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Meet the Makers

In the Stanford Product Realization Lab, students get back in touch with the process of making and building things.

Meet the Makers

April 5, 2016
Stanford Product Realization Lab Makers event

Photos courtesy of Tamer Shabani

Each quarter, mechanical engineering’s Stanford Product Realization Lab hosts an event to allow students to showcase projects they designed and manufactured in the foundry, the woodworking lab, the welding lab, or the machining lab. We sat down with seven students to hear more about their Winter 2016 projects.

Designing a chair shouldn’t be so serious

“For my project I made an upholstered chair on a spring. One thing that I was inspired by at the beginning of class was a quote that said, Design shouldn’t be that serious. I wanted my chair to be fun and simple. I wanted my chair to be something that made people smile. Some things that I thought about during the design process were playgrounds and how kids have so much fun playing in them. But for adults, we don’t really have a space like playgrounds for ourselves, so for me, I really wanted to try to add a fun element into a normal, everyday object."




Using computer numerical control machines to create a patterned vase

“Each side of this cube took 2.5 hours to cut in the computer numerical control machine (CNC), so I couldn’t really test the whole cut. I made my design in a 3D modeling program called SolidWorks. Within SolidWorks, there is a program that makes code for the CNC machine to use. Once you have your code, you just stick it on a USB in the machine and press start and hope that everything works the way it’s supposed to. Three sides took 7.5 hours of machining, if I messed up the fourth side, I would have had to start all over. So it just kind of kept getting more stressful.”




Overcoming fears in the process of building a nightstand

“I have to say, at the beginning of the quarter, I was super-nervous about using a table saw. That terrified me. And now it’s like, ‘Oh, I have to go on the table saw today? I got this.’ One of the biggest challenges with making a nightstand was not trying to bite off too much — and not realizing how long it would take to make, having never done this before. I got into it, and I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve spent a whole week making just the joints and that’s not even a quarter of my whole project.’ I’m glad I started early. I just got done with a heart-attack-causing experience of gluing it all up, which was terrifying because you think it all works together and then it rains, and then all of the wood expands, and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ and you try to glue it up and the glue is wet and you’re moving around and you’re clamping, and then, oh no, it doesn’t fit, undo it, chisel before the glue dries. My heart rate is just coming down from that. Thank goodness for the amazing community that exists at the Product Realization Lab (PRL), because I was stressing out and immediately there were three other sets of hands in there helping me and holding stuff and clamping stuff, and suggesting this or that or the other.”


Mixing a love of music and electronics to reimagine a DJ controller

“I thought going into school that I was going to be a jazz guitar performance major but ended up switching to a concentration in music, science, and technology. So it’s kind of like the perfect marriage between my love for music and the humanities and my love of geeking out with machines and electronics and tinkering and stuff. I came up with the ‘Multi Midi’ when I was taking a music class about a year ago. The idea is to reimagine what a DJ controller can be, and, beyond that, to bring a more human element into the way people interact with digital music.”




A programmable music box to make a 7-year-old’s dream come true

“I made what I call a programmable music box that plays a xylophone. Basically, what I have is a cylinder that rotates and you can put little pins in, and each of those little pins can hit a mallet that hits a xylophone, and so essentially you can make a song that you can replay by turning the handle over and over again. This is actually something that I’ve wanted since I was 7 years old. I used to think, ‘I wish I had a music box that played a specific song,’ but no one made a music box that played a specific song. So I thought maybe I could find a music box that would let me choose what song it would play, and that didn’t exist either. So, coming into this class, I thought, ‘What if I made this thing that I wanted for my 7-year-old self?’


Casting as a simultaneously beautiful and functional process

Dave Beach wanted something interesting to demonstrate castings because he loves the foundry and the process of casting materials. A lot of people do aesthetic casting, but he wanted  to show the utility of casting. He needed this to be an interesting, in-class item that would get students’ attention, so we made a giant flywheel shooter that can shoot NERF balls all over a room. All of the parts were cast — the frame, the fixturing for the flywheel, and the mounting for the gears. We wanted to create something to show that casting as a process can be simultaneously beautiful and functional.” “Ari’s really good at CAD — computer-aided design. He produced the designs for this on the computer,” says Tamara."Tamara." says Ari, "is extremely good at manufacturing the parts and making things work; she did a lot of that.”


Video courtesy of Kurt Hickman