Shelves, Ships, Shocks, PCBs and Cows!

Issac built a shelf, well, he built a whole shelving system, actually. It’s modular and easily adjustable. It’s not totally done, but it’s looking awesome so far!

Larry must have seen Solo, because he built this ship, which is called the “Millennium Falcon” and is Han Solo’s ship in the Star Wars films. It’s built using LEGO bricks, which is not how the real ship is built. (It’s also not full sized.)

Pete made a machine that makes noise and light using high voltage generators. It uses about 5 volts to create 400,000 volts of AC at a fairly low current. It’s shocking what you can make at the makerspace!

Andrew has been working on PCBs and while he’s got single sided PCBs figured out, he’s still working on two-sided PCBs. It’s not quite there yet, but making often involves trial and error.

Ben used a vinyl cutter to turn his tiny electric car into a “Cow Car” which sort of look like a cow, which is a common animal here in Wisconsin.

MagneTag

The Idea

I love magnets. What kind of dark magic powers their mysterious forces?  It is questions like this that led me to study physics at university.  My Buckyball set is my favorite desk toy, it is my go-to fidget device.  Several years ago I was playing with them when an idea struck me hard., an idea I could not get rid of.   You could use magnets as an electronic scoring system for tag. I do enjoy a nice game of tag.  Back in the day my friends and I would run around the back woods of South Carolina shooting each other with paintballs.  It was super fun, but the sport is not all that accessible.  You need a some disposable income and a high pain threshold (especially in winter when the balls froze).  On top of that you could count on an argument about someone being “out” or not.  Magnets could be encased in soft foam darts or balls (sound familiar?) that you could could collect and reuse in an indoor setting; detecting them electronically has been possible since Maxwell wrote down his famous equations of electromagnetism.

There are several ways to detect a magnet electronically.  You could use a reed switch or a hall effect sensor, but nothing is simpler than a coil of wire.  Electromagnetic induction is a very useful phenomenon, and it is found in technology all around you.

Studying physics was certainly inspiring, but my education failed me when I tried to build a prototype.  It turns out, making things is hard.  While I was trying to understand basic electronics, a new company called Arduino, introduced a product onto the market; I got one.  Additionally, a new magazine called MAKE had just been published, which was where I learned about the concept of a makerspace.   At that time in Milwaukee, a group of 10 or so had leased as small space in a turn of the century industrial complex that looked like a set from a Batman movie, where the bad guys are.  Over the years I have been working on this project at Milwaukee Makerspace, I have seen it grow into an amazingly successful institution in our community.

It didn’t take me long to start blinking LEDs on my Arduino, that platform is really easy to learn.  Learning about amplifiers and comparators took a bit longer, but after several failed attempts I was able to prove the concept. This video from below is from 2012.  That’s when I met Jason, who is holding the camera here.  He joined team MagneTag not long after.

I was pretty stoked about the proof of concept, and was excited to build a wearable system.  I learned how to etch my own circuit boards, 3d print enclosures, and wind my own coils on the sewing machine.

 

I spent a lot of time on this project.  More than I care the count to be honest.  But the process was actually very fun and challenging; there is great value in the journey.  I made many mistakes, but each one made the system better and better.

 

Once I started playing MagneTag for real, it was more fun than I had even initially imagined!  I also learned what it was really great for: foam noodle fighting!  Jason and I went all around Milwaukee testing our system with anyone that would give it a try.

We did not need to add a soundtrack to this. The dude brought his own in a fanny pack.

Posted by MagneTag on Saturday, June 21, 2014

Concept to Production

The game was so much fun we were totally driven to get it out into the world where everyone else could enjoy it like we do.  It was about this time that crowdfunding had become all the rage and we saw it as an opportunity to get our system into production.  Looking back it’s clear what we didn’t know could fill… a very large container…

 

Good Idea? Maybe. But not great execution.

The first mistake we made was a classic one: feature creep.  Of course it had to have Bluetooth. Bluetooth all the things!  We didn’t really have a plan for it, and the system was already pretty great without it. We thought who would want this thing without an app? It took us the better part of a year to make an app for the system and get the hardware going. When it was “done” it wasn’t all that awesome.  Bluetooth is slow; there was a painfully slow lag between the sensor and the smartphone.  The idea does have potential, but we were not executing it well. The only good thing about this excursion into software is that we were able to have my buddy Chris join the team, so now there were three. When you are doing something very challenging it really helps to have people with you on the journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second mistake we made was building a product before understanding the market. I just wanted to build the coolest thing because that’s what I wanted to make.  I considered myself the target customer and nothing less than the best would do.  This prompted another near-total redesign of the system. I flippantly told myself that the added costs would be worth it and didn’t give it too much thought.  What we ended up with was very awesome, but it has to be for what we needed to charge for it.

 

The third mistake I made was also classic:  The Field of Dreams Fallacy.  If you build it they will come…No they won’t.  We launched our awesome new product on Kickstarter and failed spectacularly.   I looked at the site analytics, nobody came to the page. As an engineer I used to make snide remarks about the marketing department.  I no longer do this because it turns out that what they do is extremely important.  Even if you’ve made something awesome it takes a whole other set of skills to get people to see it.  I still haven’t figured this one out, but I haven’t given up.

Link to our second Kickstarter campaign

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.