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

Workshop 88 co-founders Jay Margalus and Russ Lankenau recently gave a talk titled “Open Hardware and the Future of Games”. In their presentation they talk about a lot of things including Workshop 88, Raspberry Pi, open hardware initiatives, games as culture and much more. It’s always awesome to see what has come out of the work done by Workshop 88 members!

Russ is the current president of Workshop 88. He and Jay run an independent game company called Lunar Giant as well as a coworking space in Mokena, IL called SpaceLab.

Massimo’s great talk

MassimoRachelJimTwo members of Workshop 88 went to hear Massimo Banzi’s talk on Arduino, open source hardware and more.  The talk was part of Ge Garage’s Idea Week.  He gave some great stories of the philosophy, joys and problems of putting the Arduino out as open source hardware.

Among many other insights, he described how the fashion industry – with no intellectual property protection – made a lot more money than the entertainment and music industries with all their DRM efforts.  He told of the value of the many iterations of Arduino and how a primary metric of its success was the time between a new user opening the box and getting a useful result.  We learned it was named for a bar where they held many design meetings.  It was a great talk.

SignedArduino0243-300Rachel also scored some excellent networking time with Massimo, including connections that will be very useful in her upcoming trip to the Rome Maker Faire.  Jim brought home a newly autographed Arduino that had run the dollhouse at Rachel’s New York Maker Faire booth.

(Thanks to Drew Fustini from PS:1 for the lead picture!)

 

 

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.

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Here are some gory details of putting that system together.