White House Maker Faire’s Joey Hudy Speaking at Boulder MMF!

Joey Hudy announced the inaugural White House Maker Faire. He is Intel’s youngest intern. He fired a marshmallow cannon with President Obama. He once built a 7-foot cardboard trebuchet  that, “totally collapsed,” he says, when he tried to hang two dictionaries as the counterweight (note the lack of accompanying video link…). Thanks to a generous sponsorship from 3D drawing software, SketchUp, Joey will be speaking at the Boulder Mini Maker Faire, Jan 31-Feb 1, 2015!

When Maker Boulder chatted with Joey and his mom last night, we asked how many versions of the marshmallow cannon preceded the one that famously blasted a puffed sugar confection across the State Dining Room and he said the famous version was the first. “All we really had to do with it is make an enclosed area, pressurize it and have a valve that goes to a barrel,” he said.

Elementary, dear Watson. That is, if you’re Joey Hudy. That’s because, while the ‘mallow cannon may have been Joey’s first of that design, it was far from his first design. Joey knows how to make. And once you know that, you can make anything.

He does his making in a spare room of their new house. “We don’t have basements in Arizona,” he says. But when they moved, he saw they had an extra room and he, “claimed it as my own,” he says. So far, despite Joey’s penchant for cannons and trebuchets the room is still standing — no scorch marks and the drywall is still pristine. “My dad likes to paint the walls and he’d notice if there was, like, a smell,” Joey says.

His dad does data analysis for American Express. “He’s the numbers nerd and I’m more an engineering nerd…and kind of a general nerd,” says Joey, who is taking just one high school class — Pre-Calculus — this winter/spring before graduating from the Herberger Young Scholars Academy, a program for gifted students run by Arizona State University. Next year, he hopes to be accepted and attend the Olin College of Engineering just outside Boston, where he’s interested in innovating the next generation of power control panels — PCPs to EEs in the know.

In addition to devices that shoot stuff, Joey says his favorite projects include making 3D scanners, Arduino kits, and a 10×10 LED array cube powered by an Intel Galileo. You can make a trimmed down version: HERE are Joey’s instructions for a DIY 3×3 LED cube that he published with MAKE Magazine.

That’s great and all, but we wanted to know more about the cardboard trebuchet. For example, why is a trebuchet so much cooler than a catapult? “It uses gravity, you know,” says Joey, succinctly encapsulating in his understated way something essential about making: you do more with less; you understand the basics forces that act on your systems; and then you make it with cardboard and sometimes it works better than others.

We can’t wait to hear what Joey says at the Boulder Mini Maker Faire. Click HERE for a ticket and please join us in being inspired by what is truly one of the most promising up-and-coming maker minds we’ve ever seen.

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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Inside the Maker Classrooms of Friends’ School Boulder

Friends.Maker.1Steve de Beer, Head of School at Friends’ School Boulder, contributes this post describing his school’s innovative, year-long focus on making in the 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms. For a hands-on taste of making in education, stop by the Friends’ School booth at the Boulder Mini Maker Faire, Jan 31-Feb 1! (Early bird tickets end on the 24th!)

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Who remembers Tinker Toys?  Me! Me!  Who spent part of their childhood inventing new machines with Erector Sets?  This guy!  Who used to make tunnels and cities and imaginary worlds (complete with imaginary knights and dragons) out of moving boxes and junk? Right here, me and my siblings!

What did these kinds of toys have in common – what do they still have in common? They were all designed to inspire the young me to be a maker instead of a consumer. They encouraged me to create.

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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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Call For Boulder Mini Maker Faire Volunteers!

What’s the only thing better than attending the Boulder Mini Maker Faire, Jan 31-Feb1, 2015 at the Boulder County Fairgrounds? I mean, other than making at the faire? Or, let’s be honest here, maybe, like, sitting in a giant vat of Phish Food ice cream and watching YouTube news bloopers while the (former) cast of Mythbusters massages your feet?

That’s right, it’s VOLUNTEERING at the faire! Besides, this kitten wants you to volunteer. Don’t crush this kitten’s hopes and dreams. Volunteer at the faire!

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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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