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.

 

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. 🙂

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.

Revamping Workshop 88

Spring is in the air, flowers are emerging, and Glen Ellyn is slowly climbing out of what has been an incredibly trying winter.

The new season has inspired us to take a new look at Workshop 88 and revamp our main room. While it’s a homey basement that holds many fond memories, members have been encouraging me to come up with some new ways to change the space around to be welcoming to new members. I wanted to post some photos of the current layout so that we can work on rearranging some things.

Workshop 88 members spend so much time working on their projects and discussing new ideas that they don’t pay much attention to the space around them; but space is important. Space communicates what we value, inspires our creativity, and develops our sense of belonging. Therefore, it is really important that we spend time recreating Workshop some in order to make our space more inviting.

What do you think we should do to revamp Workshop 88? Maybe some color? Reorganizing the layout? Please comment with your ideas!

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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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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!

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.