Iteration One: The Idea

John Grieco



The idea that I have chosen to explore over the remaining seven weeks of Making Meaning Matter is how to produce 3d printable shapes and objects with the programming language Javascript. By the end of the quarter I hope to contribute to the open source community a number of shapes and objects submitted to the OpenJsCAD github examples page. I have been inspired by the DIY community to take 3d printing and design as deep as possible.

I see three levels of 3d modeling and design; the first level is finding a model already made on Thingiverse, and printing it. The second is creating your own model using one of the many 3d modeling programs like TinkerCAD or Blender. The third is pealing back the skin of a 3d modeling program and writing the code manually for the shapes and objects you wish to create.

3d modeling programs have many advantages over manual coding. Using a 3d modeling program to create a square is much quicker than programming a square. A square can be created and adjusted in TinkerCAD in a matter of seconds and programming the same object takes much longer. In Blender, you can create many shapes and objects that may take months or years to figure out how to do manually. The biggest advantage that 3d modeling software has over manual programming is the learning curve. A designer can spend a few hours with TinkerCAD and feel comfortable with the basic functions and design techniques as with programming it is practically like learning a foreign language.

This brings me to my question. Why would anyone want to take the time to program 3d models when the same thing can be accomplished in a fraction of the time using software already developed?

“If you’re not able to open and replace the batteries in your iPod or replace the fuel-sender switch on your Chevy truck, you don’t really own it,” Mr. Jalopy argues. “The terms of ownership are still dictated by the company that assembled it and glued the iPod shut so that you couldn’t get into it.”(Jalopy, The argument presented by Mr. Jalopy applies not just to hardware like your iPod but to software as well. While TinkerCAD is a great tool for design as is an iPod for playing music, the user often doesn’t know what is going on inside the machine or behind the UI (User Interface) of a web application or software package. This quote inspired me to take ownership of my designs and embrace the DIY mentality of the open source community through programming.

“To most, computers are a means to an end, not something you want to learn about. A doctor isn’t interested in how an EKG machine works; he just wants to use it and read the results. A structural engineer doesn’t concern himself with how his calculator works; he just wants to use it to calculate loads.”(Smith, Programing may be a dying art. There is little motivation to learn how to program something when someone has already made an application that can do what you wished to accomplish. Technology can make us lazy. With spell check and auto correct on every computer and smartphone what motivation do we have to learn to spell words correctly? I don’t want to use computers as just a means to an end. I want to understand how shapes are generated and keep the dying art of programming alive within Making Meaning Matter.

I can only hope that my contributions to the open source design community will have a positive impact on future designs that could years later make a difference in world. An amazing thing about the open source community is that your code or design has the possibility of influencing someone in ways that you never imagined. It’s a piece of you, forever embedded to be used by all.

I also wish to provoke more conversations about what it means to have ownership of something and encourage others to understand how shapes and objects are generated in the 3d modeling software they use. A greater understanding of this software enables us to trouble shoot when things aren’t working instead of just being helpless victims of the application. “Computational thinking is a skill that everyone should learn. Even if you never become a professional software engineer, you will benefit from knowing how to think this way. It will help you understand and master technology of all sorts and solve problems in almost any discipline.”(Crow,

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“Are You Sure You Own Your Stuff? : NPR.” N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

“Programming: A Dying Art? | Tim Smith |” N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

“Why Every Child Should Learn to Code | Dan Crow |” N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.