This week in Making Social Change we’re looking at the Zapatista movement.  One of the themes we’ll have some discussion around is political symbolism, and the use of imagery in social movements, including the various images of Subcomandante Marcos (in his ski mask and sometimes with his pipe) that came to symbolize the EZLN.

Resiste Corazón (Póster)

By Rexistemx (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This morning I prototyped a class activity around using the laser cutter to create stencils.  One of the challenges of the course is finding ways to make some of the prerequisite skills of digital fabrication – chiefly vector graphic creating and editing – more accessible to a group of students with varying levels of digital media creation skills.  Enter Stencil Creator, a sophisticated web-based stencil maker.  Upload an image to Stencil Creator, and the robust toolset enables some of the same sorts of functionality found in Illustrator’s Image Trace function.  The system outputs files in *.svg format, and after just a few tweaks in Illustrator – haven’t yet found a way to take it out of the workflow entirely – the stencil can be sent to the laser cutter.  Here’s one of the test cuts, featuring bass hero and DIY champion Mike Watt:

Laser Watt

Positive and Negative

Mike Watt Stencil Progress

Watt closes his shows with a call to “Start your own band! Paint your own picture! Write your own book!” so I added “Make your own stencil!”  I think D. Boon would be pleased.

Brother Watt Reminds Us

The Innovation Center has been collaborating with folks from FLC’s Career and Technical Education (CTE, soon to be just Career Education) department on a lobby sign, and after some conversations about possibilities, we were able to very quickly come up with a few scale conceptual models.

Rapid Prototyping!

Brandon (student) has woodworking, mechanical engineering, and CAD skills, so he has taken responsibility for the project. One of the challenges Brandon is working through is scale. The largest stock the laser cutter can in our shop can cut is 18″ x 32″, but the final sign will be much larger than that. We’ve got something of a machine sharing arrangement with FLC’s Theater Arts department (the folks with whom we collaborated on the aquaponics project), and Brandon was able to get some time on their big ShopBot. Here’s some work in progress at scale…

Sign Progress

FLC Works!

…and here’s where the project stands now.

FLC Works!

Brandon rigged up some temporary LEDs while we figure out a more permanent solution, and the whole thing will be polished up and stained before installation.  It’s turning out to be a great example of the power of rapid prototyping, project-based learning, and of providing students with meaningful challenges related to materials, design, and fabrication.

Max Mahoney (Chemistry) and I worked on a mechanical automata project this morning. Our long-term goal is to create laser cut wooden versions of the various mechanical mechanism building blocks in the beautiful book Karakuri: How to Make Mechanical Paper Models that Move by Keisuke Saka. To get a sense of what the design and development considerations might be, we decided to start with a Thingiverse search, and found Simple Machines – Geneva Stop (CC BY-NC-SA) by Zombie Cat. A few minor adjustments to the layout, and we cut the parts out of 1/4″(ish) hobby plywood. We ended up having to tweak a few of the parts to fit the dowels we had on hand, and we made a few slight modifications to the design based on the differences between the vector files and the thickness of our plywood, but overall it’s a great design and turned out pretty well for our first automata.

Geneva Drive

The rest of the afternoon was spent working with Nicole (student and Innovation Center staffer) on a stencil for organic chemistry.  Max hung around finishing the automata, and answered a few technical questions as Nicole and I worked through the layout in Illustrator.  We tested the first prototype, and decided that the various cut-outs representing the bonds needed to be scaled up a bit.  Below is version 2, including Nicole’s beloved chicken in the lower left hand corner, and a fancy star on the right.

Ochem Stencil

Test stenciling…

Nicole Testing the Stencil

The design finished and tested, we cut the final version out of acrylic.  Success!

Final Version Leaves the Laser

The file is up on Thingiverse, or you can just grab the PDF if you’d like to cut your own.

Creating an environment where faculty and students collaborate to make things, from Calculus models to history game tiles is one of our goals. The other day, Marc Olsen (Math) and Rebekah Keely (student) worked together to create a unit circle for use in the Trigonometry classroom.

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Basing their design on a paper model, they created the vector file using Illustrator – Rebekah has mad skill with this particular program – and then cut the file from 1/8 plywood using the laser cutter.

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Marc has ideas about version two, which will have a center post onto which can be snapped some triangles, as in the paper model.  Download the file on Thingiverse, or grab the PDF here..

Having recently had students spinning yarn, I decided to make another shuttle for our community loom, as the one we’ve got has a crack in it. I snapped a photo of it, brought it into Illustrator, added a few guides, and was able to pretty quickly create a fairly similar copy.

Making a New Shuttle

I cut the shuttle out of 1/4 birch plywood using our laser cutter. It needs a bit of sanding and filing, but I think it will make a pretty decent replacement.

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The files (Illustrator *.ai and PDF) and instructions are up on Thingiverse, or you can just grab the pdf here: simple_shuttle

In week 4 of Making Social Change, we talked about Indian independence, and about the emblematic role of khadi – handspun and hand-woven cloth – in the movement. Building upon the prototype Erica Tyler (Anthropology) developed as part of the Making Across the Curriculum faculty maker academy of summer 2016, and on our preview event from spring 2017, students created drop spindles using dowels, hooks, and laser cut whorls.

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Erica made herself available to talk about “women’s work” in the Archeological record, and showed students how to spin roving into yarn.

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With any luck, the community loom will soon have a bit more handspun yarn added to it.

About two years from our original idea, and after many hours on the greaseboard, and many prototypes and preview events, Sociology 379: Making Social Change has finally been born!  We’re joined by twelve brave, multi-talented, fascinating students, passionate about a wide array of social justice issues.

Making Social Change

The class meets once a week on Mondays from 1pm – 4:05pm, and we’ve met twice. We spent the first session framing the course and getting to know each other, doing some design thinking with the help of the Making Connections card game from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and building some low res prototypes.

Untitled

In our second session, we took a critical look at the “maker movement,” spending some time discussing “Making Through the Lens of Culture and Power: Toward Transformative Visions for Educational Equity.” (Harvard Educational Review, 86(2), 206-232.Vossoughi, S., Hooper, P. K., & Escudé, M. (2016), https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/fa5b/4e88c78f380b4727d445afa33bea5212a21d.pdf), before students had the chance to begin work on their contribution to our tile project, which is a low risk/high reward, very accessible “first project” in digital fabrication.

David Creates his Tile

Really looking forward to continuing to work with these students, and to learning from this “version 1” prototype of the course!

FLC’s Science Center runs a series of hands-on Friday science activities, and we decided to support their efforts by creating a collectible sticker for each activity. We based the sizing on the hexbin hexagonal sticker specification, and Rebekah (student) designed and cut a sheet of prototypes…

Rough Draft Hands-on Science Center Friday Stickers

…which were refined to create version 2.0 (Neuroscience: Brainwaves, Polygraphs, Action potentials, and Remote-Control your Classmates, UCD: College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences recruiting session, Cadaver Viewing, Cyanotyping, Essential Oil Extraction Using Steam Distillation, Infectious Diseases, Fun Science Activities Suitable for Home, The Innovation Center Makerspace, GIS and Geography)

Stickers!

We’ve moved into production, using our vinyl cutter to create the first batch (for Max Mahoney’s cyanotype activity).  Gotta catch ’em all!

Cyanotype Stickers