Recently I’ve been getting to grips with a piece of software which is well known to most digital designers. Adobe Illustrator is undoubtedly the standard when it comes to vector graphics. I’ve used many photo editing applications over the years but it’s only now I’m aware of the differences between vector and raster graphics and the importance of vectors.
For anyone who doesn’t know, a raster image is the sort you get from a digital camera. It’s made up of tiny dots and when you magnify them too much, you end up with a blocky looking image like we used to see on old 8-bit games. Vectors on the other hand are made up of co-ordinates. When you zoom in on a vector, the co-ordinates are spaced out in relation to each other and the lines (or path) between the points is then drawn in relation to the zoom level.
This scalability is a fantastic property when we start looking at transferring designs into physical objects. We can have tiny details which don’t become blocky if we scale the design up to larger materials. We can use the same design to etch onto a drinks coaster or an A2 poster. This proved useful recently as we’ve bought a few Sphero Mini’s to help teach coding using the free Sphero Edu app. The interface looks a lot like Scratch and it’s a good way to get students thinking about 3D space and physical computing.
Our unique lessons had to be something which could be taught quickly, to a wide range of age groups and be educational but also fun. I came up with the idea of a maze and started to design it using Illustrator. I wanted it to look a bit like the Pac-Man game and with some help from WavemakerAlex, we were able to produce the prototype in the photo. It’s made up of 3 layers; the base, a middle layer (which traps the Sphero inside) and a top layer made from clear acryllic. It’s all held together with nuts & bolts and some 25mm plastic tubes which were 3D printed. The bottom layers are 3mm thick MDF, laser cut and spray-painted for effect. This was a great project, and will be really useful for our future robotics workshops.