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.


We got a telepresence robot. So far so good. Simple to operate, relatively stable, although I have flipped it on its back a few times, but in any case it’s certainly rugged.

Planning some spring prototypes, including orientation, tours, Library instruction, telemedicine, guest speakers, and general silliness.


Below is Alex Hartigan, a Folsom Lake College Engineering student preparing some Calculus III models he’s been developing in collaboration with Kevin Pipkin (Math) and that he printed on the new Form 2, which has gotten a lot of use lately, most recently with the Enabling the Future project.


Alex and I connected last semester, and finally got the chance to work together on this Math project. Alex has a lot of skills in 3D design and printing, as well as experience on the Form 1, and through the process of preparing the Calc models, he taught me a whole lot about the finer points of printing on the Form 2, including various layout tips, and the manual editing of supports.

The Form 2 models came out great:


The Ultimaker 2 ones, not so much, though the failure at least resulted in some interesting artifacts:


Best of all, Max Mahoney (Chemistry) dropped by, and we recruited Alex to work on the chemistry project we prototyped the other day. One of my favorite parts of working with students is learning from them, and I hope to learn a lot from Alex before he heads off to Sac State next fall.


The recent EpiPen controversy led to lots of good conversations this week with various faculty about “medical making,” either as a new class in our upcoming MAKR certificate, a semester-long sort of focus, similar to things like One Book, or as some focus within the larger construct of Making + Doing, which is an idea we’ve been kicking around as a way to intertwine making and service learning.  One of the projects that emerged from those conversation is Enabling the Future, an “amazing group of individuals from all over the world who are using their 3D printers to create free 3D printed hands and arms for those in need of an upper limb assistive device.”

Jennifer Kraemer (ECE) is interested in working such a project into the Making in ECE course she’s developing, so we decided to print up one of the hand systems, specifically the Raptor Reloaded. We set up a job on both the Ultimaker 2 Extended+ and the Form 2, so as to compare time and print quality.

A Tale of Two Printers

11ish hours later for the Ultimaker…

Raptor Reloaded on the Ultimaker

8ish hours later for the Form 2…

Raptor Reloaded on the Form 2

Here’s the initial build of the Form 2 version. The Form 2 resin creates a really nice finished product that takes well to fine tuning with a file.

Initial Assembly

Here’s the initial build of the Ultimaker version.

Initial Assembly - Ultimaker

I still need to get the screws and wire for the “tendons” to finish them up, but the initial results are promising.

Sean Fannon (Psychology) and I secured a small grant to get our hands on an OpenBCI, which is an open source brain-computer interface, complete with a headset that can be printed on a 3D printer.  Sean plans to use the device to enable students to do some fairly sophisticated brain research.  Fortunately, the new Ultimaker 2+ Extended has a sufficiently large build envelope, so I set it up to print half of the headset overnight, and watched it on YouTube in an obsessive way using the Open Broadcaster setup.

Printing OpenBCI Mark III

Came in this morning, and it all seems to have printed well. In what is a first, I think I might not have enough PLA on the spool to finish the job.  Unfortunately, the Ultimaker uses the fat stuff (2.85 mm), and the Printrbot uses 1.75 mm, which I’ve got a lot of. I read somewhere that the Ultimaker can be tweaked to run the smaller filament, so I might just have to give that a shot.  Some of the smaller bits I plan to use to test the Form 2 that should arrive some time in early July.

OpenBCI Ultracortex Mark III

Max and I spent some time in the shop this afternoon, brainstorming Chemistry activities that will make use of the new X-Carve and vinyl cutter, and working on the new Ultimaker 2 Extended+ that arrived the other day.  After some tweaking, we got the printer running, and decided to print this Dewalt DWP611 Thread-On Dust Shoe from Thingiverse (CC BY Noah Mackes).  Up until now, we’ve been using the X-Carve as a plotter, but Marisa Sayago (Professor, Art) and I have been talking about some printmaking ideas that involved cutting and engraving, hence the need for the dust shoe.

The printer reported that the job was going to take 17 hours, so Max and I decided to set up a webcam and do some R&D on Open Broadcaster Studio, which I have been considering using for the live fishcam that will be part of the aquaponics project.  We installed the software, plugged in the camera, put in the YouTube live streaming information, and it all worked perfectly right out of the gate.

Streaming Video of Ultimaker 2 Extended+ Printing Parts for an Inventables X-Carve

By the time I got home, the camera had slipped or been knocked sideways, but the print is still visible!

Open Broadcaster Streaming Ultimaker 2 Extended+ Printing a Dust Shoe for an X-Carve to YouTube Live

I’ve been working with technology for many years, but the idea that I can relatively easily monitor from home a 3D print job of a part I need and was able to download for a CNC machine that can be used to support (among other things) hands-on student activities in Chemistry and Art, while simultaneously testing a software program and a streaming service for another project that combines Library, Chemistry, Biology, Theater Arts, fish, and plants is, frankly, pretty neat.

I almost forgot – I made a Voronoi Totoro on the X-Carve (in plotter mode):

Voronoi Totoro

X-Carve Build Day 2 - All Hands on Deck

Back to the build…  After a successful build day last week, we started Build Day 2 with some goodies, including Diane’s home-roasted coffee, egg and cheese sandwiches, homemade scones, muffins and pastries:

X-Carve Build Day 2 - A Light Brunch to Start the Day Right

Today didn’t go quite as smoothly as I’d hoped, mostly because I mistakenly believed that one of the rails had not been tapped, which triggered a mad dash to the local hardware store for a tap and die set that turned out to be unnecessary. My mistake transformed into a learning experience and some skill building, so it wasn’t all bad:

X-Carve Build Day 2 - Jennifer Drilling

We were able to get the Z-axis assembled:

X-Carve Build Day 2 - Jennifer Adjusts the Z-Axis Drive Screw

And all of the motors wired:

X-Carve Build Day 2 - Diane and Jennifer Wiring the Z-Axis

We’re planning on finishing up the project after the weekend, and then we’ll get to carving!

X-Carve Build Day 2 - Max Wiring

Additional photos…

Helping students rig the balloon, with the 3D printed picavet in the foreground:

Preparing for Launch

Lowering the rig to clear the canopy:

Bringing the Balloon Down to Clear the Canopy

Nothing better than doing real science in the field with students (plus wearing a sweet safety vest):

Dowell and Pittman: Men of Science

Additional photos and datasets at the project blog

Max Mahoney (Chemistry) and I have been collaborating on a volumetric display for the 3D visualization of molecular models. We developed a pretty sweet prototype, and then Max had the idea that instead of one big monitor, wouldn’t it be easier to just have 4 identical small monitors?

Sketch of Molecule Visualizer

Indeed I think it would be.

holo3000 Molecule Visualizer

The video can be sent from the computer to a 4 way HDMI splitter, then sent to 4 identical monitors – maybe 7″? – each rotated 90 degrees. No special software to deal with, no creation of a special 4plexed version of the video. An elegant volumetric appliance, at least on paper…

Jennifer Kraemer (ECE) Removing Support Material from 3D Printed Parts from the Free Universal Construction Kit

Jennifer Kraemer (Early Childhood Education) was in the lab today, printing up some new connector pieces from the Free Universal Construction Kit.  I used the K’NEX-to-Lego connectors in a workshop over the summer, and Jennifer is planning on printing many more pieces for use next week for activities with her ECE students.

Jennifer Kraemer (ECE) Printing Parts from the Free Universal Construction Kit

Side note – I’ve been really impressed with the performance of the Printrbot Simple Metal. It’s been getting a fair amount of use lately, with the aquaponics nozzles and Max’s molecules and molecular visualizer and the picavet parts, and it just seems to go and go without being fussy. That said, I have my eye on a Formlabs Form 2. I’m especially interested in the castable resin. It would be great to get a metal pour going in the fall!