Maker Faire 2011

As Steve pointed out, we’re back from the Maker Faire. The Faire was another great success, with the centre for life estimating 3000 visitors to the event. Not to mention all the makers and crew that were manning the place the whole weekend without whom the show would be nothing. It was great to be able to meet up with other groups and makers and forge some better links between us and them.

Despite my best efforts there was still quite a lot of work left to do on the spider. Having the extra pairs of hands around on Friday meant that we managed to get it all assembled with a little time left over to head to the pub for the first of the nights out. The socialising was definitely one of the highlights. Evening chats were unashamedly geeky, with regular appearances of phones, laptops and electronics.

Meeting the public and explaining all of the projects was quite fun. The better conversations will always be with other makers who ask the more relevant questions but the whole point of being there is to explain stuff to all levels. The crafty aspects of the group seemed to be much more appealing than the technical aspects, probably because of the lower entry requirements. It’s fairly easy to understand how 30000 rings become a suit of chain, but electricity still confounds people.

This year because we were a hackerspace instead of individuals I think we were taken a little more seriously. I managed to blag the group a license for Cambam and a potential discount on a 3D printer from bodge it quick.

Steve and I discussed several ideas on the way back. I think it would be nice to see all the hacker spaces put together next year. Each group should still get their own space to demonstrate their projects, but they should all be next to each other. Also it would be a really good idea to get one stall up to explain to the public what Hacker spaces are and present a map showing where each of the exhibiting hacker spaces are located. If each group puts just 2 hours into manning this stall it shouldn’t be too much effort on any one group. Stay tuned as the the other ideas will be surfacing shortly.


Spider bot plans

For those at the Maker Faire who wanted to build their own paper spiders, here are the plans.  The ones at the show were printed on A4, but you can print at whatever size you like.  We’re sorry we didn’t have any to hand out, the post failed us :(

2x small spiders PDF format, should be fine printed as A4

Small paper model of the larger spider, PDF format, can be done on A4 but A3 would be easier to assemble

If you have any questions or problems then feel free to email me

Call for help

I spent another interesting weekend assembling the spider framework. It was quite the challenge because it is extremely large and trying to do it on my own our back garden just adds to the fun of it all. It went well and despite a wet day on Sunday I managed to get something up and standing on my Monday off (yay for valentines day). It is mostly solid but it has an alarming amount of twist around the vertical. I’ve tried to reduce this with some cross braces from the fist joint back to the body and I’ll need to assemble it again to see if it works. While it’s up I’d like to add the cardboard cladding to the body to see how that is going to work too. But I’m going to need a hand or two.

I’ll be taking the spider over to NSME on Sunday 20th Feb at 1pm and will be assembling it there and hopefully getting it to look a little bit like the final spider we want. If you’re in the area please drop by and lend a hand it would be most appreciated, there is plenties of screwing, measuring and cutting to be done (in cardboard and wood) so lots to keep people occupied, plus you’ll have the satisfaction of helping this project actually get to maker faire.

Spider Frameworks

After discussions with the Maker Faire people last week it appears it’s going to be a bit tricky to take the whole spider along to Newcastle. We can erect it outside the stadium but we need to be able to prove that it isn’t going to blow away which is apparently a little more than just looking at the vast weights in the feet and saying ‘That looks heavy enough’. So we struck a compromise deal which suits us pretty nicely. We’ll only take the front half of the spider and we’ll prop it up against a wall inside the venue. then we can set up stall underneath it. Suits us in many ways because the front half is already made and it will be easier to transport.

I realise it’s not overly worthy of an update post but I spent 20 minutes this afternoon doing a quick framework test. I screwed some of the longer pieces together to test my plans for the joint. It’s pretty strong but would benefit from a matching plank on the other side of the joint, so I shall head back to Wickes tomorrow to buy the rest of the wood and something suitable for the job. Hopefully I’ll have more to show by the other end of the weekend.

(and yes I realise that first image shows it resting on a window ledge but that does simulate the additional leg joint that will be going down there)

Etch a Sketch controlled computer

I was inspired the other day when I meandered round the internet and I saw a lot of Computer controlled etch a sketches, but not a single etch a sketch controller computer. So I put aside my other projects for a night or two and set about actually making one of these things. I’m quite pleased with the results, but you can take it for a test drive yourself, when NortHACKton go to the UK Maker Faire next month.

The basic construction is an MDF frame, mounted over an LCD monitor. Two water bottle caps act as the knobs for the etch a sketch and the guts of an old roller ball USB mouse have been re purposed to control the PC.

An old mouse already has two sets of rollers, one for left-right and one for up-down. These normally press against the ball to detect the mouse movement. A slotted disk on the roller spins between an LED and opto sensor pair to detect the rotation of the knob. I have extracted these roller and sensor arrangements and put them on the left and right of the screen. The left and right clicks have also been extended and put behind each knob.

I extended the cables from the PCB in the mouse, it’s quick and dirty, I didn’t even common up the ground wires. It works and that’s good enough for a hack right? The tricky bit was aligning the LED with the sensor correctly and was achieved with lots of careful adjustments before glueing each knob section together. Finally a little bit of friction prevent the mouse unclicking, so I wedged a small section of foam into the gap to help it return to the off position.

Higher res photos can be found here and a small sample video should appear below.