Holiday Make-A-Thon Recap

Holiday Make-A-Thon

We hosted this year’s Holiday Make-A-Thon on Friday, November 29th, 2013 and it was a big bundle of fun! Lots of people came and we helped them make thing. Lots of members showed up to volunteer their time sharing the maker ethos with the folks of Milwaukee, and that was great to see and be a part of.

Tom makes some ornaments

Besides our CNC cut ornaments from previous years, new member Tom showed people how to fold a diamond-shaped ornament using paper. (He even put a tree together out of pink foam Tuesday night after the meeting just so we’d have something to hang the ornaments on.) For the CNC and laser-cut ornaments we had the typical paint, glitter-glue, and googly eyes for decorating.

Learn to solder

There was also soldering using our tie-pin kit. Under close supervision, even kids are able to assemble this kit, which includes some surface mount soldering.

Jenie does some printmaking

Local printmaker Jenie Gao joined us to help people make blockprint holiday cards, and we also had crowns made from felt, melty-crayon ornaments, pet collars, necklaces, beads, bracelets, and my own personal favorite…

Make-A-Thon

Laser-cut ornaments that we let people design! We used Snowflake 2.0 from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories which is a super-easy to use Processing application that lets you design a snowflake. We had two computers set up and we helped people do the design work, and then Lance would laser cut them from 3mm Baltic Birch wood. People could then decorate the snowflake they designed.

All in all, this was a great event. People came in and saw the space, made things for the holidays, and all of our members who volunteered seemed to have fun as well. A big ol’ thanks to everyone who showed up and made it a spectacular day of making!

3D printed webcam-to-microscope adapter

I recently acquired a B&L Balplan biological microscope (about $200 on ebay) to look at really small critters and decided it would be nice to be able to record some of their antics.  After a few measurements with a caliper and about 30 minutes with Sketchup, the design was ready to print on MegaMax.  Initial test results, seen below, look pretty good!   The camera is a Logitech Quickcam Pro for Notebooks (seriously, when are they just going to start using model numbers?) that can capture video at 960×720 and 15 fps.   The camera is not a current product at Logitech but can be picked up for $10-20 on ebay.  The still and video were captured using quvcview running on my laptop (ubuntu 13.04).  Logitech’s software works great on Windows.  The image below shows “horns” on the head of a pinhead sized bug that was crawling around in my work room.  Magnification is 640X!

The adapter design and .stl files will appear on Thingiverse soon.

Since dead bugs don’t move the video is just the focus being swept:  

Camera in microscope adapter.

Camera in microscope adapter.

uscope mount 2

Another view of the camera in the microscope adapter

uscope mount 4

Camera and adapter attached to microscope

Horns on a tiny insect's head magnified 640x

Horns on a tiny insect’s head magnified 640x

Awesome Aluminum Anodizing!

Anodizing
On November 16th, 2013 we had an Aluminum Anodizing Workshop led by Frankie Flood. We had about 16 members in the workshop, which ran from 10am to 6pm. That seems like a long class, but the first few hours were really dedicated to learning all about the process, and about working with metal.
Annealing
We learned about annealing metal, about forming it and shaping it, and how to add texture, and ping it with a hammer, and buffing and polishing, and about the anodizing process, and the dying of metal, and how to add resist, and the sealing process.
METAL!!!
After Frankie dropped all the knowledge on us, we had the rest of the workshop to make things. Everyone got busy, first cutting pieces of metal, and then doing whatever they wanted with it. When a piece was ready it went into the first bath for 15 minutes, then a second bath for 5 minutes, and then it sat in a rinse until we had enough to anodize, which we did every 45 minutes or so. Almost everyone left the class with a few pieces (or one totally awesome piece.)
The Anodizing Bath
There was a lot of interest in the workshop, so we may run another one (if Frankie is willing!) and we’re also talking about permanently adding anodizing to the capabilities of the space.
Metal Shop
We also want to give a big thanks to Frankie for teaching us, and to Michael for organizing the class. Everyone had a good time, learned a lot, and walked away with some nice looking pieces of metal.
Orange Metal

Forming Metal

Buffing Metal

Dye Baths

Squishing Metal

Note: See Frankie’s post for a ton more photos!

Hackerspace Challenge Results…

Inspiration Labs

Never let it be said that we do not know how to lose gracefully…

Back in July Milwaukee Makerspace was selected to take part in the Hackerspace Challenge put on by Popular Mechanics and RadioShack. We assembled a team, got working, and created the Milwaukee Makerspace Morgifying Marble Manipulation Machine (aka: M6) in about 30 days.

We asked for your votes, and we got a lot of them, but in the end, the folks at Inspiration Labs got more. But hey, they built a TARDIS, so we love their project too!

Our team here in Milwaukee had a blast working on the M6, and it’ll probably be an ongoing project, so if you stop by the space, ask to see it in action!

M6

Where do I park!?

Parking!?

Milwaukee’s a great city, but like any large city, there are some parking regulations, and the one we have to deal with is “alternate-side parking overnight” which means that people who park on the street overnight have to all park on just one side of the street. Usually overnight parking doesn’t affect us that much, as we’ve got a small lot near the alley for about a dozen cars, but for public nights, or any other nights we have things going on, we need to try to park on the OTHER SIDE of the street as the residents do, as a courtesy to them, leaving them space to park.

Ron wrote up a nice wiki page explaining the parking, and our old pal reMMinderbot will also let you know where to park on a Tuesday or Thursday night, but like anything else at the makerspace, unless it’s over-engineered, it’s not done!

So I therefore present to you, makers and guests… MM Park! MM Park is a mobile-friendly web site you can view on your iOS or Android device. You can launch it when you pull up to the space and determine where you should park.

mkiemake.us/park

Just fire up the browser on your mobile device, and go to the handy short URL mkemake.us/park

Opposite

You’ll see SAME or OPPOSITE. If it says SAME you park on the SAME side of the street as Milwaukee Makerspace. If it says OPPOSITE you park on the OPPOSITE side of the street as Milwaukee Makerspace. This works for Lenox Street and Otjen Street.

Add to home screen

If you want to get all fancy, add an icon to your home screen so you can launch the app quickly and easily every time you pull up to the space at night.

Handy Icon

What could be easier!? Will the wonders of technology ever cease?

(Note: Thanks to Shane for the awesome logo, and to Audrey for piloting Lil’ Driver. This is an alpha release, and while fully functional at this time, the words and/or images used may change in the future. Check the project page for updates.)

Raspberry Pi Project Ended

I’ve really struggled with the Raspberry Pi Project. As I posted earlier, the Raspberry Pi kept killing the file system on the SD card. Pete traded me for a different Pi, which behaved much better, making the card last at least long enough to get the operating system and other software installed. Yet the Raspberry Pi continued to corrupt the file system if left running for longer periods. The latest time it totally killed the SD card; I couldn’t even reformat it on my computer.

If I include the Pi in the traveling mascot, I’m convinced it will not survive the inevitable rough treatment. The only other use I can think of for a Raspberry Pi in a travelling mascot is as a home base server for the mascot, publishing the travelogues. Yet it’s too unstable for even that task.

I still like the idea of a traveling mascot that can track it’s own travels, but I’m convinced that building it around a Raspberry Pi is not the proper foundation. I really like the little GPS unit that came in this kit, and will try to build a scaled down version of the traveling mascot with a USB interface to hook up with any computer for collecting data.

Thanks again Adafruit Industries, we really appreciate the kit, and we’ll continue to work with the parts on other projects. Like vultures, some other members have already picked off some pieces of the kit for their projects.

Drink Up!

DRINK

The sandblaster is a pretty awesome piece of equipment. Combine it with a vinyl cutter and you can easily etch drinking glasses and other things. Here’s our new Milwaukee Makerspace Beer Stein. There’s more details on the making of this on my blog.

(Obviously we never consume alcohol while operating any dangerous equipment. Note that this piece was created only to show the capabilities of the sandblaster. Not for drinking. Nope, no drinking.)

Etched

Blast all the sand!!!

Home Theater with Insane Subwoofer

After the mediocre commercial successes of some of my previous audio products, I decided to pursue a project that has absolutely no commercial potential.  Although my Automated Gmail Assistant had a 0.1% view to purchase rate, they definitely delighted their new owners!   On the other hand, my novel audio surround sound processor, audio-visual processor and audiophile headphones did not produce any revenue, despite being manufactured in an exclusive edition of one each.  Not to be discouraged, the goal of this project was to expand on the core idea behind the aforementioned audiophile headphones, but to overcome the main two drawbacks of using headphones:  1) Many people find that headphones are too uncomfortable and impractical for long term listening. And 2) most headphones lack the concert-like visceral bass impact, which is that feeling of the kick drum shaking your chest that only rock and roll shows could provide.

BIG_HMMMMMM2

Simply put, the Humorously Maniacal Milwaukee Makerspace Multimedia Machine (HMMMMMM) is a personal sized movie theater, with 5.16 surround sound.  That’s right, this theater is like a conventional 5.1 home theater, but with 15 extra subwoofers to delight the senses. While the bass in a live concert can be felt in your chest, the bass in the HMMMMMM can be felt in your soul(!).  In addition altering listener’s consciousness, the HMMMMMM will soon be used to screen our yet-to-be-filmed Milwaukee Makerspace orientation video as an integral part of our onboarding process for all new members. The HMMMMMM measures about 7 feet long and about 4 feet wide.  An eager movie-goer can simply climb up the integral stairs (shown on the left) and jump in through the 27” diameter escape hatch in the top of the HMMMMMM. Despite its crazy appearance, the HMMMMMM offers a surprisingly comfortable reclining position, much like that of a lazy-boy.  Check out this photo of the HMMMMMM under construction for a better idea of the ergonomic internal layout: There is a pillow for one’s head, and ones feet extend to the right.  The 27” display is mounted to the angled portion on the top surface, about 24” from the viewer.  Eventually, two 24″ monitors will expand the visual experience into the periphery.

The_Incomplete_HMMMMMM4

The audio portion of the HMMMMMM is a 5.16 system.  The high frequencies are played by 5 uninteresting Swan/HiVi speakers that are arranged in a properly boring 5 channel surround configuration.  The more exciting portion of the audio system is the subwoofer – well, the 16 (Sixteen) 10″ high efficiency subwoofers that provide that TrueBass™ sensation the masses crave.  Its clear from the use of 16 subwoofers that one object of the HMMMMMM was to create an audio system that plays low bass.  Playback of really low bass typically requires an extremely large speaker box, and still notes as low as 20 Hz are rarely audible.  However, inside any speaker box the bass response is naturally flat to much lower (subsonic) pitches.  For more on the sound pressure level inside and outside speaker boxes, check out this link.  The graph below is a measurement of the SPL or sound pressure level (how loud it is) versus frequency (pitch) at the listener’s ears in the HMMMMMM.

SPL_in_HMMMMMM

The graph shows that with a sine wave input, the SPL inside the HMMMMMM is 148.6dB at 40 Hz.  That means the acoustic pressure on the 27” diameter escape hatch is 45 pounds.  Excellent.  Note that earplugs in addition to earmuff style hearing protectors are mandatory to safely experience the TrueBass™.   To understand this strict hearing protection requirement, lets compare the sound pressure level inside the HMMMMMM to other audio systems that may be more familiar.  Note that the loudness of these other audio systems are not visible in the graph above, because essentially all other audio systems (including yours) are inferior.  Adjusting the margins of the graph a bit produces the following graph:

SPL_of_many_systemsThe plot shows how loud typical audio systems are, and how low they play.  For example, cellphone speakers play only a bit below 1khz, and are ~90 dB if they’re 40cm from you.  When a Jambox-type bluetooth speaker is about 60cm from you, it plays ~10 dB louder, and another 1.5 octaves lower, to 200 Hz.  Typical bookshelf speakers can get another 5 dB louder if you’re 1.5 meters from them, but only play down another octave to 100 Hz.  OEM installed car stereos are a big improvement, but they’re still not in the same league as the HMMMMMM.  Yes, the IASCA record holding car is louder than this, but it plays only from 50 Hz to 60 Hz, which isn’t even really bass.

Note that the difference in loudness between a cellphone and a car is 20 dB, while the HMMMMMM is 30 dB louder than a high-performing car stereo.  Also note that the frequency range of a piano, with its 88 keys, is about the same as a bookshelf speaker – a bit over 7 octaves.  Surprisingly, the subwoofer portion of the HMMMMMM has a 6 octave bandwidth, but it plays the 6 octaves you’ve never heard before!  The HMMMMMM plays 6 octaves below what your bookshelf speaker or Jambox calls bass. The HMMMMMM has a +/- 6 dB passband extending down to 2 Hz, with the output at 1 Hz being nearly still above the 120 dB “threshold of pain.”

Disclaimers: For safety, the big 2000 Watt amplifier that drives the HMMMMMM to its full potential is not available when the author is not present.  Ironically, the author has taught 75-100 people, the eager early HMMMMMM listeners, how to properly insert earplugs, meaning that the HMMMMMM is actually a learning tool for hearing safety! Finally, the author has some hesitancy in having the HMMMMMM reproduce recordings with 5 Hz content at 140 dB, because typical hearing protection has little effect at these unnaturally low frequencies.

PS:  Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to help with the video scripting, filming or editing.