Weekly Updates

Here we will post weekly updates of what happens in class. Watch the students get inspired to create and see the great projects they make! The weekly updates are done by Charlotte Cunningham, the TA for this course. Student reflections are available on the Blog.

This week was, sadly, our last week of class. The students presented to a panel of judges, who then scored each team and picked a winner! All of the students did great, and their projects have turned out beautifully. Movi ended up being the winning team with their prosthetic cover project, but it was a very close call! It was amazing seeing the students present all the work they have compiled since January – each of them has come so far. Please check out our blog to see the student’s work and thoughts!

This week was not very eventful, especially after the chaos of the Makeathon. Students spent class discussing the user testing they did and how to improve their prototypes. There is always work to be done! They were also working on creating their presentations for next week – the last week of class! Everyones’ projects have come out so well so far, and it is amazing seeing what the students have created over the course of the semester.

Although it was not part of our Wednesday class, here is a little update on the Makeathon! It was quite the jam packed weekend. To start off on Friday, students arrived at 5 o’clock to get an overview of what the Makeathon would entail – a detailed schedule was presented, and the judging criteria was explained. After a quick dinner (all meals were provided, because nothing motivates students like food) everyone got to work! The evening was spent brainstorming game-plans for Saturday, attending some tutorials, and the students reporting their initial progress, so they could look back and see how much they completed over the weekend. Saturday started bright and early, with the Fablab opening at 8am for students. The whole day was spent building models, learning new skills, overcoming challenges, interviewing some amazing expert users that donated their time to us, and creating presentations. This all went late into the evening, with some students staying until 11 o’clock! The Fablab opened at 8am on Sunday as well, and all the students were rushing to put the final touches on their presentations. After a quick lunch, judging began in earnest at 12pm. With 15 teams from multiple classes, each judge unfortunately only got a few minutes to learn about each project. They were very impressed though with the level of thought and empathy that the students all put into their projects. At 2 o’clock awards were given, and the students got to go home and get some rest. Overall, it was a fantastic weekend!

This week was all about getting ready for the Makeathon! It has been front and central for the past few weeks, and this Wednesday was spent figuring out final materials and models so that the students could be prepared for the weekend. Luckily we got the chance to be at the Fablab again, so students could refresh themselves on what tools were available and also get advice from the wonderful staff. Last minute prototypes were made, some ideas were tweaked, and the students were all very excited for the weekend ahead!

This week we were again focusing on preparing for the Makeathon – which is coming up very soon! To kick off the class Valerie, a representative from Social Innovation at Illinois, came and talked to the class about the amazing opportunities available to them through Social Innovation. There is even the possibility of the students creating a startup with their ideas from this class, or brilliant ideas they have on their own! We met in our usual classroom this time, and the students had online sessions meeting with Milestone Labs so that they could get feedback on their projects and really start narrowing down to a final concept. While they were not in meetings, the students thoughts about how they are going to actually build their models. Each group has their projects narrowed down to a few prototypes – you can check out their progress on the blog – and will build these and get feedback on them during the Makeathon. Each group thought about the tools they plan on using and the materials they will need to get ordered – everything is really starting to come together, becoming real products that reflect the students’ fantastic ideas!

In preparation for the Makeathon, we had a pre-event to help students understand what all the Makeathon will encompass. Over 40 students showed up, from several different classes including Vishal Sachdev’s Digital Making Seminar course, the junior industrial design studio course taught by Deane McDonagh and Jim Kendall, and Jeff Ginger’s Makerspace course. The event began with a presentation including all the information on the Makeathon, outlining the agenda, mentors, participants, organizers, partners, sponsors, judges, awards, and spaces. We had a short break for dinner, and then some expert need knowers presented some design challenges for the students to work with during the event. After this, students were able to stand up, move around, and ask questions of the mentors to begin formulating ideas for what to build during the Makeathon. Many good questions were asked, and some great ideas began forming!

Unfortunately this was our last week in the CU Fablab, but we made the most of it. First the students took the skills and items they made last week and turned them into some amazing functional wrist wearables to assist during workouts. After this we got a quick explanation of the specifics of how the device works, and how the code interacts with the circuits they built! Lastly, the students had some team work time to work on storyboarding and figuring out how exactly their product can be interacted with for a variety of people.

We were in the CU Fablab again this week! The students did some tutorials again this week, learning how to use Inkscape, sewing machine, laser printing, and how to build circuits! After the tutorials, each group had an online meeting with Milestone Labs to receive feedback on how their projects are progressing. The students also got the chance to further develop their low fidelity prototypes!

This week was the first of three that we had class in the CU Fablab! The students got a tour of the lab and got to see all the amazing resources available there, from donated materials to great tools that can be used. After this, the students split up so that they could get tutorials from the employees of the lab on some of the tools there. Once the tutorials had been finished, the students got back into groups and shared their knowledge with their teams. Mehmet also led another brainstorming session, this time focused on ideation sketching! The students are really starting to narrow down their product focus and coming up with some amazing ideas! Check out the blog for specifics on what each team is up to.

We had a very productive session this week! Daniel Banach and Jason Roth came and gave the students a tutorial in Fusion 360, a CAD design software. This software will help students visualize their products and prototype them using 3D printing. Everyone did great, and was able to understand how to use Fusion 360 very quickly. After the tutorial, the students broke into their teams to follow another brainstorming activity presented by Mehmet. They shared stories with each other from their interviews with expert users and created insight statements.

This week we had a multitude of presentations before the students got some time to work. First Illini Service Dogs came back and gave us another quick run down on what they do and product opportunities in that field. Then John Hornick, author of 3D Printing Will Rock the World, joined us digitally through video chat and taught the class about what amazing things 3D printing is accomplishing right now and will be able to accomplish in the future. After this Jeff Ginger from the CU Fab Lab came and talked to the class about the resources available in the Fab Lab and other maker spaces across campus, and the different products that can be made using these resources. Lastly Mehmet Aydin, a graduate advisor for this course, gave a presentation to inspire the students and help them find further insight into their projects. Following this, the students got into their teams to follow the brainstorming activity Mehmet presented.

We were able to meet in person again this week since the cold weather had passed. Mike Hansen from EarthSense (a startup from U of I’s very own Research Park) came and gave a great presentation on the process of ideating and creating products! After the presentation the students broke up into their teams to create team names and logos. We then got a quick tutorial on how to use Tinkercad, and the students were able to 3D print their logos! Some blog posts I would like to highlight this week are Nathan and AJ.

This week of class got a bit complicated since classes were cancelled due to the frigid weather, but we managed to have a very productive online session! Students were able to join in our our conversation with Milestone Labs via video chat. During our video session, the Milestone Labs representatives gave a great presentation on what they do and how they improve the world. After this our student teams gave short pitches of the projects they are hoping to do! The students got some excellent feedback and guidance from both the Milestone Labs representatives as well as some of our mentors that were able to join us for the video session. You can see the students’ thoughts on our online session on our blog. Saloni, Michal, Yingyi, and Emma had some particularly insightful reflections!

The second week of class all of the students met at DRES and Adam Bleakney, coach of the Illinois Paralympic team, gave us a tour. We learned about the history of the Adapted Varsity Athletics Program at Illinois as well as the history and development of the racing wheelchair, and got to see some of our school’s student-athletes in the Wheelchair Athletic Program training! After the tour we met with several of our class’s mentors, who shared their life experiences as those who are differently abled. Our mentors will work with the teams of students, helping them find design opportunities.

The first week of class the students had the chance to meet with the Illini Service Dogs organization. They taught us about what they do with the dogs, their mission to make service dogs more accessible, and what the members of the club do. They also educated us on service dogs in general, and how to interact with them if you see them out and about. We even got to see one of their service dogs in action!