Tuesday, March 20, 2018

OBDF and the Thing Tank

Newly hired as Assistant Professor of Object Making and Emerging Technologies - I had two main goals in mind: 1.) Build a digital fabrication curriculum, and 2.) Develop a lab for prototyping, tinkering, and exploring emerging fabrication technologies.

One of the most exciting things about ACAD, in my eyes, is that the Media Arts (New Media) area (which is technically the area I work in), unlike any other institution I know of, is situated within a framework of Craft-based disciplines... making our part of the college the "School of Craft + Emerging Media" (SCEM).  I immediately became intrigued by the idea of utilizing this exciting intersection, and building a digital fabrication curriculum that plays to the strengths of ACAD's robust craft areas, and helps strengthen their connections to the Media Arts area.

By the end of my first year, I managed to create a new minor area of study, OBDF (Object Design and Fabrciation) whose electivity would span across SCEM's areas, and several areas in the School of Visual Art and the School of Communication Design.  I also wrote three new courses:

OBDF 110: 3D Object Design
OBDF 210: CAD and Digital Fabrication
OBDF 310: Algorithmic and Parametric Design

The next step (realistically it was a simultaneous step) was to develop a dedicated space to support this curriculum.  Enter the Thing Tank...

A post shared by Bryan J Cera (@cera.tops) on

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As soon as I could, I applied for internal funding for the lab. While I waited to hear back, I brought some of my old equipment in (including the first 3D printer I ever built).

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I also managed to restore and retrofit a CNC mill that was collecting dust in the Jewelry and Metalsmithing area's storage room, and did the same with a broken CNC router that lived in ACAD's woodshop.

Alas, the lab did not receive funding the first year - which is understandable as the program was brand new, and would not officially be offered as a new minor until the following Fall.

Even so, I was able to utilize the equipment I cobbled together to work with students to explore digital fabrication methodologies and potential integration into their existing studio practices.

A great example of this can be seen in the work one of my students, Heather, a ceramics major, is doing:

I'd show you some of the latest work she is doing, but it would be a bit of a spoiler for my next post, in which I plan on sharing where the majority of my energy has been devoted to in the studio. Stay tuned...

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