Python Mode in Processing

I finally got around to using Python mode for Processing 2.x. I have used pyprocessing for 1.x in the past but the current version is supported by the official IDE. While I am not very good in either, I am more comfortable with Python over Java, Processing’s default language.

I create a few simple “sketches” to get used to the format. After comparison of a few animations in both languages, Python mode was noticeably slower – around 2-3 FPS versus > 15. I worked around this issue by saving each frame as an image and combining them with GIMP to make a .GIF animation. Here are a few sketch outputs – both static and dynamic.






Classes and Collaboration lead to Happy Makers – Part 2

This a follow up post to this one. I’ll list a few more ongoing classes and collaborative build efforts at our space.

Ceramics 101

This class is required before working in the ceramics and pottery area. It teaches you the general rules of housekeeping and basics of materials used in this process. Class details here.

Polymer Clay Basics

This class is designed to give you an overview of the Polymer Clay process. This medium can be used to make a wide variety of small accessories and jewelry pieces.


Felisha has been introducing the addicting process of wood turning to many makers. The beginner class covers tools, sharpening, turning spindles, basic work holding strategies, and finishing. By the end of the class each person will have completed a bottle stopper!  Students actually learn on Felisha’s professional machine at Our Daily Salt. Class details here.

Trash to Cash

Tom had an ingenious scam idea to clean the makerspace. He shows you how to take a pile of junk and determine what has value and how to take it to the scrap yard and get cash for it! The money made from recycling is used to improve the space.

Keep your eyes open for more classes on the mailing list!

Annual Meeting Coming Up!

Ah…it’s that time of the year again – the time to pick new board members. This coming Tuesday, March 3rd, we’ll being nominations for the following positions:

  • President
  • Treasurer
  • Communications
  • Secretary
  • Operations Director

If you’re interested in giving back to this awesome community, please consider running for one of these positions or nominating someone you hate trust.

These (5) positions will be filled on March 17th and then we’ll begin nominations for the (2) At-Large board members. In summary, see this graphic courtesy of Brant.




Classes and Collaboration leads to Happy Makers

If I could summarize a makerspace with one phrase, it would be a, “place to share you skills.” This post lists a few ongoing classes and collaborative build efforts at our space.

Electronics 101

Held for the first time last night, Marvin was excellent enough to teach Electronics 101 based on the lectures found here. A lot of our class attendees have can built circuits using existing schematics but don’t always understand the theory. This class hopes to bridge some of that gap. The class will be held every other Monday for the next 3 months. Next class should be on March 2nd at 7PM.

Arduino 101

Lance and Chris have taught two Arduino 101 classes in the last 3 months on Saturday mornings using the excellent Digilent chipKIT Uno32 boards donated by Microchip. Details are on the wiki. The class starts from what an Arduino is, helps you with IDE installation, and you upload your first program to blink an LED! Watch out for upcoming 101 classes. I have heard whispers of an 102 offering as well…

Blacksmithing: Make your own Trivet

This class first describes, “What the Hell is a Trivet?” Then over 3 hours Dan walks a beginner through safety, forge operation, and basic blacksmithing. In addition to these awesome skills, you end up with a unique gift for a loved one. More details here.

Glass Etching Workshop

This multi-skill collection class is one of my personal favorites. After Pete’s initial class offering, Lexie has taken on the torch. In this class, you learn how to cut your mask in vinyl. You learn the software and hardware skills required to operate a vinyl cutter. You transfer the vinyl to a glass mug and sand blast the exposed areas. You end up with a beautiful product that also makes a great gift. Class details here.

Tesla Coil Build Club

A few members will start meeting on the second Sunday of each month to make a Singing Solid State Tesla Coil. The build will be based on this style. We’re all looking forward to see what they come up with.

I will list a few more classes in another post.  Not to mention, there is so much learning, teaching, and collaboration that goes on every single day. So come on down and learn from us or teach us something.

New machines are about to come online!

In addition to making things, many of our members like making machines that make things! We should have a functioning vacuum former, a 4’x8′ CNC Router, and a 4’x8′ CNC Plasma Cutter in the the next couple of months. While the vaccum former was acquired from an auction, the other two have been built at the makerspace over the last year and a half from scavenged materials. The frame and the rails for the plasma cutter were used in a perfume bottler in a past life. We can’t wait to see what our members will make from these awesome machines!

A few pictures of the above mentioned equipment can be found below:

2015-02-03 19.51.14

2015-02-03 19.51.21

2015-02-03 19.52.05

2015-02-03 19.52.17

2015-02-03 19.52.42

2015-02-03 19.53.20

2015-02-03 19.53.28

2015-02-03 19.53.34

We now have an Acrylic Bender

Many of our members have used heat guns and strip heaters to soften and bend acrylic in the past. While that method works most of the time, we decided it was time to get one that just works all the time. Since we acquired it, we have been finding all kinds of uses for it. A few finished projects are listed below.

IMG_0788Stepper Motor Mounts


Tooth Brush Holders


A Fork!

2015-01-17 00.33.27

Robot Chassis


Niles – the Ball Bearing Glockenspiel

I have been working on a ball bearing glockenspiel. The contraption will be comprised of 3 systems – ball bearing launcher, ball bearing collection and return mechanism, and the instrument itself.

I started with the the launcher. There will be 25-30 notes and a fast and accurate launcher will be needed for each one. My design parameters were to launch 4 bearings a second within a 1/2 inch diameter over a 2 ft. drop. Here’s my first attempt.

2014-12-20 17.50.55

2014-12-20 17.51.03

A pipe feeds ball bearings to a rotating platform with a hole just large enough for one bearing. When it’s ready to drop, the servo rotates the platform by about 30 degrees and the bearing falls out the bottom. The platform then rotates back  to the home position and loads the next ball. The mechanism could definitely deliver the balls quickly but the accuracy just wasn’t there. The balls would hit the side of the hole as they were exiting. On to the next iteration…



I forgot to take a picture of this one so I am posting the drawings instead. The concept is the same as the previous version, except the slider is linear instead of rotary. I added a longer channel after the initial drop to guide the ball bearings as they fall. But I had the similar accuracy issues.

So, I kept iterating the design to minimize potential disturbances after the ball is launched. And of course, decided to use magnets. The bearing are made out of steel and magnets suspend the ball till a servo controlled “plunger” launches them. This design worked beautifully! I have attached two slow motion videos below. As you can see in the second video, it’s so accurate the balls are literally hitting each other like Robin Hood “splitting an arrow”!

Next, I will work on making this design more compact and also, several ball return mechanisms.



Create custom vector maps

I want to document some of my travels in a better manner. After looking around for a few map design inspirations, I came across the following example from a trek across Iceland.


I spent a quite a bit of time over 3-4 days before I found a solution. I was able to create custom maps within Google Maps, Google Earth, and Open Street Maps but they all had issues. I did not like the busy look of all base maps and the Google services don’t export custom maps in a vector format. Open Street Maps can export vector maps but the my requested area was too large.  I tried a few JavaScript libraries as well but they all use the above mentioned services for map tiles and I wanted an independent file on my local machine.

So, I decided to create a map myself. I downloaded the following .SVG map of Scotland from Wikimedia.


Using Inkscape, I deleted other countries, external water bodies, and remote islands. I thought about a unified border color but I ended up really liking the representation of water versus land boundaries.


Looking better already! Now, I did not want to sit down and manually trace my journey. Since this file doesn’t contain any geographical information, my best bet was to somehow get my path in a vector format and manipulate it into the same scale, plane, etc., as map above.

I started by recreating the trip in Google maps engine. The train and bus journeys were easy to plot – it’s just like looking up directions in Google maps. Plotting a hike was a little bit more complex since I did not record my GPS location. I was lucky to find a .KML file from a better prepared hiker through a Google search and imported it into Google maps engine without any issues. I exported the .KML file when I was done.


The file was saved as a zipped .KML (.KMZ ) file so I used Google Earth to save it as a .KML. This is starting to sound like an ad for Google. I swear I am not a shill – Ask Jeeves is a much better search engine, see!


The .KML file was processed into an .SVG using my new best friend, Indie Mapper.


Since I only cared about the lines, I deleted the description and points using the menu on the left. Remember kids, always, and I mean always, read documentation. I spent a whole day scaling, rotating, skewing, bargaining, manipulating nodes, punching walls, trying to match the path output to the map from above. If I had simply read on the Wikimedia page, that the map had a Equirectangular projection and was scaled 170% in the N/S direction, I wouldn’t be writing this at 4AM in the morning. You can change the projection within Indie Mapper. Scaling was easily done in Inkscape later.


Export the file as a .SVG.


Yay! on three everyone yell, Compatible! Compatible! Compatible! Make sure you are alone.

Upon path import, the first step was to scale the height only by 170% to match the map’s relative coordinates. Then, the height and width were scaled proportionally till they “looked right.” I compared the relative location of the path to ocean and lakes (I really should say “Lochs”) in Inkscape versus Google maps so make sure everything looked right. Since I had the right relative dimensions, it only look a couple of minutes and Voila!


I manually colored the hike in green and motorized travel in red. If I decide to laser cut this file, I’ll vector “burn” the border and water bodies on lower power versus the path. I’ll keep playing around with the design and maybe add day hikes as well but I am happy with the results for now!


Rainbow Lamp

A student from a local university reached out to us earlier this year to create a light based object for a class project. I volunteered to help her and after many iterations, we decided to build a diffused RGB Lamp.

The finger-jointed acrylic body was designed using and laser cut.


I used the addressable RGB LED strip from Adafruit, called Neopixels, to provide the lighting effects.  The LED strip was wrapped around a PVC pipe in a spiral so it could provide light on all four (4) sides. The spiral spacing gets tighter near the top to either to vary the lamp density for a cool effect or I got lazy since this was done at 1AM on a Monday morning – I’ll let you decide.


A Teensy 3.1 controls the strip using the Adafruit Neopixel library. Two (2) sets of three (3) rechargable NiMH batteries were used. At full charge, a bank provided 3.82 Volts. While the micro controller was running happily, the LEDs were noticeably dim. While the vellum paper diffused the lights effectively, the distance to the acrylic was relatively small, so brighter LEDs would have decreased the desired gradient effect anyway.


We cut the vinyl logo and border using a Silhouette CAMEO. The final design had to be mirrored since it would be adhered to the inside of the acrylic case using transfer paper. The text on the top did not cut very well so we’ll re-cut that bit with more optimized fonts. After seeing the results, I think I’ll create a lamp for myself as well.