Syllabus and Policy


  • Professor:  Dr. Laura Taalman, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
  • Class meetings:  Mondays and Wednesdays 11:15am-12:30pm in JMU 3SPACE, Carrier 101
  • Final Class Presentations:  Wednesday, April 25, during the last class period

Course Description

  • UNST 390. 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 390.02: Representing the World in Three Dimensions (3 credits)
    How can we best represent the world that we live in? On paper we are limited to two dimensions, but with today’s technology we can produce three-dimensional models and visualizations that provide more descriptive artifacts of our world.This will be a project-based class in which students utilize 3D printing and design to create physical and digital representations of the world. Students will work in groups on projects and document their results publicly to share with the community. One project could involve the creation of three-dimensional visualizations to illustrate demographic and scientific data such as gerrymandering and weather patterns. Another project could involve the use of 3D scanners to capture historical objects for tactile replication and public digital collections. Additional projects may be developed according to the majors and interests of the students in the course.No prior experience with 3D printing 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.

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 mathematical objects and processes. In this course students will 3D print 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.


Students will work in four groups, each of which will pitch, develop, implement, document, and present one major project over the course of the semester. The number and types of ancillary assignments and grade checkpoints will vary throughout the semester depending on the directions we take in this class. I anticipate that the overall breakdown will be similar to the following:

  • 25% 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 group as measured both by the instructor and by your fellow group members. Work is expected to be shared equally among group members and proejcts will be graded on a group basis while taking into account evaluations from group members.
  • 25% ongoing and final documentation:  Project pitches, proposals, reports, updates, and documentation both in Google Docs and 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.
  • 25% success and completion of a meaningful project by the end of the semester:  Your project should include physical 3D printed objects that represent some aspect of our world in a relevant and meaningful way, an explanation of the rationale for your project, and successful completion of goals. 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, and/or reference skills will be considered.
  • 25% final public presentation and project implementation:  Groups will plan and execute their own final presentations to the public JMU community, some part of the local Harrisonburg community, or other community. In addition, printed models should be actually used and/or displayed in some fashion as part of the implementation or documentation of the project.

A complete list of all assignments and grade opportunities, with due dates, will be kept at the Assignments page of the class website.

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 be working as part of a group with other students. 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 with your group members. If you have special circumstances such as JMU-approved travel, medical illness, or family emergencies that keep you from class, please let me know.

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.

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 will 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!