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Designing and making for an interplanetary future

In a new course series from the ASU Interplanetary Initiative, students learn the basics of technology development in makerspaces


Man wearing glasses and headphones smiles while holding up a small hand-held fan.

Juan Rico-Alarcon, an engineering management major and ASU Online student, made The College Student Budget Fan, a hand-held fan built inside a toilet paper roll, for an assignment in a designing and making course. Photo courtesy Juan Rico-Alarcon

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December 02, 2022

Students who enroll in designing and making courses with the Interplanetary Initiative at Arizona State University get more than the typical classroom experience.

Designing and making courses include IPI 241: Designing and Making for an Interplanetary Future and IPI 341: Designing and Making (3D Printing and Fabrication). In each course, students learn tools and processes for solving global and interplanetary problems, with special consideration given to how technologies impact society.

Through a series of hands-on, practical assignments, students gain basic proficiency in the mechanical, electrical, computer programming and design aspects of technology development in makerspaces. Students from all majors and all skill levels are invited to enroll in these classes, which are offered both online and in person. 

This semester, there are students from 14 different majors enrolled in IPI 241.

For one assignment in the course, students are asked to use their newly developed technical skills to build a solution to a problem in their everyday lives. Codi Bottrell, a technological leadership major and ASU Online student, created a motion sensor night light for the bathroom that looks like a decorative plant. When you walk into the room, it lights up, and then turns off after 10 minutes of not sensing movement.  

“I think it's incredibly important to learn the actual application of the science we learn in other courses, so that we can effectively lead teams developing technology in the future. My favorite part of the class was tinkering with the circuit design and actually building the projects,” said Bottrell.

For the same assignment, Juan Rico-Alarcon, an engineering management major and ASU Online student, made The College Student Budget Fan, a hand-held fan built inside a toilet paper roll.

"This was a pretty amazing exercise," Rico-Alarcon said. "I had a great time pulling everything out and getting it all set up. I was anxiously awaiting this activity, as it is pretty hands-on and very involved. It was really neat trying different ways to solder to make sure it wasn't overly globby or too little. I found it fascinating how the metal looked as it melted."

The skills Bottrell gained in this class helped unlock her creative confidence when it comes to solving problems with technology. 

“I have the confidence to create my own technology now," Bottrell said. "I'm currently working on a curtain retraction system to wake me up in the morning. It's very cool to understand how the physical components interact with the programming in C++ and the Arduino board to create a system that controls a specific function. I can't wait to think of more useful technologies to create.”

The instructor and designer of the course is Interplanetary Initiative Lecturer Eric Stribling.

"This course is great for any student interested in developing technology, whether that's building cool gadgets at home or developing new space technologies in a corporate environment. You'll leave this class with both makerspace skills and a view towards how technology is actually developed in the real world,” Stribling said.

The designing and making courses are designed with teamwork and an interdisciplinary approach in mind. 

“I try to incorporate teamwork into my course because today’s technologies are so complex that no one single person understands all the different components. For example, the International Space Station required the contributions of engineers, doctors, lawyers, linguists and even artists working together across the globe. Those pieces of technology development — design thinking, hands-on making and teamwork — all come together in this course,” said Stribling.

Get connected

The designing and making courses are a part of the technological leadership majorminor and interdisciplinary studies (IDS) concentration offered by the Interplanetary Initiative. 

Interested students can look for IPI 241: Designing and Making for an Interplanetary Future in the fall and IPI 341: Designing and Making (3D Printing and Fabrication) in the spring. Students majoring in BS programs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences can also earn science and society credit when they enroll in IPI 241 and IPI 341.

In addition, students who complete the designing and making courses are well-prepared to take advantage of the technologies made available in the Interplanetary Laboratory. For more information on working in the laboratory, please contact interplanetary@asu.edu.

Students with questions about these courses or adding the technological leadership major, minor or IDS concentration can email TechLeadership@asu.edu.

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