By Morgan Smith ’19, candidate for Bachelor of Arts in Digital Fabrication
In high school, I thought about majoring in mechanical drafting, but became fascinated by the 3D printers in the STEM department. When I came to Arcadia, first I declared my major in Computer Science in the (3+2) Pre-Engineering program because I thought it would give me the best chance to get to work with the 3D printing machines I thought were so amazing. My roommate found Prof. Karen Misher’s Digital Fabrication class while she was looking through the course catalog, and remembered I wanted to do that sort of thing. Of course, I joined the class immediately.
Once I was in the class, Prof. Misher helped me create a self-designed major in Digital Fabrication—what I truly love—while also allowing me to incorporate some of my previous Computer Science credits. At Arcadia, I usually enjoy all my classes, since I see that they all have value and can teach me something I wouldn’t know otherwise. The classes I probably like the most are ones that push me outside my comfort zone, although I usually don’t like them until I’ve completed them.
While I am not sure when my interest in making sensory objects started, I am autistic (I personally prefer identity-first language, although I know a lot of people don’t), and I’ve been making sensory objects all my life without really noticing what I was doing. Two years ago, however, I started designing fidget toys out of fabric for myself and some of my friends. I saw that there wasn’t a huge selection online or in stores, so I decided to sell them. I knew that Prof. Misher had a background in autism, because when I told her I was autistic when we met, she shared her background with me. Then I had the opportunity with my new major to do an independent study, and used that time to design my first line of 3D printed fidget toys. My process includes research on what objects already exist and ways to improve them, as well as asking around and finding out what sort of things people would find helpful. My interests center primarily around creating for neurodiverse people, whether my creation helps directly (a fidget/sensory object) or indirectly (some other art piece used for empowerment or acknowledgment). Basically, I do research, sketch my ideas, and get to work creating. I find it is easier to create if you just start doing it and figure it out from there.
Prof. Misher is so supportive of me—helping with new ideas, as well as pushing me to work further than where I am comfortable. She encourages me to connect with more people and expand not only my knowledge of digital fabrication/3D printing, but also to expand my network. My future goals are very much centered around activism and advocating for the autism community. I am very much an activist at heart and want my work to empower other autistic people to be proudly who they are. Specifically, with 3D printing, I want to be able to design many different objects for many different needs, and use my skills to help those that need it. Studying digital fabrication will give me the valuable skills I need to create and help people for the betterment of society and acceptance of people like me.
The best part of my major so far is knowing I am making a difference and having the freedom to grow to be exactly who I want to be.