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.


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)


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

The last couple of Fridays we’ve had children from the Folsom Lake College Youth Art Academy in the makerspace.  In week 1, two of the three groups worked on building pneumatic monsters


and paper circuits…


…while Max Mahoney had the third group in the Chemistry lab doing cyanotype photography


A number of the children were attending both weeks of the camp, so we wanted to mix it up a bit for week two.  After researching various engineering challenges, we developed and prototyped a building system of laser cut connectors that could be used with standard popsicle sticks.


We were able to cut 578 per sheet, ~41 minutes per sheet.


The children worked in pairs on engineering challenges, beginning with heaviest weight with minimum sticks


…and moving on to tallest freestanding structure:


…after which they connected their towers using living hinge bridges laser cut from cardstock, and decorated with LEDs, giving us a chance to talk a little bit about circuits and electricity.


The building system worked surprisingly well for a version 1, and we learned some things – specifically, that the pieces were a little small and the tolerances a little tight for some 8 year olds – that we’ll incorporate into version 2.  More photos from the YAA makerspace visit.

The folks from Paton Group came out yesterday to train us on the Roland Modela MDX-50 we’ve got in the makerspace.

First impressions…

The machine is well-built, and the rotary attachment is especially nice, with precisely machined aluminum parts and the most amazingly smooth bearings. It’s quiet, at least when milling chemical wood.  It creates a LOT of dust, and took a while to vacuum after the part was finished.  The lighting cues are nice, and it’s easy to monitor the machine from anywhere in the lab.  The software – SRP Player CAM – is dead simple to use. I don’t have much experience machining, but I was able to pretty easily set up and run a job after being shown the process just once. It takes standard .STL files, so it should be pretty accessible to those with some 3D printing experience.

MDX-50 First Carve

The model I picked – Totoro by joo on Thingiverse – was maybe not the best choice, in terms of size (I didn’t make the best use of the material) and because of where the supports needed to be (between the ears, though I learned that custom supports can be built into the .STL file to solve such challenges), but I am happy with the result overall.  The chemical wood is a new material to me, and is easily worked with an X-ACTO knife, sandpaper, and files.

My Neighbor

The Innovation Center recently came by several 100 count boxes of 1 mL and 3 mL syringes, and we set about seeing how we might work them into an activity for an upcoming STEAM camp, inspired by this post from @zackboston

…which led to this video from Ivydale Science & Technology Service

To start, we duplicated the procedure detailed in the Ivydale video above to create the basic model…


…and then set to work seeing how we might use the laser cutter to create the monster form, with the goal of streamlining the production process to minimize taping and hot gluing. I created several iterations in Illustrator, and the laser made quick work of the card stock.  Here’s a closeup of the “final” version, which securely holds the syringe without tape, and which requires only a small bit of hot glue to attach the plunger to the hinge mechanism…


Here’s a pdf of the file used to create the monster. It’s sized to cut two ovals from an 8.5 by 11 sheet of card stock. To make the file work on our laser, the strokes have to be set to “hairline” in CorelDRAW, or .001 weight in Illustrator, pure RGB red (255.0.0).  Overall, I’m happy with how it’s working, though the small syringes – a 1 mL on the monster and a 3 mL for the remote – make for a sort of dreamy, organic, delayed reaction that only operates on the push…

The basics established, I set to work creating a mix-and-match, interchangeable eyes-and-teeth system, cut from 1/8″ hobby plywood.  I’ll upload the vector files of all of these once I get them finished up.  With the laser cutter humming, one idea led to another (as they often do), and I started to wonder how a living hinge might be incorporated into the design. The results are interesting, and there’s probably a whole other related project in there somewhere…

Fascinated by living hinges, Nathaniel (student) and I began experimenting, and were able to take an 8 inch paper hinge…


…and stretch it to 80 inches before it started failing!


Next, I dunked a yet-to-be-expanded laser cut paper living hinge in a mixture of glue and water, and then stretched it out and let it dry…


As predicted, the glue and water mixture stiffened the paper, and it kept its shape (mostly) once dry.  There’s a lot to be explored with living hinges – jumping off points include Patrick Fenner’s Laser-cut Lattice Living Hinges, a fascinating look at the math behind them, and this Customizable Tessellating Living Hinge by drxenocide.  There’s nothing quite like having the tools, materials, and time to work an idea!

A couple of weeks ago, Nathaniel (student) set out to replace a (mysteriously) missing piece of his car with a 3D printed part. He carefully measured the remaining bit, modeled the replacement using Tinkercad, which is really accessible and easy to use.  He then printed the replacement part using an Ultimaker 3, which took all of 22 minutes.

After a few minor modifications with the Dremel…

Minor Modifications

…a good fit was achieved…

Replacement Part

…and the car was fixed!

Piece in Place

It’s especially satisfying to see 3D printing used to empower people to solve real-world problems.

On Friday, May 5, the Innovation Center Makerspace Student Advisory group held a planning retreat in the Innovation Center Makerspace.  Rebekah, Nathaniel, CJ and Nicole are four of the college’s most engaged students, and they have been actively involved in the growth and development of our makerspace.

Innovation Center Makerspace Student Advisory Retreat

After some general discussion about planning mechanics – we agreed to continue using Slack (for team communication), Google Drive (for document sharing), and Asana (for project and task management) as our planning and communication toolset – we moved through some brainstorming and discussion in the areas of Operations, Marketing and Outreach, and Makerspace Programs, all in preparation for our fall opening, and all against the backdrop of the statewide CCC Maker Grant.

On the Operations thread, we talked about onboarding of new students, facility and machine access issues, safety and training, facility usage tracking, and protocols around equipment upkeep, maintenance, and supplies.

Moving on to Marketing and Outreach, we discussed the development of an Innovation Center Makerspace brand, including logo, typography, colors and a style guide, and an outreach plan, including the potential for a “makerspace student ambassador” program, classroom presentations, involvement of student clubs and organizations, and activities leading up to our grand opening event in the fall.

Finally, we did some brainstorming around the theme of Makerspace Programming, and generated ideas including hosting coding and other bootcamps, eSports tournaments, mini Maker Faire participation, 1st Friday “What I Make” sessions, the proposed Makers in Residence program, and integration with Science Center and other collegewide activities (like the recent cyanotype activity, March for Science sign making, Social Justice Spring event, and International Workers’ Day march and ceremony).

Feeding our planning efforts are the data from a survey adapted by Nathaniel and Rebekah from one Sierra College has used in their own makerspace planning efforts.  We’re still analyzing the survey results, but my favorite response so far, in answer to a question about what students find appealing about makerspaces:

“Real life application.  We study so much theory and it would be nice to engineer something.”

The student voice is critical in the development of makerspace programs, services, and culture, and we’re lucky to have such a dedicated and engaged group of students to help guide our growth.

The pieces we ordered to build the volumetric display for Chemistry visualization finally arrived!  With the help of CJ, Nathan, and Rebekah (students), Max (Chemistry) got everything cabled up…


Using bits from our original prototype, Max fired up a molecule, and it works!

Prototype, a Long Time in the Making

In order to better enjoy the three dimensional holographic molecules, we quickly cooked up a little blanket fort…

Building the Fort

Be Present

It Works!

Now that we have the parts in place, we can move on to developing the enclosure and making the system portable. It’s great to have the space, tools, and people to be able to turn good ideas into working prototypes, and we’re looking forward to making quick progress on this one (finally).