How To Make Almost Anything

Project 01

Room Divider | Macbook Skin

Upon receiving my first design challenge, I tried to remember all the challenges I faced as an entrepreneur and classroom teacher. At the end of each semester, parents attend open houses, where they can meander and see student work. But, it's difficult to find a cheap, moveable option to partition the room and display student work (that I don't need to panic when the kiddos inevitably destroy the furniture). Initially, I began by playing with interlocking, equilateral triangles (inspired by Yasutoshi Mifune's paper design), but the design needed to be altered since cardboard had little room to bend. Special thanks to all the course assistants who patiently answered my numerous questions!

  • Design Challenge: Design & make a parametric press-fit construction kit out of cardboard | Make something with the vinyl cutter
  • Software: Adoble Illustrator, Rhino
  • Machinery: Laser Cutter, Vinyl Cutter
  • Date Completed: 09.20.16

The Design Process

I initially used Adobe Illustrator since I'm more familiar with the software, but soon realized I knew much less that I thought! I switched over to Rhino, and benefited greatly from the collective knowledge of my colleagues. I spent many hours cutting prototypes out of index cards to see if the pieces would stack both horizontally and vertically.

Original Design
An initial prototype out of index cards

Finally, once I mirrored the "X" design, I was able to build my divider. But, the interlocking slots were first too tight, and then too loose, so many more hours went into adjusting and reprinting. Finally, with a snug fit, the pieces could be easily assembled, so I added chamfers to the design.

A working prototype without chamfers

I schlepped the stacks of cardboard pieces (the design includes two similar pieces that slide together), and assembled very carefully. I had to be very precise because any tilted pieces caused the entire divider to be slanted.

Mika attempting to help me build

Finally! The room divider can now be easily transported. For now, it holds a very important role in my room in keeping my nosy dog out of trouble. Mika has zero interest in knocking it over, as it stands a bit over 5 feet tall.

Final assembled room divider

If I had more time, I would improve the shape of the X so that student work could be tacked onto each piece easily, or I would build the entire divider out of sturdier material so that it can last multiple uses.

Close-up of interlocking pieces

Macbook Skin

For my experiment with the vinyl cutter, I used a quote from one of my 5th grade student's novel. It says: "Sire, do you really think girls are that weak? Impudence! He whispered, 'I'm sorry!' And that was that." It's a quote that reminds me of some awesome memories with my student, so it seems fitting that I feature it on my laptop during my time at Harvard and MIT. Surprisingly, the process was very simple and I ran into no troubles. I freehanded the design, traced and scanned into Illustrator, and then I touched up the image carefully. Though time-consuming, the printing and transfer process went quite smoothly!

Final vinyl design on my laptop