We Built This (Cardboard) City…

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Cardboard City Bridge is a success!

05/28/2015 – Eric Gundersen

Balance, patience, and plenty of coffee are indispensable when it comes to constructing a 16’ x 16’ city out of cardboard in about 16 hours.  That is the mission before us at the second annual Denver Mini Maker Faire (coming up on June 13 and 14).  Eight of us gathered on a cold and rainy day in May for our first preparation/prototyping session and learned much during those four swift hours.

Lesson #1: Safety, safety, safety

Two finger tips were lost in the first 30 minutes – fortunately they only belonged to a glove while the hand inside was left unscathed.  Cardboard is dense and even with sharp knives it requires a fair amount of strength to cut.  Always keep your blade sharp.  If cutting becomes a challenge dispose of the blade properly and replace it with a fresh one.  Retract your blade or store safely between cutting sessions.  I had a friend who required multiple stitches after stepping on an X-Acto blade stored in a coffee mug, blade up, on the ground.

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At work on the prototype Cardboard City

We used hot glue to affix cardboard to cardboard which takes time to set.  The glue can get up to 380⁰ F.  Instead of risking burns use binder clips to hold your pieces as they cool.  Also, remember to unplug your glue gun immediately after use.

Lesson #2: Cutting

A straight edge or L-square is beneficial for making long cuts.  Make two passes on the cut so you don’t have to use as much pressure.  To make a clean corner for a fold, score the interior of your piece by making a shallow, straight cut.

Lesson #3: Creature Comforts

Working on your hands and knees can get uncomfortable.  Consider using knee pads or gardening kneeling pads.  Coffee also hits the spot.

Lesson #4: Balance
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Our prototype in progress!

Our team is fairly diverse with a variety of skillsets.  Some of us are more technical and some more artistic and everyone has strengths & weaknesses.  We organically broke up into three smaller groups to tackle infrastructure (base plates), landmark pieces (a skyscraper and suspension bridge), and “greebling”/”gingerbread” details in parallel.

It… was… sloooow.  After four hours (nearly 25% of our allotted time) we had:

  • 8 houses
  • 1 swing set w/ slide
  • 5 trees
  • 1 classy above ground swimming pool
  • 2 base plate platforms
  • 1 skyscraper w/ water tower
  • 1 bridge that took 10 minutes to make
  • ½ a bridge that took 2 hours to make

We learned that a bargain must be struck between quality and speed.  Work too fast and it looks like junk, while painstakingly obsessing over getting all the details right takes way too long.

As we made ready to leave and looked across all the modest structures we realized that it’s the city that we’re making; not the house or tree or skyscraper.  The flaws are absorbed by the scope, variety and whimsy of the landscape.  These pieces make up the whole just as your companions’ participation make up the experience.

We’re going to create an assembly line process to accelerate building the building of 144 houses, our goal.  We’re going to separate into groups for mass production (speed) and unique landmark pieces (quality).  Perhaps you’ll visit us at the Denver Mini Maker Faire on June 13th & 14th, or better yet roll up your sleeves and give us a hand.

If one day you find yourself building a city out of cardboard remember to be creative, be patient, encourage your partners and have fun!

Editor’s Note: See the Cardboard City, and many other curiosities (you can even build your own cardboard creation), at the Denver Mini Maker Faire on Saturday June 13 and Sunday June 14 at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  Join MakerBoulder and Level(3) in some maker magic!

Meet a Maker: Martha with Maker Boulder

I am a serial entrepreneur with three small start-ups under my belt (well, one of them is not a startup anymore as we’ve been in business for over five years). My first venture is my ongoing education consulting firm. The second is an electronic word game – similar to Scrabble, that you play on your computer or phone, only it has some unique rules, and the third is MakerBoulder, we produce events and activities that connect people to hands-on learning.

What do you make?

In addition to making businesses, I am a “try-anything-once” crafter – I’ve done a lot of scrapbooking, needlework, sewing, and photography, and I dabble in duct tape, gardening and a few other random crafts. I also love to cook.

How did you get started making and why?

I don’t have a choice, really. I can’t sit idle. Even in front of the TV. My mind needs to be creating something, so I keep trying new things. Some stick for a while, and some are abandoned (even before they are finished sometimes).

What’s the most amazing, unusual (craziest) thing anyone has ever done with or told you about what you make?

I wear this silly duct tape apron to a lot of events. It’s been photographed over two dozen times, and once a mother and daughter made me stand there while they talked about their own – before I could leave, they had each designed their own projects, and made a plan to get together to make their own. It actually made me feel really great – to see them creating in action, and to see how excited they were to try to make one on their own. That’s what this is all about – get your hands dirty, try things out, iterate, etc.

What is your advice to people looking to do what you do or make what you make?

Just do it. The first one won’t be perfect. The next one will be better. No matter what, you’ll feel great about making something.

What is your favorite part about the maker movement?

The look in someone’s eyes when they discover something new, or when they accomplish something for the first time. “I did it!”

Where do you see your making going in the next 3 to 5 years?

I hope it is just like it is today. That I get to try lots of new things, dabble in a few favorites, and with any luck, work with others to help them try things, too.

What do you wish you could make but don’t know how to (yet)?

Well, I’ve always wished I could make great music – but I can’t sing, and I can’t seem to learn to read music, so that’s a struggle. Aside from music, I’d love to learn to work with metals – silversmith, or even heavy metals – welding. So cool.

Bonus question: Who would you like to see answer these questions?

Meryl Streep. Sandra Bullock. The CEO of Tech Stars. My Mom.

Meet a Maker: Rachel with the Cotery

meet a maker element

PhotoMeet RACHEL (friends call her Ray-Chill… no they don’t, but she wishes they did)

Rachel is The Cotery’s Community Manager. She previously was the Small Event Coordinator for Teach for America’s Giving Committee in New Orleans during her time as a corp member. She studied Business Administration and Political Science in the Tennessee mountains, where she grew up with a love of bluegrass music and buttermilk biscuits.

What do you make?

The Cotery is an online platform for creatives to design and presell garments. Basically, we use fashion to give talented folks a creative outlet for their art, photography, or general design ideas. Once they have designed a garment on our website, they presell it. After the sales minimum is met, we manufacture and ship their design. It allows designers to explore the fashion industry without risk. It also allows customers to get really unique garments made in the USA.

LeggingsHow did you get started making and why?

The Cotery started because the founders (Char Genevier and Tricia Hoke) realize that there is a barrier to entry in the apparel industry for many great and talented artists. The Cotery is the bridge between these artists and the fashion industry. We empower creatives to design without worrying about the time-consuming, complex, and expensive aspects of fashion. I joined the team because, as a former teacher, I have a deep appreciation for empowering others, and the Cotery’s goal really resonated with me. Because there’s no up-front costs, inventory investment, or manufacturing contracts for these independent designers, they are able to actually succeed in the fashion world, without risking everything.

What’s the most amazing, unusual (craziest) thing anyone has ever done with or told you about what you make?

Oh man, some of the designs we get are absolutely incredible. My favorite design so far would probably be these leggings. The design is the topography of the Red Rocks National Park in Colorado. Damon Redd created his company, Kind Design, to share his appreciation for the surrounding areas and outdoor sports, and he does a beautiful job bringing his passions into the designs. He’s designed a couple pieces with us and I can’t wait to see what he does next. I’m really looking forward to showing these leggings off at the TV on the Radio concert at Red Rocks this summer.

IMG_0709What is your advice to people looking to do what you do or make what you make?

Be you and do. People have really incredible ideas and talents, but too often let self-doubt keep them from actually taking the steps to complete a project. I think it’s so important to put yourself out there and really give an interest or a passion the chance to succeed. If it doesn’t work, so what? You tried, and I think that’s more important.

What is your favorite part about the maker movement?

Without a doubt my favorite part is the influence of other makers. It’s really incredible what folks are doing these days, and observing their passions is truly inspirational. Not only is it just really stinkin’ cool technology and innovation, but the problem solving is astounding. I’m really excited for the future of this movement. I think society is embracing creative problem solving, and I think the Maker movement is leading the way. I really can’t wait to see this mentality at work when applied to societal and environmental issues. I’m also really eager to see this more in our school systems because it’s amazing to see what kids can do if you put them in an environment that leads them in this kind of problem solving.

Where do you see your making going in the next 3 to 5 years?

I think every type of “making” is only going to increase in traction. There is a renewed appreciation for independent organizations and projects, as well as creative problem solving. Shopping from companies like The Cotery allows customers to be part of the movement community, and that requires a transparency from organizations that really energizes both consumers and producers. I think it increases responsibility for businesses, which will lead to overall improved society.

What do you wish you could make but don’t know how to (yet)?

Moonshine – I was raised in Appalachia. But that’s illegal, so let’s say quilts. 300 years ago, women in communities used to get together and quilt when someone got engaged or had a baby. I love the idea of the thought, community, and talent that went into quilts like this. I’d love to learn how to make them, and figure out how technology can be part of the quilt-come-back.

Catapult in to Fun, At-Home Activity!

7bec1ae57a5e19277834222ff4122b40We are honored to attend events all around the Front Range where we get to interact with adults and children alike and talk about our mission.

Most recently, we were at the Frank Shorter Kids Fun Run for Health where we met several amazing inventors that created unique designs for desktop catapults.  This fun activity is best when you simply put the materials out, and let kids go wild.  They will invent, iterate and problem solve.  You can set up your own targets using cups and bowls, or the sink – or your mom (as long as the ammo is a marshmallow or a nice, soft pom pom!)

Materials:
  • Popsicle stickscandy-corn-catapult-1
  • Rubber bands
  • Plastic spoons or plastic water bottle lids

Yep, that’s it.  If you want to get fancy, you could add:

  • Alligator Clips
  • Clothes pins

You can also visit our Pinterest page to see more complicated designs.

 

(Thanks to FrugalFun4Boys.com for the example here.)

 

Google Brings Goodies to Boulder Maker Faire!

How many times have you driven past the Google offices on Pearl Street and wondered what goes on in there? A candy river made of pure milk chocolate? Experimental blueberry chewing gum? Now’s your chance to find out.

Actually, the Google booth at this weekend’s Boulder Mini Maker Faire will be less about what’s going on in the office than about what people who happen to be in the office think is cool. It ain’t about the Google products being built at Pearl and 26th, but all the maker-ish open source side projects that Google staffers want to share with the world.

One of these is called Interactive Spaces, which are physical spaces with interactivity, mixing the virtual world with the physical world. Check out what Liquid Gallery is doing with Interactive Spaces. It’s open source, so you can play too. Google says, “With this platform you can build immersive physical spaces, home automation, physical-based computer gaming, and museum and interactive art installations.” It looks like fun, fun, fun and this is you chance to get your hands on it and see for yourself.

Google is also bringing Google Cardboard, literally a cardboard viewer into which you mount your smartphone. Download a Cardboard-compatible app and you can experience your own Occulus-like virtual reality, for about $3.95. Or if you’re inclined, download the open-source Cardboard code and make your own apps.

In addition to open source goodies, we can’t wait to see what the local Googlers have been building. For example, we know that Steve Dieter, a developer on Wallet, builds an annual Halloween robot that, equipped with a motion sensor, waits for trick-or-treaters and then tells bad jokes in the voice of his daughter, Annika. What other wonders will Googlers bring? You’ll have to stop by the Faire to find out!

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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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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Kitables Kickstarts Automatic Rubik’s Cube Solver


The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that without the addition of work, the entropy of a system will increase. In other words, left alone a system becomes more disordered: molecules disperse, heat homogenizes, and if you drop a Rubik’s Cube, it ain’t real likely to solve itself. Instead, random processes applied to this best selling toy of all time tend to increase its disorder. Of the 350 million Rubik’s Cubes sold to date, how many do you think are sitting at the bottom of the toy box or even on the kitchen counter, unsolved? According to this lovely 2nd Law, the correct answer is lots.

The Boulder startup Kitables is out to change that. Currently being Kickstarted is its snap-together kit that in conjunction with a little Arduino board allows you and yours to put a Rubik’s Cube in a slot and watch the automatic arm solve the puzzle for you. They call it “every nerd’s dream machine.” And I don’t know about you, but the idea will definitely keep us here at Maker Boulder up at night.

The company is the brainchild of Arieann DeFazio, research scientist at CU Boulder using x-ray crystallography to study Alzheimer’s disease.

“I always had it in my head to create the perfect job, somewhere I could have a business and do science too,” says Arieann, escapee from a biomedical sciences PhD program in Florida. “After five or six years of searching and not finding it, I finally decided to make it myself.”

Arieann was surfing Instructables.com when she realized, “Here are all these great ideas, but nobody’s got the parts!” When she looked deeper, Arieann says she found that most existing DIY kits were just electronics or just mechanics or just science kits, “Most of what you get from Radioshack, is you do like five steps and you have a robot,” she says.

Arieann’s goal was to combine mediums to create a fully integrated home science experience. Working at CU and with another Boulder startup, Arieann started formatting her kits on the side. Eventually she hopes to have Kitables kits across STEM fields.

For now, there’s the Rubik’s solver. God’s Algorithm already existed for the Cube — the optimal path of action from any given state to the solution state. Arieann brought a friend with mechanical engineering experience into the business to work the machine side. And they’re hoping that Kickstarter will help take care of the business side.

“We have two Kickstarter goals,” she says. “The first is to make sure people actually want this thing. And the second is to provide a little seed funding, or I guess it would be micro-seed funding.”

Here’s a little editorial: as awesome as the solver most certainly is, you gotta visit the Kickstarter for the video’s comedic genius, which taps into the place within us all that knows what it’s like to obsess over Rubik’s. Be warned: the soundtrack for the solver video will make you want to get your Kojak on.

Consider this: by pledging for Kitables you can do you part to fight entropy and bring just a little more order into the world. Let this forever be known as the day that entropy was beaten back from the gate!

Roller Coaster Thought Experiment

You know those thoughts you have in the shower? No, not those thoughts…but the mind-wandering flashes of observation or brilliant insight that you can’t seem to get any other way? I was thinking last night about a trip we took last year to Knott’s Berry Farm, where Leif — then 48 1/4 inches tall — was just tall enough for the radical roller coasters. There were absolutely no lines and so Leif and I strolled through the gates and directly onto Ghostrider, where we seated ourselves in the last car of the train. With my continued assurances of a fairly mellow ride, we clicked toward the top of the first hill. And long before we crested, Leif and I were whipped over the top and down many hundreds of feet toward the cold, hard ground, pulled over by the gravity already working on the front seats. Now in hindsight and in the shower, I recognize a couple thoughts that went through my head at the time. Here they are in no particular order:

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Calculating the Effort to Spend on Thanksgiving

A couple years ago today, I was baking muffins with my son’s preschool class and set fire to the school. Okay, technically I didn’t set it on fire—it was only butter smoke from the tin that set off the alarm, necessitating the entire school of a couple hundred kids filing out to the basketball courts while the fire department arrived en mass.

After that, my wife took over the Wednesday cooking class and it was never NEARLY so exciting. Besides, Leif was line leader that day, and he was really, very proud to lead the class evacuation. (I remember standing there with my large metal bowl and wooden spoon, smelling of smoke and trying to look innocent.)

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