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.


W88 Laser Cutter First Steps

Cooling+Exhaust5838The dead laser cutter donated to us by Inventables after blowing one too many power supplies is running!  While not yet ready for prime time, a water cooling system in a bucket and a fume exhaust thru the flue from the old furnace allowed first tests.  The Shapeoko laptop hosts the RetinaEngrave software that makes it look like a Windows printer.

We’re still getting our feet wet with laser power, speed, number of passes, raster vs FirstCutWolfHead3529vector operations, but we’ve actually cut some paper, wood, and plastic.  This wolf head – courtesy of Google Images – DollGoggles6419adorning a circular saw push stick was the first actual cut.

Daniil had the honor of being the first to produce an actual useful object on the cutter.  We think his daughter will be thrilled with these laser cut, hot air station formed goggles for her skateboarding doll.  She’s been trying to get some for a whTripleSpiral1470ile now.

There’s still a lot of work to do making much more proper implementations of cooling and exhaust systems.  We need proper electrical connections to guarantee the cooling will be running if the laser is on, and a damper on the exhaust pipe to keep cold air out and the landlord happy.  Lots more Ts to cross and Is to dot.  But it’s actually cutting stuff and hasn’t blown up yet!

BlueTape4371Update 11/12/15:  The laser is coming along.  We now have “air assist”, and have done some more tests and cuts.  Here’s a test using painter’s tape to reduce smoke damage, and a nice W88 logo.



THOTCON 0x5 Badge Revealed


photo1 (3)

THOTCON  is the annual, small venue, hacking conference based in Chicago IL, USA. THOTCON is a non-profit, non-commercial event looking to provide the best conference possible on a very limited budget.

For the past 2 years Workshop 88 has been honored to design and produce the electronic attendee badges for the conference as a service to the local community.  The badge crew this year consisted of: Paul Reich, Bill Paulson, Karl Knutson, Zach Cassity, Russell Lankenau, and Rudy Ristich

This year’s badge was inspired by portable gaming systems from the past and featured  102 x 64 pixel graphic LCD screen and a push button interface. Once again, the badge features an Atmel AVR based microcontroller. The badge used nearly every byte of the 32k available SRAM on its Atmega32u4 chip.  The software consisted of a Break-out style game which participants could play to passtime, a complete schedule of talks and labs for the day long conference,  and the ability to patch into arcade panels hosted in the Hacker Village, and a few surprises for discovering inside.

photo1 (2) photo3

Just like the THOTCON 0x4 Badge, the 0x5 Badge is compatible with the Arduino open hardware programming environment and can accept standard Arduino shields. This means the badge can be easily reused and repurposed to power any sort of project. An improvement from last year’s badge is that no additional parts need to be added; conference goers can simply plug the badge into their laptop once burning a bootloader to reprogram it, encouraging easier exploration and badge hacking.


The badge is designed to be completely open hardware and software.  Workshop 88 would like to thank the open source hardware and software community especially: Arduino, Oliver Kraus and other contributors to the U8glib graphics library, Dean Camera for the LUFA Project, and last, but far from least: Twisted Traces, our local assembly partner in Elk Grove, IL.

photo4photo2 (2)

Workshop 88 will be holding a badge hacking contest throughout the month of May.  Judging will consist of a panel from Workshop 88 and the THOTCON crew.  Interested contestants can register on the badge website: http://badge.workshop88.com

Full details on the badge specifications and firmware will be released on May 1st in conjunction with the opening of the badge hacking contest.


Automated Haunted Dollhouse part of Rachel’s Maker Faire exhibit

Pursuing her passion for making technology accessible to girls, Rachel Hellenga inspired a whirlwind project to automate a dollhouse.  After the smoke cleared, the one-room dollhouse she and Jim W and Bill P built was a miniature version of – and is now displayed within – the “Circuit Castle” she’s showing at the New York Maker Faire.  Read her Make Magazine blog post about it.

The Dollhouse Automation System powering it is a collection of small, cheap microcontrollers in a simple network allowing sensors (push buttons, motion detectors, light sensors, etc) in one part of the house to control actions (lights, motors, sounds etc) in another part of the house.


Here are some gory details of putting that system together.


THOTCON Badge Hacking Contest Begins!

We’ve all had a full week to recover from the THOTCON and B-sides activity here in Chicago and it is time to get back to hacking.    The badge that was distributed to THOTCON attendees was designed to be hacked and reused in your projects. In the spirit of badge hacking we’d like to announce our first badge hacking contest for the attendees of THOTCON 0x4.

The contest will start today and will run until 11:59 pm CT on Monday, May 27th 2013.

The rules are simple: In hacking there are no rules.

Although there are no rules your submission must be reproducible and should include:

  1. Video Demonstration of your Badge Hack
  2. Any applicable schematics for your hack
  3. Any code and compile instructions

In the interest of collaborative learning any requested information about the badge for the purpose of the contest will be shared with other contest participants. All contest submissions will also be archived on the official badge website.

There will be several categories we will judge against, you’re automatically entered to each category:

  • Best overall badge hack (make us say uhh!)
  • Most hackerish hack (what can you hack with the badge?)
  • Most unorthodox hack (does your badge now dispense cat food?)
  • People’s choice (the tubez chuze)

The prizes will be notoriety and some 3D printed randomness courtesy of the badge crew at Workshop 88.

The astute observer will notice that the pin outs on the side of the board fit the Arduino footprint for access to many of the ATMEGA128RFA1’s peripheral systems and compatibility with most Arduino shields.  The badge can be easily reprogrammed  via the unpopulated ICSP header with (at least) the following methods:

If you’re looking to hack your badge over and over again we have a few left over prototyping kits we were selling during the con and you can get them for $20 plus shipping by emailing us here. 

These include all the prototype rails and headers you need to use arduino shields  plus the passive components necessary to power the badge from a wall wart or other external supply.  The power system components are not necessary to reprogram or hack the chip.

Register here for the contest!




Connect with Workshop 88!

Are you looking to get more involved with Workshop 88 beyond this blog?

We have LOTS of ways that our members interact with each other online.
Here are a few ways:

Email list – join our  Google group – You must subscribe to this to see the messages. (We approve everyone who is not a spambot.)

Twitter – Follow @Workshop88

Facebook – like us on Facebook

Meetup – Follow our schedule of all we do at our Meetup page.

Email – Send an email to “info @ workshop88.com”

Chat room – Members often get together during the work week to chat online


How to contact Workshop 88

Summer is nearly upon us and we’re making plans for events at Workshop 88.  We’d like to hear from you!  Here’s how you can contact us:

On twitter, on meetup, or the mailing list (which is not just for members, anyone can subscribe).

If you don’t use any of these services you can always shoot an email to info@workshop88.com and we’ll get back to you.

Drop in our Public Meetings every Thursday night at 7:00 pm in downtown Glen Ellyn, IL.


Welcome, makers!

We had a great time at the recent Mini Maker Faire in Chicago this past weekend.  It was so great to see so many awesome projects going on and all the excitement for making and building things in the Chicago area.  We can’t wait to participate in another event like this one!

Are you a maker/hacker/tinkerer/crafter or otherwise curious about learning more about doing things with us?

Check out our public meetings: they are always free and open to all on Thursday evenings.  We start officially at 7:30 pm, but there is almost always a member at the space by 6:30 if you’d like to come early and get to know us. Bring a project and show us what you’re making!