Arduino-Powered Surround Sound Synthesizer

The Makerspace Eight Speaker Super Surround Sound System(MESSSSS) has been supplying music to the Makerspace for quite a while now, but I identified a problem even before the system was fully installed.  Stereo recordings played back on two speakers are great if you’re in the “sweet spot.” If not, traditional approaches to 5.1 audio improve things, but all rely on there being a single “front of the room.” Unfortunately, it’s not clear which side of the 3000 square foot Makerspace shop is the front, and with four pairs of speakers in the room, even stereo imaging is difficult.

Fortunately, I’ve just completed the Makerspace Eight Speaker Super Surround Sound System’s Enveloping Surround Sound Synthesizer (MESSSSSESSS).  The MESSSSSESSS takes stereo recordings and distributes sound to the eight speakers in an entirely fair and user configurable way, thereby eliminating the need for a “front of the room.” Now listeners can be arbitrary distributed throughout a room, and can even be oriented in random directions, while still receiving an enveloping surround sound experience!

The MESSSSSESSS user interface is somewhat simpler than most surround sound processers, as it consists of only four switches and one knob.  Somewhat inspired by StrobeTV, the simplest mode references questionable quadraphonic recordings, in that the music travels sequentially from speaker to speaker, chasing around the room either clockwise or counterclockwise at a rate selected by the knob. With the flip of a switch, sound emanates from the eight speakers in a random order. Things get considerably less deterministic after flipping the Chaos Switch, adjusting the Chaos Knob, and entering Turbo Mode:  Its best to visit Milwaukee Makerspace to experience the madness for yourself.  I’m legally obligated to recommend first time listeners be seated for the experience.

The MESSSSSESSS is powered entirely by an Arduino Uno’s ATmega328 that was programmed with an Arduino and then plugged into a socket in a small, custom board that I designed and etched at the Makerspace.  The ATmega328 outputs can energize relays that either do or don’t pass the audio signal to the four stereo output jacks.  Care was taken to use diodes to clamp any voltage spikes that may be created as the relays switch, thus preventing damage to the ATmega328 outputs.

As shown by the minimal part count above, using the ATmega328 “off the Arduino” is quite easy:  Just connect pins 1 (The square one), 7 and 20 to 5 volts, and connect pins 8 and 22 to ground.  Then, add a 22uF cap and small bypass cap between power and ground, and a ceramic resonator to pins 19 and 20.  You can even use an old cellphone charger as the power supply.  Boom.  That’s it.  The real benefits of making your own boards are having a well integrated system, and cost, as the Atmel chip is $4.50 while a whole Arduino is $30.  Also visible in the photo are a programming header and the two ribbon cables that route all the signals to and from the board.

Plate & Print

Plate & Print

Remember my post about making printing plates? I finally got a chance to try it out.

I took a sheet of 3mm Baltic Birch plywood and etched it with the 25 watt laser cutter. My design was about 5 inches wide by 6 1/2 inches tall and took about 90 minutes to complete. I etched it at 100% speed / 60% power. (Shane’s etching chart was quite helpful.)

Once the plate was done I had to head out, so I didn’t get to use the press we have, so I ended up just doing a quick test at home and hand burnishing the print, so it doesn’t exactly look great… but this was just a test. Rolling the ink onto the plate worked well, the etching was deep enough to keep the ink out.

I look forward to the next step in this process, trying this print in the real press and seeing how it turns out. I’m also still learning about the sort of paper I should use. The stuff I have now is “fine” and a bit thin. I did get some advice from jason g. who said “Two words: Rives BFK” and that’s all he had to say about that. :)

Oh, and I almost forgot to reverse my artwork before I etched it! Not good… As for the robot, it’s one I drew last year.

Printmaking Plates

Making Plates

One of the things I’d like to try at the Makerspace is printmaking, and since Brent brought in a press, and I’ve got some ink and nice paper, the next thing I need is a plate.

You can use a variety of materials to make the plates, but I’m interested in using wood, and as you can see from the photo above, one option is to use a CNC Router to do the plate. (The one in the photo is at UWM and features one of Frankie’s pizza cutters.) I’m going to first try the laser cutter for making a plate. I’ve got some half-toned artwork which I’ll do a raster etch with, and see how that goes.

If this works (and I’m sure it will, right?) we should be able to make plates that are 12″x24″ on the laser cutter, or 24″x32.5″ on the CNC Router. For anything larger than the press we’ve got we’ll need to make the print by hand, which I’ve seen done, but haven’t tried yet myself.

If anyone has experience with any of this, or wants to work on it together, let me know!

Wraparound Milwaukee – The Block

The Block

In March 2012 Jason H. introduced the group to Jessica Zoch from Wraparound Milwaukee. Wraparound Milwaukee is a unique type of managed care program operated by the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division that is designed to provide comprehensive, individualized and cost effective care to children with complex mental health and emotional needs.

Jason

Members of the Milwaukee Makerspace (led by Jason H. and Rich N.) helped create “The Block”, a work of public art that was hand-constructed by over 50 local youth. We basically did the construction of the piece, which was designed by local architect Alison Carlucci, and the kids all painted individual blocks. (There’s 170 of them!)

Rich N.

The Block is an interactive piece, as each block rotates to show four different sides. Want to see what it looks like? It’s on permanent display outside of the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division.

The Block

I think Jason H. and Rich N. (and all the members that helped with this project) deserve a big round of applause. It’s one thing for our members to show up at the space and work on their own projects, but helping out in the community, especially helping those who are helping others in need, is a good thing, and I think it shows another aspect of what a makerspace (and its members!) can accomplish.

(Also, thanks to David from Korporate-Media for documenting this with photos and video!)

Makers, assemble!

Yeah.  Having access to a laser cutter is pretty boss.  I’m planning to wear this to the premiere of a certain movie this weekend.  Four layers of acrylic; two diffuse, two opaque.  11 LEDs, 11 100 Ohm resistors, some phone cord, some solder, and a 9V battery.  There’s no lack of great pages on Instructables about how to make your own.

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.

The Amazing Milwaukee Ping-Pong Balls

The Amazing Milwaukee Race

Adam B. is a fellow here at Milwaukee Makerspace, and the guy behind The Amazing Milwaukee Race. He asked for some help using the Egg-Bot, and I stepped up to help him out.

Ping-Pong Balls in the Egg-Bot

Part of the race this year involved playing ping-pong, but why would you use plain old ping-pong balls when you’ve got an Egg-Bot!?

The Amazing Milwaukee Race Ping-Pong Balls

Here’s the end result: a big pile of “The Amazing Milwaukee Race” ping-pong balls.

So the next time someone asks what you can do at Milwaukee Makerspace, let them know that you can easily custom print a whole bunch of ping-pong balls. (Note: we also do other things.)

Kenilworth Open Studios

Frankie Flood's Workspace

On Saturday April, 21st, 2012 a few of our members visited the UWM Kenilworth Open Studios, and got a look at some of the work produced by the Peck School of the Arts faculty and students.

My only complaint is that the event only lasted 3 hours! :)

Seriously, we could have spent twice that long seeing the work, the workspaces, the tools, and the people.

Printmaking

We had a great tie talking to Frankie Flood about his work, RepRaps, tools, the Makerspace, and just making in general. Check out his handverker blog for a great behind the scenes look at some of the things he’s working on.

Cake!

There were plenty of other things of interest to our members, including printmaking, photography, screen printing, music, film, CNC machines and 3D printers… and a personal favorite… Cake!

If you missed it, put it on the calendar for 2013. They only open up like this once a year, and it’s definitely worth seeing.

And if you don’t feel like waiting that long, there’s some great Summer Workshops in Jewelry & Metalsmithing that at least a few of our members may be taking part in.

Gallery Night – Spring 2012

Gallery Night - Spring 2012

Our friends over at Bucketworks serve as the home to Artworks for Milwaukee, and since they’re a stop for Spring Gallery Night on Friday, April 20th, 2012, they figured the more the merrier, and invited us to take over part of Bucketworks and show the art appreciating crowds the sort of stuff we do… which is often a cross between art, technology, engineering, software development, and… well, we just call it making.

So join us April 20th from 5pm to 9pm and see what crazy things we come up with this time. :)