Studio Art Student Use of the Makerspace

We’ve had lots of interesting uses of our makerspace by Studio Art students for both senior exhibits and assignments. Here are some examples:

3D printed face connected to a long row of stairs in white

Quantified Actualization by Penn Ryan

Penn Ryan ’18 spent a lot of time in the makerspace meticulously designing  and 3D printing stairs for his piece, “Quantified Actualization”. The top part of this piece was designed using a 3D scan of his face, scanned and printed in the makerspace. In his artist statement, he describes this work as a commentary on fitness tracking,

…”This staircase is the combined product of 5 months of tracking. Fitness tracking is often an obsessive practice. Quantifying one’s accomplishments gives someone a feeling of control over their body. Users feel that technology can give them insights into how well they are taking care of their body and therefore meeting their goals. These goals are often initially physical but become mental and occupational and all encompassing. Whether or not one is striving for improvement and accomplishing it becomes a moral judgement. Self-actualization is the ultimate goal.”

More photos, and a complete artist statement can be found in the 2018 Senior Exhibit Gallery.

The Lost Man’s Fortune by Alison Smith

Alison Smith ’17 created an installation that spread across the exterior of the Wriston Art Center and inside the senior gallery exhibit. Alison used vinyl decals to create 8-bit video game inspired art scenes, as well as used the Silhouette cutter to create paper items and treasures, also inspired by video games. Her statement explains, “this installation gives physical forms to video game objects and environments in order to change the way we interact with them through the completion of a real-life, video game inspired quest.”

More photos of installation of The Lost Man’s Fortune can be found in the 2017 Senior Exhibit Gallery.

Installation View of Mystery Ocean by Noah Gunther

Noah Gunther ’17 used the makerspace to 3D print objects for both his junior show and senior show. In both, he created virtual worlds, and brought the virtual to physical using the 3D printers. For his senior show, he integrated a virtual reality headset to let the viewer further immerse themselves in the world he created. We asked Noah to tell us a little about using 3D printers as an artist- here’s what he had to say,

“…I’ve been interested in the intersection of what we think of as “real life” and the world of computer simulation for a long time. Having access to 3D printers has been an excellent way for me to explore this connection — I build 3D models on the computer, which I then add to a computer simulation where a user can virtually interact with them. I then also 3d print the models in the same colors I display the virtual models, allowing for a direct connection between the virtual objects and the 3D printed ones. Being able to 3D print these items allows me to explore the connection between virtual and real interaction in a way I otherwise wouldn’t be able to!”

Alice Parker painting and installation by Aedan Gardill

Innovating a Legacy: Alice Parker by Aedan Gardill

Aedan R. Gardill ’18 painted a series of African American women inventors and innovators and created representational installations to accompany each painting. For Alice Parker, Aedan used the Silhouette cutter to create a vinyl display to represent her contributions to modern thermostats. He describes his series of paintings and installations as, “Sharing the stories of these women and increasing the visual representation of non-male, non-white scientists is a step forward to changing the negative cultural perspective of women in the sciences.”

More selections from the installation, Innovating a Legacy can be found in the 2018 Senior Exhibit Gallery.

Installation and paintings by Nina Sultan

Nina Sultan ’17 included interviews by portrait subjects with her paintings on display for her senior show. The interviews were played on iPads on loan from the makerspace. In her artist statement, Nina describes her works as, “Inspired by people from the Appleton community, through painting, photography, and audio documentation, the work seeks to create thoughtful narratives to unmask, appreciate, and better understand our personal connections on a deeper level.”

More photos of the installation can be found in the 2017 Senior Exhibit Gallery.

Speaking of these many student shows in the Wriston Galleries, gallery curators uses the makerspace’s Silhouette Cameo electronic cutter to create titles for their exhibits. It saves a great deal of money compared to requesting to have them made by an outside sign shop.

Word Art by Sara Morrison

Many other students have used the makerspace tools and equipment for projects related to art course assignments. Here are just a few:

Sara Morrison ’18 created a series of word art that she displayed around campus for her New Media in Art assignment. She used the 3D printer and electronic cutter to create letters from PLA filament and vinyl.

Sara encouraged members of the Lawrence University community to take photos of the word art (as she left it, and as it had been changed by others) and post them to her Tumblr page, LU Word Art.

Stencil by Malcolm Lunn-Craft

Malcolm Lunn-Craft ’17 used the electronic cutter to create stencils for his painting class. The adhesive vinyl helped with his assignment medium of spray paint.

While not created in the makerspace, Malcolm’s powerful photographs from his senior exhibit are available to view in the  2017 Senior Exhibit Gallery (content warning: visual allusion to violence).

See more uses of the makerspace by Studio Art students and faculty on our Makerspace Assignments at LU page, as well as on our Instagram and Twitter.

Gender in Makerspaces

We’ve been finding more and more reports of gender imbalances in makerspaces. This is something we’ve been conscious of since we built our space, so we’ve taken various approaches to attempt to create a space that’s inviting to all genders and non-binary folks.

  • Mixture of technologies- Our makerspace contains equipment that has been traditionally gendered male, such as the soldering station, 3D scanners, 3D printers, as well as those that have been traditionally gendered female, such as the sewing machine, quilting tools, and the Silhouette Cameo electronic cutter (which is commonly used as a scrapbooking tool). Our hope has been that by having all of this equipment in the same inclusive space, those who may have been reluctant to use something they may have originally thought wasn’t for them, will realize that these are tools for everyone.
  • Mixture of making- While we are big fans of 3D printing- electronic technology-assisted making is not the only kind that happens in our space. We have a table of painting supplies right by the entry of the space, coloring and drawing supplies on a cart outside the space, as well as collage supplies available to use.
  • Mixture of people- Our space and the student makerspace club are led by people with a mixture of gender identities.
  • Mixture of academic disciplines- We try really hard to include all academic areas of study when reaching out to faculty and students to use our makerspace. We’ve worked with a pretty wide range of courses and are actively pursuing more.
  • Mixture of decor- It might sound trivial to some, but the look of a space can create a gendered feel. We’ve attempted to add signage and decorations that are welcoming to all and that represent a wide range of tastes and visual preferences.

Future goals

We’re going to try harder to bring in more academic disciplines- especially those that do not traditionally work with technologies. We also plan to reach out to diversity-oriented student organizations and committees. In regard to makerspace tools and supplies, we plan to work with more fiber arts (including yarn crafts and 3D printing on fabrics) and come up with a wide variety of examples for use when we get our laser cutter.

Further reading

Maker Culture Has a ‘Deeply Unsettling’ Gender Problem” by Stephen Noonoo

An Exploration of Women’s Engagement in Makerspaces” by Vanessa Bean

Wall-Following RC Car

By Wenchao Liu

When I was a junior, I decided that I’d work on autonomous vehicles after graduation. However, as an undergraduate, I’d not be able to produce a research paper in the field. Thus, I dedicated my senior experience to building a self-driving RC car, which was within my reach. Calling it self-driving might be a stretch, since the only capability for the car was wall-following. However, the project really took me a lot of time and energy.

The first step was to build a platform where the electronics could stand. There were a lot of electronics that needed to be on the RC car, and they couldn’t just be taped on the top. Thus, I paid someone to use a laser cutter to cut out different parts of the platform from two pieces of plastics. After assembly, the electronics could safely be placed on top of the RC car. The Makerspace doesn’t have a laser cutter, but Angela purchased one on back order, so we’ll see when we will get it!

The second step was to put the electronics securely on the platform. That process requires a lot of screws, standoffs and even fasteners! In addition, I had to solder a lot of circuits and headers in the Makerspace. There are many useful communal tools in the Makerspace, such as a soldering iron, screw drivers and various types of glue! On top of that, Angela, who is in charge of the Makerspace, is also helpful and wiling to buy almost whatever tools you want! She also has great ears to listen to your complaints when things go south!

The final step was software. I used ROS on Ubuntu to analyze the data from the Lidar, and to send commands from the computer to the micro-controller. The computer uses the Lidar data to estimate the distance between the car and the wall. If the car is too far away from the desired distance, the computer tells the micro-controller to steer closer, and vice versa. How much should the car steer? Well, that is handled by a PID controller, which takes the off-set from the desired distance and outputs the steering angle.

Wenchao and his friend Sheila (not Angela)

In total, the project took me about half a year. I took a class on Arduino in the chemistry department in the spring term of my junior year (yes, chemistry!) and worked on the project through the following summer and fall. During the entire process, I spent quite some time in the Makerspace, complaining to Angela! When the project was finished, I gave a talk about it, and many people came, including Angela! Look at how much she aged after listening to all my complaints!

3D Printed Smartphone Microscopy

By: Harsimran Kalsi

3D printed smartphone microscopy housings and magnifying glass beads.

How did microscopy become a thing? A very brief history of microscopy.

The first microscope is largely credited to having been created by a Dutch man named Antonie Von Leeuwenhoek, during the 17th century (Howard Hughes Medical Institute). Leeuwenhoek utilized a relatively simple apparatus to discover and explore what he called, “animalcules.” His apparatus consisted primarily of a very precisely shaped glass bead, embedded into a handheld housing. Using this instrument, he explored many different mediums (e.g. pond water, blood) and discovered many different microbes (e.g. Daphnia, bacteria, red blood cells).

A replica of Leeuwenhoek’s microscope. Courtesy of Funsci.com

As time continued, more methods of microscopy have been developed and advanced. In modernity, we have crafted various advanced optical/light microscopes capable of viewing samples at 300x magnification. Other methods exist that allow us to analyze samples outside wavelengths of light suited for the human eye (e.g. infrared, ultraviolet). Methods such as scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy manipulate electrons to obtain highly detailed images of greater magnifications. These methods can magnify samples anywhere between 1,000x-30,000x (depending on the particular method).

 

 

 

Why study the microcosm?

Most life on earth is completely invisible to the human eye, without the aid of a microscope. Looking at the tree of life, one can see that most of it is microbial and that a small sliver/branch of it, actually constitutes what we can see. This vast, teeming, beautiful, and barely explored microcosm can often go overlooked every moment.

Though these microbes may go overlooked, that by no means implies that they have little affect on the way our world is. In fact, these microbes have a profound effect. Bacteria cover everything including our own skin. They also live within many organisms (including ourselves) and help us in several ways. However, many microbes can make us extremely sick and with the current state of increasing global antibiotic resistance, it is crucial that we understand more about these organisms to maintain our own well-being.

Types of 3D printed microscopy

Different methods of 3D printed microscopy have been developed over the past decade, however, the focus of this project will primarily be with one particular method. This method was developed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL) and is very similar to Leeuwenhoek’s first microscope, in a lot of ways. The method consists of 3D printing a housing that hold a glass bead of a specific diameter. The diameter of the spherical glass bead in turn determines the magnification that the microscope is capable of. This apparatus then slips over your smartphone camera and can be used to view certain things.

Benefits of 3D printed smartphone microscopy

The concept of 3D printed smartphone microscopy visualizes many benefits. 3D printed microscopy methods may be far more economically feasible than other microscopy methods. Many microscopes are not cheap, however, if a microscope could be composed primarily of one cheap material (e.g. PLA, ABS) and printed quickly through additive manufacturing techniques, one might be able to print many cheap but efficient microscopes (hence maximizing productivity). Furthermore, these microscopes may be easier to use and deploy in resource poor areas.

Method

In this project, I used standardized slides with microorganisms of a known type to test the efficiency of PNNL’s smartphone microscope design against that of a standardized light microscope (a Nikon Eclipse E100). The slides consisted of Zea mays, Rhodospirilium rubrum, Bacillus megaterium, and Micrococcus luteus. Efficiency was determined primarily by comparing the magnification, resolution, durability/ease of use, and overall clarity of the smartphone microscopes with the light microscope.

Two magnifications were tested with the smartphone microscope housings: 100x and 350x (with beads of 3.5 mm and 1.0 mm diameters respectively). Many beads provided by the equipment company were not perfectly spherical and had slight imperfections (e.g. small dents, cloudiness, smudges). In this project, the most spherical and clear beads were used and a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution was used to clean the beads before and after use to optimize image clarity. Latex gloves were also used to prevent finger oils and foreign contaminants that might be located on one’s hands from contacting the bead surface.

.Stl files for the housings were obtained from PNNL’s website and the bead holes were expanded post printing, as they were initially too small.

Results

The images and figures below were obtained through analysis of the slides. The smartphone microscope images generally appeared to be of considerably lower quality compared to the light microscope. Images taken with the smartphone microscope often had poor resolution and clarity (so much so that the Zea mays sample was unobservable with the smartphone microscope). This in part might be attributed to imperfections and detritus on the bead surface. On the other hand, the smartphone microscopes were capable of magnifying fairly well, however, the poor resolution and higher sensitivity of these microscopes made it harder to view clear images and control the instrument.

Lighting was also an influencing factor. At times, it was difficult to establish optimal lighting conditions for the smartphone microscope (in contrast to the light microscopes which have a fixed and adjustable light source). Often, imperfections or oil on the bead would lead to strange diffraction patterns of light that wouldn’t illuminate the sample very well.

It also proved an arduous task to insert beads into the housing. At first, the housing files proved too small to house the beads. I ended up expanding the holes within the housings by about 0.3 mm for the x100 magnification and about .1 mm for the x350 magnification. I later created a .stl file with an assay of housings with different sized holes to find the optimal size for each magnification.

100 smartphone

350 magnification smartphone

zea light microscope

bacillus light mirco

micrococcus light micro

Promising future modifications/designs

It seems that this version of the smartphone microscope can still be promising for future smartphone microscopy endeavors. If one finds a way to address just a couple of key issues, this technology could be very efficient. Perhaps, if one found a way to maintain consistent beads with little to no imperfections, it likely would improve the resolution and clarity of the microscope. Also, if someone found a way to optimize the process of embedding the bead into the housing without contaminating, dropping, or losing the bead, that would also make a big difference. Adjusting the print files to house the beads without further adjustment would also improve the overall process.

Recent advances in smartphone microscopy include a smartphone microscope apparatus created by the Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics: Arc Centre of Excellence, which is a 3D printed “clip on” that requires no bead whatsoever. The entire apparatus is 3D printed (preferably with black filament) and utilizes ambient light and camera flash to illuminate and magnify samples. More information about how it works can be found here. This method appears to be promising as well.

Acknowledgements

This project could not have been completed without the guidance of Angela Vanden Elzen. Additionally, crucial supplies were provided generously by Wayne and JoAnn of the Biology Stockroom. Thank you to Dr. Jodi Sedlock for allowing me to utilize her lab space. Special thanks also to Dr. Nancy Wall for providing the prepared slides and allowing me to use her lab space/microscope.

References

Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Seeing The Invisible: Van Leeuwenhoek’s First Glimpses Of The Microbial World. 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePnbkNVdPio. Accessed 30 May 2018.

“PNNL Smartphone Microscope – Available Technologies – PNNL”. Availabletechnologies.Pnnl.Gov, 2018, https://availabletechnologies.pnnl.gov/technology.asp?id=393. Accessed 30 May 2018.