At the Rocklin Mini Maker Faire this past weekend, I spent a lot of time in the sewing lab, and was able to gain some confidence in working through the sewing process. Diane Carlson (Sociology) and I have been working to develop a collaborative quilting activity for our Making Social Change class, and one thing we’re really interested in is using the laser cutter to cut fabric.  As it happens, I had an appointment yesterday morning with Mark Boguski (Ceramics and Ceramic Sculpture, Sacramento City College).  Mark works in clay, and whenever he’s in the lab we end up brainstorming different ways to combine technology and other production processes traditionally associated with the studio arts; for instance, our recent experiment with multi-part stencils.  I was sharing with Mark my interest in using the laser to cut fabric, and showing him Tinkercad, and in particular its *.svg export functionality.  In the process of poking around, we found a Japanese prefecture generator, and decided to use that as the basis for our experiments.

Mark set up a few prefectures, after which we exported the file, opened it in Illustrator, made the tweaks required to prepare the file for the laser, then fired up the machine:

I’m not sure why, but I was surprised that it worked as flawlessly as it did. No scorching, no fuss, just crisp, clean, viciously accurate cuts.

Mark Makes Japan from Fabric

Here’s Nagano:

Nagano Prefecture, In Fabric

Not sure what Mark plans to do with them – we talked about collage, and about dipping various things in clay slip and then firing them – but we’ll certainly cut some fabric as part of Monday’s Making Social Change class.

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.

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!

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

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…

Assembly

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).