DIVE Course Highlights: How to Make (Almost) Anything
January 3, 2019
What do a mail cart, candle wick placer, responsive headband, and a pooper scooper have in common? All were items created by students in ME 3890: How to Make (Almost) Anything, an official DIVE course taught by Professor Kevin Galloway. This hands-on course provides an introduction to computer-aided design (CAD), rapid prototyping methods, and electronics and applies these skills toward a human-centered design project. The ability to make things with hand-tools and digital fabrication tools allows students to more efficiently test ideas, communicate concepts to others, and optimize problem-solving skills. Junior Emory Eastin enrolled in the course because of the skills that he would be able to gain, especially in CAD while sophomore Carlissa Arrow sought out the course to have the “opportunity to make things with my hands again, rather than rely on learning about theories and concepts.”
Early in the course, each student was assigned to a team to complete their final project which were posed by external clients. The clients included the owner of a doggy day care, Thistle Farms, FedEx, and a local family seeking to create a unique assistive technology device for their school-age daughter. Following the human-centered design process, each team began their project with lengthy interviews with their clients to gain a greater understanding of client situations and goals for the project. After defining the client’s problems and goals for solutions, the teams began to ideate and rapidly prototype potential solutions. Throughout the semester, the teams used a variety of technologies available in the Wond’ry Makerspace to prototype and test their ideas including vacuum forming, 3D printing, laser cutting, molding and casting, sewing, and foam core modeling to name a few. The course culminated in a final presentation of each group’s most recent prototype. Arrow shared that the project was the most meaningful part of the course for her. She shared, “Going through the entire design process and having a finished product at the end was so rewarding, I hadn’t felt that way in the long time about an assignment. It reminded me of why I wanted to be an engineer in the first place”.
Students also had the opportunity to hear from guest speakers who spoke on a variety of topics throughout the semester. Eastin credited the guest speakers as “one of the best parts of the class”, specifically Lauren Egge, Founder of Noka Supply Co. and Wond’ry Mentor, who spoke on entrepreneurship and the experience of starting a business directly out of college. Another speaker included, Kyle Ward (ME ’19), an alum from the spring semester, who shared his experience applying the course learnings during his successful summer internship at Nissan.
Both Eastin and Arrow encourage all students to consider enrolling in How to Make (Almost) Anything. Eastin shared that a benefit of a DIVE course is that “they draw a diverse group of individuals who have different backgrounds both academically and personally”. While many may see the ‘Mechanical Engineering’ classification and think that this is a course only for engineers, both students stated that the course is for everyone and there are a variety of skills that can be developed from practical skills, like sewing, to technical skills, like CAD. Eastin reflected that, “the barrier to entry to learning these kinds of valuable skills is much lower than you would think in a class like this.” Arrow echoed this sentiment stating, “if it has been difficult for you to find technical experience, or you don’t even know where to start, then this is the class for you.”
If you are interested in learning more about How to Make (Almost) Anything, other DIVE courses, or DIVE in general, visit Vanderbilt.edu/DIVE for more information on upcoming course offerings and programs.