Feeling Dumb for a While

#code, #3d-printing

It's always tough to learn a new set of tools. It's especially tough to learn your second set of tools. The first was the only way to do it for a long time, after all.

Doing the full conversion of NMR Solvent Peaks from UIKit to SwiftUI was one recent example. It took me most of a summer just to get the flow right. Easy things became hard, and it was frustrating. I bounced off of it more than once and just figured I'd go back to UIKit. But I got the hang of it eventually, mostly by just trying to make the thing I wanted to make instead of a million sample projects and tutorials. Every time I hit a snag, I'd search through Stack Overflow or Hacking with Swift and get an answer to that particular issue. There were many such searches on the first day. There were fewer over time.

Eventually, those easy things that had become difficult with the new tools? They were easier than before. And problems I avoided because of the complexity? They were within reach now.

The same sort of thing is happening with me and 3D modeling. I've been using TinkerCAD for a long time to design things to 3D print. But it's pretty inelagant. Just about everything is a combination of basic shapes and their intersections. Now, I could build some pretty cool stuff with TinkerCAD. Two of which I'm proud enough of to publish on the internet, and it's really satisfying to see people print them for themselves. But there has always been a huge shadow hanging over all of these designs: what if I put on my big boy pants and used Fusion 360?

Well, I had tried Fusion 360 a few times already. Each time, I bounced off of it. Simple operations in TinkerCAD didn't seem possible in Fusion 360. And years of using TinkerCAD had trained my brain to think of 3D objects as constructions and combinations of simple shapes. So the entire design system of Fusion 360 was foreign to me.

But just like with SwiftUI, once I sat down and gave it a real try with a real project, it turns out that those operations were actually possible. And with a bit of time, easier than in TinkerCAD. I just had to rewire my brain a bit, and be willing to feel dumb for a while. But here's the best part – now, things are possible for me in Fusion 360 that were absolutely impractical in TinkerCAD. Pulling in faces a bit for fit tolerances required completely rebuilding a part in TinkerCAD. In Fusion, it's like four clicks. But then extending one face in a 3D trapezoid pattern to fit in a similar 3D trapezoid hole in another part? More or less impossible in TinkerCAD. In fusion, again, it's like four clicks.

Learning new tools stinks. It would be so much easier to just get my work done with the old tools. And I have to feel dumb, despite being good enough with the old tools that feeling dumb felt like a distant memory. But most of the time, once I figure out how to solve the old problems with new tools, I realize that there are new classes of problems I never even considered solving because the old tools couldn't handle them. It's not just about solving old problems faster, it's about rewiring my brain to find new ones to solve.

I just wish it didn't stink so much at first to feel dumb again.