do it and although there tutorials were good their materials never completely matched up to what I had available. Many of them used full bread board’s and other types of sensor’s, resistors, or ways of connecting everything. So when I tried to follow what they were doing it didn’t work out. The coding especially was very complicated and there was no ready made code that would work. I tried to consult people working in the Fab Lab but they didn’t know how to make it work either. It was really frustrating not being able to get it to work but through the tutorials I still learned a lot. 


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Textiles Assignment

In class for the in class assignment’s I made a small floral pouch and multi color floral patch. The pouch wasn’t too difficult although I did have to use seam-rippers to fix the pouch string opening. Getting the floral design to work was really frustrating because I had to delete a lot of spots and edit it for the vector to work and then in PE-Design it had small random spots that needed to be fixed to the correct color where it had changed black to green. This was a really frustrating part because there were a lot of stitches in this design and it was taking forever to load. The edges unaligned a little bit because of the pull on the fabric but it still turned out pretty well. The yellow thread was on top and had a lot of stray string which I cut off. Emilie and Duncan helped me a lot with the patch and it ended up taking me 4 hours to finish it. 

For the custom sewn and embroidered piece I choose to do a box pouch with embroidered eyes. This project took me a lot of time to complete and at almost every step of the way I had issues but in the end I learned a lot about how to problem solve sewing and embroidery issues. 

First I choose the sewing and embroidery design, then I choose the fabric type, and started cutting the design based off of the template. This was a mistake as I should have embroidered the fabric first and then cut it. During my first attempt to make a vector image of the design I kept having issues with the program and deleting specific spots. I was getting really frustrated with the Inkscape software so I just took a break and worked on it again another day. I came back to it and this time used the tutorial video in the class page which helped a lot. I decided to just do one eye and used the colors black, white, dark blue, and light blue and was able to use Inkscape successfully this time.

When I was embroidering this design I had to redo it 3 times, once because a lot of Bobbin thread was showing up on the design, and once because while I was trying to tighten the hoop halfway through because it had become loose the whole hoop came off and I lost my place in the design. Emilie and James helped me during this part when an issue came up and after a lot of fixed errors the embroidery part was finally done. 

The sewing instructions confused me and trying to figure out how to place the fabric so that the embroidered part was in the right spot was difficult for me so I watched a box pouch tutorial online to help em understand how the fabric was going to come together to form the pouch which helped a lot. I felt like there weren’t enough photos from enough angles to really see exactly how it was coming together on the approved guide. During the sewing process two needles broke because of the zipper part and I sewed the wrong spots together at some points but I fixed them using the seam rippers and after a lot of hard work finished! It’s not perfect and if i did this project again I would use heavy interfacing to give it more structured support. 

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3D Printing Project: Headphone Hook

For the 3-D design learning part of the class we started learning TinkerCAD and Sculptris in class by making a monster and 3-D scanning our faces. Some other designs I made as rough drafts during the first week included replicating Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist” using TinkerCAD, making a Fasching mask as a cultural artifact using Sculptris, and a rough draft of a headphone hook on TinkerCAD using the scribble feature.



Fasching masks are made using wood in Germany to scare off evil winter spirits around springtime and are worn during Karneval. I really wanted to move forward with this design and edit it some more to 3D print the mask but it would’ve been very difficult printing the design because it would have needed a lot of supports and it would have had to be big enough to fit my face which I would have utilized 3D scanning for too. Since the mask wasn’t something that would’ve been good to 3D print, I decided that for the final assignment I would make a part I need from scratch that addressed a clear and present need. I don’t have a good place to put my headphones and have been unable to hang it up because I can’t use nails, and the headphones are too heavy for command hooks.


So I decided to make a specifically shaped headphone hook that would go through holes on the side of my desk so that I would be able to hang my headphones on my desk. I sketched my design and measured the desk and headphones for dimensions. Then using TinkerCAD I created my design using many cylindrical shapes. The first design was a rough draft that I ended up changing a few things on such as dimensions and shapes used before printing.


I printed my 2nd design at the Fablab on the PLA FlashForge printer Pascal with help from the staff. This was a pretty small design so it used less than 4 grams of material at 60% fill. The first time we tried to print it, the material wasn’t sticking to the plate correctly which resulted in a messed up print. When I noticed it wasn’t printing correctly, I let the staff helping me know and they restarted the print and fixed the problem. The second time printing went well and the design I had made was printed in the correct dimensions, however it wasn’t very stable and needed more support to hold up the headphones correctly. So I went back and edited my design to include a little extra part that would balance the hook out and make it more stable.


For the third print for my 3rd design I went to theBIF Makerlab and printed the final design there using the Ultimaker 3 3-D printer. 

The maker lab Guru’s there helped me print my design. However, another issue I ran into was that the added piece made the hook not fit inside the desk correctly because the added piece was slightly too long to be able to go in and up the hollow part of the desk. This was really frustrating because when measuring the desk hole I wasn’t able to see exactly how it’ll fit going up/down inside which made measuring and designing this part very difficult. So then to avoid printing something that was slightly too long or short I used a hand file and eventually a electric nail file I have to shorten the part until it fit inside the hole perfectly.

Looking back I wish I would have used mm or cm instead of inches during the design process because the design was so small and very particular in size. This wasn’t an issue with the original part but being a little off in the measurements of the added part made the design not work. In the end I got my final product which is functional and met my particular need of having a headphone hook that worked with my desk.



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Cooper Tape: Paper Circuit Assignment

Paper switch Template

For this paper circuit I used a red LED and it worked great. Doing this project in class helped me understand the way circuits work with energy flow and how to use cooper tape.

Quote Paper Circuit

For this one I was able to get two of the LED lights to work, however the third one wasn’t working. I consulted my TA, Emilie who helped me try to figure out the source of the problem using testers.

The circuit for this one didn’t look so neat because I originally was trying to do a series circuit but then turned it into a parallel to fix the LED’s and to make it easier to see what the source of the problem was.

For the Final Project I used two blue LEDs and an one white LED. For this one I sketched and planned out the parallel circuit design first to make it look nicer and be more efficient in using the cooper tape. I made some changes to the design and then started putting it together.

The back of the circuit

In my project I utilized a binder clip to hold down the switch on the corner and used tape to hold down the battery. After attaching all the necessary components none of the LED’s would light up. I consulted online resources to try to fix it and at some point’s got it to work but the circuit was being very finicky. I used a separate LED to test the source of the problem and air one point it was the tape not holding down the battery tight enough and then no matter what i trend to fix, the switch, the battery connection the copper tape, it just wouldn’t work after hours of fighting with it.

Testing Placement

I tested the placement so that the white light would shine through at an angle.

Final Project Result

In the end I couldn’t get it to work again after trying everything I could find to possibly fix it which was very frustrating, but through this project I learned how to problem solve copper circuit issues, and why parallel circuits are more advantageous.

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Storyboarding Assignment

For this project my group decided to create a design for an innovative studying tool. This study tool would use a fake skeleton, and the touch screen spray that was discussed in class to allow students to touch a part of the body and learn what it was and how it works. This would benefit visual and tactile learners. The setting as shown is med school or other teaching environment’s, there is a sequence of how it would be designed, and satisfaction for the student studying.

First draft from class
Final draft
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Vinyl Sticker Assignment

For this project I began by making my griffin sticker in class. Using Inkscape I combined an opossum and a bunny. We ran out of time in class to make our logo designs so I didn’t end up physically making one. I felt like I understood what I was doing in class on Inkscape, but then when I started working on drawing my own using Inkscape I encountered some difficulties.

When I came to open hours I started by using Inkscape and making most of the shapes on my own, however I could not draw the eyelashes so I tried to use an existing image and bitmap it but when I tried to remove parts of it using shapes and the methods we had used in class it wasn’t working. I struggled with this for an hour and asked someone for help but they weren’t sure what the issue was and eventually I tried to approach my project in a different way.

So then, instead of using Inkscape I designed it myself using silhouette. This worked for the most part except I couldn’t draw eyelashes on there. I also was able to cut everything once using one sheet with different vinyl rather than sending multiple designs one at a time. The only problem with this was that some of the vinyl was glossy and the black was matte so I just had to be careful removing it.

This gave me a final project with 4 layers in 3 different colors that I’m still happy with but I really would have liked to have had eyelashes and hopefully will become better at using and understanding Inkscape.


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Jennifer’s Name Tag

For the name tag assignment I decided to use 1/16th two toned acrylic. Upon reflection I should’ve used a thicker material as you can see in the third photo the edge bent due to the heat from the laser cutter. The magnetic backing was really good and sturdy as a opposed to a clip or pin. Through this project I learned how to use the Epilogue Laser cutter and became more comfortable with the Fab Lab.

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