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

Iteration Assignment

Original Work

I created a very poor implementation of a circuit design that I was very proud of. In the below video, I discuss issues with the quality of my implementation –

  • poorly secured battery, and a
  • poor work-around to prevent the battery from draining, and
  • poor connections between components.

Iteration Project

I wanted to create a name tag, that was a wooden cube with a button on the top, and this button would turn on an LED. It would incorporate wood working, and circuit design. My plan was to redeem my poor copper circuit by addressing its issues in the following ways.

  • Secure my battery in place with superglue (I verified that this was safe).
  • Secure connections between components with Soldering rather than tightly wrapped copper tape
  • Circuit design where open circuit when button is unpressed, so that battery does not drain

Additionally, for the button design, I drew inspiration from Brandon’s Midi Controller project. I used the same design process and parameters as he did, and arrived at a well functioning ‘button’ with my name tag on it.

I also soldered the wires of my LED circuit to my LED. This was my first experience with soldering – my friends in Mechanical Engineering taught me to solder, and I took it from there. It was a rewarding process, I was surprised at how easily the solder material would melt and reform, and impressed by how secure the connections it created were.

I investigated and determined it was safe for me to solder one of the wires to the coin cell battery I was using (my initial plan was to secure it with copper tape). I soldered the black wire to the bottom of my battery.

My plan was that when the button was pushed, the battery would be directly beneath the button, and the button would make the blue wire touch the top of the battery and complete the circuit.

An issue I had was that if I just taped the blue wire to the base of mu button and pressed the button, it wouldn’t always reliably complete the circuit. I needed to always push the button at the location where the blue wire was taped below, so that that point was the lowest point and touched the battery.

I needed to create a larger surface area for the button to complete the circuit. So instead of the button pushing the end of the blue wire onto the button, it would push a copper tape onto the button. The copper tape would secure well to the button, and would ensure that it would have a larger area of contact with the button.

I had to find a way to connect the blue wire to the copper tape however, and here my MechE friends pointed out to me that I can solder the blue wire onto my copper tape! I was so excited about this possibility, I tried it and it worked perfectly. I am now a huge fan of soldering.

After I stick the tape to the bottom of my button, the full circuit looks like this.

To create the sides of my cube, I used popsicle sticks, and cut them down to the right size using a wood saw. Here’s how the finished product functions!

Reflection

I’m very happy with how this project turned out. To test that I met my goals, I threw my cube against a wall and shook it in my hand very hard (in an attempt to loosen the connections. The soldered connections stayed intact, the heaviest component (the battery) was tightly secured with superglue, and the connection was always completed (irrespective of where my finger was positioned on the button) due to the larger surface area provided by the copper tape.

I’m glad that I was able to address all the shortcomings of my earlier copper tape project and create a much more reliable design.

My woodworking could use more finesse, however.

Continue Reading

Iteration Project: Make-a-thon Participation

During the week of the Iteration assignment, I opted participating in the Make-a-Thon.

My team was named “MOVI” and the goal was to design a protective guard for a prosthetic leg. Prosthetic legs are very sophisticated and are extremely valuable. Yet those products are worn at the part of our body with the most movement and thus are exposed to scratches, impact, and lots more other threats in daily life. The reference model, C-leg, cost more than $100K. It has been a pain point among users, especially the active ones. To make the matter worse, people wearing only one of these are told to fell on the prosthetic side when imbalanced. Because, falling to the other side will make it rather difficult, if not impossible, to get up by themselves.

There are some prosthetic leg covers in the market. But most of them are like the same model: a dull thick bulky black cushion covers every section of the prosthetic leg. This leads to a problem, apart from the aesthetics, the back of the prosthetic knee is an area filled with delicate moving parts. The bulky protective sleeve covers that area and makes it very difficult to bend the knee.  

 

Thus we got the needs of users:

  1. easy for putting it on-and-off
  2. protection against scratches
  3. cushioning of physical impact (mostly in case of a fell)
  4. not blocking knee flex
  5. good looking

 

Our team started the design with a 3D scanning of the prosthetic leg. The model was then printed using three 3D printers and glued together. 

For the prototype, the team proposed a solution combining a hinge in the front and straps in the back for the top need. The user reported that the phase 1 prototype lacks coverage of the leg. So we created the phase 2 prototype, just to specify the max area of protection that is necessary, considering need 2, 3 and 4. Therefore, we’ve combined the two prototype together and came up with the final design. 

The final design adopted the hinge-straps design and used a two-layer solution for protection and aesthetic needs. A hard shell with patterns is put on the outside. In the future, users should be able to customize and switch the shell for their taste or even the mood at the moment. Two pieces of cushions are fixed inside of the shell. Each cushion used a heavy fabric cover with foam pads inside. To help further protect the user, we’ve inserted a layer of sheet metal between two layers of foam pads inside the cushion. Two extra cushion pads are added to the top for knee protection. Two straps go through holes on the shell. We fixed velcro strips onto the straps. 

 

Our team was well-paced during the make-a-thon, and each step was well executed throughout the event. After rounds of presentations and expert review, our team got the championship of the competition. 

 

During the event, I helped in the 3D printing post-process, and led the efforts in the fabric department. Cleaning and gluing the PLA parts were rather easy with the training in class. But I’ve got quite some challenge in the sewing part. I was quite confident before going into it. It was not long before I recognized the challenge. The cushion pad was of an irregular shape, with five corners of varied angles. And there was a significant thickness. For solving this problem, I design the two piece of fabric of different sizes, with all the side panels included in the front piece. While sewing the corners, Duncan gave me some useful tips. Cutting off some fabric inside the corner is key to a smooth outside. I’ve got some of them right, some of them not so. 

Just when I felt a relief finished sewing the cushions, there came the straps. “It’s just an extended square, not so different from the little pouch we’ve done in class!” That thought was so wrong. The fact that we’ve chosen a waterproof rubber coated fabric and a very thin strap width made the task very challenging. Flipping the strap inside out was not far from a mission impossible. It was a combination of stick and brutal force and dedication that helped me finished those two straps.

 

I am very happy about the results, and the fact that our team has developed something useful in real life. 

Continue Reading

Final Project: PiCrawler

PiCrawler Assembly – Field Test

PiCrawler

is my final project for this course. It is a voice-controlled robot that can move in all directions on the ground. 

The robot integrated a Raspberry Pi (as the master for control), an Arduino (as the slave managing servo actions), and a mechanical base with two panels of “legs”. An offline speech recognition module called “Snips” is used for the project. A generated Snips assistant was configured and installed onto the Pi. Then a Python script was coded and set as a native service on the Pi. The script handles internal messages from the Snips assistant and parses them for robot command. The command will be sent to the Arduino using serial communication (USB A male to B male cable). The Arduino will then call servo functions based on the message. Currently, the robot can react to five commands: forward, backward, turn left, turn right, and stop.

The mechanical base was designed using Klann’s Linkage. It has the advantage of smooth progression and heavy load lifting, from the “D” shaped pattern from its legs.  The robot was based on two panels of such linkage, each panel has two sets of legs. The robot can move forward or backward when the panels are all moving in the same direction. And it can make turns when the two panels move in different directions, similar to that of a tank.

 

Challenge 1: Power Solution

Since I had very limited knowledge of power supply of robots, I decided to take this part of the project first. And it’s proved to be a wise decision.

Each of the servos has a stall current of 1.5 Amps at 6.0 V. The Arduino can be powered with a variety of options. The Pi needs stable 5V and 1.5 to 2.0 Amps for reliable performance. I was thinking a high throughput power bank would be enough for all of these. But after putting everything into a test. It was pretty obvious that even a 15W dual USB output power bank won’t be enough. Then I turned to the idea of auxiliary power supply — using the power bank for the Pi and Arduino (board only), and one to two battery packs of 4x AA batteries for the servos. In theory, two battery packs are needed in a parallel setup, since the AA batteries have a reference current of 1.5 Amps. But in testing, I found that one would be enough for the robot to move. Since the load and frictions were not terribly enormous. 

Power Solution

Challenge 2: Assembly

Proving the movement and leg patterns in software was one thing. But putting everything together and get a useable assembly is another story. With all the printing relief, and those many layers of acrylic parts, and screws, and spacers, I was not very successful in my first attempt. Quite some time were spent on sanding and drilling, reassembling and testing of the linkage. Even getting the screws was a challenge. Because, I used 4mm holes in the design, which would fit M3 screws smoothly. But none of the local stores has enough metric sized screws and nuts for me. So I spent many more hours switching everything to #6-32 screws (from the Imperial size chart).

Legs Panel Testing

Reflections

In multiple layered mechanical linkage project, extra (I mean, quite a lot extra), precautions should be paid to load balancing, stability, and relief (or spatial allowance). With all the consumer level machines of laser cutting and 3D printing, and all those environmental variations going around, many measurements could go one way or another. And the gears will tilt if the loads are not balanced. There is still a lot to improve of my design. The frame is not stable enough for holding the body. The body design should have put those heavy batteries closer to the center of support. And the gear section needs a redesign, on a certain level, for a stable and smooth power progression. But I did have learned a good deal of lessons from this project.

 

Test with Voice Command

Continue Reading

Final Project

Question 1.

I made an art mobile that can be used to lit the room and showcase my photos. I often light my room at night only with Christmas lights and I wanted to make something that incorporates Christmas lights and decoration. I wanted to make something that is artistically aesthetic and also display my photos. I’m really proud of the photography/photoshop skills that I developed for my project. This is some skills that I can use it after this class for various occasions. I’m proud of my cloud room decoration overall. It looks artistic and useful in terms of displaying my photos. A major challenge I faced was the Arduino part of the project that I was initially going to include. I wanted to make the photos drip down out of the “cloud” (paper lanterns), but I couldn’t figure out a way to make that happen. Since this piece of decoration is meant to be hanging from the ceiling, it was strong enough to support multiple Arduinos inside the “clouds”. 

I hot glued pieces of cotton onto the paper lanterns. This process took a while because I wanted to make fluffy clouds that look realistic.

This is the inkspace design for the acrylic stars I made

This is my final product. I wish my blue lighting got delivered on time. I also I could showcase this during the final presentation in a dark room so I can show the full effect.

Before the photoshop

After the photoshop

Question 2.

Learning Goal 1: I want to use Arduino to display my photos more emotionally appealing by making the photos draping down in a timed matter. 

My number one learning goal was to use Arduino. It’s something that I didn’t really enjoy using back when we learned how to make pom bots. I wanted to challenge myself by using Arduino. I thought it would add a cool effect to my project too. However, it was difficult to make it happen. The first problem was that the Arduino motors weren’t moving in a way I wanted. I imagined my photos all folded into one and drapes down out of the “cloud”. Especially the LED lights being inside, it was not only fire hazard to multiple cords inside, but the clouds also weren’t’ strong enough to have something inside. I didn’t want to take a risk of ruining my whole project by using the Arduino. I talked to my classmates after I finished making it. They suggested some potential ideas on how to use Arduino. It’s something I never thought of and I will definitely consider using them in the future. I failed to meet this goal. I learned that sometimes it’s the solutions to your problems are much closer than you think. I could have talked to my classmates in the beginning process about my challenge. I think the key part of being a maker in the makerspace community is utilizing all your resources. This is the most precious thing I learned. I had a great chance to talk to my classmates. 

 

Learning Goal 2: I will spread out my tasks throughout the week to prevent myself from procrastinating. 

Most of my projects were done last minute because it was difficult for me to come to the fab lab in the evening during weekdays due to my other commitments. However, I knew I didn’t want to push my final project to the last minute. I set tasks for each week so I don’t do everything at once. Since I had to learn how to take photos with a DSLR camera, I watched tutorial videos every night in the first week. I had to ask my friends who are experts in photography in my own time to learn all the little things (aperture, shutter speed, appropriate light settings, etc). It rained so many days so I had to really look out for good weather to take pictures. I think I succeed in not doing everything last minute. I had all my photos taken and photoshopped done in advance. However, I had to make my clouds a little late because all the materials came late. I didn’t’ want to work on my project on the day of the presentation. I had to come in for a final touch. Due to this, I didn’t fully meet my goal number 2. 

Learning Goal 3: I want to push myself to make something that can make me happy even if I fail because I learned so much from the production of it.

I wanted to challenge myself from using tools that I’m not really good at. However, I also didn’t want to push myself to do something that I wouldn’t enjoy. They are so contradicting to each other that I had to do something that met two goals in the middle which was using the tool that I’m still comfortable at using but not really an expert at. I was very bummed after giving up on using Arduino. I decided to use laser cutting. I wasn’t really confident at doing the laser cutting. I got a new idea at the last minute to add shiny stars to make the clouds look more like hanging in the sky. So I designed the shiny stars and laser cut using the universal. It was my first time that I did the whole process without any problems. I felt like I can even help other people who don’t know how to use it. It was an amazing feeling. I’m actually really happy with my shining stars (mirror acrylic) because it adds so many artistic values to my final piece. 

Question 3

I think I have never felt this insecure as a student in a class before INFO 490. I was the slowest learner in my lab section. I always asked the most number of questions. I was the last one to understand the same tasks in my class. I felt like my project was never as cool as another person’s. It was a constant feeling of failure and insecurity. It took me a while to tell myself that I’m good at certain things. I think I have really cool ideas. I may be a slow learner to learn how to use tools to make my imagination come true. But I had the creativity and also desire to create something original. This class taught me how everything we make in this class can’t be compared to each other. There is no such thing as “mine is cooler than yours”. I definitely felt sad when the Professor asked why I didn’t execute certain things. He didn’t know as an audience that I already have attempted to make those but I just failed to execute them. It was a very meaningful learning experience for me to understand the interaction and the silent communication that happens between the artist and the audience. I don’t think I’m an expert at any tools we learned in this class. I still have more experience with the tools we have used. However, I think I learned what makerspace community is. I can’t thank enough people who never got annoyed from me asking so many questions and were always willing to help me even if they were busy. 

Question 4

Although I was never happy about anything I made for this class, I feel proud as I’m writing this post. I didn’t even know that I was going to be doing all this when I registered for this class. I’m proud of being an original maker. That means, I always challenged myself to be original with my creativity. This is why I consider myself a maker. I created something out of my imagination. I’m not sure if I will put myself to create something tangible like the stuff we make in the fab lab. I will definitely use the skills I learned in everyday life. I think even my cooking skills make me a maker. I’m writing this blog as a person who has basic skills. However, I’m definitely more curious and passionate about creating something after this class. I think I have tough love for this class because there were definitely moments where I felt like a failure. I felt uncomfortable and intimidated to ask questions from time to time. However, I made good friends from this class and met so many good people!! I honestly wish I had more chance to be friends with my classmates. They are so freaking cool. I hope I remember to utilize my resources and ask as many questions as needed in many situations so I can execute my imagination fully and challenge myself.

Continue Reading

Copper Tape Project

For my copper tape project I created a mothers day card. I wanted to include a silhouette of our family so I spent most of my time creating and editing my pictures on Inkscape.

Using the silhouette as my inspiration as to wear to place my LED, I could tell that it was difficult to see that my mom was the second from the left so I made the LED light her up from the background and used word “mom” to be the switch for the circuit. 

I hope she likes her card, I had a lot of fun using the silhouette cutter and editing the pictures on Inkscape. 

Continue Reading

Final Project

For the final project I chose to make a skirt for my mom. I chose to use linen for skirt so it was breathable in the summer, and I chose linen over cotton just so I wouldn’t have to add a slip layer if because most of the cotton fabrics were see through. 

I found a tutorial for a half circle skirt and followed it accordingly so I wouldn’t buy too much fabric as I had done for my iteration project and wouldn’t be “winging it”. 

I first started with cutting out my fabric. Since the measurements were very exact (math and radii were involved) and the skirt was very long I used measuring tape and chalk in a way I never thought I would.

strategy to make a circle (tape chalk to the edge of the measuring tape so I could keep track of the radius)

Afterwards I started the sewing process. This was a bad idea because when it came time to print the design on my fabric, I had to wait for the paint to dry before flipping my skirt around and print on the backside rather than just print on the separate pieces and then sew them together. 

My original plan was to have embroidered flowers on the bottom of the skirt but the spacing of the prints was so close together that I decided that big embroidery would just crowd the skirt and make it too busy. My original idea was also to include buttons but I also didn’t end up doing this because of the same reason. The skirt looked very incomplete without anything so I wanted to do a border along the edge because I knew it wouldn’t disrupt the flow of the skirt or make it look too busy and unwearable. 

Chose to do a satin stitch without the embroidery machine

In this project I learned how to do a hidden hem with the blind stitch foot but because I was dumb I didn’t realized that my white bobbin thread was showing on the front of the skirt so I tried to cover it with the satin stitch I used for the border but I couldn’t make the width of the stitch smaller to cover the hidden stitch as the fabric kept getting caught in the machine. 

By the end of this project I learned so many new skills and learned to make a clean finished product without and compromises to quality. I first started out this semester with a jean skirt that I will never wear because I’m too afraid it’ll rip every time I sit down. Now I’ve made a skirt I’m confident my mom can do whatever she wants in. 

 

By following the tutorial and applying all the skills I learned from my iteration project and the new techniques I learned from my TA, Duncan, I was able to create a something I would proudly say I made and give my mom. Working with a plan and a design in my head and on a schedule, I made something that I think is very high quality. 

Continue Reading

Final Project (AirB&B)

Siena Walsh

I’m very proud of my finished project “Air B & B”. From inspiration to completion I really put my heart into this project, and I hope that it is as successful out in the garden as it can be! For my final project of INFO 490, I decided to build an insect hotel. An insect hotel, also known as a “bug house” or “bug hotel” or “insect house” is a structure, usually box-like that provides shelter to various bugs. It’s made of materials that promote nesting, and it’s a great addition to any garden not only so that you have more pollinators enriching your plants, but also so that the insect populations can flourish.

The idea for this project came to me during Earth week. I had been thinking a lot about sustainability and what it means to be a friend of the planet. It’s not enough to simply do less harm, we’re at a point where we really need to take action to reverse some of the detrimental practices that humans have undertook. I was also inspired by the story of the bees surviving the Notre Dame fire.

A really brief recap of the steps I took is that I used various materials to create a box, Inkscape to make a sign, and various materials to fill the insect house. Some challenges that I ran into were not accounting for the time it takes wood glue to dry, not expecting the nail gun to run out of battery and running out of recycled paper and cardboard for reeds. I’m most proud of the fact that I used almost every tool in the woodshop. I came in with zero experience, and very intimidated but with Brandon’s help I feel like I really conquered some fears.

 

    

 

For this project, I decided to challenge myself in two very different ways. For the first, I wanted to use only recycled and reclaimed materials and for the second, I wanted to challenge myself to stick to a schedule that gives me more than enough time to complete the project.

I chose to use only recycled and reclaimed materials to continue the theme of sustainability. I recycle at my apartment, but I still feel like those materials can be given a second life before being recycled. Collecting paper and cardboard materials made me more conscious of how much waste my roommate and I produce every day. Someone recently shared a quote with me that said, “what is measured can be improved” and taking note of how much paper I use has definitely helped me reduce my paper consumption. I also visited the Urbana Landscaping Waste Reclamation facility for many of the logs and branches used in this project. The pine cones are old Christmas decorations (unvarnished), the reeds consist of toilet paper rolls, an old tiki torch, pasta boxes, and even a parking ticket, and even the fake flowers are being given a second life. To be fair, the glue, tape, and laser cut sign are all new products, but I couldn’t think of an alternative that would be as secure.

The scheduling challenge was definitely harder. There were a few hiccups along the road that made me redo my schedule completely. I realized that it’s better to get a lot done in the beginning, than spread it out over time. I didn’t account for the time it would take the glue to dry, so I initially had sanding and making the shelf on the same day. I also wasn’t expecting the nail gun to run out of battery after 4 nails, and the Fab Lab to not have the charger. I also didn’t account for fatigue. Using a lot of the tools involved more manual labor than I thought. The hand drill required a lot of strength, and the tool I used to cut the backing was so powerful it made my hands feel numb. I made enough reeds to be satisfied at this time, but I think in the future I will improve the insect hotel by adding more. I initially had more time for “reed making” specifically in my schedule, but other things chipped away at the time, and redundant tasks should be more spread out.

The most significant thing I’ve learned over the course of these assignments is to give yourself like 4 to 5 times the amount of time that you think a project will take. I need to account for not only the physical process but the mental process as well. I didn’t write about it as much in the write-ups as I could, but some of these projects took a lot mentally and emotionally. I was so stressed and fed-up with the 3d printing assignment that when the BIF lab employee broke the product it took me 3+ hours to make, I almost cried in class. The sewing/embroidery assignment was also a nightmare because I had 99% of my embroidery done when the machine somehow started printing my design over itself. I think anything involving creating is really heavily tied to the creator’s emotions, so that when you make something nice you feel really proud and accomplished. But when something goes wrong, it’s hard to not think of yourself as a failure. Or at least that’s how I take it!

But all-in-all I feel much better coming out of the class and having tons more skills under my belt. I’m willing to try some methods again, although scary, and I feel confident enough to teach others some of the things that I’ve learned. I definitely want to try and find a makerspace near me when I return home this summer. I think they’re amazing institutions that provide people with the opportunity to learn new skills, especially without much investment. I personally can’t afford a laser printer or an embroidery machine, and the Fab Lab has made that financial barrier nonexistent. I learned so much and had a great time doing it. I’m really grateful for the Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab, and I hope that so many others are able to have this experience in the future.

Continue Reading

Final Project: 7(+) Rings

Subtitle: this is all just for me, really. Also I’m writing this on a plane on limited sleep so I apologize if it’s a little unclear at points.

 

Question 1: (Sorry I know this wasn’t supposed to be a full write up but I ended up explaining a lot of it anyway).

My final project was, in a few words: Rings Made Out Of Multiple Materials That I Can Make Myself With Some Level of Customization.

These are the final products that are the rings!

And, because the entire project ended up a little more resin-centric than expected, the rings + some other fun side things I made with leftover resin (I’m not the best at approximating volumes.)

The process to get to the end was pretty winding. I didn’t start out with the clearest idea of what I wanted to do, beyond the most basic idea. I picked up and abandoned multiple methods of making rings once I learned what they did- and what they were and weren’t well suited for. (Such as the CNC mill). I wound up settling on resin, partly because I’d gotten stumped on the other methods and also because I really liked the idea of suspending whatever I wanted in rings.

Now, in order to make something in resin, you need to have a negative- aka, a mold you can pour into, that will harden into the shape that you want. With resin, either the mold has to be able to flex, or you have to be willing to completely destroy the mold every time you use it. I ended up settling on a rubber pour-over mold, which was pretty fun even if the mixture was getting kind of old and congealed.

(I also made an effort with a wood mold towards the end, but I should’ve used way softer wood for the centres, because I wound up not being able to pop the centers out.)

To get the rubber mold negative, I needed a positive. So I laser cut some wood rings to serve as the positive, and in the process, realized they looked pretty nice on their own. That’s actually where the majority of the rings came from, given that the short timeframe I’d given myself and the 24 hr curing time needed for resin didn’t play super nicely with each other. I’m actually really proud of the wood rings, because they were simple in execution and came down a lot to what I thought looked nice or didn’t look nice, which isn’t something I get to do a lot these days.

 

The resin rings were fun to make too! I’m really proud of how I ended up managing to incorporate metal; by taking little bits and shavings and using those as the suspended pieces in the ring. It looks pretty cool, and I also like how resourceful it makes me feel. There was more than one resin ring made, but they come out cloudy when you first pop them out of the mold, and I only successfully polished one, which is the one in the majority of the photos.

Not everything was smooth going. The rubber mold mixture was a little difficult to work with given the not-really-liquid state of it, so the molds didn’t come out entirely smooth. I think given a few more tries, I could’ve figured something out to make the edges a bit cleaner. The biggest issue with the resin was the 24 hr curing time; it’s on me, some, for setting myself up with not too much time, but I think I’m also just a little impatient, and 48 hours per each round of rings (combined rubber mold curing + resin curing + about 4-5 hours in lab each time I was working on the rings) is just a little too much. It’s even more if you do things correctly and suspend layer by layer so the suspended material doesn’t sink to the bottom over the curing time.  I am just…. Too impatient.

 

Question 2: I actually fell through on a majority of my initial plans for the new skills. I do plan on coming back to learn to use the lathe at a different point, and I might do the same for the CNC if I have any ideas that might make good use of it. I did brush back up on my Universal laser cutter skills, but not the epilogue. After everything, however,  I did learn a lot about resin casting, and some about pourover rubber molds. I’m pretty happy with the depth vs breadth tradeoff here, and can definitely see myself working with resin on personal projects. …Assuming no strict timeline, that is.

 

In terms of my other goal- I think I achieved it? For this project moreso than others I was driven a lot more by something that I wanted, that I physically wanted to have and fiddle with. As a result, I think I was a lot more content with the result, even if it went off the rails a bit from what I expected, because I still wanted whatever random thing I was going for. Concessions made because of time or unexpected limitations felt less like concessions and more like… an alternate route. I still want to try again on the resin, but I am also genuinely happy with what I have/learned/got out of the experience, more so than I think I was with previous projects.

 

Question 3: Two big things: Iteration iteration iteration, and the knowledge that it doesn’t hae to come out perfectly on its first iteration, or even whole. Part of the issue is, of course, giving myself the time to iterate, but also to counter my tendency to do The Entire Project At Once Right Now because sometimes I get overexcited and try to actualize everything I’m imagining at once instead of, like, learning to do things in steps. (See: sewable LED, even the resin rings to a small extent). I think that tendency has also stopped me from doing personal projects in the past, because specifically for personal/art projects, I don’t like starting unless I think I can do it well. But, among everything else, this class has hammered it in that sometimes you just need to start, and be willing to let the first prototype be less than ideal. Maybe this is just leftover habits from too much procrastination; either way, the class has been a very, very valuable reminder of why Iteration!!! Is so important.

 

Question 4: I have a lot more small skills that I really value, now. For stuff like learning how to use certain tools and machines, I always really want to learn, but am very bad at asking people for help. I then try to learn things on my own, but self driven teaching can be hard, especially when its not something that Needs To Be Done. This class was an excellent way for me to get over that first hurdle of just learning how to use the thing, so I can then use those skills however I want.

 

I’ve always had a particular love for hands on stuff. Most of it was in the 3d realm, with stuff like sculptures or figures/animals made out of pipe cleaners or twists ties or whatever I had on hand. I also have a particular fondness for power tools. I love making things with my hands- that was nothing new, but I think it’s a pasttime I kind of had to put to the wayside in recent years. This class was a good reminder of why I love this kind of stuff so much and also a very compelling incentive to keep it up afterwards. I think I always scounted myself as  alittle of a maker, but now I remember that I can still continue to be one, as extremely cheesey as that sounds.

Like, all joking and assignments aside- I really, genuinely loved this class a lot, and the way it was taught. It was an excellent experience and I regret almost none of it.*

 

*the almost is there to account for the 10 hours spent on copper tape. Curse you, copper tape. I love you, love me back.

Continue Reading

Final Project Reflection

For my final project, I was inspired by a pokéball-themed Nintendo Switch cartridge case that I found on YouTube.  My initial idea was to make six pokéballs and case/stand based on the recovery machine in pokémon centers. After considering the amount of time needed to complete the project, I cut the number of pokéballs to three, and changed the idea for the case/stand to the incubator that contained the three starter pokémon in the first episode of the anime.  I also decided to have one of the pokéballs contain a small Pikachu plush rather than Nintendo Switch games. With that in mind, I needed to decide what pokéballs I would make. I, initially, was going to make one regular pokéball, one master ball, and one unique pokéball that I would design. After discussing my idea with Duncan, it was decided that I would instead design three unique pokéballs.  The two pokéballs that would hold Nintendo Switch games would be based on the Overwatch logo and the Smash Ball item from the Super Smash Brothers series. The last pokéball would be based on Pikachu.

 

I had quite a few challenges in this project.  The spring releases weren’t as strong as I had hoped they would be.  I had some trouble keeping the buttons positioned so that they could hold the balls closed.  I had multiple parts break during assembly, and two parts fail halfway through their prints. I hadn’t anticipated that so many parts would break, so that threw off my schedule for the project.  Due to this shift in my schedule, I was only able to paint two of the pokéballs and use a primer on the case/stand. Despite the setbacks, I am very proud of how well the Smash Ball came out. I also feel that the laser print design for the case/stand came out well, considering that it was my first time using Fusion 360.

Overall, I had three learning goals: Improve my time management by making a schedule of what I needed done by a certain time, making more use of the tools at my disposal, and asking for help whenever I was confused.  I did accomplish my learning goal of making a schedule for better time management, but I did not account for the possibility of parts failing. Not including the case/stand, I needed to print fifteen separate parts. I began printing on Thursday with a plan of printing six parts that day, four on Friday, and five on Sunday.  I created this plan factoring in that on Friday and Sunday I would only need to use 2 printers at once, so that I wouldn’t be preventing others from completing their own projects. The plan seemed realistic, but I did not anticipate that multiple parts would fail. The setbacks caused by the broken parts caused my plan to fly off the rails, snowballing to the point in which I was having the last two parts of one pokéball printing from Monday night to Tuesday morning.  Due to this result, I feel that I only partially accomplished my goal. I created a schedule, but I failed to stick to it due to a lack of flexibility in said schedule.

I definitely feel that I made use of the tools at my disposal while working on this project.  When I made my 3D Printing and Scanning assignment, I simply imported my scans into Meshmixer, used the analyze tool to fix any errors, plane cut them, and then moved it over to Tinkercad to stitch the scans together.  For this project, I actually used different tools such as inflate and flatten in order to morph the pokéball shells into the shape that I desired. I used Fusion 360, a software I had never used before, to design the laser printer file for the case/stand.  I used power tools for a project for the first time. I needed to use a drill to widen the holes of the hinge of each pokéball. I actually also had to use a soldering iron and a heat gun for the first time to help secure the buttons into place. I also did foam smithing for the first time, using contact cement to glue foam to the wooden skeleton of the case/stand.  I also painted something for the first time since I was about 6 years old, so that was fun. I definitely feel that I accomplished my goal of making better use of the tools at the fab lab.

For my final goal, I made sure to ask questions.  Typically, when I feel stuck in a project, I would sit feeling defeated for a while.  This time, I made sure to ask questions as soon as I felt that I did not know what to do.  One person that I cannot thank enough is Brandon, who helped me with a large portion of my project.  He taught me how to use Fusion 360 so I could design the case/stand. He taught me how to use a soldering iron and heat gun, and how to do foam smithing as well.  When I was feeling lost after my parts broke, Brandon helped me get back on track by helping me with the case/stand while new parts were printing. I am very thankful for all of the help I received while making this project.  If I hadn’t been asking questions as soon as I had, my project would have been in much worse shape.

Over the course of the semester, I feel that I truly did learn something in this class.  Before this course, I never really went out of my way to make new things. In this class, I learned how satisfying it is to come up with an idea and bring it into reality.  Before this class, I never thought I would ever need to learn how to sew. Surprisingly, I would say that the project I am most proud of is the stuffed animal that I made in the Sewing and Digital Embroidery assignment.  I may have gotten frustrated at one point while making it, but overall, I truly enjoyed making it. This class has definitely improved my confidence as a maker.

This class has made me feel different about the very concept of making.  Since high school, I have wanted to work in some sort of lab as a chemist, making different products for the company that employs me.  Whenever I thought of the word “maker,” I always felt that the term applied to a select few that create inventions that have a lasting impact on the human race.  This class has taught me that anyone can be a maker. This class gave me confidence in my ability to make things. It really showed how anyone can make something if they have access to the tools to create.

One of the most important lessons I received in this class is that it’s not the grade that matters; it’s the effort that really counts.  I eventually got to a point in which I stopped caring about my grade, and started caring more about the projects themselves. I’ve enjoyed a lot of classes in my four years at this university.  This is by far the most fun I’ve had in a class. Thanks to this class, I feel that I will feel more confident when asked to make something.

Continue Reading

Arduino Jacket – Final Project

Question 1

I integrated a computer into my jacket, so that I could play a game on my jacket sleeve!

I used an Adafruit Flora as the computer that controlled the game, and I used sewable circuitry – particularly conductive thread, sewable LEDs and conductive fabric as the inputs and outputs of my game.

A big focus of this project was that this was my only denim jacket – I wear it a lot. I wanted my computer+game design to be robust against the normal usage conditions of the jacket. I roll it up clip it onto my bag, or I wear it on the nasty subway, or I wear it when it is raining. I wanted the computer to be safe from the dangerous environment, and I also wanted to be able to wear the jacket in all the normal situations that I’d wear it in.

I decided that the computer will be positioned inside one of my jacket pockets. That way

  1. it is not exposed to the external environment, AND, 
  2. if it gets loose and falls off, it safely falls into my pocket, and not on the ground.

The computer is still a very delicate item, so despite the pocket safety measure, I wanted the option to remove the computer in a modular fashion. Traditionally, the Flora computer is sewn onto the textile (this would be tough to modularly remove a sewn on item). Instead, I attached the Flora to my jacket with snappable buttons (now its modular, I can unsnap the buttons attaching the item to the fabric).

The way this works is that the LEDs and buttons are sewn onto my fabric with conductive thread. The electricity on these threads is supplied by my computer. so these same threads from the LEDs need to connect to my computer. Instead, the LED threads are attached to the male ends of snappable buttons, which are sewn onto my fabric. The female ends of the buttons are attached to the input/output pins of my Flora computer. When I want to create an electrical connection between the LED thread and my computer, I join the male and female ends of the snappable buttons. The buttons conduct electricity and act as an interface between the computer and the thread sewn into the fabric!

I initially planned to solder the female ends of the buttons onto my computer. The solder would act as a “conductive glue” between the computer and button. This was a hard task, and the force exerted by the button-unsnapping process would always break the solder-connection I had created. I spent a lot of time trying to perfect my soldering process before I gave up. This was the biggest challenge of this project.

I’m most proud of how I solved this problem. Originally, The solder was acting as a “glue”, and a “conductor”. Instead, I used superglue as the glue, and conductive thread as the conductor!

With this method, I circumvent another issue. Some snap buttons can be large, and they run the risk of either touching adjacent buttons or touching adjacent I/O ports. As seen in the above picture, I can glue some buttons far away from their respective I/O port and adjacent button, to ensure there’s no accidental touching of circuitry. I just need to create a longer connection between button and port with the conductive thread.

Question 2

My learning goals were to 1) work with electronic textiles, and 2) also work on a project design that is entirely my own and iterate that design.

I believe I successfully accomplished both goals. I invested a lot of time into understanding how conductive thread and sewable circuitry works, I looked at many different implementations to understand the best practices, and I practiced my sewing technique and improved it majorly also. I hoped to learn how to properly “think” about a sewing project – what are the challenges, what difficult decisions need to be made, how to problem solve on a sewing project. I did learn those things, and I also unintentionally learned how to fix or undo sewing mistakes!

For my second goal, my whole project was my own conception, I borrowed the concept of making the Flora modular with snappable buttons, but I iterated that design by using superglue and conductive thread instead of solder. My design involved 2 types of circuits, so I made sure to sew those circuits into a woodframe and test that my technique would work correctly. After finishing sewing any thread line or snap button or any electric component, I stopped to ensure that the electric connection was still “correct” and worked. This allowed me to catch mistakes early, fix my technique and not repeat those mistakes.

I’m very happy with project, specifically because of how rewarding the learning process was.

I invested a lot more mental, physical, critical effort in the process of learning, and then I felt smart when I applied my new knowledge.

Question 3

What really stands out to me upon re-reading past write-ups is that I was very conservative with my projects. I was afraid of failure, so I tried to structure my projects around the simplest techniques that had the least scope for errors. It shows because I rarely ran into road-blocks and was rarely forced to think laterally and problem solve. I would instead try to change my project to fit the outcomes of my practices.

With this final project, the requirement of formulating a challenging proposal within the structures of the two chosen learning goals was very helpful. It made me iterate my technique and process to fit the project instead of vice versa.

I really feel much more confident as a maker now – I understand now that failure isn’t such a big setback, and that working on sub-samples of the problem will allow me to catch my failures earlier and spend lesser time overall. Because of this, I feel comfortable trying new techniques and incorporating creativity into my problem solving.

Question 4

People often say that your life can turn out completely different than what you plan out of college. You can work on something thats entirely outside your major, and you can be working in a work culture that you didn’t think you’d enjoy. I could not see myself in this position, adapting to my environment and pivoting my life’s direction. Its a little extreme, but I feel differently now.

Working on this project, I’ve shown myself that I can work in a domain outside my expertise (sewing and textile) and adapt and excel. Additionally, I can make a new domain my own by incorporating my expertise in other domains. I didn’t see myself having such flexibility, but now I think my mind has opened to the possibility. I was a little scared about making E-Textile the focus of my project, but I handled it just fine. Now, I wont say “No” based on my prior judgment, because I have the potential to surprise myself. I believe being a “maker” also means not saying “no”.  You have to be able to think on your feet and “find a solution” in the making process.

I learnt the E-textile process by working hands-on on a project that was personally meaningful to me. Both factors really accelerated the rate at which I learned e-textile. I cannot think of another circumstance that would have been more conducive to my learning process. I feel so confident in my abilities to sew circuits into fabric right now.

Continue Reading