During the first week in June I attended the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) for the first time. The trip also marked my first visit to Canada, and the first time I traveled internationally in more than a decade. It was a bit of a whirlwind experience. I took the DHSI course, “Physical Computing and Desktop Fabrication for Humanists,” with William J. Turkel, Devon Elliott, and Jentery Sayers. In addition to meeting new DH enthusiasts and reuniting with old friends, the course provided an exciting introduction to both the culture of the maker movement and the potential applications of 3-D printing. Below is a brief photo essay reflection — or as close to one as my WordPress template permits — on my time at DHSI 2014.
Victoria, BC is a beautiful place to visit. I felt privileged and grateful to be able to travel there. The uVic campus offers a wide variety of impressive greenery and peaceful landscaping. It was always a pleasure walking to campus in the mornings.
I tend to get turned around easily, and did on the morning I took this picture. Several of us walking by some of the dorms were surprised to see two young bucks relaxing on the lawn. We walked within 20 feet of them, but they weren’t the least bit perturbed by our presence. It seems deer are more comfortable at uVic than most squirrels I encounter at UNL.
Bambi here didn’t let my photography disturb his grooming session. I was more nervous than he.
A table full of toys, er, I mean projects to choose from.
Our instructors wanted us to be able to tinker with whatever interested us most.
Jentery Sayers hauled in a vintage video game cabinet for the class to tinker with. Although he reported receiving some negative reactions online from purists about degrading a piece of gaming history, a handful of course participants helped build a fully-functional game by the end of the week.
I was quickly drawn to all things 3-D printing in the course. I entered the course imagining applications for both pedagogy and my dissertation research. Although the future of 3-D printing looks promising, I came away with the impression that it will probably take a few more years before 3-D printing advances to the point I can use it the way I want. So I focused in the course on learning as much as I could about where things stand now. This is an image of a mostly-eaten apple rendered using photogrammetry.
Jason Heppler and I experimented with photogrammetry using an app on his iPhone called 123D Catch. Heppler took about 16 images of a miniature Buddha figure from many angles, and the app combined the images into a 3-D model it exported to his e-mail account.
We then transferred the 3-D model to MakerBot’s proprietary modeling software, cut away some table reflection 123D Catch picked up during imaging, and crossed our fingers that the MakerBot would work.
It took a couple of days to get the MakerBot working. Devon informed us that most 3-D printers, even those costing as much as $30,000, require constant tinkering to keep them working properly. Not only do you have to assemble the machine yourself, a process that is beneficial at any rate; you also have to maintain a close eye on printing operations. The extruder could clog up, the plate might get bumped out of position, and the material may not print out properly — all for a variety of reasons. Today’s 3-D printers are not ready for play right out of the box, but many members of the maker movement argue that learning how the machine works is part of the process of 3-D printing and should remain so even as 3-D printing technologies improve.
After a few false starts and minor adjustments, this is the result of our efforts. The Buddha the printer created (on right) still has what’s called the “raft” attached to the bottom — the scaffolding the 3-D printer builds before it begins construction of the actual object. Although some degradation occurred during imaging, we were impressed with the result. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time remaining in the course to dabble with some of the other methods for creating 3-D models, but I continue to keep an eye on the progress of 3-D printing technologies and UNL’s emerging maker movement.
On my last day in Victoria I ventured down to Cadboro Bay, just a brief jaunt from the uVic campus. The ability to travel, see new places, and meet new people is one of the great privileges that comes with graduate study. I used my last afternoon in Victoria to see some of the city and ruminate on the ways my decision to pursue graduate study has permitted me to experience so many new and different things.
Also, if you visit Cadboro Bay you’ll find many unidentifiable, deceased water creatures like this one on the shores of the bay. Bonus points to anyone who can identify this puppy.