Baltimore Hackerspace Visit


Baltimore Hackerspace

During a recent trip to Baltimore I got to visit Baltimore Hackerspace, take a quick tour, and talk to two of their members.

Our story actually starts back in 2011, when I was passing through Baltimore and tried to connect with Baltimore Node (another hackerspace in Baltimore) and when I mentioned on their mailing list I’d be passing through town, I got an invite to stop by Baltimore Hackerspace, which at the time was called “Harford Hackerspace” and was located in one of the member’s garage. Well, I never made it to either space last year, so I thought I’d try again this year… sadly, Baltimore Node does not currently have a space due to some issues with Load of Fun, the building they are located in. (Side note: I snapped a photo of Load of Fun back in 2009, before I was even a Milwaukee Makerspace member.)

Confused yet? Good! Anyway, Mike from Baltimore Hackerspace was kind enough to meet me there on a Wednesday afternoon for a tour. We talked about Power Wheels, Make Magazine, The Red Bull Challenge, how Baltimore Hackerspace operates, how Milwaukee Makerspace operates, and general making and hacking activities.

I snapped a few photos as well… enjoy!

Baltimore Hackerspace
Baltimore Hackerspace was not easy to find! It’s in an industrial unit (which looks a little like a storage unit) with no sign on the door. I think some signage is in their future, as it’ll really help new visitors find the place.

Power Wheels
Here’s their Power Wheels car. It looks unlike any other Power Wheels car I’ve seen. Like most Power Wheels cars, it occasionally starts on fire. :)

Telepresence Zen Garden
Here’s the “Telepresence Zen Garden” they built for the 2012 RedBull Creation Competition.

Robot Game
They had a robot game thingy, which was a little like Operation, but you had to guide a wand over the wire and not touch it, or the robot freaked out.

Recycle Robot
OK, this thing was impressive, and confusing. When I first saw this robot I assumed it was some commercially available unit, but it turned it was build using mostly scrap! Mark (the guy working on it) finds interesting pieces from children’s toys, household appliances, etc. and puts it all together. And, that weird thing to the right is indeed a walker, modified to assist the robot in walking, at least until it can walk on its own, without the help of a balancing mechanism. Great project!

Baltimore Hackerspace
There was also art to be found… I don’t know if this was done by a member, but it definitely added color to the space and let you know where you were. ;)

Space Invaders
Some Space Invaders were descending down the wall… I hope they fill the whole wall with them, it would definitely look cool.

Whiteboard
They had a small office for meetings, with a big table and chairs for hacking and what-not. The office also had this whiteboard, which may contain the secrets of the universe… or something.

MakerBot Thing-O-Matic
What’s a hackerspace without a 3D printer? Here’s their MakerBot Thing-O-Matic ready to melt some plastic.

Keyboard
Looks like they’ve also got some music fans (and maybe video nerds?) as members. I love the color bars!

Well, that concludes our tour of Baltimore Hackerspace… if you’re ever in Charm City, check ’em out!

Roomba-Bot!

Today, I stopped in at the Makerspace with the plan to work on a small project for a Halloween party this Saturday.

The plan was to take a “Roomba” robot vacuum cleaner that I got for $1.00 at a rummage sale, and covert it into the robot base for a giant spider or some other scary creature that could wander around at a Halloween party.

I started pulling screws out of the bottom to figure out how to remove the brushes and vacuum blower. It took some tinkering to figure out what I could and couldn’t remove and not cause a fault. In the end, it didn’t look like I could remove the blower motor and still have the thing run, so I simply removed the fan blades from the blower.

By that time, I was now thinking about video cameras and how easy it would be to run a 1/4-20 bolt right through the plastic. A bolt and two nuts quickly made a camera mount.

In the other room were some ping-pong balls, and I had a black sharpie. A little hot glue and Roomba-cam has some personality.

Look for Roomba-cam running around the Milwaukee Makerspace and please treat Roomba-cam nice – he is watching you and WILL upload to YouTube!

-Ben Nelson

Robotics @ UWM

Robot

We’ve got a number of robot builders at Milwaukee Makerspace, but we’re not the only robot-lovers in town… via Frankie’s blog, check out this video about Tom Consi and the robotics work he’s doing at UWM.

(We’ve seen some renewed interest in the Milwaukee Robotics Club recently, so we’ll probably start up regular meetings again in the next few months… that way everyone can show off what they’ve been working on.)

MegaMax 3D Printer

MegaMax 3D Printer

MegaMax 3D printer based on MendelMax but bigger and minus plastic parts.

This is my on-going project at the Milwaukee Makerspace.  It is a 3D extruded plastic printer with about 1 cuft build envelope.  I want to print life-size human skulls (among other things) from CT scan data.  The printer is made mostly from salvaged parts and materials so the cost has been very low.  When it’s finished it will have a heated 12″x12″ bed (13″x13″ if I can find an aluminum plate that big) and dual extruder so it can print in two colors.

I have learned a lot on this project- some things that work and others that don’t work so well, and how to use a milling machine to drill holes precisely and square the ends of the 8020 extrusion pieces used to build up the frame of the machine.

I could not have done any of this without access to the people, materials, and tools at Milwaukee Makerspace.  Every time I go there to do some work on this project someone says something that gives me new ideas for improvements to the design.   I frequently find materials and parts left for me on the machine’s cart by other members who know what I’m trying to do.  If you have a project idea find your local Makerspace and get busy- there is nothing that will get your creative juices flowing like being around a bunch of people with similar interests and different skills and experience!