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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
We haven’t found a home for all this stuff from Chase yet.
This is where our car area and the machine shop will be.
This is where the bulk of the machine shop will be.
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.
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.
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.
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:
The Mahoganator – A noise box encased in a lovely Mahogany shell.
The Cacophonator – A noise box encased in a lovely welded metal shell.
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.
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!
Tracey, my wife, runs a lot. This year she is already over 2000 miles logged. She runs marathons and ultra-marathons and crazy things like 50 mile runs. We have long joked together that she clocks more miles running in a year than i put on my beloved 1999 Chevy Prism driving it to the train station and back. This made me think that i should make an odometer for her. I decided to do this for real a couple of weeks ago and had a prototype ready for her to open on Christmas morning.
Her immediate reaction? “You got me a box of wires and stuff?!” Once i explained it to her and showed it in action, she thought it was a lot of fun.
I initially wanted to use a real car odometer, but i didn’t have one handy. I went over to the fantastic American Science and Surplus and looked for some counters or an odometer there. While i didn’t find an odometer, they did have some 24v industrial counters from Durant. These are nice little counters that were (are?) made in Watertown, WI, not too far from our space. They are super simple devices. 6 geared dials have the numbers 0-9 on them. A solenoid ticks the rightmost number with each pulse of voltage it receives. When the dial on the right rolls over from 9 to 0, the next gear is ticked up by one and so on. These counters are not resettable or reversible, except by some manual intervention. I took the little guy apart and cranked the wheels over to where i wanted them.
A quick rummage through the hack rack turned up an 18V wall wart that we clipped the plug off of and used for our power source. Royce helped me out with this and with his help and a couple of alligator clips we proved that the 18V was enough to activate the solenoid and tick the counter up by 1. This particular counter moves 1 tick regardless of how long the voltage is applied. To crank up multiple ticks, i need to cycle the power on and off. I had an Adafruit MotorShield lying around that had all of the necessary high-voltage gear on it and we got the device up and running pretty quickly with it. I did not have time to build a circuit board just for this device, so the MotorShield is what is being used for the working device now. That wrapped up a quick night of experimentation at the space and at the end of it i had a working counter and the Arduino code to control it!
My next task was to integrate it with DailyMile, the social networking site that Tracey uses to log her runs and connect with her running friends locally and around the country. Thankfully, DailyMile has a nice little REST+JSON API that made it super easy to snag all of Tracey’s details. I used their ruby client, but will probably switch my app over to Python because i have been doing more Python development lately. The API returns a simple JSON structure for all logged activities and i simply snag that data and store it locally in a pretty-printed JSON file. A sample activity record and URL look like this:
"message":"My legs felt a little bit tired today but my lungs felt GOOD! I tried to stay relaxed and just enjoyed the feeling of breathing in and out. Really, a lovely Sunday morning.",
I save all of the activity events locally, but for this odometer, i am only interested in the “Running” events.
The ruby application runs forever and polls the DailyMile API every minute for new data and stops paging through the results if it finds entries that it has seen before. If any new runs are found, the app figures out how many miles are missing from the odometer and sends that value along as a byte to the arduino over the serial port using the serialport gem and waits for a successful response.
The device and code work right now, but the presentation leaves a lot to be desired, though, so i am working on a version with a more lovely display. I like the analog odometer feel and I think the next step will be to make some larger gears for this project on the CNC router at the space and build a bigger version. I’d also like to work with my father on a nice wooden case for the display and the gear.
The more immediate next steps will be to make a smaller circuit for this that doesn’t need a full arduino and a motor shield. I can control the solenoid with a transistor (like we did for the Beer Project). The bigger challenge will be to make the connectivity to the data from the API more compact. I would love for this device to be wireless, but i need to figure out how much i want it to cost. This would be a fun project to offer as a kit or for sale, but i don’t want it to cost close to 100 dollars, so i’ll be doing some more prototyping to make it a bit more standalone. The other challenge i have is that Tracey typically only uses her laptop, so there is no desktop machine sitting around that she would hook this up to so it will constantly update. I do have some new Xbee gear that might work, but i think the trickiest thing to design will be the standalone version that doesn’t need a computer connected to it.
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