Fired up by the sewing lab from a few weeks back, one of our Making Social Change groups ran with the quilt theme, creating an A-Z of Planned Parenthood quilt as their final group project. They used the laser cutter to cut various shapes and letters, and employed a variety of techniques, including embroidery and applique, to create their squares, and PVC pipe to assemble the frame.  Here they are putting the finishing touches on their project.

Preparing for Visit from Planned Parenthood

On Thursday, December 7, representatives from Planned Parenthood tabled outside the Falcon’s Roost, and our students staffed the booth and displayed their quilt. They got a lot of foot traffic, answered a lot of questions, and distributed lots of literature, including some from built-in pockets on the quilt.

Planned Parenthood!

It’s great to see our students using their skills and passion to take a project from idea to application, and this project is a perfect example of exactly what we hoped would be the outcomes of this course when it was just some ideas on a whiteboard back in 2015.

The theme for week eight of Sociology 379: Making Social Change was “memory” and its role in social movements.  We used timely news coverage of the controversy surrounding Confederate statues as a leaping off point for a discussion about monuments, using James W. Loewen’s “Ten Questions To Ask At A Historic Site” to frame the conversation.

We talked about a variety of examples, including EJI’s Community Remembrance Project, the Bussa Emancipation Statue, many from the San Antonio peaceCENTER’s gallery of Peace & Justice Monuments, and the relocation of Negro Hill Cemetery, an example from our very own backyard.  We also spent some time on the aesthetics and the design of monuments, including the role of light and shadow, scale, and subject matter.

Students were then presented with a mock RFP:

The Carlson Dowell Social Justice Foundation is seeking proposals for a monument – a permanent public art piece – to be installed at Folsom Lake College in spring 2018.  The monument will occupy a 50’x 85’ footprint adjacent to the Falcon’s Roost.  Whether your goal is to memorialize or celebrate an important social justice issue, your proposed monument must also educate, in keeping with the college’s mission.  The installation must also be interactive, encouraging students and the public to actively participate and interact with the work.

Specifications for the prototype included that it be free-standing, crafted at 1:24 scale, include at least one digital fabrication element – an object created/modified using the laser cutter, CNC, vinyl cutter, or 3D printer – and that it incorporate LED lighting.

Making Monuments Challenge

We took a walk out to the proposed monument site so that students would have a sense of the scale and surroundings.  Back in the lab, students set to work on their proposals.  In a very short time – about 2 hours, really – groups were able to craft some really thoughtful proposals and interesting prototypes.

David, Clarity, and Luna developed their proposal around the idea of differences and commonalities among Folsom Lake College students.  Their prototype was based on a maze concept, with many paths leading to a central common ground.

Making Monuments

Another group developed their proposal around issues of food distribution and food insecurity.  They incorporated a greenhouse into their prototype, using to generate the cut file, and the laser to cut the parts from clear acrylic.  Here Nusaybah and Micaela are preparing to solvent weld the pieces together.

Putting the Greenhouse Together

Zainub, Heather, Jeremy, and Kila based their design on a View-Master Viewer, and were able to modify a Custom View-Master Disc they found on Thingiverse (CC BY TheHeadlessSourceMan), which they cut from wood using the laser.

Prototype of Interactive Monument (Based on a Viewmaster Viewer)

As the final step in the process, groups shared their proposals and prototypes and took questions from their peers.


We’ve got a great group of students, and I’m continually impressed by their open, collaborative, and creative approach to the course.

Way back in 2008, the Innovation Center got its first 3D printer, a Z Corporation Z450.  At the time, it was very difficult to explain to most people what “3D printing” even meant, as it hadn’t yet entirely entered the public consciousness.  Professor Dan Ross (Engineering and Computer Information Science) was an early adopter, and was in fact the first FLC faculty member to incorporate 3D printing into his courses.

Fast forward to 2017.  The Z450 has long since given up the ghost, and we’ve got a few 3D printers sprinkled around the college, including a LulzBot Taz down in the Theater Arts shop, a few Makerbot Replicators in the Engineering classroom, and the U2E+s, U3s, Rostock Max, and Form 2 in the Innovation Center.

This semester, students in Dan’s Engineering 312 : Engineering Graphics course worked on designing and printing gear boxes.


I had the chance to talk to some of the students in the lab toward the end of the semester (which is winding down), and saw some of the parts-in-progress on the printers, but until Dan sent these photos, I hadn’t seen the completed student work.  I have to say I’m pretty impressed, and it’s great students using digital fabrication to solve real-world challenges.


This is Tom, and he recently finished installing our magnificent sink.

Wood Turner Turned Plumber

Tom is a wood turner, and after spending some time in the space and seeing the capabilities of the laser, thought he might like to try to engrave some of his work. He brought in a pear bowl he had recently turned, and Rebekah (student and Innovation Center student employee) and I figured out how to use the auto-focus feature of the laser – we don’t use this much, and perhaps the only other time it’s come into play was when we tattooed a pumpkin back in October – to successfully engrave his signature on the bottom of said bowl.

Signature Bowl

The sink, by the way, has a built in eye wash, something that we we’re happy to have for safety reasons…

Sink and Eyewash in all their Glorw

…and for friendship! 🙂

Tramp and the Tramp

Behold the Ion Drive!

Ion Drive MK 04

Students Andrew Canafe, Tristan Chutka, and David Taylor created the project for their Physics 421 course, and used the Innovation Center’s laser cutter to produce the final parts. Here’s a video of its majesty. Note the safety key and prominent warning sticker. Try this at home, kids, but do it safely!

Inspired by a DIY conference t-shirt making activity at the reMAKE Education conference a few years back, we recently ordered a t-shirt press and heat transfer vinyl, and they arrived this week.

T-Shirt Press

Innovation Center staff quickly worked out a production process, cutting some designs on the vinyl cutter and improving my shop apron by adding a Chibi and Chu Totoro!

Totoro Apron

Behold this beautiful sink!


After a great deal of work, and the heroic efforts of a lot of people, the Innovation Center is finally getting a sink. The custom sink above – custom because of some unique functional requirements, including a deep basin sink, ADA sink, and stainless steel work surface, and all in very specific footprint – is being installed this week. There is currently no water inside the Innovation Center, but it so happens that a drain line (buried beneath a not insignificant amount of concrete) and water line are just outside (in the backyard), so LRCCD Facilities Management folks began working yesterday to get all that sorted.

Sink Preparation

We find ourselves wishing for water surprisingly often when working on various projects, including aquaponics and cyanotypes, and ready access to a sink will enable us to expand the range of processes and projects we’re able to explore, including biohacking!

I’ve been working off and on for months on a furniture project, a set of cabinet door panels inspired by the Japanese woodworking art of kumiko. Today I was finally able to laser cut a full-scale prototype of the project.

Kumiko Laser Panel

Here’s a look at the Illustrator file, a painstakingly assembled collection of hexagons, based on three archetypes:

Kumiko Screenshot

Here’s what was left in the laser:

Kumiko Negative

I couldn’t be happier with the result, and it’s particularly thrilling to hold in my hand something that has lived for so long inside my head and on a computer screen.

Update – Amazing when backlit!

Rebekah and Nathaniel (students, Innovation Center employees, the finest people you’d ever want to meet) completed the University Innovation Fellows program:

The University Innovation Fellows is a program of Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design ( The program was created as part of the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter), a five-year National Science Foundation grant.

The three of us recently attended the multi-day UIF Meetup culminating event. On day one, at the hotel in Sunnyvale, we boarded buses and headed to Google for a day of tours, guest speakers, and design thinking challenges. Highlights included a tour of the The Garage, Google’s in-house makerspace, and a thought-provoking talk from none other than Ray Kurzweil.

Day 1 photo gallery:

University Innovation Fellows Meetup 2017 Day 1

Days two and three were held at the at Stanford. Of particular interest to our work in the Innovation Center were discussions by students and faculty about the way that the physical space communicates expectations, and in particular the design considerations employed to make the a flexible environment for all kinds of activity, from meetings to design thinking to prototyping. I took a lot of pictures of signage and furniture!

Day 2 photo gallery:

University Innovation Fellows Meetup 2017 Day 2

Day three began with taiko drumming, and a brilliant presentation by Ge Wang, electronic musician, inventor, and creator of the ChucK programming language.  The rest of the day was spent working through a design challenge, with technology and music industry experts, including August de los Reyes (designer of the X-Box and lead designer at Pinterest), and representatives from the Common Ground Foundation and Pandora circulating and interacting with students.

Day 3 photo gallery:

University Innovation Fellows Meetup 2017 Day 3

An intense experience to be sure, and Rebekah and Nathaniel and I left with a deeper understanding of Design Thinking, and of the many ways that the physical environment can be used to facilitate communication and problem solving, lessons that we’ll employ as we continue to build out Innovation Center offerings.

The Girl Scouts Heart of Central California recently held a grand opening for their STEM center and makerspace in Sacramento.  The space is well thought out, with flexibility in terms of furnishings and space configurations, a display highlighting the work of Dr. Pamela Marrone, and lots of opportunities for prototyping and low- and high-res making.






Hoping to find ways to collaborate with the Girl Scouts Heart of Central California.  Read more about the STEM Center + MakerSpace: