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Michigan Professors Use 3D Printing for Making Art and Educating Students

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Associate Professor of Art at Eastern Michigan University Jason J. Ferguson appears to be a jack-of-all-trades, or at least that is how it seems when checking out his personal website. This site features both images and videos of his artwork, and of special interest for 3DPrint.com readers is how he incorporates 3D printing into his work and educates others about the technology — especially through the university’s relatively new Digital Fabrication course. But more than tech teaching, he wants to use 3D printing to change the feeling of a space, and prompt people, including his students, to reflect on the purpose of the objects we are surrounded with. (A 13-minute-long video from Lynda.com, below, is a documentary on Ferguson’s work and teaching with his colleague, Chris Reilly, called “Maker: The New Art Class”.)

Jason J. Ferguson

Jason J. Ferguson

As shown in the Lynda.com documentary, one excellent example of Ferguson’s creative approach to objects is his “MeshBombing: Unsolicited 3D Printed Public Interventions” series.

The idea behind MeshBombing, as Ferguson explains in the below video, is to create the uncanny feeling that something is not quite right, out of place, or downright surreal. He’ll remove a smallmesh2 figure from a place, and 3D print several duplications of the figure in many sizes and then replace the figure with this assembly of objects. Or he’ll cover a skull figurine displayed in a local coffee shop with something like, say, a Yoda head.

In fact, in the Digital Fabrication class he teaches at Eastern Michigan University, one educational goal Ferguson shares with his co-teacher, Assistant Professor of Art Chris Reilly, is to use digital fabrication to challenge students about the purpose of objects. One course assignment is to make a personalized artifact.

Ferguson explains:

“One assignment is to kind of go into their personal pasts, their histories, and pull from that personal history some sort of imagery that could be interesting in an object and to think about how you might approach that through various new technologies that they’ve been exposed to and also think about how to combine various materials and processes to produce this thing.”

Chris Reilly

Chris Reilly

Another thing that Ferguson and Reilly do together halfway through the Digital Fabrication course is visit local non-academic Maker spaces, so students can continue to have access to Maker technology, like scanners, 3D printers, CNC mills, etc. after they graduate from college. Detroit’s Maker Works, which is described as a “combination of a woodshop, a gym, a library, and a school” is equipped with many machines and devices that are affordable for people after they can no longer access campus equipment. It also has a community of like-minded people.

The courses, the artwork, the trips to Maker Spaces, all of this is designed to get students thinking more deeply about their world. As Reilly summarizes in the video:

“Start thinking about all of the objects around you in a different way. Not only the things you see that are there, but what isn’t there, what’s missing? How could you creatively remake your world?”

ganeFerguson’s goal is to get his students to remember one thing: his definition of design as “creative problem solving.” It seems that it would be difficult for students hanging around Reilly and Ferguson to miss this motivating view of art and design work!

You can see this in the short documentary below:

 

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