I Got into “How to Make Almost Anything!”

Woooo!!!  I found out last week that I managed to slip through the cracks and get into the class that produced THIS:

By the end of the semester I will know how to use milling machines, laser cutters, water cutters, make chips, program micro controllers, and build devices that utilize sensors and networks. I’ll finally be a real nerd!

The best part about the course is the incredible amount of skill diversity. Some people are practically experts at half of this stuff, and others (like me) have never touched a machine that cuts since they took shop in high school. It should be a really interesting time.

As part of the class, everyone has to set up a website to share their lessons as they go through. Mine can be found here, while the class page can be found here (click “People” to see everyone’s sites. There are some really cool things there. click “Past Classes” to see the projects that people did in the past).

Here’s the note I wrote for my “application” to the course.  (Over 100 people applied for about 36 spots).


Dear Dictators of Fate,

I’m a first year masters student in the Media Lab working under
Henry Holtzman (in the Information Ecology group).  My experience as a
fabricator began a long, long time ago, when I would build lopsided
vehicles out of legos.  Unfortunately it also ends there — unless you
count Ikea furniture.  Most of my work as a productive member of
society has involved the softest of software (I am a web developer)
and the closest I’ve gotten to hardware was that systems programming
course I took as an undergraduate.

My interest in fabrication today comes from the realization that my
“realistic imagination” is dramatically limited by my inability to
create new devices and construct new things.  My
research/interests/passions surround group-centric information, civic
media, geographic communities, and collaborative meaning making.  I
want and need to be able to create new tools in the real world in
order to explore these spaces and provide new outlets (and potential
inputs) for information in physical space.

I assume begging gets me nowhere, but I’ll do it anyway:

please please please pretty please!  Oh please!

– Dan


My other class is “Pattern Recognition and Analysis.”  I’ll write about that later, but for now I’ll just say that it’s intense in a very different way.  We’re going to be learning how to write applications which can intelligently categorize various types of input.  This might mean being able to recognize facial expressions, or maybe it means being able to identify spam, or recognizing what news content pertains to your community.  You get the idea.  The math behind it is 50% things I have seen and vaguely remember, 30% things I haven’t seen, and 20% things I’ve completely forgotten.

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