Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Make-A-Thon 2015: Hack-A-Thon Takes on 3D Printing

Recently, I had the pleasure of stopping by UC San Diego’s first annual Make-A-Thon. I wasn’t entirely sure of what I should expect, but I was excited and knew I would be amazed. Upon entering the room, I could feel something special—you know, that buzz and energy only a room full of driven and tenacious people working with grit could create.

The student organization Triton 3D-Printing Club (T3D), new since January of this school year, arranged a 3D printing hack-a-thon event with the hope of encouraging students to learn how to approach problems in a team setting and exposing them to experiment with 3D printing. The competition was split into two categories: novice and advanced, with participants ranging from first years to graduating seniors. I had the opportunity to speak with winning advanced team.

Shake and Bake's award-winning design
The four members of the winning team, Shake and Bake, were awarded their own 3D printer for their design, which resembled the pod racer from Star Wars. The team consisted of graduating seniors Narek Geghamyan, Daniel Ip, Victor Long and Glen Padilla, all studying either mechanical or aerospace engineering, and most of them had no prior experience with 3D printing. It took the team about thirty minutes to brainstorm, and four to five hours of pure design before they were ready to print. They each made their own individual designs before reconvening to take the best aspects of each idea and build prototypes until they knew each part was entirely functional and efficient. They described their experience as a “very enjoyable process,” and praised 3D printing for its rapid prototyping ability. As one Shake and Bake member said, “You rarely have the ability to build an entire device out of scratch in one sitting.” And I believe the event’s lead coordinator, Andy Kieatiwong, would vigorously nod his head in agreement.

Andy Kieatiwong
I also had the pleasure of meeting and speaking to Kieatiwong at the event. He is a third year aerospace engineering student, and, as one of the co-founders of T3D, he is no stranger to 3D printing and the many opportunities it offers. He described 3D printing as a “new way to solve problems in scientific fields” such as aerospace engineering. For example, 3D printing enables engineers to make lighter materials, lower manufacturing costs and “democratize the act of making things.” For the future, Kieatiwong says he and T3D will mostly likely collaborate with other organizations to expand the event to twice its size, moving from fifteen available printers to thirty or even forty. As for the future of 3D printing, he said, “3D printing is not an answer within itself. It’s just a tool, but a very powerful tool.” 

The novice team's design
For some of us, this tool is still very new. I also spoke with one of the novice teams; the group consisted of freshmen Zenas Heng, Emilee Kang, Kasey Li, and Joe Wong, all students pursuing – or at least interested in – some form of engineering. None of them had any experience with hack-a-thon-type events, nor did they have much experience working with 3D printers. They learned a lot – miscommunication and technical errors prevented them from printing on time, leaving them with very small models. Despite the drawbacks, none of them regret having participated in the event. As a freshman myself, I agreed with them that the Make-A-Thon is one of the many opportunities that contribute to our above-average engineering experience here at UC San Diego.

Beyond the grandeur and promise 3D printing holds, the Make-A-Thon offered experience to those without the means of obtaining it. Furthermore, the event was less about competitive feelings and more about having fun. The novice team I spoke to chose to participate in the Make-A-Thon after having heard about the event from their friends. One of the Shake and Bake members even called his group the “all-star team.” Perhaps he said that because they all had extensive experience with modeling software, but I’d like to believe it was because the accomplished something else – they simply made memories with friends.

Some 3D printers!
This event was sponsored by ARRK, Forecaset 3D, Pixologic, Polymaker, and XYZPrinting. ARRK and Forecast3D attended the networking event. As prizes, Pixologic donated ZBrush licenses (software for design) and XYZ contributed a smartwatch and lanyards. For the competition Polymaker donated filament (PolyFlex, PolyMax, and Plywood), and XYZ loaned printers. Also, special thanks goes to Adrienna Yan and Joe Wong for photographs from the event.

Shake and Bake
(From left to right) Narek Geghamyan, Daniel Ip, Glen Padilla, and Victor Long

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