Roo Products: 3D Design and Printing in Pre-Engineering Physics

During the latter part of the fall semester, students in David Baker’s Introduction to Statics class (part of the pre-engineering curriculum) worked to design products using 3D modeling and printing. Working in teams, the students not only applied their knowledge of physics and design, but also took into account marketing, finance, and other business considerations. This is the first class at Austin College to make use of our recently acquired Ultimaker 2+ printer. Students used AutoCAD 123D and Fusion software for 3D modeling, and Cura for final print preparation. Each team developed multiple iterations of its design, testing and refining the performance of their products and documenting their thinking and practice in a collaborative Google doc.

During finals week, the four teams held a demonstration showcase outside the cafeteria for public engagement with their final products. The visitors and passers-by were duly impressed and got to try out each item. Here’s a gallery so you can see what each team produced. And maybe you’ll get some ideas for the gift-giving season 🙂 Congratulations to all the teams for your excellent work!

RooBoost (Evan Wyatt, Will Winborne, Trini Balkaran)

Have you ever wished you had a convenient, stylish, and inexpensive way to up the volume on your smartphone? The RooBoost might be your answer. Just set your phone in the dock, and the phone’s output is routed through fourteen specially designed acoustic portals to enhance your listening enjoyment without distortion.


The Sauce Boss (Sophie Anderson, Dani Dewitt, Carlye Lide)

You’re stirring a special dish on the stove, but you don’t want the spoon to fall into the pot? Enter the Sauce Boss, which fits snugly on the rim of the pot to hold your spoon in place, and doubles as a spout to smoothly pour the contents into another container.

KangaBroo (Brennan Ellis, Charles Rambo, Jake Williams)
Are you a coffee nerd? How about some cold brewed joe? Check out the KangaBroo, which will fix you up with several cups of coffee brewed with a special method that actually removes many of the bitter compounds left in by regular brewing methods.
Can-dle ( Matthew Gilbert, Cal Schone, Dearl Croft)
Don’t you just hate it when you drinking a cold can of your favorite soft (or not so soft) drink, and holding it with your hand both warms the drink and gets your hand moist from condensation? Then take a look at the Can-dle, which gives you a smooth and sturdy grip without messing with your drink.

Printing Protein Models

AC biochemistry professor Jim Hebda has been conducting research into alpha-B crystallin proteins. This week he and his summer research students are using the new 3D printer to create physical models of some of these protein structures. Here’s Jim with a brief description:

Alpha-B Crystallin is a protein that helps to prevent the formation of cataracts in the lens of the eye. Formation of dimers (chemical compounds with two structurally similar units–figure A) and higher order structures, or oligomers, containing 24 subunits or more (figure B), has been linked to the stability of the lens and its ability to keep other proteins there from aggregating and forming light scattering particles that lead to cataracts. This physical unit will allow students to better visualize the protein and the locations of the mutations we are engineering.

The 3D printed structure below was printed on the Ultimaker 2+ from the Protein Data Bank (PDB) file 3L1G for the dimer and the cryoelectron microscopy image EMD 1776. for the oligomer.The printed proteins in A and B are approximately 3x1x1 and 2x2x2 inches, respectively. The PDB file was converted to a biological dimer using ( Both protein structures were converted to a 3D .stl file using Chimera (UCSF), and then prepared for printing using the Ultimaker’s print slicing software, Cura.

In each of the following figures, a computer visualization of the protein structure is on the left, and the 3D printed physical model is on the right.

A. Alpha-B Crystallin Biological Dimer




B. Alpha-B Crystallin Large Oligomer

dimer1 dimer2










On the Make: 3D Printing Comes to #ACDigPed

A Roo keychain (hopping on a robot)

We’re happy to announce that our new 3D printer has arrived at Austin College. Thanks especially to the initiative and legwork of Tom Buttine, our institutional advancement colleague and entrepreneur-in-residence, and Brittany Derebery, also from institutional advancement, the Ultimaker 2+ has been purchased and set up in the Johnson Center Digital Pedagogy studio (Abell 102). Along with the Ultimaker, we’re also acquiring the EinScan Pro 3D handheld scanner, Rhino 5 2D and 3D modeling software, and other associated accessories. Next spring we plan to add the Glowforge laser cutter to our collection of fabrication resources. Funding is being jointly supplied by the Product Lab initiative and the Mellon Digital Pedagogies grant.

During the summer and into the fall we’ll be experimenting and learning more about what we can do with these tools and, more broadly, how we want to further develop makerspace and fabrication opportunities here at the college. One of the earliest posts on this blog, “Make Moody Hall a MakerSpace?,” broached the subject and included links to resources on campus fabrication ideas and facilities. There will be workshops and tutorials as we get up to speed and discover the possibilities for utilization across our curriculum. We have some preliminary use cases that interested faculty have described, and we welcome further input from faculty, staff and students for project ideas and suggestions. If you are a faculty member considering applying for our final round of Mellon Digital Pedagogy grants, you might want to think about projects that involve 3D printing and the resources and tools listed above. We’ll also be developing an operational guide to establish policies, procedures, and user guidelines. 3D printing is more expensive and time-consuming than regular printing, so we can’t just use that model to regulate things such as payment accounts and scheduling priorities.

You can see our first couple of “builds” above…the Ultimaker robot mascot, hopped on by a kangaroo keychain. ‘Roos over robots…