Maker Profile

Who are you and what do you make?

My name is Connor Kress and I started my company from the Maker space at the University of Toledo. My big passion is building better 3D printers. Currently, most 3D printers don’t work that well. As a graduate student at UT, my dissertation topic focused on improving accuracy and strength of 3D printed plastic. Because of our work, we’ve filed for a patent on a new material.

What's the favorite thing you've made?

Our Makerbot Replicator 2X is mostly composed of upgrades we’ve built ourselves. Its much more Frankenstein than Makerbot at this point.

What's your go-to Maker skill and/or tool?

3D Printer, mostly because of my skill at producing models. I’m also quite lazy, I’ve been known to print parts solely because it requires the least amount of time.

What's been your biggest Making challenge?

When we first started 3D printing, The technology was not nearly developed as now. Not to sound old, but in 2011 these systems were absolutely terrible. To overcome the significant issues we conducted experiments to remove variability in the process. We wasted a lot of plastic in those days.

How would you define 'Maker culture'?

When creativity meets technical skill in way that makes something new.

How is Maker culture transforming your campus?

It’s allowing for greater collaboration between different majors. In the past, the college of engineering was almost its own world. Now, we certainly have a melting pot structure where all different disciplines can come together.

How can Making contribute solutions to big problems?

Ultimately, Making does not contribute to great solutions in the way you might think. It’s what happens after the Making process that’s key. As an avenue to idea generation and production its true strength is not in the building process, but in the ability to refine an idea until it becomes a great solution.

What are the challenges facing Making in higher education?

Technical skills are typically not valued like traditional studies. A major push would be for stronger programs urging a push for vocational learning. Student need to learn the skills to Make before they can ever be expected to do it.

Why do you think Making is an important 21st century skill for students?

Let me illustrate by example. Last week we broke a coat hanger in our office. Would you rather teach students to buy a new hanger or make one? I think the psychological effect of creation is a fundamental keystone to learning.

What advice would you give to someone who is new to Making?

When you first get started, pretty much everything looks bad. Until you are skilled in whatever you are passionate in, things will seem much harder than they actually are. It’s okay to mess-up a project, the key is try again. Be sure to learn from mistakes.