crossbeams, building, making, maker

Building Fun with Crossbeams

Crossbeams – Building Made Easy (and Fun!)

We caught up with Charles Sharman, creator of the most-excellent building toy, Crossbeams. His story is exactly what we’re all about at Maker Bolder – seeing an opportunity and making something to meet the need.  Here’s his story.

The Aim of Crossbeams

“Dad, can we make a maglev train?” This question, posed by my five-year-old son, sparked the beginning of Crossbeams.  Whether it’s a spaceship, a skyscraper, an animal, or a maglev train, all of us want to make and create.  It’s in our blood.  But when it comes to actually doing it, the task can be overwhelming.  You may have to know trigonometry, algebra, mechanics, thermodynamics, electronics, art, drafting, machining, and more.  I designed Crossbeams to simplify the building task.  You dream, and Crossbeams helps you create.

Many creative platforms exist for younger ages.  Yet many younger active creators become passive consumers as they age, immersed in video games, social media, smart phones, and television.  I designed Crossbeams to hold the interest of older and advanced creators.

Dreams to Reality

Making Crossbeams’ a reality wasn’t easy, particularly with a full-time job and family.  First, I had to enhance my knowledge. During late nights and early mornings, I taught myself mechanics, gear design, and machining.  I studied the limitations of current building systems and identified enhancements.  A plethora of piece-types limits some building systems.  According to Mark Changizi and others building system’s creativity is enhanced by minimizing piece-types an maximizing the ways pieces connect.  Delicacy limits some building systems.  I wanted a model car that could crash into the wall without disintegrating.  Finally, straight lines and boxiness limits some building systems.  I wanted to accurately replicate lines and surfaces.

Next, I needed a way to try out pieces in a complete model without blowing the bank on prototyping costs.  I wanted to ensure models
looked appealing and the piece-types were minimal.  I created the Crossbeams Modeller, a software tool to virtually connect Crossbeams pieces.
I started with three core models:

I believed a building toy that could closely replicate these models could closely replicate many more.  Initially, the models took more than 160 piece-types.  After much work, I narrowed it to the 47 piece-types used today.

crossbeams, engineering, maker, making, STEAM, boulder

Crossbeams can be assembled to support great weights and pressures.

Finally, I needed a sturdy joint that locks pieces much more strongly than the joints in children’s building toys.  Children’s building toys use friction-based joints; the force to connect is equal to the force to disconnect.  That causes an inherent trade-off.  If you make it stronger, you make it harder to assemble.  Instead, I based my joint on a cotter pin two-motion joint.  A two-motion joint unrelates the join force and separation force.  I started with a cotter pin, and it evolved into our patented, simple slide-and-twist joint.

The Future of Crossbeams

While Crossbeams has captured much of its original intent, we still have far to go.  Ages 10-12 and 20+ make our largest customer base. We haven’t captured the hearts of young adults, for whom the system was intended.

We designed Crossbeams from the ground up to handle electronics but later tabled electronics to maintain our debt-free principle.  Most of the electronics package is designed and ready.  Once sales grow, we can make my son’s maglev.

Success won’t be judged by money in the bank but by a sampling of society.  Whether it’s Crossbeams, musical compositions, stories, or painting, once young adults are known for their creating instead of their consuming, our work is done.

Meet a maker: Robots-4-U

Meet:
Liza Hubbell, Robots-4-U
I am a veteran educator who knows kids flourish when they engage in creative problem solving, design thinking and project-based inquiry.  I love coaching them through so they can find success in their own time and on their own terms.
What do you do?Hovercraft-ES1 (2)
I ‘teach’ kids how to build robots, but the truth is they figure it out for themselves; I just provide the materials and the support, and a dash of scientific principles thrown in.  Robots 4 U has multiple curricula, so we can capture the imagination of many…drones, art, robots and battle robots.
How did you get started in your field/with your project and why?
I am a trained Montessori elementary teacher, so no stranger t o learning and teaching all kinds of curriculum in a hands on way.  I joined Robots 4 U because the hands on, self paced approach is important to me–I know it works for kids, and gives them a sense of ownership that other approaches don’t deliver as fully.  Plus, robots are just super cool.
What’s the most amazing, unusual (craziest) thing anyone has ever done with or told you about your project?
I had a parent this fall tell me that our program was, “like Legos on steroids.”  So true!
What is yourBattleBot-ES1 (2) favorite part about the STEM education movement?
I think it’s wonderful for kids to weave the connections between subjects and get them excited about acquiring solid skills and engaging in the investigation process.  Imagination and problem solving are at the heart of STEM/STEAM ed and it’s particularly great when girls realize that they are very capable and STEM is not ‘just for boys.’
Where do you see your making/projects going in the next 3 to 5 years?
I am excited about drones and nano tech as areas that we’ll investigate more fully on a mass culture scale, and more immediately, Robots 4 U will launch Drone School this summer!
What do you wish you knew how to do but don’t know how to (yet)?
about a zillion things, but in our open source world, I feel like I can find out!  It’s great to be connected to the Maker movement because it’s so diverse, and I learn something new all the time!
Bonus question: Who would you like to see answer these questions?
Everyone in the known universe who might be interested in these answers….Fox Mulder if he were real, as I’ve had a crush on him for 20 years…I don’t know.
Meet Liza in person, and play with some robots, April 30 and May 1 at Rocky Mountain STEAMFest!MotherBoard-ES1 (2)

Four Reasons Women Aren’t Succeeding in STEM

In the past few years there has been a significant push to encourage women and girls to pursue careers in STEM.  From White House initiatives to non-profits, it seems like closing the gender gap is finally becoming a national priority.

And rightly so, according to the Economics & Statistics Administration women make up nearly half of all jobs in the U.S. economy but only about 25 percent of STEM jobs.  This remains consistent, even as more college-educated women enter the workforce.  In fact, the number of women in computer science has actually decreased since 1991.

Women in STEM earn about 33 percent more than women in non-STEM jobs.  The gender wage gap in STEM is significantly smaller than in other fields.  So why aren’t more women succeeding in STEM?

The Harvard Business Review highlighted four biases that are keeping women out.  Through in-depth interviews with 60 female scientists and a survey of 557 female scientists, researchers think they are closing in on the problem.

Pressure to Prove Yourself 

Of those surveyed, two-thirds reported a significant pressure to prove themselves in the workplace over and over again.  This phenomena has been the subject of social psychology, but this is the first instance of real women confirming this as their experience.

Masculine vs Feminine

Women in the workplace are forced to inhabit a duality — behave in masculine ways to appear competent while acting feminine to be likable.  Of those surveyed, more than a third said they feel pressure to act “feminine” to be likable.  Around half of the women said they have received backlash for exhibiting traditionally masculine behaviors, like being direct, decisive and outspoken.

Starting a Family

Nearly two-thirds of the women surveyed said their professional lives changes drastically after having children.  Not because of the added responsibly of starting a family, but rather because of how their colleagues began to view them.  Women with kids found their commitment and competency coming into question.  Co-workers and managers began assuming they would lose their passion and drive after having children.

The “Woman’s Spot”

Discrimination in the workplace is also turning some women against each other.  Studies show that woman who have dealt with adversity and discrimination often avoid professional relationships with other women.  Many woman report feeling they are competing for “the woman’s spot” in organizations that are mostly male.

Initiatives to close the gender gap often focus on building the STEM pipeline or point fingers at personal choices, but if this study is any indicator, the real problem is actually gender bias.

So the real questions is: how do we make sure women are being accepted in the STEM community and workplace?

Sources:

ESA Report on Gender Gap in STEM Careers

https://hbr.org/2015/03/the-5-biases-pushing-women-out-of-stem

Alexa Chrisbacher is the Director of Public Relations at Stem Match, a social media platform for the STEM community.  She is also pursuing an MFA at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.  Connect with Alexa at stemmatch.net.

Meet: Mark’s Art Car

Meet a Maker: Mark Moffett and the Fantastical Art Car

The Art Car parked at Alloy Gallery in Lafayette

The Art Car parked at Alloy Gallery in Lafayette

After a months-long struggle, we finally secured a car on August 8, 2015! A 1996 Volkswagen Golf. Thanks to Martha Lanaghen and Jeff Scott from MakerBolder!

My build partner for this pro ject is Jackson Ellis. Construction began on August 17 at Alloy Gallery in Lafayette. Jackson and I worked through the week, reconfiguring, removing and welding the skin. Our sheet metal and metal objects were donated by Uncle Benny’s Building Supplies, in Loveland.

Our first glueing event took place at Art Night Out in Lafayette, Friday, August 21. It was a great night and the town really embraced the project. Several members of the community participated. We painted some areas of the the car with chalkboard paint for those who wanted11924774_10153163792670698_1240388022519427465_n clean hands and clothes. We received donated objects from Sister Carmen, RAFT Colorado; and Art Parts Creative Reuse Center in Boulder. I purchased other materials at Goodwill Outlet World in Denver. Thanks to our host J Lucas Loeffler and Alloy Gallery!

The following night, we trekked to Denver for the Colorado Night Market. An audience participation, pop-up art show, held in the back of U-Haul Trucks! It was a very original, fun-filled evening. However, the most excitement came during our trip back to Lafayette, when we we’re pulled over by Westminister Police. Our tail-lights were on the fritz! Fortunately, they were more curious than anything. We were allowed to continue, as long as our support van had it’s flashers on! Thanks officers!

 Then, we trekked to the Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest where we visited with hundreds of people and worked with the materials we had collected.  More work is yet to come, and we’re always looking for donations for this car – or if you have an ol11887525_10153159427525698_5869335902549702919_od car you’d love to donate, we’re ready to start new projects as well.  Just email info@www.makerbolder1.dev to learn more.

Great objects include:

  • Happy Meal Toys
  • Action figures
  • Dolls and doll heads
  • Skeletons and skulls (plastic please!)
  • Multiples: shells, marbles, small rocks, corks, pennies
  • Mardi Gras beads and glass beads
  • Old jewelry and gems
  • Any interesting plastic items
  • Old damaged musical instruments

All items should be weather-proof and able to spend time in the Colorado sun.

Thanks for your interest and keep watching for updates!
Robotics, workshops, science, experiences, innovative, boulder, robots

Meet: Watershed School

A recent headline in Wired magazine put it simply: “Schools are preparing students for a world that doesn’t exist.” After all, how many times have you found a job memorizing historical dates or filling out worksheets? That kind of education is no longer relevant.

At Watershed School, our mission is to build the character and the ability of students to take on the world’s greatest challenges. For us, that means teaching them to create original solutions to real-world problems – 3d printer studentsand develop the ability to adapt, collaborate, and create.

At Watershed, this looks very different than students sitting in rows. It means

  • Starting a small business in an economics class
  • Using Arduino circuits to solve a problem in engineering
  • Learning Spanish by navigating the streets of small town Guatemala
  • Using design thinking to reduce the amount of waste headed to landfill

As a result, kids love coming to school. Your children are natural born inventors, entrepreneurs, and creative problem solvers. Giving kids the tools to express it makes them happier and more successful.

We support STEAMFest because STEAMFest is about this different way of learning. In Boulder, we are lucky to be part of a community of technological problem-solvers, educational innovators, and open-minded parents looking for something different.

11922958_1016768991675554_256434779100010393_o(1)And after STEAMFest, check us out at www.realworldlearning.is, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter at @watershed_co. You could even call us on an old-fashioned phone. We’d love to show you a different kind of school.

Meet a Maker: Bitsbox

Wheee! Bitsbox is AWESOME and a ton of fun. Guess what else?! They’re a smashing partner of Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest and will have a booth in the exhibit hall!

What does Bitsbox do?

Bitsbox is a subscription box that teaches kids to code. Every month a package arrives to your door with dozens of programming projects. Kids go on our website and follof10ac033a14a47fd99836178d49a2b91w the instructions to type real code that makes real apps that work on real devices.

Who is your target customer?

We’re most popular with families having kids between the ages of 6 and 12, though we’ve had a few people have success with older and younger kids. If your kid can read, then they can do Bitsbox. And parents don’t need to be coders themselves. If your kid gets stuck, all you need to do is go back to the instructions and help them find where they went off track.

Why is Bitsbox important and what wil643c4563a79b4b84a1d7770badf555ab_largel your customers get out of being members?

Coding is a language. The earlier kids start, the better they learn. Kids who do Bitsbox build confidence in their ability to handle all this tech stuff around us. Once a kid says “I’m a coder!”, they carry that with them the rest of their lives.

What is your most inspiring customer feedback?

We get wonderful feedback every day. Here’s a small sample.

“My kids spent 6 hours playing with Bitsbox last night. They’ve been playing with Scratch and Code.org — but they felt that this was much cooler and they loved the fact that they felt like they were writing real code.”

“Wow! Thank you so much! You just made his day. I thought I’d share that he had surgery on the 20th and that’s why we missed the deadline. He’s on very limited activity while he heals so he’s spending lots of time on Bits Box code. Just thought I’d share so you could see how y67d7fd5948900e51665cc2329c8ca412_largeour kind gift truly means so much to him.”

“Just so you know – I love Bitsbox. You are doing great things. I’m not teaching a computer class next year and I’m done with my programming unit this year. I am paying out of my own pocket so I can’t keep my subscription. If something changes and I teach computers again, I’ll gladly sign up.”

“I’ve got to say, my daughter is loving her first bitsbox. We’re taking it slow — I work to get her to think about what the programs will do, and encourage her to play around with changes. We just finished Tuba or not Tuba, which she loves. I am really impressed by the platform and definitely want to keep her moving forward.”

How did your company get started and why?

Our cofounders, Scott and Aidan, are a couple of ex-Googlers who wanted to build a company that really teach people. Being is edtech is both fun and satisfying.

Where do you see your company if five years?

We want to be the way that kids all over the world can learn this amazing skill of coding. No matter where they live, what language they speak, or what devices they have access to.

What is your best advice to a young entrepreneur who wants to start a company like you?

  1. Choose something that you love.
  2. Choose a cofounder you really click with.
  3. Build a prototype and test the heck out of it with real users.
  4. Get help! Accelerator and incubator programs are all over the planet these days.

What else do you want our readers to know?

Thank you Boulder! We couldn’t have gotten as far as we have without the amazing network of parents, teachers, and start-up enthusiasts we enjoy around here.

Do you have a discount code for Maker Boulder readers?  If so include it here.

Come to our booth for an amazing deal! We want to meet you and show you in person what Bitsbox is all about.

Meet a Maker: RogueMaking

IMG_2002 My name is Tenaya Hurst and I am a Rogue Maker.  I teach sewing, soldering, and programming electronics all around the world.  It is my honor to help support the community of Boulder Colorado with this year’s STEAMfest.  I teach workshops in schools, libraries, scout troops, conferences, birthday parties, and more.  I have seen first hand the importance of STEAM and the maker movement to education.  When a child has a traditional learning experience with books, essays, presentations, and tests, it’s important to also incorporate some hands on learning.  STEAM is a way to constantly keep these important subjects present in the minds of the students.  But why?

Team work.  When we make, we learn how to work in a group.  Make your ideas heard, listen to2015-07-07 10.59.20 your teammates, and collaborate to the best creation.  These are essential skills I missed in school.  Whenever a group project was announced, I dreaded it because I was conditioned that only my individual merits mattered.  Now that I’m in the maker movement and see the intelligent advancement of kids half my age, I see how those team efforts really pay off in creating more prepared people for our society.  Even if a child becomes a lawyer or a doctor instead of an engineer or designer, that’s okay by me!  The experience of creating an Arduino robot, sewing an electronic circuit, prototyping with paper circuits, or mastering the art of soldering – makes you a better person!  You learn that failure is just part of the process instead of a devastating end to your creativity.

My favorite activity to teach is wearable technology, sewing with conductive thread.  I find it is the best activity to combine everything in STEAM.

Science – we’re learning about eleRedPinkctricity!

Technology – we’re learning that Lilypad Arduino and other hardware can be sewn into clothing and circuits can be created to help our daily lives and join the Internet of Things movement.

Engineering – there’s a lot of planning to make sure your circuit functions reliably and testing to try to find failures and solve them.

Art – the overall design and intention of a wearable tech project is the ultimate artistic expression because we’re going to wear it!

And Math….  I definitely wanted to incorporate math, but wasn’t sure how…and then I started using different colors of LEDs and discovered forward voltage!  My students examine the data sheets of the Lilypad LEDs and compare the values.  We can then calculate how much voltage (how many batteries) we’ll need to illuminate our desired combination of LEDs.  I could make it easy on my students and always give out white LEDs, but it’s so much more fun to allow a struggle and give them an electrical/math equation as the solution to find…the solution!BearFaceButterflyProject

My grandpa grew up in the great depression.  From an early age, he was fascinated with the way the world worked and emerging technologies.  He found wires in the streets of Chicago (from the first installation of electricity), took any small jobs he could around he neighborhood to learn skills, installed a doorbell at his house, accepted hand-me down tools, started a photography lab in his basement and even accepted a broken printing press to fix and use.  He didn’t let his economic status hold him back from making.  With the materials, kits, microcontrollers, and resources available today at relatively low cost, he would be proud that America is going back to a state of empowerment, WE can make things ourselves; we have value in our individual and collective innovation.  My grandpa eventually achieved a degree in Electrical Engineering from Northwestern and was awarded both Tau Beta Pi and Eta Kappa Nu.  He is my hero and I hope he’ d be proud of me, bringing electrical engineering to students in a new and emerging way with wearable technology.


@TenayaHurst
Phi Beta Kappa

Meet a Maker: Cooper with Outchasers

Meet Cooper with Outchasers! We’re so unbelievably excited to have the opportunity to play the Outchasers card game at Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest!

iLMsLBUk_400x400My name is Cooper Heinrichs. I’m currently a computer science student at CSU. I’m working on starting my own game development studio with our first game Outchasers, where players get to battle each other with giant robots.

What do you make?

I make games, specifically strategy card games right now.

How did you get started making and why?

Game development has been a passion of mine for my whole life. I kept applying for jobs and getting denied. I got tired of waiting for someone to let me do it, and decided to just do it! After I had made up my mind,

I found a good friend to work with and the rest haIMG_4733s been nothing but hard work and a dream coming true.

What part of STEAM Fest are you most excited for?

I’m most excited to show off what I’ve made, and see all of the amazing things other makers have brought.

What will you be demo’ing, hacking, making, playing with at your STEAM Fest booth?

I’m going to be demoing my card game Outchasers at my STEAM Fest booth. I’m going to give people the opportunity to get into a giant robot and beat their friends up, metaphorically at least!

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

I really love to see people get into a game design mindset when they play my game. I’ve been working on it for two years, and everyone is always willing to give advice, but I enjoy it most when they come up with a fun way to play that is outside of our rules. I feel like I’ve made a playground and now people just get to enjoy it however they choose.

IMG_5043What is your advice to creators looking to do what you do or make what you make?

My advice to creators who are looking to get going is just that – get going! Every little step you can make will get you closer to your dream, but you have to take one step at a time and keep pushing. That leads me to my favorite lyric by Hey Rosetta – “It’s just a dream until you see it happening.”

What is your favorite part about the maker movement?

My favorite part of the movement is the empowerment. Makers don’t sit back and wait for someone to solve their problems, they get innovative and make their own solution.

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

I see myself moving into a digital space so that I can reach a broader market and shed some of the limitations that physicals goods force upon us. I know our game will be even more fun once it’s created in a digital space.

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

I always admire makers who can work with electronics. I haven’t had time to learn, but I am always so impressed by what those guys and gals can make!

Meet a Maker: HyPars

denny and elliotMeet Denny, Isaac and Mitzi Newland, The startup team for HyPars LLC. We are two dads, a mom, a husband and wife team, a semi-retired nuclear engineer, a very retired customer service manager, a tech support specialist and soon, professional toymakers!isaac and mitzi

What do you make?

HyPars, the cool name for hyperbolic paraboloids. They are geometry based building toys that we hope the world will soon come to love.

How did you get started making and why?

Denny invented the toys and needed a lot of help getting them to market. Mitzi got involved with the technical writing and Isaac pitched in. We’ve just been taking on more roles as they come up. Turns out there are a lot of hats to wear.

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

When Denny started, he thought he had put together every type of creation possible with HyPars. As soon as we showed them to new people, the ideas began flooding in! It’s great to see that everyone has amazing ideas and we’re happy to share in them. Mitzi’s favorite so far is the Helical Coil that a future geneticist made. Love it!

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

Perseverance is required

What is your favorite part about the maker movement?

Seeing the ideas that people have come to life firsthand!

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

Hopefully, we will be creating our toys in our brand new building in Longmont, Colorado. We’ve secured land just east of Sandstone Ranch and should be breaking ground on the building within the next year!

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

Hyperbolic paraboloids do not always lend themselves to creating the exact shapes you want. We still haven’t found a good way to make a cube shaped box, but we’re working on it.

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

The owners of Zometools! We’re huge fans.

Meet a Maker: Hypatia Studio

Hypatia-smiles-1-of-1-216x300Hypatia Studio is a husband-and-wife team of Matt Roesle and Mahi Palanisami. We are both mechanical engineers by training. Mahi has worked in construction and HVAC design, and is interested in documentary radio and film as well as dance. Matt has researched heat transfer and fluid flow, and is interested in all most things nerdy. We’ve known each other for about eight years, have been married for two, and started our 3D printed jewelry business a little over a year ago.

What do you make?

We use 3D printing to make mathematical jewelry and sculpture. Our designs are based on geometrical concepts such as Platonic solids or braids, or are direct embodiments of equations like strange attractors or fractals, or are derived from simulations of physical things like water flow or sound waves. I usually write our own software to make the 3D models of our designs, have them 3D printed using an online printing service, and then do finishing work and assembly.

How did you get started making and why?3D printed_Hypatia Studio_fancy clean platonic solid earrings

I’ve always been interested in building things. I started learning computer programming, in BASIC, at about age 8; and for as long as I can remember I’ve loved to take things apart to see how they work. (Successfully putting them back together came later!)

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

Recently we had the opportunity to show some of our jewelry in a fashion show at RAW Denver. The hair artist also took some strange attractor sculptures I had made, and wove them into the models’ hair as fantastic hair pieces. I never would have thought to do that!

What is your adv3D printed_Hypatia studio_Julias scaffoldice to creators looking to do what you do or make what you make?

The most important thing to have is hands-on experience, and the best way to get it is to just start trying to make things. At first the things you make might not work more often than they do work, but if you can figure out what went wrong and learn something from it, you haven’t failed. (Even though it might not feel like it at the time.) Theoretical knowledge, like you get through a college education, is helpful too, but you will get more from college if you have practical and life experience first.

What is your favorite part about the maker movement?

I really like how the maker movement encourages people to just go out and try things. You don’t need formal education, fancy tools, or a big workshop to make really cool things. I also like how the proliferation of hacker spaces and events like the Rocky Mountain STEAMfest emphasize local co3D printed_Hypatia Studio_Silver swoop ringmmunity-building. The local can get lost in this age of national TV networks and the global Internet. Most of us will never be on national TV or in a magazine like MAKE or get 15 seconds of fame by going viral, but we can play an important and lasting role in our own community by helping, teaching and mentoring, and celebrating each other.

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

Right now we are trying to grow our jewelry business enough to support us as a full-time business. In three to five years, I hope that we will have succeeded in that, and we will be starting to think about and plan our next endeavor – what that will be, I have no idea yet.

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

I made the 3D p3D printed_Hypatia Studio_choker bronze steelrinter we have at home, and we use it to make prototypes of some of our designs and some larger sculpture pieces. But it can’t really handle small or intricate designs, and I wish I knew how to make the kind of printer that can print small, detailed parts in wax or a more durable plastic like nylon!