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 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

Some finishing touches still needed on this Tenzer Center hole.
Some finishing touches still needed on this Tenzer Center 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.

Looking for ideas from previous year mini-golf holes.
Idea generation from previous  mini-golf hole.

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.

Making Kinetic Art

Fourth floor view of the new interactive sculputure being built in IU's new Luddy Hall.
Fourth floor view of the new interactive sculpture being built in IU’s new Luddy Hall.

If you’d like first hand experience in building a kinetic art piece, Volunteers are needed through 3/31 with a new sculpture created by Phillip Beesley and the Living Architecture Systems Group in Bloomington. “Amatria” is a sentient architecture installation on the 4th floor of  Luddy Hall just off 10th street that will be visible within the campus.

Installation of components & wiring for the sentient sculpture in Bloomington.
Installation of components & wiring for the new Amatria sentient sculpture.

The new sculpture  is composed of polymer & metal scaffolding structures that hold glass vessels (including vinegar batteries) that power the LED lighting & kinetic mechanisms responding to motion & sound.  Most makers will recognize many of the components, from Adafruit circuit boards to laser cut acrylic components being made on location. The delicate mechanical moving structures alone are amazing, but with the network wiring/sensors/circuitry and software add another whole level of complexity. It’s not running yet, but will be by the new building’s grand opening April 9-13.

Check it out sometime or better yet volunteer by 3/31 for great hands-on experience with an extremely complex Internet Of Things (IOT) sculpture. A flyer is posted on our Makerspace window with more details or you can simply visit the 4th floor of Luddy Hall in Bloomington between 10am & 7pm through 3/31 to volunteer. We’re also offering an IOT class on 4/26 at the Makerspace, although for beginners, not anywhere near this level!

Indiana VEX Robotics Championship

Indiana VEX Robotics Championship on 3/10/18
Indiana VEX Robotics Championship on 3/10/18 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

If you missed the Indiana Vex Robotics State Championship in Indianapolis last Saturday, you missed a great event. This was the first time it’s been held at Lucas Oil Stadium and despite stadium size with over 300 teams participating on 6 stages it seemed like the right choice!

One of the middle schools competing in the competition.
One of the middle schools competing in the competition.

Indianapolis has hosted VEX robotics competitions for at least 6 years – an initiative that came out of the mayor’s Office of Education Innovation. Each year it’s grown and with Techpoint Foundation for Youth’s (TPF4Y) statewide elementary school initiative, they became the host for 2018 event which combined 3 separate events (elementary, middle school, & high school) in 2017.

With over 900 teams in Indiana, I was unable to find anyone that made it to the event from our area. Should Castlemakers help organize a local event to encourage more teams? Comment or send us an email (info@castlemakers.org) if you think we should!

Learning with Hams…

Students learn about Amateur Radio Technician license privileges.
Students learn about Amateur Radio Technician license radio privileges and operating procedures.

Last night PCAUXCOM, the local Amateur Radio emergency communications group, began a FCC Amateur Radio operator’s license class at Castlemakers. It’s a great way to study for the test – although you can self-learn the material to get a license.

What they’re doing however embodies what often happens with vocations and hobbies – people practicing and learning with other people. Not only to learn quicker, but for enjoyment too. It can help make challenging things easier; in some cases even provide focus and accountability. In today’s noisy world with more opportunities than time that’s often difficult.

Makerspaces, and one of Castlemakers’ goals in particular, can bring communities of people together to share knowledge and skills by providing a space, events, equipment, and even just a reason for people to share something. Whether it be a CoderDojo (bringing kids and programmers together to explore programing languages), folks interested in 3D Printing (which also met last night to see printers in use at a high school classroom), or Amateur Radio operators and emergency volunteers assisting others to get a communications equipment operating license.

The PCAUXCOM group is meeting every Monday evenings from 6:30 to 8 pm at Castlemakers, it’s free and open to all, and still not too late to join in. They will also be offering a licensing test locally here in Greencastle just after the course is finished, contact George Edenfield for more information.

Stealing Joules

The instructions & a few of the 'thiefs' we made to test out the circuit.
The instructions & a few of the ‘thiefs’ we made to test out the circuit.

This last Sunday, for our first Castlemakers Kids meeting of the year, eight kids (and a few adults) learned about the electronic circuit called the “Joule Thief.” It’s a fun circuit that has gained some popularity in hacker circles, yet a lot of people don’t know about. Two factors make it a good kids project: The simplicity of the circuit and you don’t need to understand the electronics behind it. For inquiring minds it can challenging because it’s not immediately obvious how it works.

A group of the girls at the meeting assemble the parts mostly scavenged from other electronics.
A group of the girls at the meeting assemble the parts mostly scavenged from other electronics.

The name is based on getting extra energy (joules) out of dead batteries. Or at least batteries that most people think are dead. The circuit, with only 4 components, can use as little as .5 volts from a single dead cell AA battery and boost it up over 3 volts – more than enough to light up a white or blue LED. Even a brand new 1.5 volt AA battery won’t do that! For the more technically minded it’s a simple blocking oscillator (IMHO not an Armstrong since there’s no capacitor) that pulses higher voltage using a inductor, resistor, and a transistor.

There are lots of different ways to make the circuit, which turned out to be part of the fun. We tore apart computer power supplies to get the toroid coils, but also experimented using parts from burned out Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs too. We found out the CFL parts worked great & possibly how we’ll do it in the future – although it can be tough to wind the toroid from some of the newer CFL bulbs. One future experiment – the Joule Thief circuit can charge dead rechargeable batteries, another great way to get energy out of supposedly dead batteries!