Building the 3D modeling community at UC Berkeley: Jennifer Chen

Jennifer Chen is a third-year student at UC Berkeley studying Computer Science. As the president of the 3D Modeling Club (3DMC), she teaches a class on 3D printing and design using Autodesk Fusion 360. She manages a student-led makerspace, offering to the student community free access to 3D printers, electronics, prototyping tools, and VR headsets. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in software engineering. Jennifer is also an Autodesk Fusion Catalyst Intern. 

How did you first get interested in design?

I feel like I have always been interested in design! Growing up, I loved arts and crafts. I actively participated in art competitions until college. Last year, I took a fantastic course at UC Berkeley called Introduction to Prototyping & Fabrication and it was an eye-opening experience. After learning how to use laser cutters and program Arduinos, I realized that I could continue to grow my passion for design and 3D printing by incorporating software and hardware. 

You worked on some interesting audio and music related projects lately. Can you explain a little about them?

The first project I’ve been working on is a Synesthesia lamp. My 3D printed lamp is powered by 50 RGB LEDs, which replicate the effect of synesthesia by flashing specific colors based on different audio frequencies in music. Hearing is one of our five senses, and how we process and create sound is an important part of how we experience the world around us.

A 3D printed synesthesia lamp, created by Jennifer Chen. 

In my second project, I created a 3D model by reverse engineering a Bose headset for the Berkeley Design Challenge which focused on the intersection of audio and education. The model was provided to participants as a starter file to assist with their design process. My team studied the shape of ear canals to understand how people and animals hear. The different shapes and sizes of the canals deliver different hearing sensitivities. 


Jennifer Chen reverse engineered a pair of Bose headphones for the Berkeley Design Challenge.

You hosted a 3D Printing Designathon at UC Berkeley. Can you describe the event and some of the projects that the participants developed?

Yes. It started two years ago and has become an annual event. It is a 24-hour hackathon, taking place over a weekend with non-stop 3D printing. We had over 120 participants at our event last year, consisting of students from UC Berkeley and nearby universities. It’s a ton a fun! Last year, participants were asked to design and 3D print a solution to improve the life of a person with a disability. Each team interviewed an expert about the difficulties they encounter in their daily life due to their physical limitations. One team prototyped a guitar pick mechanism that would allow a person with limited hand mobility to play the guitar. After the event, some teams continued to develop their projects with the help of Enabletech, a student organization which builds assistive technologies for people with disabilities. The goal is to make the designs accessible for anyone to replicate and create themselves. Music is an integral part of many people’s lives. This team’s design contributed towards making the guitar accessible. It is very inspirational to be part of this process and to see how 3D design and printing are making the world a better place in such interesting ways.

How has Autodesk Fusion 360 helped you in the design process?

Fusion 360 is an integral part of my design process. It is extremely useful for quickly drawing up a 3D
model of my idea and creating multiple iterations as I prototype and make changes to my design. I also
love the amazing rendering capabilities, which allows me to share a render of a finished product with others. I also like to incorporate sculpted parts in my designs to create unique shapes and forms.

I teach Fusion 360 to my students because it is easy to learn and has an intuitive interface. It is an especially great tool for people new to 3D modeling. For advanced users, it also has robust set of tools that allow you to create more complex designs as well as perform simulations. It is a very powerful platform, which takes you through the design process from sketch to prototype.


Have your own musical instrument design to share? Show off your design in your Portfolio or take part in this month’s Design for Audio Technology Challenge.  

Inspired to pursue your own music and design project? Check out the links below and get started.

Learning resources

Learn product design by designing a pair of headphones
Learn how to apply the principles of form & ergonomics to the design of your own music-related product using Fusion 360. 

Build an electric guitar
Go through a step by step process of designing and building a custom electric guitar.  

Browse student portfolios
Look for design inspiration for your own musical instrument by browsing Design Academy portfolios. 

Inspirational stories

The future of making music: Design and engineering
Discover how the future of making music is influenced by design and engineering.

Make music with Jeremy Carter
Learn how Jeremy Carter, Autodesk Education Evangelist and luthier, blends music and design to build custom electric guitars and inspire future generations to think creatively about music and design thinking. 

Engineering music: University of Notre Dame engineering students and Third Coast Percussion team up to make WAVES
Learn how University of Notre Dame students and the music ensemble Third Coast percussion engineer sound. 

Wild Sound: Exploring new musical frontiers through engineering and DIY electronics
Continuing their success from WAVES, read how Third Coast percussion and the University of Notre Dame create a full-length concert program entitled Wild Sound. 

Invent something new
Learn what it takes to invent something new. Get all your questions answered to take your invention from idea to reality.