Grace Juster ’16 has immersed herself in Conn’s playground of ideas from Day One, but she prefers her sandbox to be in 3-D.
Armed with curiosity about the rapidly advancing technology of 3-D printing, or the process of creating three-dimensional objects from digital files, Juster arrived on campus four years ago intent on exploring the technology’s creative potential.
“I’m interested in the relationship between the physical and the virtual,” Juster said. “With 3-D printing, you take this virtual file and then it prints, and you can hold it in your hand. I wanted to explore that creative power.”
She began learning more about 3-D printer technology in computer science labs. Assistant Professor of Art Nadav Assor, a new media artist, inspired Juster to consider the technology from an artistic perspective, and she soon enrolled as a scholar in the College’s Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology.
“The implications of 3-D printing in manufacturing, medicine, education, art and everyday life are vast,” said Andrea Wollensak, the Judith Ammerman ’60 Director of the Ammerman Center. Wollensak is a professor of art, and one of Juster’s faculty mentors through the center.
“Grace is helping to teach us.”
Juster is also helping the campus. By the time she was a junior, she was researching, analyzing and comparing the two types of printers on campus.
“One uses lasers, and the other uses the equivalent of a hot glue gun,” said Juster, who quickly became the College’s go-to expert on the machines, giving tutorials to art classes interested in the technology.
But Juster wanted to push her understanding even further. Working with her Ammerman Center and career advisers, she landed a highly competitive summer internship at MakerBot, the top desktop 3-D printing company in the U.S.
“Because of my experience at Conn College, I was able to earn a coveted spot on the product management team responsible for making improvements to the printers and developing new products,” Juster said. “It was an unbelievable experience.”
While 3-D printing today allows architects to print out scale models of designs on demand or doctors to create everything from customized prosthetic limbs to perfectly tailored knee implants, Juster knows that these avenues are only the beginning.
“3-D printing is going to expand the boundaries of human creativity,” she said.
It’s why she wants to use her senior year to complete three different, interconnected projects that build on her knowledge and experience. In partnership with her computer science professors, she is researching and developing algorithms to “teach” a computer to produce artwork.
“I’m interested in machine creativity,” she said. “Can a computer doodle? Can I inspire it and also have it create an original work of art?”
She’ll also be designing and building her own 3-D printer. For her art studio exhibition, she plans to interfere with the technology—perhaps by moving a nozzle or interrupting the printing process—to create “glitch art” and foster collaboration between human and machine.
Wollensak admits that the project is ambitious, but praises Juster for choosing an undertaking that intentionally integrates what she has learned in the classroom with her own research pursuits.
“She is dismantling and building, looking at the printer itself as a way of creating and shifting our understanding of it as a new tool in three-dimensional art,” Wollensak said.
“Through her work, Grace is helping us gain a deeper understanding of the tool and where it might take us in the future.”