For 20 weeks between January and June of 2021 I decided to stop working and study at the Fab Academy, also known as “Learn to Make (almost) Anything”. It has taught me several of the most important facets of being a fabricator. Starting with an idea, designing it with 2D or 3D tools on a computer and taking those designs to become a reality by using laser cutters, 3D printers, vinyl cutters, CNC milling machines and more. A big emphasis was also placed on electronics; learning how to come up with the requirements, design PCBs, mill & solder them and finally test and use them in conjunction with other materials to create interactive results. Every week resulted in the creation of something, depending on the topic of the week, getting more and more complex as the weeks went on. This culminated with building my final project, called NOVA, a jigsaw puzzle with light.
Studying at the Fab Academy, a full-time course of 20 weeks, headed by Neil Gershenfeld from MIT, focused on learning how to become a maker / fabricator, was an amazing experience!
I decided to take this step because I wanted to learn how to take designs made in the digital space, and turn them into a reality. I’d already tasted this a little when I bought an AxiDraw pen plotter. I loved it and wanted to learn more techniques; laser cutting, 3D printing, milling. And all of this was part of Fab Academy, plus the knowledge of how to combine these tools with electronics.
I don’t think I’ve ever worked more hours in a week than I did during (many) of these weeks. You only have one week to learn about a technique, say laser cutting, to learn the machine, learn the software tool to create a design, make a design, test on the machine, iterate the design, test again and create a final piece. It’s up to each person to decide how elaborate their weekly project becomes. However, with my perfectionism and competitive nature, I of course poured in all of myself.
On this page you can see some of my weekly projects as well as my final project, where I combined >200 colorful LEDs (within a wooden enclosure) with a jigsaw puzzle to elevate the experience of “placing a piece”. In the video below you can see the presentation I created for my final project that shows the puzzle in action.
I hope I will be able to use these new skills in my work as a data visualizer to take some of my visualizations for clients away from the digital space as well, and turn them into physical items, installations or experiences.