Everything is ending. It’s now my last semester, I just performed in my last ICCAs, and my last Candidates’ Weekend as a student is this week. Job offers, post-school housing, and life after college are coming up next on the agenda. During this semester, half of my energy has been spent finishing off my time at Olin strong, and the other half has been spent looking ahead, trying to figure out where to start the next exciting chapter of my life.
Because of that, this semester I’ve been spending a lot of time making sure that the roles I hold will be filled by people as excited as I was about filling them, and this has led me to think about what kind of impact I’ve had in this community. At first glance, I shrug it off. Sure, I did a few interesting things, some of my projects have been pretty cool, I guess. But they were all in the moment, a one semester or one class event that was exciting when I was working on it and has faded since. Many of these projects I’ve written about in the past, from the Pictionary playing robot, to the rideable K-9, to the mechanical pufferfish (if you haven’t noticed yet, I’ve worked on an insane amount of robots). This is how I feel about most of my projects: they absorb all my passion and energy for instantaneous moments in time, but fade as the semester passes and others take their place.
Only one of my endeavors has lasted the test of time, and I have remained passionate about it since it began. Since my sophomore year, I’ve worked to develop Olin’s Replicator Space, where I maintain Olin’s public access, free-for-use 3D printers with a few other students. At first, we were just trying to see what would happen if we threw a bunch of desktop printers into a room with some students in a Mechanical Prototyping class. Even then, the printers were running day and night as students figured out how to use them, and experimented and explored with the new tools. The need for an easy-to-use CNC manufacturing resource on campus, that was open long past when the machine shops closed, was fulfilled with a bunch of dinky 3D printers on a messy table in the corner of a classroom.
Version 1 of Olin’s Replicator Space, hidden in a classroom, where printers were reserved with Post-Its.
The space had a lot of problems, and after its first semester we revamped the entire space in Olin’s Library, making the printers easier for students to find, and bringing much needed attention to the Library where there hadn’t been before. We kept on rethinking the space since then, and with every iteration loop we came by, more and more students got trained to use the printers, and soon the space doubled in size and use. I’m very proud to say that I helped develop Olin’s 3D printing space from literally the ground up. Through each semester I focused on all the little improvements we’ve made, and taking a step back, I can’t believe how much a place that I have worked on since the beginning has grown.
Version 2 of Olin’s Replicator Space, with twice as many printers, now in the Library.
By providing students with a 24/7 open 3D printing space, the student body has been able to design and create like never before, which is essential at an engineering school. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like if the space didn’t exist, which is weird, because I was around for the year and a half before the 3D printing space began. What began as an experiment has become an essential part of the community, and that’s the beauty of Olin’s culture.
Version 3 of Olin’s Replicator Space, with an online printer reservation system and an awesome filament and tool rack.
Every student has the opportunity to make that sort of an impact upon their community. Our community is developed every time a student steps up to pursue a passion of theirs, no matter what its size is. That passion sparks interest in other students, and soon the impact that they seek to make becomes another essential part of Olin’s culture, like a forest developing from a few planted shrubs. From the ACRONYM, our student-run pop-up coffee shop, to the 3D Printing Space, to the computer lab and even to the way our classes are taught, Olin students are bringing texture and diversity to the community. Every experiment run can become something meaningful, and the opportunity Olin provides to give its students a lasting impact is profound. As an Olin student, and soon-to-be alumnus, I know that I can make a difference and have an impact upon my community, and that is the most important lesson I’ve learned here.