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‘Behind the Screens: The People of OIT’ is a series that features the people working hard behind the scenes to make OIT run.

Position: Co-Lab Pro Specialist for Bluesmith and DesignHub

Time spent with OIT: Six months

When you enter the Co-Lab in the TEC, you are greeted with colorful sights, innovative projects, and intriguing people.

Tucked away in the corner of the Co-Lab is the Bluesmith studio. There, Isaac Rattey works hard to bring 3D dreams and designs to life.

What he does for OIT:
Isaac manages two programs, both of which are primarily student-run. Bluesmith uses high-end 3D printers to construct complex 3D designs. Clients submit the file they want to be printed, receive a quote, and Isaac and his student team print the objects. Generally, these clients are medical faculty and research faculty members.

Isaac also manages DesignHub, a program that works with clients who have an idea for a project but need help creating a 3D printable file.

“Whether it’s 3D printing or any type of manufacturing, I pair the clients with design and engineering students who can help them turn that idea into a reality,” he said.

Isaac using the 3D printer

What he hopes to accomplish at Duke:
While most of Isaac’s clients are medical and research faculty members, he wants these communities to know more about Bluesmith and its possibilities. Bluesmith prints over 50 hearts per year for the Duke Pediatric and Congenital Heart Center, but 3D printing can be used to prepare for many other types of surgery as well.

“Something I’m working on is becoming the subject matter expert to be able to walk the medical staff through the process of taking a CT scan of something that isn’t a heart and 3D printing it,” Isaac said. “I want to help train them and get them to a point where they’re able to do these types of intricate and useful projects on their own.”

What he enjoys about working in the Co-Lab:
Isaac enjoys working with the other Co-Lab staff members. If you have ever stepped foot into the Co-Lab and felt the excitement and energy that the employees bring, you will understand why.

He also appreciates seeing how people utilize the space and the resources to learn and grow.

“I love seeing all the people who come through the Co-Lab with cool ideas,” Isaac said. “It’s cool to see them start with no knowledge about how to make anything, then leave the Co-Lab with a final part and the knowledge of how to manufacture things in the real world.”

Advice for those new to OIT:
Outside of the Co-Lab, Isaac also enjoys other aspects of OIT. He encourages those new to OIT, much like himself, to take advantage of the social events. Earlier in the semester, he had fun attending the Durham Bulls game, and he is looking forward to attending other events.

Isaac and his partner at a Durham Bulls game for an OIT event.

His favorite piece of tech in the TEC:
Working in the Co-Lab (also known as the TEC), Isaac has an array of technology at his fingertips. Because of this and the nature of his job, he has opportunities to work with different machines and devices—some of which are especially exciting for him.

“I work a lot with 3D printers, but I think my favorite machine is the laser cutter,” Isaac said. “Designing something for a laser cutter is more of a puzzle, where I’m often just designing in 2D space, but I can design things that slot into each other.”

A fun fact about Isaac:
When Isaac says that he is a huge fan of board games, he is not exaggerating. He has a collection of 170 board games! His current favorite game is ‘Food Chain Magnate’, a serious strategy game about building a fast-food chain. Splotter, a small Dutch board game publisher and one of Isaac’s favorites, published it. Along with Splotter, Isaac also really likes the work of designer Reiner Knizia.

Isaac holding the board game, Azul, while standing in front of multiple bookshelves that house his 100+ boardgames.

What he’s doing when he’s not at work:
When he’s not bringing 3D creations to life, Isaac expresses his creativity differently. Embroidery is one of his favorite hobbies, and it is a skill that he is continually developing. For Isaac, this creative outlet allows him to personalize his clothes. Why wear plain tops when he can add his own hand-stitched flair?

A close up shot of an embroidered pear on Isaac's sweatshirt.


Know someone in OIT with a story worth sharing? Nominate them (or yourself!) by emailing