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Re: We have $10,000 - what should we buy?

Postby louis leblanc » November 13th, 2017, 9:04 pm

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Unfortunately it sounds like your chair is looking for some flashy toy to attract students (actually parents...) rather than something that would really help the students grow.

As far as I can tell, most cutting edge tech related to ID would be aimed at masters/PhD work as there is a huge learning curve and they are in active development. If anything, interest would come from professors that are interested and ready to push those boundaries.

In a related field, it seems like architecture is moving really rapidly right now and architecture faculties are leading a lot of the efforts design, CAD and manufacturing/building development and not necessarily engineering faculties. Things like parametric design, use of AI and optimization algorithms, additive building technologies, use of robots in large scale building (3D sheet metal bending, suspended concrete pours...). Lots of schools have classes where they get their students to play with these new technologies and implementing by get their hands dirty building physical pavilions. Architecture has a history of academia but it seems like lately they are hub for a lot of technological development that would have typically happened in engineering faculties. It seems like on the flip side, ID faculties are much more focused on craft and professional development and there are not many places like the MIT Media Lab that create a bridge between ID and other disciplines. Yet most of ID and the success stories of ID were in very interdisciplinary settings.

Back to your 10k$ burning a hole in your pocket, I'd agree with Sain. If your school doesn't have one, a photography/videography studio would be great. Even better if who ever's showing the students how to use rendering software shows them how to light and compose a shot with a camera. It's way faster and intuitive to learn by moving lights and modifiers around than it is to move points around on a computer and waiting for things to clear up...

As others have mentioned getting students to build things physically is great but can get very expensive very fast. I studied mech eng but in my final year, we had a design class where among other design tasks we had to build a physical prototype. We could invoice the school a few hundred bucks in material and had full shop access, training and more importantly super skilled trades that worked the shop and were used to explaining and working out manufacturing problems with student. You get a very different appreciation for manufacturing limitations when you're personally faced with them...

Re: We have $10,000 - what should we buy?

Postby AndyMc » November 14th, 2017, 6:33 am

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slippyfish wrote:This sounds like a great little project with both educational and real-world relevance. Sparks curiosity about "why does something do that" and recognizes the relative level of complexity in even simple tools and products. Lamps, alarm clocks, remote controlled gadgets, all worthwhile types of projects.


Absolutely, any of these would make for a good student project. It also weeded out the bullshit for those who didn’t bother to actually test anything when the final design didn’t relate to the research.

Re: We have $10,000 - what should we buy?

Postby ralphzoontjens » November 14th, 2017, 9:46 am

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You got some great advice here.

I agree on the safety of the robot arm of course and imagine you can put up some off-the-shelf fencing system.
I was just thinking in line with the showcasing potential for the faculty, this is quite important for any school.
At my university there is a lightning generator that isn't directly useful for anything but demonstrations really, and the 250k Objet printer was not absolutely necessary but it does show people things that aren't possible anywhere else and some potential uses.
If you're talking about workshops, electronics are absolutely fundamental in design schools. They are common now here in Europe so I don't classify it as anything near cutting edge. From almost 10 years working as a student in electronic labs you learn that this is the place that vacuums up your budget very rapidly, so a good policy for part acquisition is fundamental.
Good students will learn to design for injection moldability as well as other processes without any need for demonstration, factory visits are a better way to get an insight into the industry and usually don't cost much if anything.

A great middle way can be to develop 'experimentation platforms' - develop some basic robots that students can use to program interactions and movements, even convert into a machine of their own design by having it act as the frame for their design.
Similarly, you can establish a materials laboratory where people can get a sense for all kinds of materials together with all current know-how.
For product testing and photography, having a simulated environment is also a great idea. A single order from Ikea together with some cameras and other sensing technologies can bring you all you need to develop your own living room lab. The in-context photos students can make there are also great PR for the faculty.
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Re: We have $10,000 - what should we buy?

Postby iab » November 14th, 2017, 10:27 am


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For $10K, I'd give 20 students a $500 budget (or however you want to divvy it up) to spend at the local 3D print house.

Buy a printer, you are stuck with 1 material. One size does not fit all.

Or make sure you restock the consumables for your shop. Saw blades, xacto blades, pliers, wrenches, hot glue guns, ren shape, balsa foam, foam core, tape, markers. I could blow that $10K without breaking a sweat.

What I don't understand is the need for any specialty item. Maybe I am an asshat who wants you to get off my lawn, but your sole purpose is communicate solutions. Specialty items only narrow your focus, you should broaden your focus if you want to be successful.

As a freebie, for IM designing for manufacture, 1. Uniform wall thickness; 2. No undercuts; 3. If you violate 1 or 2, actually talk to someone in the molding business. It ain't rocket science.

Re: We have $10,000 - what should we buy?

Postby yo » November 14th, 2017, 10:48 am

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I think that is a good idea iab. When I was in school we did something similar (albeit more lowtech) We went and visited an aluminum sand caster to see the process. Then we all went back to the studio and designed something for sand casting that was no bigger then 6x6x6 and we all got to cast it. It was a great learning experience and the school of course showed off the results.

Experiences over toys. Experiences you can take with you, the toys stay at the school.

Re: We have $10,000 - what should we buy?

Postby Cyberdemon » November 14th, 2017, 1:08 pm

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I agree some of this may very well be the "Show students massaging virtual 3d models so prospects give us their tuition money" mentality.

I doubt most school administrators would just give students credits to use for their projects. Even when I've seen school run equipment, anything consumable was always charged or student provided and even if that benefits the students, who cares. What's next, giving them free text books? ;-)

Re: We have $10,000 - what should we buy?

Postby Ryan_T_Genena » November 20th, 2017, 6:00 pm

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Thank you all so much for this discussion. You've all shared some great insights. Thanks!

Re: We have $10,000 - what should we buy?

Postby yo » January 4th, 2018, 12:26 pm

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What did you end up getting?

Re: We have $10,000 - what should we buy?

Postby Ryan_T_Genena » January 22nd, 2018, 2:39 am

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yo wrote:What did you end up getting?


We've been on winter break the past month. I'll check in with our dept. chair for an update and get back to you guys.

Thanks again for the thoughtful discussion and suggestions!

Re: We have $10,000 - what should we buy?

Postby Ryan_T_Genena » January 24th, 2018, 3:09 am

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In the meantime, I want to reply to some of you who already contributed suggestions.

slippyfish wrote:
Cyberdemon wrote:...Do students have access to things like soldering workstations, CNC mills, development boards? I wish things like Raspberry Pi and Arduino and boxes of wires and resistors and components were more readily available when I was in school. Students can buy a lot of that stuff themselves, but nothing is worse than having to shut down a project and wait 2 days because you realize you ran out of the right resistor.


I like this idea. Should ID students be preoccupied with polishing the metallic texture on a virtual knob, or developing an elemental knowledge of technology components and associated behavior?

As a potential hiring manager, I'd be 10x more interested in someone who knew the latter.


Many of you suggested using the money towards electronics (i.e arudino). I'm happy to say that a couple years ago we began an electronics lab with a course dedicated to thoroughly learning circuitry, Arduino, and even some Raspberry Pi. Many of us who have completed this course have continued to use electronics in our prototype models as we've progressed through the program.

louis leblanc wrote: getting students to build things physically is great but can get very expensive very fast. I studied mech eng but in my final year, we had a design class where among other design tasks we had to build a physical prototype.


We spend a lot of time in the shop and are all well versed in constructing prototypes and model making.

iab wrote:For $10K, I'd give 20 students a $500 budget (or however you want to divvy it up) to spend at the local 3D print house.


I agree it does get expensive, but unfortunately, we cannot buy consumables with this money. And as I mentioned earlier, we already have FDM and SLA Printers.

seurban wrote:+1 on the photo setup if you don't have one already. Having a really good camera, a couple softbox lights, and a backdrop set up and able to be used at any time has been really useful at work.


The photo booth idea is cool and many of you +1'd it. Some of us have soft light boxes that we share and that seems to be working very well. Not everyone knows how to use a camera, so this one might be further considered.

I personally like the suggestion of an injection molding machine. I think manufacturability knowledge is an area where we can improve, but as many of you mentioned the die and upkeep can pose a problem.

Once again, thank you all for your suggestions. I hope we can figure this out soon :)

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