Pi Makers Meetup

Some of the different Raspberry Pi models at the Makerspace.
Some of the different Raspberry Pi models at the Makerspace.

Many of our posts are youth related, that’s certainly a big part of our mission, but we also encourage adults to get involved in learning and making things. Our meetups are a good example, one of the first we started was our 3DPO (3D Printer Owner’s) Meetup which first began as a group of adults but it wasn’t long before there were some teenagers involved.

Raspberry Pi with arcade buttons & joystick running RetroPie.
Raspberry Pi with arcade buttons & joystick running RetroPie.

The Pi Maker’s Meetup started last November when we got a group together to share information about Raspberry Pi’s. It also turns out we’ve got a group build of MAME system/cabinets going on at the Makerspace that will be running using a RetroPie to emulate various arcade games.

The group is still developing and like most meetups, anyone is invited to drop in on our group. Next meeting will be Wednesday February 20th at 7 pm. Please join us then or stop by during our open shop times and we’ll fill you in! You can also sign up for our events newsletter here, be sure to check the Pi Makers meetup box.

Holiday Light String Theory

Mini holiday incandescent light experimentation.
Mini holiday incandescent light experimentation.

Raising questions and seeking answers can be great learning. When given a trash bag full incandescent holiday mini-lights last year, it raised the question “when one bulb burns out the string stays lit, but why do they all go out when you remove it?” That led to a lot of learning about holiday light strings and the bulbs they use, more than can be covered in this blog post!

Resistance is not futile, it's a feature of circuits.
Resistance is not futile, it’s a feature in circuits.

And resulted in the topics for the last 2 months at  the Castlemakers Kids meetings. We started with simple electrical circuit diagrams, schematic components, and voltage/resistance in November. With a volt-ohm meter we were troubleshooting incandescent light strings pretty quickly. By December’s meeting we got into diodes and LED’s, along with Ohm’s law, to make our own LED lights for packages. And learned why lithium batteries can power an LED, but alkaline batteries can burn them out!

Removing piezo from candle lighter.
Removing piezo sparker from candle lighter.

It’s safe to say everyone there learned something, including the adults. Few of the adults for example had heard of anti-fuse’s, one of the features of those small incandescent bulbs that let them burn out yet still keep the rest of the string lit. Who would have guessed that the piezo sparker from a butane candle lighter or gas grill could restore a burned out light string to identify the bad bulb? Too much to cover here, I’ll link to a longer blog post after the holidays detailing some of the experiments and what we found. In January’s meeting we’ll be continuing experimenting with LED’s and components – join us!

 

Photogrammetry and 3D Printing

roman lamp made using photogrammetry
Image of a Roman lamp unearthed this summer in Italy created from photos & then 3D printed.

Castlemakers offered our first class on photogrammetry, or using photographs to create 3D objects, in October. But the more interesting story to me was how we got there. It began just before our Intro to 3D Printing class last spring, when a couple of folks wanted to learn about 3D printing so they could hopefully print things from an archeological dig in Italy in the summer. While I had experimented some with earlier software, this was mostly new territory.

Italian dig site near Umbria being printed. Pillars are the flooring in a Roman bath house.
Italian dig site near Umbria being printed. Pillars are the flooring in a Roman bath house.

But Rebecca, one of the students in the class, took it to another level. She was able to get a copy of a professional program, Agisoft, then take pictures at a Roman dig site in Italy this last summer. Using the program, she generated 3D images of artifacts they found and even took photos of the excavation at the site (a Roman bath house) which she was able to turn into a 3D image. When she got back in August, in a little over a week she was able to 3D print not only artifacts but also make a model of the dig site using the 3D printers at Castlemakers.

As we prepared for the Castlemakers class to show others how to do it, we discovered what may be an even better solution – a program called 3D Zephyr. We decided to cover both, especially since 3D Zephyr has a way of extracting photos from video to make the 3D image – a pretty amazing feature! The experiments will continue with local landmarks and we’ll be doing the class again this spring.

Skull Making

Shrinking Mill Jugs to skullsThis one was a little too fun not to post. At our last Castlemakers Kids meeting we used a heat gun and a skull to shrink the plastic milk jugs. It also helps to have a wet sponge available to cool the plastic and prevent shrinkage from pulling the plastic back out of the eye sockets when cooling. Special thanks to JJL for the great skull to use!

milk jug skull
The finished milk container skull.

Besides making milk jug skulls, the kids created ghostly looking limbs using plastic wrap & packing tape. We did made ghostly limbs several years ago; it’s still fun and even spookier with an LED inside at night. Need an extra hand? For now you can look in the Makerspace window…

Putt Putnam County Wrapup

Putt-Putnam-FranklinOur 3rd Annual Putt Putnam County, held on Main Street Greencastle’s October First Friday, became our largest yet. This year anyone in the area was encouraged to create/build a mini-golf hole for everyone to play. The end result: we ended up with a course that ran from Indiana Street down Franklin to Vine Street!

The community built mini-golf holes really added to the diversity, from the Kirsch Dental chomping teeth to South Putnam School Corporation’s football hole. It also included an impressive arduino-powered hole from Tenzer Center and Wasser Brewing’s final hole led up to their outdoor serving area & music.

Putt-Putnam-NightAnd of course the Castlemakers built holes were impressive as always with a Skee golf-ball hole,  mini-golf bowling alley, Horcrux hole, and a Candyland hole that had a chocolate river (maybe using chocolate pudding was a bad idea). But will cover those and the other mini-golf holes in a later post.

Special thanks to all the organizations that brought mini-golf holes and Main Street Greencastle for helping with the city to block off Franklin Street for us. It’s not too early to start thinking about an entry for the 4th Annual Putt Putnam County in October 2019!

3rd Annual Putt Putnam County

Looking for ideas from previous year mini-golf holes.
Idea generation from previous  mini-golf hole.
Our 3rd Annual Putt Putnam County mini-golf hole building tournament is underway and the holes this year looking better than ever. With about a dozen mini-golf holes that I’m aware of, there’s still time to put together a quick hole for a night of family fun.

This year we’re holding the ‘putt off’ at the First Friday event in downtown Greencastle from 6-8 pm. Main Street Greencastle is helping us to arrange Franklin Street to be blocked off, so we’ll have the holes down the street as part of the First Friday event. And several community organizations are also building holes for the event.

With entry holes from “Alice in Wonderland” to “Virtual Golf” it promises to be a fun, no charge event for the community. Come join us on October 5th!

Girl Scouts / Makevention

Central Indiana girl scouts learning about electronics & Arduinos.
Central Indiana girl scouts learning about electronics & coding.

This last Saturday we had 2 events going on in 2 different cities, a bit of a landmark for Castlemakers. In Greencastle we had our first STEAM class for the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana. 15 girl scouts and parents from Indianapolis learned about sensors and coding using Circuit Playground Arduino based boards.

2nd Floor Main lobby of Makevention, but a lot more in other rooms and first floor.
2nd Floor Main lobby of Makevention, but a lot more in other rooms and first floor.

At the same time, in Bloomington, we had a booth at Makevention, our 2nd year there.  Makevention is a little harder to describe. If you’ve ever been to a Maker Faire that’s close, especially this year since they added workshops and presentations. Makevention is a celebration of the Maker Movement, you can learn about all kinds of DIY/making – from robotics to soap to swords/knifes to lock picking to…

Makevention Makerspace panel which included Castlemakers.
Makevention Makerspace panel including Castlemakers.

At our booth we had some of the PuttCode robots which we used on the CoderDojo mini-golf hole, although several other holes from previous Putt Putnam County events were there also. The other booths were also interesting, it’s a great event for seeing what other groups in the area are doing and making. It’s usually the last Saturday in August and definitely worth attending.

 

2018 CoderDojo Hackathon

Castlemakers Dojo Ninjas celebrating after Indiana CoderDojo Hackathon in Indianapolis
Castlemakers Dojo Ninjas celebrating after Indiana CoderDojo Hackathon in Indianapolis

One of the community efforts that we perhaps promote enough is the local CoderDojo. The Castlemakers CoderDojo was one the early ones in Indiana, starting in 2016, and now going on it’s 3rd year.

What’s a CoderDojo? Simply it’s a club where youth, ages 7-17, learn  programming  from volunteers – including professional programmers. The kids/ninjas bring in projects that they are working on or are interested in… or the mentors have some structured & unstructured exercises to help them learn more about coding.

Greencastle Coders work on Python in the Individual Challenge
Greencastle Coders work on Python in the Individual Challenge

This is the second year we’ve taken kids to the CoderDojo Hackathon sponsored by CoderDojo Indiana / Techpoint Foundation for Youth. Both years we’ve had teams that won trophies, something to be very proud of!

 

Building Antennas

coax cable antenna making
George (KB9RZQ) showing a finished antenna to the group.

For the June Castlemakers Kids meeting we built an emergency radio antenna out of coax cable.  Since it was ARRL’s Field Day, an annual ‘dust off the radios & get on the air’ event, we relocated our meeting to Putnam County’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), where some local amateur radio operators were seeing how many radio contacts they could make. It also gave everyone a chance to see amateur radio operators making on air radio contacts and then try out the built antennas.

Testing a newly built antenna in the parking lot.
Testing a newly built antenna in the parking lot.

The design uses a short piece of coax cable with a connector on the end, you can see the instruction sheet we made and an example antenna. It’s a simple design that works quite well by cutting a different cable length for different transmission frequencies. Just strip the wire and twist the coax braid then you’re done. The antennas were then hooked up to a radio, and with a licensed radio operator supervision, they tried their antenna, some inside the building and others in the parking lot, to talk to each other.

Of course making antennas and watching radio operators ‘work the grid’ raised lots of questions. Thanks to George Edenfield (KB9RZK) and the rest of the PCAUXComm crew for hosting us. And special thanks to Dave Costin for giving us a behind the scenes tour of the Putnam County EOC – lot going on there many  don’t realize.

Community Classes

Laser Engraving/ Cutting Class
Attendees watch as Rodney cues up their design in the Laser Engraving/ Cutting Class.

Since last summer Castlemakers has been teaching more STEM/STEAM/Making classes for anyone interested in our community. If attendance and topics can be a judge, then our effort has been a success! Our March Introduction to Laser Cutting class, which we wanted to limit to 8 people, had 10 people (squeezed a few more in at the last minute) including folks that drove from Kokomo & Whiteland, IN to attend.

IoT ESP8266
People uploading test code to the  ESP8266 based IoT device they built so it will broadcast temperature & humidity.

In April, we took on a very challenging current topic – Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT class allowed people to not only learn about IoT & but also build an IoT device that they could take home. We’ve already had additional requests to learn about it and will repeat the class again in the future.

IoT Class
Group discussion of how the IoT device gets data to a webpage that students were accessing.

In May (5/24) we’re starting a new class series called Design to Product. We’ll begin by teaching folks how to use 3D software (like Fusion 360) to design a product, then in subsequent months you’ll learn how to make them using a 3D printer, laser cutter, or even a desktop CNC machine.

Visit our classes webpage to find out more or subscribe to our events email list to keep up-to-date on learning at Castlemakers.