Nearly as much as maple syrup and ski slopes, tractors are a motif of Vermont—but driving one safely is more complicated than some might think. So UVM had a unique opportunity lately when Liz Kenton at the Center for Sustainable Agriculture reached out to the school’s FabLab for help ensuring safety among young tractor drivers.
“It started during a conversation at the Vermont Farm Health and Safety Coalition, and I mentioned offhand that I’d love to have a model of a tractor hitch printed,” says Kenton, who received the name of CEMS Director of Communications and Lecturer Jenn Karson from Philip Jones of Project WorkSafe and the Vermont Department of Labor. Karson, in turn, introduced Kenton to Matt Argraves, a staffer at the FabLab.
The most interesting part of the project, says Argraves, was going to the UVM farm and testing out different tractors. Then came building the model, no small feat. “It was really challenging taking this fairly large device and miniaturizing it down to one-sixteenth scale,” he says. “They’d be so small that they would break.”
Eventually, Argraves was able to build a successful model, one that Kenton now uses in teaching tractor safety. “Matt went the extra mile in spending time on the farm and learning about tractors; the details he put into it are just great,” says Kenton. “Now, the model is an attention-getter. It really helps students who are new to tractors become more comfortable.”
We know that academic makerspaces create meaningful experiences for students, yet how do we measure this meaningful impact? Where do we start?
Last fall on behalf of the UVM FabLab I attended the first International Symposium on Academic Makerspaces (ISAM) at MIT. Organizers for the symposium came from MIT, Yale, Stanford, Olin, Carnegie Mellon, Case Western Reserve, Georgia Tech and UC Berkeley.
I specifically attended the conference to learn how to better use metrics to measure the impact of academic makerspaces. The big idea emphasized by Malcom Cooke of ThinkBox at Case Western was Keep Calm and Collect Data – collect as much data as possible and start today! Collect data that you can assess and measure over time, look to metrics and outcomes, quantitative and qualitative outcomes.
Bamboo is an appealing material for many purposes and worldwide because it is reliable, inexpensive and grows rapidly in varied conditions. As a 2015 Barrett Scholar undergraduate Civil Engineering major Sara Dorr created unique molds using the FabLab’s 3d printers that mimic the internal patterns bamboo fiber. These molds provided opportunities to experiment with novel distributions of materials like carbon fiber. The potential outcome is newly engineered composites that can be used to optimize lightweight energy harvesting structures such as wind turbines.
In bamboo there is a higher density of structural fibers near the stronger exterior surface; this density gradually decreases in fiber concentration moving inward and away from the exterior. This graded pattern is considered to be the critical contributor to bamboo’s remarkable strength in resisting lateral wind loads.
The Alternative Energy Racing Organization (AERO) uses the FabLab almost daily during the school year to prototype different parts on their alternative energy racing car, Greenspeed. The machine they use most is the laser cutter. The laser cutter allows them to create quick cardboard prototypes to ensure proper geometry and measurements for car parts that will later be machined.
“The rapid prototyping tools of the FabLab make it easy for AERO to iterate and prototype quickly,” says team member Emmie Bolt. Access to the FabLab provides opportunities for the group to be creative and customize designs.
Photographed here is the AERO car steering wheel, printed on the FabLab’s Stratysys Dimension 3d printer in 2013. Through multiple years of racing competitions it has held up extremely well and will hopefully steer the car to victory at this spring’s annual International Formula Hybrid Competition.
A challenge in many parts of mathematics is that of visualizing structures that live in four dimensions and higher. Such visualizations are crucial for intuition as often important mathematical intricacies do not arise in lower dimensions. In this project, the CEMS UVM FabLab helped Professor Warrington make a 3D print of a four-dimensional hyperplane arrangement called the rank-3 Shi arrangement.