Monday, March 13, 2017

9. Blog post: class and reading reflections


The 3D printing exercise proved fascinating. The Printrbots gave off an air of creative danger, open to the air as they were, and they were surprisingly challenging to work with. Even though I knew from prior experience that extruder tips were the bane of every printer's existence, I'd forgotten just how much could go wrong with a relatively simple machine.

The printer I used had two issues: the extruder and the print bed. The extruder continually dripped molten plastic and didn't adequately clean itself before print jobs, and the printer rafting never seemed to stay adequately stuck to the print bed. The extruder would catch on the rafting for any job longer than 10 minutes and slide the entire system out of whack.

With that said, it was fun. I loved creating my own design on TinkerCAD (see my previous post) and it was exciting to see it come to life. I was fascinated by how the printing software interpreted my .stl file - it laid the whole thing out in about 10 minutes easily because as a primarily vertical print my design could save a lot of time and material by honeycombing the interior. Though I didn't have time to get deep into the details, I was curious how much control I had over these intermediate steps, and how much of 3D printing was still a black box to consumers.

This was a particularly timely activity as I finished up Cory Doctorow's Makers. 3D printers feature heavily in the novel, in a way that hardly seemed realistic based on my experience in class. I could, though, see the value in a 3D printer beyond just printing tchotchkes - even if I don't intend to print the parts for massive mechanical computers, being able to print small prototypes for my electronics projects or replacement parts for defunct toys could be a powerful creative tool. One of the project tutorials I found even uses flexible filament to 3D print a watch bumper and strap for an Adafruit Circuit Playground!


I am nothing if not fascinated by this weeks' readings. To whit, from The World Columbian Exposition:
"California presented a 127 year-old palm, a fountain of red wine, and a statue of a medieval knight made entirely of prunes."
I admit, I grabbed that quote just to use the gif...

To be honest, I was not very familiar with the World's Columbian Exposition before now. I recall hearing something about it when visiting Chicago (the Midway, and all) but I hadn't read much about it or its context. I particularly appreciated the critique of the escapism of the Exposition, while also acknowledging the value of escapism. I can imagine the hustle and bustle of the Exposition in my mind's eye, but not with the same excitement and wonder.

Similarly with Innocent Experiments, I thought it offered a nuanced analysis of the social complexities of the Children's Museum. I'm interested in getting further into the nationalism/jingoism involved in science education, and I think the wireless operators are one way into that discussion. The middle class support necessary for the Museum (and the subsequent focus on middle class children) are inextricably tied to skills growing away from manual labor and warfare, both highly relevant to the Museum's time period.

These readings also remind me of a recent discussion taking place on BoingBoing and other venues: the value of science fiction in sparking interest in real science, and a better future. Science fiction can be escapist, but it also offers inspiration and a way to think through the philosophical dimensions of scientific progress.

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