Bags, Boxes, Sliders, and Worms!

Maddy got a sewing lesson from Colleen (our new Craft Area Co-Champion!) and made a hobo bag. First sewing project using a machine, nice job!

Bill R. has been learning some new woodworking joints thanks to a little help from Dillan and made some awesome looking boxes. (Isn’t it great when members learn from other members?)

Dustin has been expanding his synth hardware collection and he’s scaled things up quite a bit from what he had last year. (“Quite a bit” may still be an understatement!)

Jack has been working on an camera slider that will be controlled by an Arduino, EasyDriver, and stepper motor. He’s still got some work to do on the code so if you’re handy with Arduino development, see if he needs some help!

If Mark isn’t 3D printing something, he’s probably working on one of his 3D printers, and he might even be working on his 3D printers by 3D printing parts for his 3D printers. He’s been working on a gearbox for a wormdrive for his super-tall UMMD printer. How’s that?

We have a new Prusa I3 Mk3 3D printer!

This is the printer that we won in the Hack-a-Day contest about 2 months ago.  It arrived at my house last night, so I decided to open it up and inspect the contents.  That’s when I saw it…

Broken upper left Z axis guide rail bracket.

Broken upper left Z axis guide rail bracket!

I lifted it out of the box and discovered that the left Z axis motor mount was also broken:

Broken upper left guide rail clamp and left Z motor mount.

Broken upper left guide rail bracket and left Z motor mount.































A quick trip to the Prusa web site found STL files ready for printing…


New motor mount and upper left guide rail clamp printing on UMMD.

New motor mount and upper left guide rail clamp printing on UMMD.

Finally, printed parts installed…

Broken parts replaced.

Broken parts replaced.


Alas, it appears that the lead screw is bent- you can see it wobbling when it rotates.  I’ll be contacting Mr. Prusa for a replacement…

Art, LEDs, Tables, Shocking!

What’s been going on at the makerspace? A few members have been making art for the WMSE Art & Music event coming up. Kathy H. used a variety of gears in her piece.

Jack has been working on trying to hack some LED lights to work better with the high speed photography he does. A few members have had good advice, so we’re hoping it’s not too complex.

William finished up this beautiful table. The wood top looks amazing and the pipe legs are functional and make taking it apart very easy.

Mark has upgraded his Van de Graaff generator to throw bigger sparks and make bigger shocks! If you haven’t been shocked by it in the past, look forward to the next event where he brings it out to play.

Hello Prusa i3 Mk3!

Wow! Wow! Wow! Mark our 3D Printing Champion is always busy, either building 3D printers, or designing and printing parts. He 3D printed a Prius Hatch Release Switch Cover and entered it into a Hackaday Contest and won an Original Prusa i3 MK3 3D printer for the space!

As we just got one of these where I work I can vouch for how nice this machine is. I built my first RepRap Prusa Mendel i2 about six years ago, and before that used a MakerBot Cupcake, so I’ve seen some evolution of desktop FFM printers. The first thing you’ll notice (or, don’t notice) about the MK3 is that it is quiet. Really quiet. Like, in our office we have to look at it to see if it’s running. It’s that quiet, thanks to the Trinamic stepper drivers. The PEI powder coated magnetic build surface is also nice, and… well, I could go on, but let’s all thank Mark for being awesome and winning this amazing new printer for the space!

“Retro Future” Remote Control

Disclaimer: This is a project I submitted to for two of their contests.

I’ve always loved the look and feel of the “world of tomorrow” we were presented in mid-century science fiction and concept products.

Okay, that’s not true. When I was young I thought the Tricoders on Star Trek were ugly and clumsy, but the ones on The Next Generation were sleek and awesome. But now that I’m older I prefer the combination of black and silver, of leather and metal over featureless beige or black.

It’s only been the last decade or so that I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the fusion of aesthetic and functionality over minimalism.

So when I embarked on a project to create a controller for my “atomic” studio, I wanted to use a television remote of the approximate era as a base. I found a two-pack of this Magnavox eight-button remote on eBay and fell in love. I only needed the one, but it was a good deal. Over the course of this project, I’ve been inspired to use the other one to take a different approach to the same concept in a future project.

I knew that early wireless television remote controls (often called “clickers”) used sound. [Side note: we had cheaper televisions in my house and I was the “remote”] The only other one I had seen in person had a single button which hit a strike plate inside to create a tone that the TV could hear to go to the next channel and the next and so forth until coming around to the off position.

But opening this remote showed so much more. The circuit board inside had a coil and something like a speaker that aimed out the top of the remote. Next to each of the buttons was a capacitor of a different rating. By pressing one of the eight buttons the circuit routed through one of the capacitors which modulated the frequency that was transmitted.

I found myself admiring the elegance of using simple parallel circuits to provide such a range of inputs. I started to regret taking it apart.

Well… I’ve got two. One can be sacrificed in the name of SCIENCE!

The Parts

  • A vintage remote control (I’m using a Magnavox remote with eight buttons)
  • A piece of permaboard (If you have the skills, time, and resources to make a custom PCB, go for it. My biggest challenges in this project came from wiring and soldering good connections in this form factor)
  • A microcontroller (I’m using the Adafruit Feather 32u4 Bluefruit LE)
  • A Bluetooth module (I used the above feather which has both in one, but I could have used separate pieces)
  • Buttons (I’m using the “Soft Tactile Buttons” from Adafruit because the larger buttons I was using originally clicked loud enough to be picked up on microphone)
  • A battery of some kind
  • An on/off switch

And from the inventory:

  • Solder
  • Wire
  • Headers
  • Electrical Tape
  • A third hand or PCB vice (I used both at times)
  • Wire cutter
  • Wire stripper
  • Calipers and/or a good eyeball

Dissecting the Remote

I have a vague memory of this, but my parents once told me about the time we went to Red Lobster and I started coming up with names for the lobsters in the tank. My parents tried to subtly dissuade me, but I persisted. Then when the meal came and there were dead crustaceans (I didn’t know lobsters from crabs apparently) on the plates I started asking if they had killed [insert childhood names for critters] for this!? I was pretty upset.

The horrible lesson I was supposed to take away from that was to not name things that were about to be killed.

So I spent a few minutes with my screwdriver poised over the back of “Clicky” pondering what a monster I was about to become.

Then I remembered I had two and I hadn’t named the other one yet so I killed it instead.

Removing the circuit board was easy. I clipped off the leads going to the battery holder before using pliers to pull those out as well.

Determine Position of Inputs and Place

Luckily the circuit board from the original remote was almost the exact same size as a piece of permaboard I had lying around so I didn’t have to cut anything there.

To place the buttons I used a combination of precision measurement and less precise “eyeballing” the first row of buttons and the first button of the second row. After that I just counted the same spaces up and over to place the others.

The on/off switch was relatively easy. I didn’t want to cut into the case if I didn’t have to, so I used the front where the emitter had been. In the picture above I had the switch on the other side from the buttons, but luckily I re-checked placement before soldering it in because it was unreachable through the hole unless I moved it to the other side.

Choosing Placement of Microcontroller

This is where I started to get sad.

I had originally thought to place the microcontroller on the bottom of the board with the buttons and place it where it would sit in the original battery compartment, but if I did that the board would not be tall enough to be screwed into place by the stand-offs that also held on the back.

Next I tried placing it across the top of the board but it wouldn’t fit between the stand-offs.

So in the end I decided to place it such that the GPIO pins that I was going to use lined up between the buttons themselves. I did have to shift it slightly to the side to get the ground pin where I needed it as well.

Soldering It All Together

First thing I did was connect a single wire to all the “top outer” pins of the buttons on each side. Then I bent the wires around the bottom edge of the board and created a solder bridge. Then I ran another wire from one side of the switch to the ground bus.

Next I cut a strip of header pins to the right length and placed them halfway in the holes. This way I could run wires from each of the “bottom inner” pins of the buttons to their respective GPIO pins beneath the plastic part of the header.

After that I sat on the couch sobbing into my hands while alternately drinking a Rum and Coke to get over the trauma I put myself through with all those connections and wishing I had the time and skill to make my own PCB. I also swore to various supernatural forces that if this worked, I never do it again. [Not pictured]

Next I ran a wire from the middle position of the switch to the “enable” pin of the Feather.

Then I placed a single header pin where it needed to be and soldered it into place running a short wire from it to the existing ground bus.

Lastly I placed the Feather in place and soldered it down. In the picture above I hadn’t finished the right side, just the ground pin.

Drilling Mounting Holes

Once again using a combination of precise measurement and imprecise eyeballing I marked the placement of the mounting screws and used my Dremel and stand to drill the holes.


Aside from my soldering job, this is the ugliest part of the project right now. It’s just a hack of two different libraries: one from Adafruit (from their Adafruit BluefruitLE nRF51 library) and something else I found after too many Rum and Cokes and sobbing.

I beat at them both until they worked.


In the version here, the remote keeps sending the meta keys at times it shouldn’t. It doesn’t affect my usage so I haven’t taken the time to fix it yet.

Basically it scans the GPIO pins and maps them to a number on the keyboard. It sends that number while holding down some meta keys so that I can assign them easily to shortcuts within the studio software I’m using.

Assemble and Enjoy!

I put some electrical tape down over all the wires for protection. I connected the battery and placed it between the mounting stand-offs toward the top. By bending the battery leads around the one stand-off the thing stayed in place nicely.

Now I have a Bluetooth remote that sends a hotkey to my studio computer when I press a button. I can control the software without having to have a visible keyboard in view.


I have a few different ideas on where to take this next:

If I stay with the current system, I’d love to make my own board so the connections would be neater. I’d also update the code to be leaner and cleaner.

Another thought would be to use the other remote (Clicky!) as he was designed and build a receiver that would hear Clicky! and, using a microcontroller with HID capability, act as a keyboard for the studio computer.