Course Summary

The third industrial revolution is upon us, and we have the ability to create functional products on our desktop by using some inexpensive and accessible tools. This course was designed to help students get trained on many of these tools and technologies and make things. They explored 3D scanning, modeling and printing to rapidly prototype products. They also had the chance to experiment with open hardware/micro-controllers such as Arduinos and smaller form factors for e-textiles, to explore the concept of the internet of things during the Makeathon. The course also had guest lectures in entrepreneurship, design thinking, digital making and some stories from passionate makers from the community and beyond.

The goal of this course is to bring together students from across campus from several different courses to learn about human centered, empathic solutions for accessible design. With novel ideas and the need to create significant and salient solutions, collaboration is key. The answer does not lie in one domain. Technological tools, corporate spaces and educational environments are being formed to take advantage of the special opportunities inherent only in collaborative work. The three pillars of this course are “learn, make, and share” , and the students embodied these concepts amazingly. Throughout the semester they all learned so much about building and design thinking, made fantastic models and presentations, and continually shared their ideas and growth on the blog.

So much was accomplished this semester, and looking back to January it is amazing to see how far the students have come. This course was an amazing experience, with a variety of guest speakers, tours of different locations on campus, and of course the weekend of the Makeathon.

Over the course of the semester, the class got to learn from the Illini Service Dogs, Adam Bleakney (multiple times), Milestone Studio Labs (who helped us plan the Makeathon as well), Mike Hansen of EarthSense from Research Park, John Hornick – author of 3D Printing will Rock the World, Jeff Ginger – director of the Fablab, Daniel Banach and Jason Roth– Fusion 360 experts, and Valerie from Social Innovation at Illinois. The students also got to visit DRES and the CU Fablab in person! You can see more details about what happened week to week on the updates page.

During all of this the students were working on developing products that addressed a challenge that has not been solved, with a focus on creating products that improve accessibility. They sketched their ideas out, created storyboards, did market research, created many, many models, and interviewed with real users all throughout the process. At the end of the semester, the student teams created a tread that can attach to a prosthetic foot to aid with balance and traction in inclement weather, a leg cover to protect expensive prosthetic pieces, a watch strap that can be put on by users with limited hand strength and movement, a solution for increasing grip on racing wheelchairs during rainy events that can be easily applied, a cover for the joystick on powerchairs to prevent water from getting into expensive componentry, and a yoga foot attachment for prosthetic legs. 

The big event of this semester was the Makeathon, which allowed students to build nice functional prototypes and interact with a larger variety of real world users. It was an amazing event, and you can learn more about it on the Makeathon page!

Here are some things the students had to say about it and they made a video as well.


“The Makeathon exceeded expectations for me and then some. It was riveting to see so many people putting their minds together to solve problems for others than ourselves.”
“The MakeAThon was a long and tiring process but it taught me a few important lessons.”
“Overall this experience was amazing to work with and around such fantastic people that all had a common goal to make the world a better and easier place with their designs.”
“In short, I really learned a lot from the first Make-A-Thon. I realize the importance of communication between team members and the importance of collaboration.”


You can check out more of the students’ thoughts on the blog! Overall, this course is an amazing experience. Students get to have unique opportunities like the Makeathon, learn from amazing people, create fulfilling products, and further expand their education and viewpoint. 

Here are some of the students’ reflections on the course as a whole:
“I ended up learning a lot through this class and I’m thankful for the opportunity to take it.”
“Looking back, I am really glad that I have chosen to take this course. I immersed myself in the designing process and actually came up with something that could have potential impact on people’s life.”
“Overall I have a fantastic time joining this class. I have never been in a class where I have been able to interact and physically design solution for issues that people face every day. One of my favorite things that Professor Vishal said day one was, ‘We are not looking to solve problems, but we are looking to find opportunities’. I thought that this was an amazing way to look at innovation that I had never noticed before.”
“This course changed my future career since it offered me so many possible opportunities to discover in the future. I discovered my interests in designing fields, and I hope to continue my journey on this path. I’ll definitely recommend this course to my friends. Well I wouldn’t say it’s a course. It should be an opportunity to start your adventure.”
“I’ve really grown as an individual because of this course.”

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