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Maker Mania #3: Enabling the Future, Lego Tornadoes, Messing About With Making, Art Parts, Solid State Depot

The Faire is upon us, dear Boulderites, Boulderinos and various surrounding Boulderphillics! Or at least it will be upon us come Jan 31 – Feb 1 at the Boulder County Fairgrounds. And that means MAKERS galore! Join us here in the next few weeks as we preview the awesomeness that will be at the core of the Faire.

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Calling All Boulder Mini Maker Faire Volunteers!

Thank you for your interest in volunteering to support the first-ever Boulder Mini Maker Faire! This is going to be a fantastic event and your help is greatly appreciated (and needed!) to make it even better. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun to get involved — so we can’t wait to see you there!

In general we will need some help in the run up to the show with several aspects of the event. Then the biggest help will be needed during the show. And don’t forget: you get a super cool T-Shirt, food and drinks during your shift, and one General Admission ticket for each 4-hour shift. We can’t wait to get together and get our MAKE on!

So straight to the details. We’ll need help with the following:

Event set-up all-day Friday and Saturday mornings:

FRIDAY
Materials delivery
Volunteer staff support (including food and drinks)
Maker way-finding during check-in/move-in

SATURDAY
Box office support including admissions, wristbands and waiver release signing
Event ambassadors to help attendees find their way
Security inside and outside the event (including overnight shifts)
Maker support throughout the event with facilities and operations
Announcers for speaker and demonstrations stages

SUNDAY
Strike-down and move out
Clean-up (which always seems to get the least volunteer sign up but is VERY important!)
And more cool opportunities to actually MAKE the experience by helping Makers in their booths!!

The shift schedule will be in 4-hour intervals (up to 8-hours max per day) and will range over a period from 7am-10pm depending on the day. We will have some lead-up events that you may want to participate in, including driving to pick up food donations and other supplies.

Please provide some basic information to help us start to place you around the event. Just email the following information to Jeff@MakerBoulder.com. If you need more info, the email’s a great way to go, or you can feel free to call Jeff Scott, our supreme deity of Operations and Volunteer Coordination, at 303.859.2177.

Full name:
City of Residence:
Age:
Able to lift 40lbs or more:
Best cell or text number:
Spoken Languages:
Other skills that might help:

Please call/email/text me with any other questions, and we look forward to working with you to make this first Mini Maker Faire in Boulder spectacular!

23rd Studios Does Everything Graphics for Startups and Beyond

23rd.Studios.LogoAre you a maker, a hacker, a tinkerer with the next big thing sitting there brand spanking new on your workbench? If so, it might be time to, you know, show it to people. And if you’re gonna do that, you’re going to need a way to show it. That’s where Paul Talbot and his 23rd Studios comes in. In addition to graciously fulfilling all the photo and video needs for the Boulder Mini Maker Faire, Jan 31 – Feb 1, 2015, 23rd Studios is a one-stop shop for all of a business’s graphic and web design needs.

“One of the exciting things about working with maker and startup people is the energy associated with solving a problem or figuring out something new to solve a problem,” Paul says. It’s like that in the photo business, says Paul, who got his start in video while working as a photographer in New York City when producers realized that new DSLR technology meant he had video capability built into that camera he was carrying.

“I kind of fell into what I’m doing now,” says Paul. Now 23rd Studios has worked with everything from mapping images from Apollo, to graphic design for the Boulder Green Streets program, to food photography for Rueben’s Burger Bistro.

“On a photo or video shoot, you’re always solving problems to get the lighting just right, or work around that noisy air conditioner, or then after the shoot to use footage in creative and useful ways. I can’t wait to see the problem solving going on at the Faire,” Paul says.

Got a new gimbal device or wiring harness you’re showing at the faire? Or maybe a new photo drone technology? Be sure to track down Paul, ’cause he’d love to see it. He’ll be the one with the big camera clicking pictures and shooting vids.

How a Maker Faire Collaboration Fixed a 20-Foot Tesla Coil

Have you ever wondered exactly what the heck a Maker Faire is all about? And why you would want to be involved as a VOLUNTEER, a MAKER or an ATTENDEE at the Boulder Mini Maker Faire, Jan 31-Feb 1? Let Jeff Scott answer all your burning questions. Jeff is the estimable guru of all things facilities and volunteers for Maker Boulder. Mssr. Scott did the same for last year’s Denver Mini Maker Faire and tells the following story of collaboration that could only have come from a room full of makers, hackers and tinkerers. You want to know what a Maker Faire is all about? Keep reading…

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Play With Modular Robotics at the Boulder Mini Maker Faire!

Not long after opening its doors in an unassuming industrial park building just off Bluff Street in downtown Boulder, Modular Robotics found itself in crisis: every Friday an employee had been running to the suspiciously close Boulder Beer for a pair of six-packs, but now the company had expanded and not only was there no room in the fridge, but, “the six-packs went incredibly fast,” says Christie Veitch, the company’s Education Director.

In the early life of a tech startup, desperate times call for decisive action and now, almost five years after their 2010 founding, a Kegerator sits in the corner. Just before the holidays it was nearly buried in cardboard boxes and tupperwares full of plastic pieces. Down a tight hallway where the Mod Robotics team had recently cut through the wall and into a vacated next-door space are the smashed-together bench style desks of the administrative and marketing team. After our meeting, Christie decided to avoid the hallway by going outside with me and then back into the building via another door.

Chip.Elf

Chip is a Level VI Modular Robotics elf.

But the real work of Mod Robotics is done the old-fashioned way: by elves working with screwdrivers and soldering irons. Here is Chip. He is a level VI elf. They’re no longer baking circuit boards in a fry pan, as did CEO Eric Schweikardt for his PhD project that became the company’s prototype. But after the boards are printed and the plastic pieces molded, the elves snap, screw and solder these pieces into Cubelets and MOSS robot building systems.

That’s the genius of Mod Robotics: the elves do the heavy building so that you don’t have to. Cublets are self-contained inputs and outputs that you and yours can magnet together into robots as big or small as your imagination. The black ones are sensors, the clear ones do things, and the colored ones think, or, you know, at least provide the backbone of logic.

The newer, MOSS system adds the structures of panels, wheels and various other connective bendy bits to Cubelet-like backbones, allowing you to make cars, creatures and other creations that look like real or imagined awesomeness. If you’re an educator or an education-minded parent, Mod Robotics also hosts free, downloadable lesson plans like 10 Cool Things to Do With Cubelets, 10 More Cool Things to Do With Cubelets, and the comprehensive MOSS Instroduction to Robotics Unit.

Christie says that in addition to demonstrating the basics of robotics – sensors, effectors, logic – Mod Robotics hopes to show the power of emergent behavior.

“Each one of these things is just a thing,” says Christie, eloquently, “but when you put them together, you can see how they create complex behaviors – a robot lighthouse that knows to come on in the dark or a steering robot that knows to slow down before it crashing into stuff.”

My experience of chucking my kids (8 and 6) into a pile of Cubelets is that offspring tend to be immediately engaged in a way that creates their own emergent understanding. At first my kids snapped stuff together randomly and semi-noticed what happened, and then their ideas got more goal-directed.

“I want to make a car,” said Leif, 8, and with some experimentation, he was eventually able to do just that.

“I want to make a robot dinosaur that breathes fire at daddy’s butt,” said Kestrel, 6, and now a couple weeks later she remains steadfastly undeterred.

If you want to play with Cubelets or Moss yourself, stop by the Mod Robotics booth at the Boulder Mini Maker Faire, January 31 – February 1, 2015 at the Boulder County Fairgrounds! For more on the Modular Robotics manifesto of simple pieces from whence arise complex behaviors, check out CEO Eric Schweikardt’s talk at TedX Front Range, here:

Make Eggshell Geodes With Connections Academy

Look in the hills of the Front Range and you’ll find crystals like quartz and shiny minerals like laminated sheets of mica. Up the Big Thompson and St. Vrain, my kids and I know caves lined with them. Take quartz home and chuck it in the rock tumbler for a couple days and you’ve got a pearlescent stone perfect for school show and tell. But find a geode and you’ve got a dragon egg. There is nothing like cracking open a drab rock and seeing the insides shimmer. This activity from Connections Academy will help you make your own.

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Build With 10,000 Keva Planks at the Boulder Mini Maker Faire!

Keva.CastleKeva planks seem simple: they’re 1/4-inch by 3/4-inch by 4 1/2-inch wooden blocks. But like Lego, from these unassuming pieces, wondrous creations arise. For example, take a look at Keva founder Ken Schel building this structure for Dreamworks to resemble the Shrek Castle. Look even closer and you’ll see that every piece is a simple, rectangular plank. There’s not a lot of complex rules here, just, “No glue, no connectors,” says Schel.

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Learn to Build Scribot With Dr. Karl Wendt at Boulder Mini Maker Faire!

Scribot

This is Scribot. Gaze upon the vertically inserted pen, its tiny programmable board in the front/left, the wheels, the batteries, the breadboards. Can you guess what it does? Don’t worry, at the end of this post you’ll see it in action. For now, you may notice that Scribot doesn’t come with a flashy exoskeleton branded with characters from your child’s favorite television program. That’s because Scribot is not a consumer product, but a tool created by Dr. Karl Wendt to teach design thinking in classrooms. If his name sounds familiar, that’s because Wendt was Khan Academy’s “Maker in Chief”, where his projects include Spider Bot, and Spout Bot, and Bit-zee Bot.

You may by now be noticing a pattern. Karl builds robots. Not only does Karl build robots, but he wants to teach you and yours how to build robots. And even beyond teaching you and yours to build robots, Karl wants to teach teachers how the principles of design thinking can be used in classrooms to help students build robots. That was his mission at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and that’s the mission of his Nashville-based nonprofit, Discover Create Advance.

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Dancing LEDs Promise Merriment at the Boulder Mini Maker Faire!

Imagine with us the following holiday utopia – call it a holopia: You hang LED holiday lights on your house or tree or mother-in-law. You snap a picture with your phone. An app recognizes the distribution of bulbs. And now you can map anything you want onto this imperfect LED grid, from sound sync that pulses along with your thumping holiday tunes, to groovy smooth fades through the rainbow, to scrolling holiday messages, to – be still my beating heart! – a never-ending repeat of Nyan Cat!

That’s the promise of Jarrod Eliason’s Dancing LEDs. Among other projects, Jarrod programmed his home tree to sing along in Santa face to his family’s recording of “We wish you a maker Christmas and a hacker New Year” (above). In fact, this is more than a utopia — at the Boulder Mini Maker Faire, Jan 31-Feb 1 Jarrod will be in Colorado making this utopia a reality. Seriously: stop by the Dancing LEDs booth, download the free app, and you too can drive strings of LEDs as they and you make merriment for all.

“What we’re doing is taking any video or animated GIF, running it through a Windows program to turn it into a light sequence, and then remapping it from the video onto lights,” Eliason says.

He says the current prototype is based on a triangular display, because he didn’t have a good rectangular space on the side of his house. Eliason imagines cities leaving the displays up year-round and changing the colors based on the season. And plugging in a floor display of Dancing LEDs still in their boxes – customers download a free app and right there in the store can interact with the LEDs or project a picture of their face onto the display. And businesses using them to replace existing, four-sided LED displays.

For now, “It’s kind of in the beginning stages,” Eliason says. “I’ve got prototypes on my desk, developers working on the app. But we expect to have things to put in people’s hands in the next week.”

Eliason runs it with a Teensy board and once he gets schematics and code, he plans to open-source the whole thing. And he’s looking for comments, suggestions, tweaks and hacks. In other words: Makers needed!

 

Is the Best Superhero Power the Tongue Lasso?

After dancing with Richard Simmons on the show “Who’s Line is It Anyway,” Wayne Brady quipped that he felt, “ten pounds lighter…and just a little dirty.” Dang, he makes me laugh. You know when he makes me laugh most? When they’re doing the superhero bit, that’s when. Here’s how it works: One actor leaves the room and the other actors are assigned super powers by the audience. A character gets toe jam that shields him from danger. Another can see through clothing. Another’s tongue can lasso any moving object.

You know, that kind of thing.

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