Equity in Physics

This is a statement I put together for my annual talk with our Junior Lab students (Physics 331). I wanted to share it here to show my commitment to making Physics more equitable and inclusive. We have much work to do; recognition is just the first of many steps.

I recognize that the field of Physics has a long history of structural racism and misogyny that has kept many aspiring physicists from achieving their goals and dreams. In addition to the devastating impact on individuals, the community as a whole has suffered in losing out on the wealth of experience, differing points of view, values, and ideas brought by a community with rich diversity. Having spent 20 years of my life in Physics, 15 of those here at Reed, and having benefited from being a white male in this field, I accept responsibility for my role in why this has and is still happening.

I understand that many of you may have experienced racism or misogyny in your studies here and want you to know that I’m here to support you in whatever way I can. I’m in the process of educating myself about the history, impact, and effects of racism and misogyny in Physics and will work to make this place a more inclusive, welcoming space for all of you. I encourage you to come talk with me about what I’m doing and what we can do together to make Physics more welcoming, inclusive, and less racist.

In my role as machine shop supervisor I am working to make the shop comfortable, safe, and inviting for everyone. I’m around and available to work on projects with you but am also excited to talk with you about your concerns, aspirations, and goals with respect to Physics, Reed, or anything else I can help out with.

I welcome your engagement and criticism and recognize that I will make mistakes at times but know that I’m going to do better. I ask that you be accountable for your words and actions in the shop as well, knowing that we’re all learning and figuring out what works best together. I look forward to the opportunity to get to know each of you and to be a resource and support for you as you navigate your way through Reed.

First prints with Ultimaker

I just got the Ultimaker 3 Extended set up a week before the holidays but I completed two prints before the break. 

The first print I did was a standard 3D printing benchmark, #3DBenchy.  It came out really well, much better than the one I’d made earlier with the Makerbot.  Here’s the Ultimaker 3 print (white) next to the Makerbot print (red), both in PLA:2016-12-29-14-46-42 2016-12-29-14-47-02

The Ultimaker print looks better in many ways although the comparison is a bit unfair given that white is pretty forgiving while glossy red isn’t.  Continue reading “First prints with Ultimaker”

Make a box!

Making boxes is something that comes up in arts and sciences all the time.  Whether it’s crayfish plus mazes, mini-computer cases, or pin-hole cameras, boxes are super handy. 

There are tons of ways to make boxes and join them together and I know very little about almost all of them.  My boxes were clunky and uninteresting, albeit functional. 

Post-laser cutter, box making has become much more fun and satisfying.  A good part of that is just due to the laser cutter being such an amazing tool but a non-trivial amount is due to one website:

Continue reading “Make a box!”

Ultimaker 3 — looks like the one to get

I was approved via capital equipment request to purchase a 3D printer this year for the fab space.  I haven’t yet bought it because we’ve been using a Makerbot loaned to us for a year by one of our faculty.

It was great to get to use the Makerbot since I’d never done any 3D printing before.  I feel like I have a much better sense of our needs now and am more comfortable choosing the right printer for our applications.

This printer was just released earlier this week and looks like it is the one I’ll get.

New Ultimaker 3
New Ultimaker 3

Ultimaker 3

Ultimaker 3 Features video

Ultimaker has long been known as a reliable, consistent performer in the high-end consumer grade printer market.  Their new release appears to be targeted even more toward professional use.  It includes some cool new features (like dual extrusion) which, when paired with the reliability of their printers, makes it a great machine for school use.

It’s not the highest tech machine out there but it’s a good performer with a lot of usable features.  Unless something new appears in the next month or so we should have one here before the end of the term.

Here are some others I’d considered:

Zortrax Inventure

Formlabs Form2

3D Systems Cube Pro

Kudo3D Titan 2

Raise3D N2 Plus


Science and Math 3D prints

We’ve used the 3D printer to make all sorts of things but the bulk of what we’ve made has something to do with science or math.

An older post discussed 3d printed meissner tetrahedra and I’ve made more of them but smaller and in blue filament.  The first photo shows them as they’re being built.  You can see how the printer deals fills internal space of a solid object with a certain amount of infill.  You can set the infill from 0% (open space) to 100% (solid plastic).  This is about 40% infill.

Tetrahedra under construction. You can see the raft they're sitting on and the infill filling the void inside the shapes.
Tetrahedra under construction. You can see the raft they’re sitting on and the infill filling the void inside the shapes.

Continue reading “Science and Math 3D prints”

Sources for 3D Printer Files

Many of the parts we’ve made on the 3D printer so far have been ones we’ve downloaded, not drawn ourselves.  Given the huge number of 3D printer files available online it’s always  good idea to check a few sites first to see if someone’s already gone to the trouble to make up a file for the part you want to make so you don’t have to draw it up yourself.

Here are a few of the many sites where you can find files to use with 3D printers.  Since the 3D printers we have use .stl files look for that type of file first but it’s possible to convert other solid model file types (like files from Fusion 360 or Solidworks) into .stl files fairly easily.

  • Thingverse – I always check here first.  Models usually work great on our printer.
  • GrabCAD – most models won’t be in .stl format but there are many more engineering-type models here than on Thingverse
  • Turbosquid – never used it but appears to have lots of models, lots aren’t free though
  • stlfinder – search engine for .stl files, uses above sites plus others
  • yeggi – another .stl search engine

Feel free to send me links to other sites you’ve used to find .stl files.

Fall 2016 Update

After a long hiatus in blog writing we’re back.  This year I plan on getting more information online about what type of equipment is available for use and how one might get started using it.

Recently we acquired a Makerbot Replicator 5th Generation 3D printer from a faculty member who is on sabbatical.  We’re babysitting his printer while he’s away and he’s generously allowed us to put it to work.

In addition we’ll soon be getting an older Makerbot Replicator Dual Extrusion 3D printer from the Art department.  Once it’s all set up both Makerbots will be available for use.

More posts to follow, check back soon!

Random laser projects

As people do projects on the laser we accumulate the demonstration parts and abandoned or failed projects in the laser cutter room.  They subsequently become showcases of what we can do (or what we can’t do depending on how you look at it) for visitors to the laser room.  Below are some photos showing a few of those samples that we keep for people to check out.

2015-02-12 09.38.35
US Map cut out of 1/8″ acrylic. The whole thing is only about 4 inches across so Hawaii was lost before we even got it out of the laser cutter.

Continue reading “Random laser projects”

Maker spaces highlighted in new NMC report

This report by the New Media Consortium highlights maker spaces as a Technology to Watch with a widespread adoption time of two to three years.  The report doesn’t go into great detail about how the maker spaces would play out, especially in a liberal arts college environment, but still stands as an additional support for more hands-on creative spaces in college and the value it brings to students and graduates.

I’m not sure we can truly call ourselves a Fab Lab or Maker Space yet but with an awesome laser cutter along with a networked Solidworks license we’re well on our way.