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Week 0: Student Bootcamp

 ·  ☕ 5 min read

0. Student Bootcamp

This week I got situated into the Fab Academy process. We have had an online session each morning. They all started with seeing final project presentations from last year’s students. It was very useful to see the presentations and the feedback Neil gave everyone. I got to see presentations from my friend Madison who introduced me to the Fab Academy program and my instrctor Spencer. We also had our in person lab orientation at Dassault Systemes 3D Experience Lab in Waltham, MA. I met the instructors Greg, Spencer, and Luciano and my fellow students Linda, John, and Griffin. I’m bummed that we’re not going to get to spend much time in the lab together everyone has really interesting backgrounds and experiences to bring to the group.

Jumping Ahead

While I’m sure it will be part of next week’s assignment as soon as I got my gitlab account I had to get it clone the repo and start poking around. I think I will stick with mkdocs as I haven’t used this framework before and it seems like a cool launch point to get the documentation website started. My goal for this session of fab academy is to lean into the wholes in my knowledge and try to stay outside the familiar.

Setting up mkdocs on macOS Catalina

This is how I got local mkdocs running on my laptop running macOS Catalina 10.15.*. Hopefully it will work on Big Sur but I haven’t tried it. Let me know if you do.

I started with a quick search. I’d never heard of mkdocs before but it seemed like a tool that there might be some existing resources for. Bingo! Don’t get too excited through, it’s a year old and already out of date. The first step is to install Homebrew which is a (software) package manager. The tutorial code is out of date for how to install it. Fortunately it links to Homebrew’s Homepage which provides and updated install command. Open Terminal and run this command to download and install Homebrew. It may ask for your system password to install.

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL"

Next install PIP another package manager specifically for Python software. The tutorial very confusingly says to update pip and then mentions that if you don’t have it you should install it by downloading

Download the script (right click -> save link as). Then navigate to your downloads folder in Terminal and run:

sudo -H python3

Lots of small differences from the tutorial here. Adding the -H option to sudo fixes some permissions oddities that I got without using it. I don’t actually know what the problem was but a useful error message suggested that I use the -H flag to fix the error and it worked. Also use python3 instead of python to install pip. macOS has python2.7 and python3 installed but defaults to python2.7 which is deprecated.

Now that brew and pip are installed lets use pip to install a few things.

sudo -H pip install matplotlib
sudo -H pip install mkdocs
pip install mkdocs-material

Now you should be able to checkout your repostory from GitLab and start mkdocs from the root directory and view your website on localhost:8000.

mkdocs serve

Good Luck, happy coding!

mkdocs Customization

I added some content into the mkdocs file structure, added some pages, customized the color scheme a bit. Pushing this up to GitLab was straight forward. I’m a former software developer so git is familiar though I’m a bit rusty.

Bootcamp Experience

Some final thoughts on the bootcamp experience. I was familiar with about half of the content covered in bootcamp.

3D modeling

I have done some but not much, and almost none in the tools shown. Though the tools were shown so fast that I didn’t really get a sense of what each of them could do or why I would choose one or the other. I would have rather had a more in-depth look at either concepts of what is parametric modeling and best practices or something at a pace that new users could follow along with. Blasting through 3 different CAD packages in 20 mins each really didn’t feel like I was able to absorb anything from these presentations.


Soldering I have done a lot of wires and through hole soldering but almost no surface mount. This information was great. It still felt fast and I tuned out the begging a bit because I was already familiar with the basics. Once Duaa got to surface mount and more complicated situations I found that information very useful. The basics also felt like they were delivered at a pace that a student who had never soldered before could follow along and pick up some useful knowlege.

Beyond the Acrylic Box

The section on final projects was great though I was a bit distracted because we were in the lab for the first time and I had just gotten my GitLab account so I was coding and watching at the same time. Seeing more final project examples was great and hearing from some former students about their experiences was encouraging. I would have liked a bit more structure around either the introduction or conclusion of the presentation with what to look for in each project other than “these projects are all great”.

Git and HTML

I have used git enough that this information wasn’t new to me for which I’m glad because even I found the presentation a bit confusing. This felt more like watching someone who was very familiar with the tools use them rather than being taught about them. I discussed this feeling with my partner after the first lecture and she suggested that its like a big university lecture where the professor has to teach 300 people at once and then you go meet with the TA to have it broken down more. I never had lectures like this in college so wan’t familiar with that structure. The bootcamp was said to be more time to introduce students that might lack some background knowledge, but I’m not sure how much learning rather than exposure to concepts happened through these sessions.

Nick Anastasia
Nick Anastasia