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.

Badges unveiled

A project that’s been going on at W88 for the past four or five months went public yesterday. We’ve been designing, prototyping and programming a PC board to be used as a conference badge at Thotcon 0x4, Chicago’s hacking conference. Yesterday around seven hundred badges were passed out to conference attendees, each badge having an Atmel processor, LED array, and 2.4 GHz transceiver. The badges were able to process location checkins from beacons throughout the room, display messages from the organizers, and report their own id to the network. Since the board includes the Atmel ATMega128RFA1 processor and an Arduino compatible form factor, the badges can be reused for many Arduino projects.
This was a big project for us, requiring a lot of late nights and a lot of learning. For the team, It’s the first W88 production board, the first experience with 2.4GHz networking, first double sided prototype, first time using a QFN processor package (with luck, also the last), first reflow rework experience – though we thought it could be done, there were many challenges. Not only did we get it done on time within planned cost, we had a lot of fun doing it.


Designing and making your own Halloween costume – Base Mesh

In this article we’ll discuss using your character turnaround to create a base mesh. While I won’t be explaining in detail how to use Blender – that’s beyond the scope of my experience – I will be introducing important terms and concepts that you can then use to find more knowledgable sources of information. So let’s get started.

Continue reading

Designing and making your own Halloween costume – Planning

Welcome back! So you’re interested in making you’re own custom Halloween costume. If you weren’t able to find some Pepakura models already created, you’re going to need to design and model it yourself. Unless you’re an amazing sculpter who can imagine a great 3d object in empty space, you’re going to want some type of 2d references to work from. Doing some prep work up front can save you a lot of time down the road.

Continue reading

Designing and making your own Halloween costume – Introduction

Hi there! I’m relatively new to W88 and was asked to blog a little bit about some things I have going. I have an Arduino sensor project I’ll be writing about later as it gets a little further along, but seeing as Halloween is right around the corner, I thought I’d start with designing and creating your own Halloween costume.

The design I’m going to be shooting for will be made out of EVA foam and should be relatively inexpensive, pretty durable, easy to work with, and not require a whole lot of tools. However, I’ve never done this before so these posts may just be a documentary of my crashing and burning.

Continue reading

Toner transfer for PCBs

Last Thursday I read on Dangerous Prototypes forum about doing making PCBs by printing on vinyl and heat transferring to PC board, then etching. Vinyl was reported to transfer 100% of the toner easily, better than the sheets designed for the purpose. Since I was in need of a board, Andrew had recently gotten some vinyl at the space, and there’s a laminating machine there, it seemed worth a try.
The process is simple: laser print the circuit on some vinyl sheet that’s glued to a piece of paper, then run both the printed piece and a blank board through the laminator to transfer the toner to the copper. Paul Reich just finished a circuit board design that looked pretty challenging to etch, so that seemed a good test.
Initially I worried that putting the vinyl through the laser printer might be a little risky. Running a few small patches through didn’t show any obvious issues. The vinyl for the vinyl cutter isn’t ideal: it could be a little thinner and it’s nearly opaque so it’s hard to see whether the image is on the board.
The first quick test was quite encouraging.

Although far from perfect, in the areas that transferred the detail was quite good. Since the board hadn’t been cleaned and the board was only run through the laminator once, results were better than expected.
Saturday back at the space, I thought to try some other materials instead of borrowing the supplies for the vinyl cutter, and try some ways of cleaning the copper. Browsing the hardware turned up some Con-Tact low-tack shelf paper that seemed to be vinyl, as well as steel wool and polishing compound to clean the copper.
The shelf paper didn’t work out, as it didn’t stick to paper enough to go through the printer. Steel wool and polishing compound both appeared to clean the copper pretty well.
After some further experiments, Paul and were able to make a couple of double sided boards that were good enough to use for some of the tests we were hoping for.