In the heart of Emory University, centuries-old traditions are intertwined with the pulse of modern technological advances. Robin Horton is a key part of the Student Digital Life team, and in his words, his workspace resides at the crossroads "where students, spaces, and technology come together." Here, Horton and his team push the boundaries of what’s possible, fueling creativity and digital exploration among students.
Just one example of this blend of tradition and innovation is found within the halls of Emory's English department. Incorporating 3D printing into their curriculum, the department has ventured into new territories in their storytelling class: students are crafting narratives not just with words, but with tangible projects, using 3D printing to design their own boardgames and tabletop games. These games, built upon experiences rich with deep history, allow students to explore newer methods of storytelling by blending traditional techniques with modern technology.
Under Robin’s guidance, emphasis is placed on practical experience and hands-on learning. Every student staff member within the TechLab team contributes beyond their routine tasks; each student is entrusted with a significant responsibility: to run a workshop or see a standalone project through to its completion.
This approach serves a dual purpose. First, it empowers students, giving them ownership and autonomy over a large task, be it crafting a workshop about the nuances of 3D printing or pioneering a project with a fresh perspective. Such initiatives hone their skills, and foster a sense of accomplishment, showcasing the real-world impacts of their academic endeavors.
This philosophy echoes Robin's sentiments about growing and evolving with each endeavor. By nurturing an ecosystem where each student is both a learner and a mentor, Emory University ensures a dynamic, ever-evolving makerspace, continually enriched by the fresh perspectives of its vibrant student community.
Robin’s journey with 3DPrinterOS began from a place of necessity. As a pioneering force behind Emory University's makerspace, Robin understood the imperative of finding the right tools to make 3D printing accessible and efficient for all. With the sudden acquisition in 2016 of a 3D printer, a device that was still a novelty in many academic institutions, he was entrusted with the mission of understanding its intricacies and making it work seamlessly for the university community.
It was in this pursuit that he chanced upon 3DPrinterOS. Unlike other platforms that posed limitations due to their compatibility constraints, 3DPrinterOS stood out with its web-based platform. The beauty of it was that it eliminated the need for specialized equipment or software, allowing users, irrespective of their computer specifications, to dive right into the world of 3D printing. Robin has seen how 3DPrinterOS reduces the barrier to getting a new 3D printer up and running – and he loves that updates to the slicers are automatically taken care of.
As the makerspace grew, so did the relationship with 3DPrinterOS. From just a single printer they’ve grown to a fleet of 11 connected 3D printers: 7 Dremel 3D45s, 2 Lulzbot Taz 5s, and 1 Lulzbot Workhorse. The platform is flexible and works well with Emory’s changing needs, using cloud-based systems for consistent workflow. With single sign-on, students and staff can submit designs, track print status, and even adjust settings remotely. Thanks to this integration, Emory University has increased its 3D printing from an initial few hundred hours of printing in the first semester to over 7,000 hours per academic year.
Another aspect Robin loves about 3DPrinterOS is its commitment to user-friendliness and accessibility. The platform's interface is intuitive, ensuring that students, irrespective of their technological ability, feel comfortable using it. It eliminates the intimidation factor, encouraging even those hesitant about "tech" to venture into the realm of 3D printing.
Robin has made good use of the 3DPrinterOS activity logs since day 1. He does not only track successes – in fact, he likes to see how many times a print fails; how often a job is canceled; or the number of times a job is re-started. In his words, “Statistics drive a lot of our decision-making for our space, whether it’s door counts or usage statistics. What do we invest in next? What do we think students engage with the most and would benefit from improvements?”
As Emory University's makerspace continues to thrive, 3DPrinterOS stands as a testament to Robin's vision and commitment – a tool that not only simplifies the process but also democratizes the art of 3D printing, ensuring that every user, regardless of background or expertise, has the chance to bring their ideas to fruition.
At Koenigsegg, 3D printing is used for a variety of purposes. Some production-ready parts come right off the printer, and often the 3D printers are used for rapid prototyping and testing of components, and creating fixtures and templates. The ease of use provided by 3DPrinterOS empowers engineers to manage their own print jobs more effectively, and focus on innovation and design. This efficient workflow not only accelerates Koenigsegg's development process but also helps them empower their engineers and designers – more on that in a minute!
One of the most notable achievements under Robin’s guidance at Emory's makerspace is the 3D printing of a Saturn V rocket replica. This wasn't just any ordinary project; it was a testament to the potential of blending history, technology, and education. As part of an exhibit to highlight digitized materials from NASA, the makerspace was approached with the challenge of bringing to life a piece of space exploration history. Using 3DPrinterOS as their platform, the team crafted a replica of the iconic Saturn V rocket, which had once propelled astronauts to the moon. This endeavor showcased the true capabilities of 3D printing — taking digitized information and transforming it into tangible, educational artifacts. For students and visitors, the replica served as a vivid reminder of human achievements in space exploration, effectively bridging the past with the present through the power of technology.
Robin Horton and his team are reshaping the way students interact with history, arts, and storytelling. From the intricacies of bookbinding to recreating iconic rockets, they're demonstrating that there's no limit to what one can achieve when passion meets innovation. As the landscape of education continues to evolve, Emory's makerspace stands as a beacon, illuminating the vast possibilities that arise when we dare to blend the traditional with the cutting-edge. For those who might have once hesitated at the doors of Student Digital Life’s TechLab, thinking "I don't do tech," it's clear that under Robin's leadership, technology isn't a barrier: it's a bridge to endless horizons of discovery.
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