Glue gun mystery unstuck

Knowing how critical hot melt glue is in a hackerspace, I’m sure you’ll be relieved that the mystery of why the trigger on the yellow glue gun stopped working has been unravelled, and that it even works again!

There was no hope of getting the gun open until I let it get good and hot to liquify the glue. I was amazed to find the entire front half of the gun full of liquid glue. The great glob of solidified glue in front of the trigger answered the mystery question.

As I scooped and pried the glue out, a clue appeared: I suspect this split in the silicone sleeve that guides the glue sticks to the melt chamber was part of the story.

I wonder whether another part was some imagined incident when someone tried to use the gun with the tip badly clogged. With the gun thoroughly heated, he squeezed the trigger again and again, only to have no glue come out. “Where the heck is all the glue going?” he might have wondered.

The gun works again, but no guess as to for how long. The fantastic isopropyl-alcohol-as-hot-melt-release-agent trick cleaned the bench so well that there’s no trace of the huge mess I made.

W88 at River Forest Maker-Fest

Workshop 88 joined many other makers at the River Forest Public Library’s first Maker-Fest on 10/7/17. The Drawbot got lots of attention, and decorated the shelves with its drawings.

While maker events and makerspaces are a growing phenomenon at libraries, and River Forest has considered what it can do, its beautiful old building just doesn’t have room for a space.  But Ethan Baehrend, as part of his Eagle Scout mission, encouraged the library to host this Fest, both to provide a maker event for area residents and to help the library gauge interest so it can best serve its users.  The event was a success on all fronts.

Ethan posed here for a picture with the Drawbot’s rendition of the Eagle Scout logo.  Thanks to his mom, Diana, for the picture!

The Drawbot was in good form with its new aluminum-and-teflon pen holder, and generated lots of artwork, as well as interest among visitors. Here are some pics of its output.

 

Some more details on the drawbot are here.

Why Workshop 88 Rocks

I just had another experience Thursday evening reminding me why makerspaces are so great. I needed a very custom spring, but didn’t know how to make it. (It was to remove backlash in the gearbox of a stepper motor driving a robot to play a Theremin, but that doesn’t matter.)

I had the stepper in my hand – since it’s always easier to discuss something concrete – and asked member Bill if he knew anything about making springs. He did, but not the kind I needed. We talked about mandrels and springback, and threw out ideas about how to design a form to wind what I needed.

And then he pulled some music wire from a cabinet and started bending it by hand into very roughly what we thought we needed. That physical strawman let us pull and twist and point and talk about which direction the forces were acting and how to anchor it and how a spring like that really works. After a delightful session of technical banter, I had a LOT more insight into the spring I needed plus the eye-opener that I could just make it by hand! I grabbed some wire and a pair of pliers, and in 15 minutes had a spring that did exactly what I needed.

A fun technical discussion and exploration with a friend, and going from a show-stopper problem to a perfect solution for a few pennies’ worth of materials – it doesn’t get much better than that. And that’s why we hang out at makerspaces.

The project I needed the spring for is another great, if darker example of what happens at the space. An old lonely, dusty Theremin has lived in the back room for years, and I brought it out to see if I could make it work. It had just started to play its first eerie notes, and I was showing it to whoever wandered by, when somebody – a visitor, whose name I don’t recall – said “It would be neat to have a robot play it.” Whoa. That would be so frickin’ cool that even though I needed a new project like I needed a hole in the head, the Theremin playing robot was off and running. Here’s a clip of it playing a scale a couple of weeks later.

I bet lots of makerspaces have stories of whole projects that started by somebody musing “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”.  I guess we’re all suckers for that. 🙂

Winfield Library Build-A-Flute Workshop

Workshop 88 led a workshop on 7/11/17 for the Winfield Public Library Young Adult Services called Science of Sound. The students built flutes (more like recorders) out of PVC tubing and pieces of wooden dowel. The flutes worked quite well, and the students had a good time.

There’s a LOT of information on the web about PVC flutes, up to and including some “flutomat” pages with interactive spreadsheets for finger hole placement. Who knew?

In preparing for the workshop by making a couple of flutes at home, it quickly became clear that it was often easier to get a flute to sound the first overtone than the fundamental we’d be shooting for. To set the stage for discussing that as the student flutes made their first noises, the presentation started out talking about natural vibration modes, with demos of guitar string harmonics, vibrating strips of metal, and a 15-foot “jumprope” with standing wave loops up to the 4th harmonic.

In discussions at W88 before the class, Rachel pointed out that decorating the flutes would be important to some students. Colorful duct tape, provided by both W88 and the library, proved that suggestion to be quite true, despite the stodgy old teacher never even considering it. Thankfully, we have a community to help rip off blinders!

Those discussions also resulted in scope creeping from the initial plan of just showing that drilling a hole or 2 could change the pitch of the flute. The final class version used a traditional six hole fingering scheme that played fairly well in tune into the second register – a few notes above an octave. Thanks to this flutomat for the hole spacings!

W88 at Southland Mini Maker Faire

Andrew+Kids5559Andrew and Jim represented Workshop 88 at the Southland Mini Maker Faire in Mokena August 27th.  That Faire is run by Jay Margalus, one of Workshop 88’s founders.

Andrew’s workshop for kids to create their own hand-dipped paint-film artworks was a big hit, with dozens of delighted artists taking home their masterpieces.  Foam balls were the canvas; a bucket of water was the studio.

spray_paint_1024AThe technique, invented by Andrew using a film of spray paint on a tub of water, was inspired by a similar approach he’d seen using nail polish.  Less-than-perfect results with the polish caused him to test and perfect the paint approach.  Results were spectacular.

The laser toys box was there, as TrayAndLizardsCq65vvhW8AADHjVusual, and its Escher lizards provided entertainment and education for many little (and not-so little!) hands.  Having the back sides of the laser-cut pieces engraved with three different patterns provided an additional level of challenge based on the 3-way tessellation as a 3 color map problem.  The laser engraved wording on what used to be the bottom of the tray used to be obscured by the toys.  With the addition of the new slightly smaller lower box, that old tray is now both a useful top cover and a convenient display card!

GearsCq6wHU5XgAAxTWC-600Jim’s UV-lit fluorescent non-round gears caused lots of folks to stop and take a look.  Their graceful turning, speeding up, slowing down, reversing and repeating mesmerized a few visitors.  Their stepper controller and Tiny85 processor mostly worked, but required some discreet wiggling several times to keep it all going.  The flaky solderless breadboard that hosted them has since been replaced by a much more reliable dedicated PCB.

Display+TabletHis hexagonal WS2812 individually addressable RGB LED wall display made its debut as an actual interactive device at this Faire.  Controlled by a 16-button app on an Android tablet, connected via Bluetooth to a cheap radio on the Arduino that runs the display, the display was fun to make dancing patterns with to music from a small sound system on the table.  Next upgrade will be a better drum pad app with velocity and aftertouch, and lots more controls.

Thanks and a tip of the W88 hat to Drew Fustini for some of these pictures!

 

Surface-Mounted LEDs for LEGO & LED Inventing Camp

PlacingParts0270Rachel and Jim made up some very skinny surface mount LED/resistor strips that fit between Lego posts for a STEM camp Rachel is running.

A simple pattern was etched on flexible copperclad Kapton film, using vinyl from the vinyl cutter as resist.  Solder paste blobs and the tiny 0805 components were hand placed, ReadyToSlice0273then reflow soldered on the hot plate.  Here are some ready to be sliced apart.  The resulting glowing Gummi bears were a big hit with the kids!

EllaHead180514Campers beta-tested Rachel’s Conducty Inventing Kit during a week-long Spring Break camp at Moore Toys and Gadgets in Wheaton. They built circuits Cooper134906581directly on LEGO baseplates using conductive tape and components designed to fit between the LEGO studs. Kids lit up everything from Minecraft torches to outdoor campfires made of LEGO. Here, Cooper and Ella show off their creations.  The Conducty LED Inventing Kit will be launching on Kickstarter later this Spring.

We’re Hackerspace Passport Ready!

PageWstamp3788Thanks to the laser cutter, we now have an official rubber stamp, and we’re ready to provide Workshop88 visit chops to all our visitors with Maker Passports!  OK, as soon as one shows up.

Stamp3787But we now have the capability to make our own precision rubber stamps!  Rubber stamps.  Yeah, like in the paper-based olden days.  Well, I thought it was cool.

Some more details here.

Minecraft Extravaganza

IMG_20151023_002406We’ve mapped out a wiring diagram and rough layout for an Arduino-controlled Minecraft landscape. Bill has graciously agreed to write the code. Rachel roped in a bunch of newcomers to build part of the set and brainstorm Minecraft “events.”

We settled on a line of light-up Redstone dust (red LEDs in perforated boxes) leading up to a tree which catches on fire (LEGO flames IMG_20151023_012142657will stick out of the tree). Then a second tree will catch on fire. We’ll be working on it at Workshop 88 the next couple of Thursday evenings if you’d like to stop by and contribute your Minecraft, LEGO, and/or Arduino expertise.  Come play!

We’re gearing up to display this at the Barnes & Noble Mini Maker Faire, along with some other projects.  Scott Wojton from the Naperville store has been out to the space a couple of times and has been very helpful to us,so we’re happy to be showing stuff at his Faire Nov 6-8.