The Return of the Ridiculously Large Jacks!

Ridiculously Large Jacks

(photo by Mike Massie)

The Ridiculously Large Jacks made another appearance at this year’s Great Milwaukee Race!  Members Jason Hillesheim and Mike Massie helped me run 64 games of jacks with teams from the race and a couple of families that stopped by to see what the hubbub was all about!

The Great Milwaukee Race is an annual scavenger hunt race that sends teams of 2-4 sprinting across downtown Milwaukee after decoding clues to various locations where they will be asked to do various challenges.  Some stations had teams exercising, putting together an outfit from thrift store clothes, making funny poses, rock climbing or playing games of giant jacks!  The Makerspace has been a proud sponsor and participant every year.

This year we were at a super location – in front of “The Calling”, Mark di Suvero’s sculpture near the Milwaukee Art Museum.  As you can see from the photo above, “The Calling” looks like a giant jack, so we were particularly pleased!

Knock Knock

We have a pretty sweet access control system at the space. Former President Royce Pipkins put it together for us and it controls all the exterior doors at the space. One problem we have with it right now is that we have to log into a linux machine and tail the log to see interesting info about how many makers are badging in and when.

Well, we used to have that problem, anyway.

I spent some time today with the lovely (if a bit limited) Cosm api. You may know Cosm by its former name, Pachube. I wrote a simple python script to parse out interesting, anonymous data from our access server logs and send it up to Cosm as a new feed, called Milwaukee Makerspace Access Control System with four data streams:

  • Number of Unique Makers Accessing the space in a day
  • Number of Unique Makers Accessing the space in an hour
  • Total number of badge-ins per day
  • Number of Access Denied messages per day

Cosm made it easy to graph the data and to send up new data points, but is limited to a gauge-style timeseries.  I can’t submit raw data events and use Cosm to aggregate them up by date or hour, so i had to do that in my local python code.  Their REST API is very simple, clean and well documented, though, which makes up for the limitations a bit.  They provide a graph-builder, but i didn’t like the way the graphs looked so i pulled the JSON data in and used the Google Chart Tools to produce some pretty graphs like this one:

Access Control System Stats

Screenshot of the Access Control System Stats.

The stats are updated from our access control system every hour and are publicly available at http://mkemakerspace.appspot.com/access-control-stats/

We’re looking at doing some more fun stuff with the logs from the access control system at the space, like displaying the names of the members who have most recently badged in, making sounds when someone badges in or a key is denied.  I’m sure whatever we come up with will be noisy and large.

To Boldly Go Where Many Spaces Have Gone Before!

As of mid-January, the Milwaukee Makerspace is now a member of the Space Federation. The Space Federation is an organization that brings hackerspaces and makerspaces together to share resources and knowledge, while providing non-profit fiscal sponsorship for member spaces.

Space Federation

With the fiscal sponsorship provided by the Space Federation, we will be able to accept tax-deductible donations of equipment and funds from individuals and corporations. We have already been approached by several companies and individuals about helping out the space and the new setup will help us do more for the community in Milwaukee. More importantly, a non-profit structure has always felt right for the space. We collect dues so we can provide an awesome space for the makers in our community. All of our officers and members volunteer their time to make the Makerspace great and no one profits from the space directly – if you discount inspiration and collaboration, that is. The new structure formalizes one of our guiding principles in a way that will hopefully help us do more for our makers and Milwaukee itself.

The discussion to become a non-profit has been an active one throughout our history. Joining up with the Federation gives us experienced folks to work with and a bit less work on our side. We’re excited by the opportunities for the space and the community the Space Federation provides … and we’re in good company! Many of our favorite spaces around the midwest and the country are already members of the federation and we’re excited to start working a bit more closely with them. It’s also nice to work with more local folks – the Federation is based here in Milwaukee.

Things are still getting set up, but if you are interested in working with us in our new capacity, please get in touch with our board!

Build Out In-Progress Pictures

We are super close to re-opening again. We can’t wait to see folks start using the new space. Members and Friends of the Space have been hard at work getting our new space ready for business again.

Even though we aren’t open yet, we’d like to share a couple shots of the space in progress. New Friend of the Space, Rodney, took a few excellent shots of the progress being made a few days ago. Thanks for helping out and thanks for the great shots, Rodney! We’ll have some more shots of things cleaned up a bit more shortly.

As much as we like photos, we are really anxious to open up our doors to Milwaukee again. Hopefully we’ll see you around the new space soon!

East Room exit aisles

We haven't found a home for all this stuff from Chase yet.

We haven’t found a home for all this stuff from Chase yet.

West Room looking into the East Room

This is where our car area and the machine shop will be.

This is where our car area and the machine shop will be.

This is where the bulk of the machine shop will be.

This is where the bulk of the machine shop will be.

Bay View Gallery Night September 28th, 2012

Several Makers packed up some tools, samples and some very raw materials and set up shop in the Alterra parking lot for the September 28th Bay View Gallery Night.

We rolled in with Matt N’s CNC router and a bunch of his foam architectural pieces, the Makerbot and a few dozen 3d printed samples and after a while had the Replicator fired up cranking out Tardis models (Tardii???). Those were accompanied by a robot from Matt W, some proximity switch-controlled LED strands from Brant, Pete’s Egg Bot and Laser Kaleidoscope and a bunch of Shane’s intricate boxes and laser cut images. Whew! We came with a full crew and more stuff than would fit on our tables. :) We also may have blown the power briefly, but it was an accident, we swear. Even if we did, the sun was still shining for quite a while after that incident.

The surprise hit of our table was the Fruit Synthesizer i put together at, umm, literally the last minute. I was still tweaking it 15 minutes into the event! I used a Makey Makey connected to 2 halves of a watermelon, 2 pickles, a horned melon, a pair of bananas, Max MSP and GarageBand to make a really goofy synthesizer. The Makey Makey is a great little board that operates as a USB keyboard and mouse and lets you alligator clip to any conductive material to make a weird ad-hoc controller. I had intended to have it trigger guitar sounds, but it was way more satisfying as a drum kit, so we kept it set up as a drumkit for most of the night. I loved seeing people jump when they touched the banana and loud bass drum boomed out at them. We had some people coming back several times and bringing more people over to play with the kit. We did a lot of demos where I would high-five someone already connected to the Makey Makey to trigger the drums and one of my favorite uses was the couple that kissed to trigger the instrument. This simple project really engaged people in a fun and quirky way. Not bad for a project i threw out on a lark! We all had so much fun with the Fruit Synth that i am positive it will be making a comeback at future events.

Fruit Synth with Tiny Banana Drumsticks

Aside from goofy fun, we had a couple hundred people rolled through over the course of the night and heard from a lot of people who were interested in the space and have heard about us. We’ve been really focused on getting the word out Makerspace and finding out that a lot of folks are hearing about and interested in Maker/Hackerspaces was really gratifying. We hope to see a lot of new faces at the space in the next couple of weeks!

We learned a few things, too. The first is that the interactive displays were a big hit. The second is that we should bring some stuff to sell next time! There were several families that wrote down “sparkfun” and “makey makey” and many kids who wanted to use a Makey Makey for a science fair project at school. We could have sold a half dozen of them if we had more than the one used for the Fruit Synth. The 3d prints were a hit, too, and we should probably have a bunch of Milwaukee-themed prints on hand to sell to folks for our next event.

Big thanks to Pete for organizing our presence at BVGN, the other artists that showed at the event and the folks at the new Bay View Alterra for hosting us all!

For a few more photos, check out the set Brant posted on Flickr.

No Frolics Parade?!?!

Last year, the Milwaukee Makerspace participated in the South Shore Frolics Parade with a giant driving Arduino, a driving 10′ tall can of Old Milwaukee Makerspace beer and a fleet of power wheels racers. In short, it was a blast. I’ve lived in Bay View for the last 6 and a half years and a highlight every summer has been the Frolics Parade. For long-time Bay View Residents, the Parade has been a summer highlight for over 60 years. Being in the parade and producing such fun floats for it was more fun than i thought it would be and we immediately started scheming for the 2012 parade.

Milwaukee Makerspace
Giant Ardiuino
Little Pink Trike

This year, it doesn’t look like we’ll have a Frolics Parade, though. For the last few years, a corporate sponsor has footed the considerable bill for the parade. They are unable to do that again this year and the Bay View Lions Club is left without the funds for a parade.

David and I, along with several other Bay View neighbors have been working with the Lions Club to see if we can scramble to raise the funds for the parade. $13,000 is needed for the city and county alone to cover the permit, closed parking meters, re-routed buses, police officers and cleanup. Yow! I wasn’t aware that there was such a high starting bid for a parade. On top of that, many bands and groups require payment to travel and participate in the parade.

We quickly pulled together a website, voice mail and twitter account and a bunch of fliers to try to get the word out. David talked to every business from the White House to Hamburger Mary’s on KK last Saturday and had a lot of interest. We need to head back this weekend to see if we can secure any commitments from those businesses.

Members from the Milwaukee Makerspace have pledged $2,000 to kick things off, but we still have $20,000 to raise in almost no time. We’re giving it a week to follow up with Bay View businesses to see if we can arrange any commitments for funding.

If you love the Frolics Parade, ask your favorite Bay View Businesses if they are willing to help save the parade this year as you get a bite to eat, a cup of coffee, a haircut or a drink this week. If you have the means to make a significant donation yourself, please get in touch.

We’ve also thrown out a pretty cool incentive. For any group that donates $5,000, the Makerspace will build a float for you.

For donation and contact information for the parade, head over to the Save the Frolics Parade website at http://www.bayview-frolics-parade.com/.

Spring 2012 Gallery Night

Kevin's Noise Box
Kevin’s Noise Box (Photo by Pete Prodoehl).

On Friday April 20th, 2012, several members of the Milwaukee Makerspace participated in the Spring Gallery Night event hosted at BucketWorks and put on in collaboration with ArtWorks for Milwaukee.  Several hundred people came through the space to check out works from both groups.  ArtWorks also had a nice write-up of the night from their point of view. We love getting our crazy work out in front of people.

So, gentle Reader, I present to you an inventory of our Makers and Their Works:

  • Kevin Bastyr
    • The Mahoganator – A noise box encased in a lovely Mahogany shell.
    • The Cacophonator – A noise box encased in a lovely welded metal shell.
    • Cast bronze tree-trunk table.
    • Angle grinder table from the One Tool Competition.
  • Adam Cohen
    • Functional MagneTag prototype! Gallery night patrons were invited to run through the space playing MagneTag.
  • Jason Gessner
    • Step – A step sequencer controlled by a Dance Dance Revolution Controller, Processing and Logic Pro.
  • Matt Neesley
    • CNC Architectural Relief Sculptures.
  • Pete Prodoehl
    • The Arc-O-Matic! A one-armed, 2 servo-enabled drawing robot.
    • Wooden Knuckles and Wooden Nickels.
    • Other crafty 3D printed replacement parts and creations.
  • Vishal Rana
    • Laser Harp and Propane Tank Drum
  • Shane Thielen
    • The Eye Wooden Block Sculpture
    • Laser Printed Periodic Table of the Elements.

Check out Pete’s Time Lapse Bot footage of the event. I’m seen messing around with my laptop a lot until I settled on a sound set I liked for the Step.

In addition, the folks from the newly-forming Spring City Launchpad makerspace in Waukesha were there to get the word out.

And if that wasn’t enough, Jason H. had 2 of Pete’s Drawbots collaborating at the Art Milwaukee Wedding after party!

Big thanks to Tim @ Bucketworks and the folks at ArtWorks for sharing the space with us and inviting us to the festivities!

More photos of the night shot by Brant are available on Flickr.

Hack for Health

BuildHealth Logo

If you are into the Hacking side of the Makerspace/Hackerspace world, consider checking out the Build Health Hackathon this weekend. Our pals at Bucketworks are hosting the event at their space April 14-15th.

For 28 hours, teams of hackers and designers will use public government health data sets to build innovative health care related applications. Winning teams get cash prizes and the chance to present their work to the US Department of Health and Human Services at the Health Data Initiative Forum III – The Health Datapalooza event in Washington, DC.

More information is available at The Build Health website.

Contact Mic & Circuit Bending Workshop with CMKT4 January 28

Join the members of the circuit-bent rock band CMKT4 for a workshop on building your very own EconoMIC Bottle Cap Contact Microphone (from Creme DeMentia). CMKT4 will show you how to solder up a piezo-electric pickup and house it sturdily in a recycled bottle-cap housing of their own design! Stick around for a set from the band as the tool-handle dip on your freshly built contact microphone dries.

CMKT4 is also going to offer their Build a Bending Buddy workshop. Attendees should bring simple electronic toys that make fun noises for experimentation. There will be some examples of some already bent toys and a little show and tell/performance. CMKT4 will provide literature on how to wire up different bends and ICs, for which the Bending Buddy will be good preparation.

Additional take-home kits and other surprises will be available, come build a mic and see and hear some of the circuit-bent instruments you’ve read about on www.GetLofi.com up close. Bring your own instruments and objects to amplify!

The Contact Mic workshop will be $15 and the Bending workshop will be $20. You can do both for $30. Additional kits will be on sale for $10, and there will be fully assembled mics in several varieties for sale as well. We’ll have some other fun goodies also. Interested onlookers are encouraged to donate if they don’t want to build a kit.

CMKT 4 are Austin Cliffe, Zach Adams, and Jeff Cox. The circuit-bent/rock trio has made it their mission to leave no hackerspace behind on their way to their next Maker Faire; they want to bring new devices, sounds, and ideas to your town. They are constantly working to make new and interesting devices and music.

The workshop is from 1-6PM on Saturday January 28th, 2012. We hope to see you there making some noise with us!