// Logistics

  • Professor:  Dr. Laura Taalman, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
  • Class meetings:  Mondays and Wednesdays 2:00-3:15pm in JMU 3SPACE, Carrier 101
  • Final Class Presentations:  Monday, April 4, during the official exam time of 1-3pm

// Course Description

  • UNST 300E. Special Studies in University Studies
    Designed to give students an opportunity to complete independent study and/or research under faculty supervision in university studies.
  • UNST 390-001: Fabrication and Analysis of 3D Puzzles (3 credits)
    This course integrates puzzle design, mathematics, CAD software, and desktop manufacturing with 3D printers, laser cutters, and carving machines. Students will explore familiar tactile geometric brainteasers such as Soma cubes, burr puzzles, peg-jumping games, and the Tower of Hanoi, and investigate questions of uniqueness and solvability. They will then create their own extensions and generalizations of these puzzles, learning 3D design and software to produce digital designs that can then be realized as tactile models with 3D printing and 2D cutting.
    No prior experience with 3D printing, mathematics, or design is needed for this course, although the ability and academic maturity to research and learn new things from online resources is a requirement. Students should be prepared to learn independently about software, hardware, design, and topics related to their projects. In addition, communication and documentation of results will be a key focus, and students will share their work using WordPress, Thingiverse, Shapeways, and other online communities. At the end of the semester, each group will give public presentations of their work. Due to classroom and equipment restrictions in the JMU 3SPACE 3D printing classroom (, this course is limited to 24 students.

// Why 3D Printing?

3D printing is an additive manufacturing process whereby objects are built up from plastic filament, liquid resin, layers of powder, or even bio-compatible and edible materials. Desktop 3D printing is today’s printing press, putting rapid prototyping, customizable products, and individualized medical appliances in reach of the general public. Literacy in basic 3D modeling and manufacturing is an essential skill for future STEM success in this country, and a powerful tool for understanding physical objects and processes. In this course students will 3D print or otherwise digitally fabricate actual physical objects that they have designed and modeled themselves using various types of 3D modeling software, and then communicate their work to the university community and the external 3D printing/education community.

// Grades

A complete list of all assignments and grade opportunities, due dates, and earned points will be kept on the class Canvas page. The majority of your earned points will be tracked through daily submissions of your WordPress Portfolio over the course of the semester.

After completing some beginner assignments, you will work independently to pitch, develop, implement, document, and present one major project over the course of the semester. Your grade will be determined by how many of the total available points you can earn throughout the semester on participation, online documentation, design iteration, and presentations.

Expectations include the following:

  • Participation in class and in groups:  Attendance and involvement during the class hour, preparation for class with completed assignments, progress, and/or reports, and contributions to your project as measured both by the instructor and by your fellow classmates.
  • Ongoing and final documentation:  Project pitches, proposals, reports, updates, and documentation as a series of blog posts on the public class website. Sharing of 3D designs and prints on community repositories such as Thingiverse and Shapeways is also expected. Formatting, photography, and presentation quality will be taken seriously.
  • Successful completion of a meaningful project by the end of the semester:  You will be expected to demonstrate that your final project goes beyond your early class abilities in scope and execution. Difficulty of project and amount of effort required to learn and implement software, hardware, reasoning, puzzle analysis, and/or reference skills will be considered.
  • Final showcase/presentation: During the official final exam time we will hold a public showcase that includes a gallery display of physical objects and final individual project presentations. Grades will depend on quality of final prints/objects, presentation format and delivery, and online documentation of the presentation and objects.

// Class Rules

I have a few rules specific to my class and classroom that I will expect you to follow:

  • We will be meeting in a computer classroom, and it can be tempting to tinker with the computers at inappropriate times. When I am talking or when another student is presenting, please keep hands and eyes off your computer to give your full attention.
  • You may keep your cell phone out to see brief notifications or even to send a quick text that takes just a few seconds, but please do not use your phone for a prolonged period, even under your desk. 🙂
  • I will always end class on time, because I know that many of you have other classes that you need to get to in a timely fashion. If you notice that the class period has expired, even by 10 seconds, please let me know and I will immediately end class.
  • The flipside of the rule above is that I ask that you please not start packing up your things before class is over, because it makes a lot of distracting rustling noises.

// Attendance Policy

This is an extremely hands-on course in which you will interact with other classmates and give short presentations and updates during the class hour. While one or two absences over the course of the semester is okay, multiple absences will impact your grade for the course. If you do miss class, it is your responsibility to learn what you missed from other students and the class website, and to make up any missed work. If you have special circumstances such as JMU-approved travel, medical illness, or family emergencies that keep you from class, please let me know.

// Inclusivity Policy

James Madison University is a community dedicated to diversity and inclusivity. As faculty, we believe that learning environments should support a diversity of thoughts, perspectives, experiences, and identities. We invite you to share anything with us that might help create a more inclusive and welcoming learning environment. In particular, I respect students’ preferred names and the gender pronouns that correspond to their identities.

// Statement of Compliance With Americans With Disabilities

JMU abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandate reasonable accommodations be provided for students with documented disabilities. If you have a disability and may require some type of instructional and/or examination accommodations, please contact me early in the semester so that I can provide or facilitate provision of accommodations you may need. If you have not already done so, you will need to register with the Office of Disability Services, the designated office on campus to provide services for students with disabilities. The office is located in Wilson Hall, Room 107 and you may call 540-568-6705 for more information.

// Religious Accommodations

All members of the faculty are required to give reasonable and appropriate accommodations to students requesting them on grounds of religious observation. The faculty member determines what accommodations are appropriate for his/her course. Students should notify the faculty member by no later than the end of the Drop-Add period the first week of the semester of potential scheduled absences and determine with the instructor if mutually acceptable alternative methods exist for completing the missed classroom time, lab or activity.

// The JMU Honor Code

I absolutely encourage all of you to work together both inside and outside of class. However, any instances of suspected cheating or academic dishonesty will be referred to the JMU Honor Board for investigation. For complete information, please consult the JMU Honor Code.

// Official JMU Policies

We will abide by all official JMU policies. University syllabus information can be found at

// Who am I?

You can call me “Dr. Taalman” or “Professor Taalman” or “Taalman” or “Dr. Laura” or even “Laura” or “hey, I have a question.” I prefer not to be addressed with gender-specific prefixes like “Mrs” or “Miss”, etc. I’m married, have a 15-year-old son, and would if I had more free time I would probably use it to play Minecraft.

My day job is in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics here at JMU, but I’m also one of the directors of the JMU 3SPACE classroom and do a lot of teaching and scholarship work with 3D printing. I spent a couple of recent years in New York City working in industry, with the 3D printing companies Ultimaker, Shapeways, and MakerBot. I’m known as “mathgrrl” on the internet when I’m wearing my 3D printing hat.

// Who are you?

I have aphantasia, which among other things makes it difficult for me to recognize people, especially when they are out of context — for example, if you switch seats in class, come to my office hours, or run into me at the grocery store. Please do not be insulted if it takes me a long time to be able to recognize you or remember your name!  When you see me outside of the classroom, just remind me of your name and what class you are in, or maybe what we were talking about the last time we met. In class, I may ask that students use nametags and stay in a relatively consistent seating arrangement. I look forward to meeting and working with all of you this semester!