My Experience in the Digital Making Seminar – Spring 2019

Beyond Expectations

Initially, I enrolled in this course to obtain new skills that are rare among business majors and to explore the concept of design thinking. I wanted to learn how to use CAD software to 3D print different objects. However, on the first day of class, my expectations changed. I learned that throughout the semester, we were going to work with mentors on campus on Accessibility Product Design. I assumed we were going to 3D print prototypes that could help our mentors in their daily lives, test those prototypes, and iterate and improve them. However, this course far exceeded my expectations.

Through various workshops during the course of the semester, I was able to obtain a wide range of new skills. I learned technical skills such as Fusion 360 when a representative from Autodesk visited campus and how to code an Arduino to illuminate an LED light and laser cut wood at the Fab Lab. Moreover, I was able to work through the design thinking process over the course of the semester, which was one of the reasons I applied to the seminar in the first place. I never expected to learn these skills and concepts in a business class; however, I was lucky enough that the Gies College of Business and Professor Vishal Sachdev provided me with this unique opportunity right before I graduated!

In addition to teaching me these competencies, this course helped me learn a substantial amount about myself. For example, I realized that I love working with people from different domains who have different backgrounds and experiences. My teammates were Accountancy and Industrial Design majors, and a few of my other classmates were Engineers. It was energizing to see the different ways people think and everyone coming together with open minds and great enthusiasm. Furthermore, I learned that I have a creative mind. Previously, I thought being creative meant have artistic abilities. However, this course helped me understand that I can use my creativity for improving a prototype, writing, overcoming a challenge, and thinking outside-of-the-box.

Semester at a Glance

During the first three weeks of the semester, we met our class mentors and identified opportunities to explore with them. Jenna Fesemyer, a class mentor, is on the Fighting Illini Wheelchair Track team and wears a prosthetic leg on her left residual limb. She inspired us to create a shoe tread that has good traction in icy and snowy weather but weighs less than boots. That’s when my team, Solestice, and I defined our opportunity statement: To create detachable tread attachments that can be used to travel in a variety of terrains. Check out my reflections from weeks 2 and 3 for more a more in-depth look at what we did.

Weeks 4 and 5 consisted of market research and a guest visit from EarthSense, a startup on the University of Illinois’ Research Park. One piece of advice from the representative that had a lasting impression on me is to “fail early and fail often.” This means that the more you fail and the earlier you fail, the more you can improve your prototype and the final product will be. This mindset can be applied to almost anything you do in life. Additionally, team Solestice interviewed our mentor, Jenna, to gain insight on the user experience of the tread and some aspects she would prefer in the tread.

The next few weeks of the semester were spent learning technical skills, learning about different resources on campus, and starting to design our tread. We attended a workshop from Autodesk to learn about the CAD software, Fusion 360, and visited the Fab Lab to learn about the tools that would be available to us during the Makeathon. We also wrote How Can We statements, begun brainstorming potential designs for our tread, and created a storyboard of the user experience with our tread. See my Week 6, 7, 8, and 9 reflections for more detail.

Then, Weeks 10 and 11 were dedicated to preparing for the Makeathon. We met additional mentors who were going to assist us at the Makeathon as well ensure we had all the materials we needed. We met with Milestone Labs, who had consulted with us throughout the semester on our projects. Weeks 12 and 13 were spent making our prototype at the Makeathon and testing it with users. We received some feedback on how to improve our prototype, and we were able to iterate our design before our final presentation.

I am so grateful to have had this wonderful opportunity to learn and grow in new ways during my last semester at UIUC!

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