Last minute gift ideas for makers!

Here’s some ideas for the maker, tinkerer, builder on your Christmas list. (Following these links and buying from Amazon will support Workshop 88.) Most of these items are still available to be shipped before Christmas!

Hard to go wrong with an arduino uno – even if your maker already has one, it’s always nice to have a spare.
This kit comes with all the parts needed to get started making with arduino.
10 NRF24L01+ 2.4GHz Wireless RF Transceiver Modules compatible with arduinos. Very cool way to quickly experiment with wireless communication between arduino projects.
This book is a great introduction to learning how to make with the arduino microcontrollers.
This kit includes everything needed to get going with the Raspberry Pi.
Have a Raspberry Pi already? Here’s a handy case to help protect it.
Add a camera to your Raspberry Pi!
Every maker doing electronics needs a multimeter. Here’s a fully featured one at a decent price.
If your maker is new to 3D printing, you may want to consider this accessory kit.
A fun filament to print with is glow-in-the dark plastic. This might be a filament that someone may not choose to buy on their own, making it a nice gift. 

Animatronic owls

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Workshop 88 member Anna Gillespie created a series of animatronic owls for an event at the public library where she works. The owls were controlled with arduinos using servo motors and a wav shield for the sound of the owl hoot.  Some of the owls turned their heads and some of them flapped their wings in addition to hooting. This was a great project to watch from start to finish; thanks, Anna, for sharing with us!

Recently at Workshop 88!

Last Thursday evening we had the pleasure of having a group from the Society Of Women Engineers tour our makerspace and ask questions on the many aspects of being a maker and what we were working on. They were a mix of female Engineers from different fields of engineering; chemical engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers,and civil engineers. Really great night having them here with us. Are you, or do you have a group of people interested in makerspaces or hackerspaces? Come visit us on any Thursday evenings from 7-10 pm @ workshop88.

from Workshop 88’s Facebook page

Last Thursday night @ Workshop 88

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Last Thursday we had quite a bit going on at the weekly open house:

Ray connected the chassis of a motorized wheelchair to a remote control unit and was able to drive it around the front room.  Here’s a video:

The laser cutter was being used extensively to cut out some tesselating lizards and geckos, as well as to make stencils for an ammo box intended to hold plastic eggs. The project is called “Hen Grenades”.

Later in the evening Rachel came in and showed off her new LEGO compatible circuit boards – they are really awesome!  We were having so much fun playing with them that no one remembered to take photos.  Come in next week and ask her about them!

Mathematica on the raspberry-pi – a library class

I really like teaching classes through Workshop 88 at the libraries.  Over the summer, I had a chance to teach a few of the classes Workshop 88 offers at some of the local libraries. One library that we like going to wanted a class to introduce their teens and preteens to the Raspberry Pi.

I recruited a few helpers and we gathered up several Raspberry Pis, keyboards, mouses, and power supplies to have enough supplies that the kids would be working in pairs or at their own Raspberry Pi.  We set up before the kids arrived and had everything ready to go. At the start of class we talked about the idea of the Raspberry Pi as a low-cost single board computer and we pointed out all the hardware features of the Pi.  Then we showed off all of the distributions that we had brought examples of.

That took all of 25 minutes for a 90 minute class. Oops.

So, I asked how many of the kids were familar with Scratch, and it turned out that more than half of them had already used Scratch in school.  I decided that they should get a chance to work with Mathematica, so that they would be exposed to something new.

There is a pretty good introduction to Mathematica for the Raspberry Pi on the Raspberry Pi Foundation website. (The actual Mathematica tutorial starts here.)

We did a bunch of things that I think worked really well:

1.) Showed basic math operations
2.) Showed how to make graphs
(One of the kids said at this point that Mathematica is basically just a less powerful calculator. That’s when we kicked it up a notch.)
3.) Kids explored how many digits of pi they could get out of Mathematica.
4.) Kids played with displaying 3D shapes using the Graphics3D function. Examples: Graphics3D[{PolyhedronData[{Antiprism, 4}, “Faces”]}]
Graphics3D[{Opacity[.4], Glow[RGBColor[1, 0, .5]],
PolyhedronData[“JessensOrthogonalIcosahedron”, “Faces”]}]
5.) Kids played with 2D shapes.  Examples: Graphics[Polygon[{pentagon, 1 + .5 pentagon, 1.5 + .2 pentagon}]]
hexagon = Table[{Sin[2 Pi n/6], Cos[2 Pi n/6]}, {n, 6}]
Graphics[Polygon[hexagon]]

Lastly, we tried to generate some sound files with Mathematica, but it didn’t seem to work too well on the Raspberry Pis.

Overall, I think the kids had a great time playing with Mathematica and trying out a bunch of things that they had no idea a $35 computer could do.