From home automation to robots and banana pianos, Lake Land College Information Technology (IT) students think outside the box and create groundbreaking projects in the college’s Innovation Lab and Maker Space.
Housed in Webb Hall, the space is home to new innovation courses that instructor Scott Rhine has developed.
“We have the space and equipment to take what was formerly known as my Human Computer Interaction class and turned it into something more in-depth and creative for students in the IT field and beyond,” said Rhine. “The classes are designed for non-IT majors as well. Everyone benefits from increased creativity and better problem solving skills and this lab is an incubator for future makers and creators.”
This summer, students used the Innovation Lab to work on more than 20 unique projects. During the class, students start by learning the basic equipment in the lab and then start exploring the different project possibilities.
After eight years of teaching this class, Rhine said, “The great thing about the class is that each student chooses the particular focus of the class for him or herself. Some choose to do a project with 3D printing, some work with an Arduino or Raspberry Pi, others modify existing projects to extend their functionality. As the instructor, it is my job to get the supplies and equipment that students need and assist them when they get stuck. It is very gratifying when I can escort them through the process from idea to full-blown creation. Most students have difficulty believing that they can be that creative and innovative. We’ve been a consumer society for so long that becoming a ‘maker’ is definitely a new experience for most of them.”
According to student George Tucker, Mattoon, the best part of creating his project, an Augmented Reality Sandbox, was a saying, “If you can dream it, you can make it.”
For this project, Tucker created a real-time augmented reality system to physically create land topography in real time with working graphics. The project has several different programs that run on a Linux system. Those programs work with an Xbox 360 Kinect, a digital data projector, and a monitor which is mounted above the sandbox. The Kinect measures the distance to the sand, the computer processes it, and the projector colors the sand based on the height or depth of the sand in any given area.
“This is a class that all other classes hope to be when they grow up,” Tucker said. “It encourages a person that if they can dream it, they can make it. IT also teaches you that failure and success goes hand in hand. ”
According to Ashley Johnson, Shelbyville, the “Tweet to the Lamp” project allowed her to discover the connection between social media and physical technology. Now she feels comfortable with taking on new projects.
Johnson uses an array of technology including a Raspberry Pi and some miscellaneous electronics to link a physical LED lantern to the Internet. She set up the Raspberry Pi with the appropriate code to monitor a twitter feed and light up the lantern each time someone uses a particular hashtag.
To learn more about the Innovation Lab or the innovation classes, contact Scott Rhine at 217-234-5353 or firstname.lastname@example.org.