IOLab: The Pocket Physics Lab

The University of Illinois has developed a new device called IOLab which allows students to explore physical principles and concepts in one all-in-one unit which can easily fit in a pocket. Andrew, a physics professor at Joliet Junior College, has high hopes for the device in the classroom and beyond. IOLab features a variety of sensors, many of which can be found in a physics lab, in a portable and affordable form. Built-in wheels record the displacement of the unit, measuring acceleration and velocity. It also features a force sensor, a barometer to measure air pressure, as well as a light, magnetic, temperature, and sound sensor.

IMG_2742Andrew is excited about IOLab because he hopes that the device will work in a way that engages our particular population of students today. It’s a great kinesthetic learning tool, encouraging creative exploration of physics in a non-threatening way. He mentioned that an additional benefit is that it has expansion capabilities to discover other yet to be determined inputs and outputs. Due to the utility flexibility of the device, it can be used in a variety of settings and serve a plethora of purposes. Andrew has a lot of imaginative ideas of how to use the device in his classes; one thought he has is to take some data, give it to the students and tell them to recreate the graph and figure out the experiment.

Tesla Coil Parts Built at W88

I thought I’d start posting some photos of Tesla Coil parts I have built with the help of some of the great resources available at Workshop 88

Primary Coil

Completed primary coil, built at Workshop 88

Tesla Coil Capacitor Bank, built at Workshop 88

Tesla Coil Capacitor Bank, built at Workshop 88

tesla spark gap

My simple static spark gap – built at Workshop 88

tesla table

This what I like to refer to as my “Tesla Table.”

I have more photos, showing some of the details. I might add them if there is any interest.

I hope to have a demo of at the space sometime this summer.

Bart Dring talks LinuxCNC and BeagleBone Black

Bart's Delta Router - Probably not going to be there on Saturday, but look at how awesome it is!

Bart’s Delta Router – Not going to be there on Saturday, but look at how awesome it is!

Bart Dring of MakerSlide fame is going to be out at Workshop 88 on Saturday, March 1 demonstrating CNC concepts and giving a brief talk about how he has constructed several CNC builds.  This talk immediately follows Arduino 301: Controlling The World, so come out for both! He has designed and built many great tools, such as a laser cutter, several types of 3D printers, including delta style printers. One of his most recent creations is a delta-style CNC router. Very cool! We look forward to having Bart out at Workshop 88 to share his expertise.

This event is FREE and OPEN to everyone! Please come out and bring a friend.

 

Upcycled LCD Entertainment Center… and Paper Elephants

This past Thursday night gathering at the Workshop, Rick Stuart showed up all smiles- though I’m not sure if this was due to his enthusiasm to show off his new gadget or in anticipation of Rachel’s shortbread which had been announced earlier via email.

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Rick with his entertainment center

Rick has built a personal entertainment center which has the capacity to display high-defintion videos and music through an upcycled touch-screen LCD. Rick had recovered some of these screens from his previous workplace and had decided to put them to use in a new project. He has created a running loop for the system to operate: he utilized a Raspberry Pi running OpenELEC in order to run XBMC (a media center) and connected an HMDI cord to a LVDS adapter board. The adapter runs to the LCD, which is connected by USB to the Raspberry Pi. For sound, the system will be attached to speakers. Files are stored on an SD card inserted into the Raspberry Pi, and streamed files are accessible through connecting an ethernet cord.

By using HDMI instead of the normal video output connection, Rick was able to make his display high-definition. Rick said that a great advantage about his system is that he was able to essentially create his own media center out of materials he already had on hand plus the low cost of a Raspberry Pi.

Meanwhile, Zach showed me how to create very intricate origami elephants using printer paper. While there’s no hope of me recreating one on my own, I thought it was important to highlight how awesome they turned out.

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How Many Hackers Does It Take To Change an Electric Rose?

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Borg Bouquet

Somewhere in the depths of downtown Glen Ellyn, hackers and crafters alike have come out of the woodwork to conquer Rachel Hellenga’s latest project: creating LED roses out of duct tape.
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Rachel is developing a kit for her website, Conducti.com, to help people combine technology and crafts. She requested beta-testers and lucky volunteers Rudy Ristich, Mike Emerick, and IMG_20140213_220239me were peeled away from their projects to tap into their crafty sides. Girl Scout Leaders and educators alike have been clamoring for Rachel’s electric rose how-to guide, so the pressure was on for us to come up with fast solutions to any problems which would arise from her guide. We followed Rachel’s step by step tutorial for the rose-creation from her blog post for Makezine to ensure all directions were coherent and effective.

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Throughout the process, several problems arose for our two all star techies, who quickly solved the problems by applying creative solutions. I suffered from a few misreadings and ill-placed conductive tape pieces. One difficulty arose from keeping the two AAA batteries (which were connected with a tightly rolled piece of paper) together to maintain a strong connection. Rudy used his tech-pertise to offer an ingenious solution through the use of rubber bands and duct tape.

The use of duct tape provided a new learning opportunity; the tables were turned as I was able to contribute to troubleshooting by assisting my hacker friends in the art of duct tape  application which I had gleaned from my many years of experience in paper crafts. In the end, we all finished with fabulous electric roses and were able to help Rachel make necessary changes to her tutorial before it’s published in a kit.

Ham Radio at Workshop 88

There’s been a lot of activity around amateur radio at Workshop 88 in the last few weeks.

The biggest portion of that was organized by Eric S. and Paul R., who had a table at the WCRA Mid-Winter Hamfest. Andrew M. helped with the table as well, and Tom M. and I also stopped by.

Paul and Andrew man the table at the WCRA Mid-Winter Hamfest

Paul and Andrew man the table at the WCRA Mid-Winter Hamfest

We’ve had a lot of electronics gear donated over the last year, and most of it just wasn’t being used. We were able to sell quite a bit of it to people who will actually get some use out of it, and raise some money for Workshop 88 in the process.

In addition, we’re talking about organizing some sort of study session or workshop to help people get their start in amateur radio. We have several very knowledgeable hams who are members, and a number more who are interested in getting their license for the first time.

If you’re interested in radio or want to find out what it is all about, come out to a public meeting night at Workshop 88 (every Thursday at 6:30) and introduce yourself!

New online discussion group – linux device drivers

So that we can all learn about Linux Device Drivers, we have set up a Workshop 88 Google Group here:

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/workshop88linuxdrivers

…to discuss this book:

http://lwn.net/Kernel/LDD3/

The 1st post is a bullet list of chapter 1’s main points.  Feel free to join in and comment about such things as “mechanism” and “policy”.

In chapter 2, there will be some code examples to try.

It would also be fun to speculate where we can go with this.  One thought is to create a WS88 project (maybe even a PCB) that provides a new physical computer interface. Like a capacitive-touch-slider to control features such as volume.

Lots of lasers!

Originals0701Mark Edmonson recently donated a big box of pretty high quality used battery powered laser levels to us.  They’re in various states, from apparently completely functional to rather dead.

Each one contains 5 diode lasers, as well as some other parts.  There are fairly complete teardown notes and pictures here.

Parts0769Here are the parts I salvaged from one.

Thanks, Mark!

Electronics shop remodel

Two of our members, Paul and Eric, recently took initiative to rework the electronics lab. The lab has already seen quite a bit of traffic in less than two weeks of being operational. Big thanks to Paul and Eric for all of their hard work and the materials that they provided for this remodel of one of the most important rooms at Workshop 88!

From Workshop 88 electronics lab remodel
From Workshop 88 electronics lab remodel
From Workshop 88 electronics lab remodel
From Workshop 88 electronics lab remodel