DIY - Physical prototype, Arduino, Mockup...Me as a Maker



I took several courses and summer workshops to making things on my own. I always love to learn by making things, and luckily both Tsinghua and GaTech have great emphasis on hands-on practice. I would love to call myself a maker!

I enjoyed learning and using those cutting-edge technologies, like 3D printing, laser cutting, surface mounting equipment, CNC milling machine, etc. Together with these tools, I got the chance to learn Processing, Arduino, 3D modeling and other things that supports me to make things. However, it does not matter what tool or material I was using: high-tech equipment, traditional sewing machine, even LEGO and Makeblock blocks. Its just great to design something and make it real!


1. Interactive Artifact - Homesick Tardis Using Arduino
Illustration | Lasing cutting | Arduino prototyping

This is an individual project where we were free to build anything using Arduino and Processing. My design is called “Homesick Tardis” which is a music kiosk with two different design patterns: Dr. Who Tardis design, and a traditional Chinese window decoration pattern. It will play two different kinds of music (Dr. Who theme music, and Chinese Opera) according to users' preference. I designed this artifact out of my own experience of culture shock - the differences are as large as the difference in the design, and the music. I chose the four tracks of music to bring the audience a "harmony in diverse".

I used an MP3 shield, an amplifier, a speaker, together with switches for this artifact. In the coding perspective, I used the library of the MP3 shield (that's why I love Arduino!) to trigger the music, and added some testing functions to adjust the volume and the universal stopping button.

Check my mini poster and working process!


2. Name Badge - Yuno & Pacman
Laser cutting | 3D Modeling | 3D Printing

In the class Prototyping Interactive System, we had a chance to design and make our own name badge which should be stand on the table, magnetic enough to hold our poster, and should be clear enough. As a Pacman lover, I designed my name badge in pixel style. I used Autodesk 123D Design to mock up the stand of the badge and the maze. Here's the process of my design:

  • Sketch the design on paper
  • Build the pixel 2D design in Illustrator, then loaded into 123D Design
  • Design the 3D maze of the Pacman background
  • Design the stand and export STL for printing
  • Failed...for twice with 3D printing...then succeeded!
  • Laser cut all elements out of acrylic
  • Paint the background a bright blue (my first time)
  • Super glued everything together!

3. Grand Auditorium: 3D Badges
Pro/E | Sketching | 3D Modeling | 3D Printing

During the summer course including training to make 3D models with Pro/Engineering, as well as trying out the advanced 3D printing technology, I was inspired to use this hot new technology to express the old history of our school. Therefore I chose the Grand Auditorium, one of the most famous architectures in Tsinghua. To finish these two 3D models, I observed, took photos and drew sketches of Grand Auditorium by taking real trips to make sure every detail was precise. Here is the process:

  • Draw sketches and designing details, including dimensions and scales
  • Draw those models in Pro/Engineering
  • Create NC series for tool paths
  • Simulate manufacture process to make sure all the details could be presented precisely
  • Export STL file and 3D print the model

Limited by the 3D printing machine’s capability in our department, only one of the models was able to be printed:(

4. Cushion workshop
Customer research | Designing | Sewing

This summer workshop aimed to provide us with a full-scale understanding about managing a business and launching a product. Customer research, design, procurement, production, marketing activities and other real-world challenges were included.

As the lead of customer research and product design,  I made a simple but lovely design suitable for our target customers, girls in Tsinghua. Then I operated sewing machines for the first time in my life. At first I was much confused with all the pedals, needles and thread, but finally practice did make perfect!

Under the tight schedule and high workload of the workshop, it came to me that running a business was not easy at all, especially when everything should be considered, planned and implemented by ourselves. Knowledge from class might not work so well when coming across “everyday emergency”.

And I love the feeling upon seeing people smiled when we deliver our products. I also made two cushions for my mother to put in the car and a super small one for my new-born cousin:D

5. Physical model of manufacture system: Makeblock and LEGO
System design | Physical prototyping

Another session of the workshop focused on designing and ‘building’ a manufacture system, including sorting machine, shuttle for transportation, and a warehouse. We were required to use our own way to design and run the system, using materials of Makeblock and LEGO.

So how could we manage this task in only two days?

  • Decompose goals. Basically, we need:
    • A sorting machine that could recognize the two colors of the provided ‘products’, LEGO blocks, and sort them into two different bins
    • A shuttle that could run in given routine and transport products from warehouse to the sorting machine
    • A warehouse that could store the products, and make it possible for the shuttle to carry certain products away
  • Brainstorm for possible designs of each part
  • Discuss the designs and reach agreement on each part, keep plan A, B and C. Plan C should be one that has high possibility of success, even with relative low efficiency. We also try out each design by making a pilot build.
  • Build it and move to other plans if unexpected problems could not be solved for more than an hour.
  • Code for color sensors of the sorting machine and moving rule of the shuttle.
  • Test each part separately.
  • Make it perform as a whole. Large project done!

My role:

  • All the discussions, of course
  • Design the shuttle and build it
  • Solve the problems of the sorting machine, especially the slide part. In the end I modified the original design to make it perform correctly.
  • Test the system and optimize its performance.

6. Me as a Mechanic!
Design | Build

Closely connected to manufacture, our department offered a course named “Manufacturing Process Practice” for future industrial engineers (and one of these engineers dreamt to be a UX designer :D) to experience real types of work in the manufacturing base in our school. Works that challenged us includes casting, welding, benching, milling, etc. As a girl grew up in city, I have never tried any of these jobs before. But I love this feeling of achievement after fighting for hours in dirt and sweat.

What did I do?

  • Casting
  • Expendable casting (EPC)
  • Turning on lathe
  • Punching and benching
  • Milling