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.

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.

RN-42 Carrier V2

Some time back I posted about my RN-42 Carrier Board. The RN-42 is an inexpensive surface mount bluetooth modem. I made a board that converts it to through-hold and exposes a number of the features of the RN-42 that other carrier boards do not.

There was a small error in the original boards: the status LEDs were connected to ground when in was the intent of the RN-42 designers that I connect the LEDs to Vdd. In response to some inquiries about the board, I’ve made a revision of the board that addresses this problem. Here are the updated Gerbers, NC Drill and original Diptrace design files.

Random Find: The Avago/HP HDLG-2416

Anyone who’s ever visited Makerspace knows that the ‘Library’ is home to tons and tons of stuff.  Component parts, IC chips, belts, pulleys, batteries, etc.  Occasionally I lose myself in there for a few hours and just explore the shelves.  This is a post about one of my more interesting discoveries.


I came across a whole bag of these in the LED bins.  They’re 1″ wide, four-digit alphanumeric displays.  Each character consists of a 5 mm tall, 5×7 LED dot matrix display.  The device comes complete with on-board RAM and an ASCII decoder capable of displaying up to 128 different characters.  It’s even possible to dim the brightness.  I’m also partial to the color green.

The major drawback I’ve found is the number of pins required for use.  The thing has seven data pins and the extended features for writing/reading/displaying require a ton of connections.  I used all but four of my Arduino Uno’s I/O pins while tinkering with it.  You’re probably better off using a LCD display or something with serial data support, but these are still small and numerous in our ‘Space so they’re worth toying with.  Also there’s been a few other people who played with these and posted their findings online. I’m seriously considering building a small desk clock around one or two of these in the future.

If you’re interested in using one of these displays on your next project, I’d suggest reading the blogs by these fine folks here:

http://buzzdavidson.com/?p=148

http://dorkbotpdx.org/blog/wardcunningham/yow_revisited_in_txtzyme

http://gorgusgfx.se/?page_id=62 (I think this is in Swedish, but the code still works!)

 

Magic Mirror Theater Prop

My sister is a Theater Manager at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa, FL.  About two weeks ago she texted me and asked if I could make her a prop she needed for an upcoming production.  “How keen would you be on making me a mirror for “Beauty and The Beast,” she said.  “They want a mirror that lights up and sparkles like the one from the movie.” Even with limited experience just tinkering around, I knew I could do something fairly easily, so I agreed and got to work.

I combined two different circuits (a 555 timer to flash and a RC circuit to fade) and built a wooden frame with acrylic plates for the front and back.  The wood and plastic were CNC-milled, then sanded and painted before the electronics were installed and glued into place.

The result was a fairly decent-looking, shiny, light-up hand mirror with a small thumb button on the right side that flashes 16 bright green LEDs when pressed.  It all runs off a single 9-volt battery and the back can be unscrewed to replace it should it ever die.

Total build time from start to finish was probably close to 15 hours over the course of one week.  The play was Thursday, July 19th and from what I’ve heard, it was a great success.  I’ll add pictures from the performance if I get some.