Posts Tagged ‘iterative design’

CCO Creative Commons image

So, I’ve been thinking about the iterative process in Digital Fabrication, the STEAM class that I teach. The course is a minor and only a semester long. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have some goals.

One of the things my STEAM colleagues and I have been talking about is how important it is that everyone who takes a course in our department, major or minor, experiences and practices of the iterative design process. We really want students to try to make something and then try to make it better. Most importantly, we want students to believe that this process is the way design and creation work, not just what you do when something doesn’t work the first time.

What I have been noticing is that some students want to keep working on that first design until they think it is perfect before trying it out on the 3D printer or laser cutter. Here are my issues with that strategy:

  • Too much time has been spent on the initial design without any testing
  • So much time leads to so much investment and often less willingness to alter fundamental parts of the design
  • And, now there is just less time to spend on the next drafts

So, I’m looking for ways to force my students to get that “shitty first draft” (term courtesy of Ann Lamott and her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, which I am reading at the moment.) out of the way so that we can move on to the better second draft. Currently, we are working on making geared drawing machines. (We are basing our design on this Tinker Crate project.) Finally today, I gave the group a time limit to get a cardboard model built and ready. Students were in groups and I may also have said that I was also trying to complete this challenge and it would be sad if with many people to work they could not get something done and I could. I do NOT like to do that kind of thing where I put myself in competition with the students in this way, but I was desperate. I did make it clear that I had not done this project either.

In the time frame, we had 3 models. Then, we made a list of information we learned that we could take to our next versions of the various parts–actual sizes, relative sizes, pieces to be made with each tool and in each material. We also considered some ways that we would stage the creation of some of the pieces to give ourselves more margin for error. Then in a next draft, we could add in another set of specifics. And, we divided up the jobs so that we can get a next draft completed very quickly.

Finally!

I think there might be something to the idea that we make several cardboard models so that we each have to wrestle with the project as a whole, and then collaborate in bigger groups or one big group to make the next version. Once we get a few more pieces ready, we can test our machine for real. If it works, I totally want one.

 

 

Advertisements

So, I’ve been thinking about the catapult project in my Digital Fabrication class. I wrote the other day about my tweaks of the process and shared the image that I was using for my inspiration.

Here’s how my personal catapult is going. First I designed a new arm. I wanted to have just circles and lines and get rid of the bucket as the ping-pong ball (our projectile of choice) holder. Therefore, I made the arm from a series of circles that were the size that would hold let the ping-pong ball sit on them without falling through. Initially, I imagined that the lines/bars would have some function. However, it turned out I didn’t need them, so I broke them off, mostly. You can see the last bits of the bars as diameters in the circles, but the next version does not have them at all. The base incorporates the brick pattern and the circle. The first version flings the ping-pong ball just fine.

First I designed a new arm. I wanted to have just circles and lines and get rid of the bucket as the ping-pong ball (our projectile of choice) holder. Therefore, I made the arm from a series of circles that were the size that would hold let the ping-pong ball sit on them without falling through. Initially, I imagined that the lines/bars would have some function. However, it turned out I didn’t need them, so I broke them off, mostly. You can see the last bits of the bars as diameters in the circles, but the next version does not have them at all.

The base incorporates the brick pattern and the circle. It’s abstracted a little bit. Since the last row has an open portion, I can use that to hook up my rubber band as well. I can also put more tension on the rubber band by wrapping around a few rows, if need be. So handy.

The first version flings the ping-pong ball just fine.

When I looked at the catapult from the front, I noticed that the circle of the base and the first circle of the arm could line up better and maybe look like concentric circles if the arm circle is bigger. Turns out, I can get close, but because the arm is always on a bit of an angle, the circles of the base and the arm are never quite in the same plane. Still, I think it’s a design improvement.

Now what?

Since the catapult flings the ping-pong ball fine, at this point it’s all about improving my design. Maybe some of the “brick” pattern that is in the base should go between or across the two middle circles in the arm? The final circle has to be hollow for the ball to sit there. Hmmm.