This last week I got to do something different during “bring your kid to work day” – provide additional STEM activities for the kids that came to MESH Systems in Carmel, Indiana. The idea came about when a parent in Greencastle, who often brings his child to Castlemakers, wasn’t sure if there would be enough to keep his son interested all day. Since his son really enjoys stopping by the makerspace, and he knew we’ve done many youth programs in the area, he asked if we could do something at his office. After some discussions with their HR person, we were able to put together an afternoon STEM session at Mesh.
There was also interest in 3D printing, so we started with a quick overview of the printing process. After starting our 3D printer making some parts and explaining how some of the 3D printed parts we brought were made, we had them design their own part to be printed using Tinkercad. The later afternoon kids were more interested in design, so we focused in on using Tinkercad to create objects and how it differed from other 3D design programs. Those that were left had access to other 3D printers, so we finished up on how to export and print their designs.
Thanks to Mesh Systems for giving us the opportunity to teach some of their kids about single board computing and 3D printing design!
On Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings we have open shop time at the makerspace. It’s a time when folks can bring in projects and our members, or anyone who happens to be there, can try and help people create, repair, or build something. It often becomes a fun community sharing time at a spot with lots of maker tools along with various STEAM kits and projects to keep younger kids busy also.
Some of the projects that come in are pretty fascinating; ranging from helping restore a coin-operated hobby horse to figuring out how to build a wheelchair cart for a duck(more later on that one!). We also get folks that want help assembling something – those have ranged from 3D printers to even a forge(perhaps a good thing we couldn’t find our propane tanks at the time).
But often it’s someone bringing in something to give us to fix or teardown later like a bass amplifier or reel-to-reel deck. Even if they can’t be fixed, they make great tear-down items for kids and adults to learn about how things work – we’re big believers in learning through finding out what’s inside. In fact, right now we have a lot of things to tear down for components and/or salvage – stop by and learn something with us!!
March has become one of my favorite times of year, and not just because of the weather or basketball. One of my favorite events to attend is the annual Indiana Robotics Championships in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium. This year was no exception.
Although I’ve never actually competed in the event, I’ve attended for many years. The sheer energy and excitement at the competition is infectious. You can’t help but be astonished at the amount of hard work (and sometimes doughnuts) the teams put into this effort.
The size of the event is also impressive, this year there were over 10,000 attendees and 318 teams competing. And as a volunteer judge the last 2 years, I’ve learned the knowledge and skills that the kids participating have is even more impressive. From mechanical and programming skills to creativity and especially project management, which some learn quicker than others, these kids are learning things that will help their future careers and life.
Now that our larger CNC has been moved upstairs we’re starting to see some more interesting projects being made at the makerspace. Some of them have been more traditional woodworking projects, sometimes updated with a technology twist. For Valentines Day we had a teenager who made an oak box that he lined with LED lights to backlight the lithophane he created that was mounted on top of box. Haven’t heard yet if the recipient liked it, but I was definitely impressed!
We also saw another interesting use for the CNC several months ago when someone made an remote control NERF gun turret. The design was done in Fusion 360 and the main parts were cut on the CNC so the stepper motors could be mounted directly into the wood. The final device allows remote control aiming and firing of the nerf gun. We could use one of these at the makerspace!
A lot of people don’t realize that Amateur Radio can involve spacecraft, including the International Space Station (ISS). When it passes overhead, there’s a lot more than images you can receive!
When this blog post was written there were 7 astronauts aboard the ISS and several have an amateur radio license. There are 2 radios currently aboard and the astronauts will occasionally use them to contact people when passing overhead, although that is really pretty rare. But the radios are almost always in use, except during a spacewalk, from amateur radio operators sending radio signals up to the station which then repeats them back down to earth.
The ISS passes overhead an average of 5-6 times a day; anyone can track and predict when it will be passing over their exact location. You can even see the station passing by in the night time sky on a clear night. But what’s exciting to me, as the station passes overhead you can hear amateur radio operators sending voice and data traffic up to the ISS which then transmitted down to earth. That allows their signals to travel much further; I’ve easily picked up signals from Oklahoma and further with a handheld radio or scanner.
A couple of us at the makerspace are working on building an antenna to transmit up to the ISS. If you’re interested in learning more, stop by the makerspace during Open Shop time. And if the ISS is passing overhead, we can let you listen to the traffic yourself!
This month started off with our 6th annual Putt Putnam County event, which is always exciting not only for those building a mini-golf hole but also the crowd played course down Franklin Street. This year was much colder than usual, but still fun for those that made it out to play the community built 12 hole course this year. We’ll be looking to increase the number next year, so start working on ideas now!
We’ve also had several classes this month, including offering our first welding class where people could learn how to weld by making a yard bird! Troy Fiechter, one of our members & a talented artist/welder on his own, taught the basics of welding in the half-day class and then helped them to make their own yard art using a wide variety of different scrap parts and tools.
Our Tinkercad/3D Printing class was a good turnout and nice mix, combining interested locals and people that drove up from Linton, Indiana. Not the farthest someone’s driven to take one of our classes (Kokomo still holds that record), but nice to know that others appreciate our offerings. October also means we get to help out with Putnam County Public Library‘s Halloween Event, which we bring out one of our 3D printers to make bats, skulls, and other scary objects to give away to the kids that come there.
We’ve got a number of classes planned for November, including a Raspberry Pi configuration class this Wednesday and Learning to Solder class later in the month. Check out our learning / classes webpage for those & more.
This summer we decided to make some changes to the layout at Castlemakers. Perhaps the most visible was moving our Shapeoko XXL from downstairs into the middle room on the main level. With all the parts & equipment donations that we also received this summer, it’s felt like a big project – which it has been. But we’re beginning to reap some of the rewards of the move with better equipment utilization, even if we’re still not done yet.
This summer also brought in a large amount of unusual equipment, from electronics, laptops, & printers to a rather large Nd:YAG laser! We’ve got plenty of tear-down material for inquisitive minds right now.
But the most incredible gift was from Travis & Weiwei Chao, who formerly had an eBay store that sold 3D printer, CNC, & electronic parts. When they decided to sell their house & then close their eBay store, they gave what was left to Castlemakers! We now have lot of extra components at the makerspace & plan to use the parts in future classes at Castlemakers. Stop during our Open Shop times if you’d like to see the new things we got or just have an urge to take something apart to see what’s inside…
We’ve seen a lot of different mini-golf holes built for Putt Putnam County, now in its 6th year. Often questions come up about supporting the playing surface or the sides to keep the ball on the playing surface when building a hole.
We’ve got some general guidelines here, and you can always try searching the internet, but here’s some thoughts on what we’ve seen people create. Really almost anything will work, the piece of plywood with players laying/arranging building blocks at the event comes to mind, but for those that want to make something a little more complex:
Many folks use 2×4’s or 2×2’s to raise the playing surface off of the ground to allow the ball to drop into a hole or cup. Do remember that people could be walking on the playing surface depending on your design.
Others have kept their main surface on the ground, then have the ball hole higher than the playing surface.
For covering the playing surface, plain carpeting or felt is common. But anything will work, including old fanfold computer paper printouts! Outdoor carpeting that looks like grass can be found and felt is available in the fabric department. Or just paint it!
You’ll need to get the mini-golf hole to the event on Franklin Street Friday October 7th. Some have chosen to keep them light by using smaller or thinner boards for support. Many times it’s simply based on whatever wood is readily available.
We’re here to help you build that mini-golf hole, both with ideas and suggestions on construction and materials. Stop by during our Open Shop hours or contact one of us.
This coming Wednesday, August 3rd, from 7-8:30 pm we’ll be putting on a solar system information session at Castlemakers. This no-charge presentation will briefly discuss general types of solar systems used in homes, then dive deeper into photovoltaic systems and solar panels. If there’s time, we’ll also talk briefly about how to determine solar potential at your location. If you’d like to read more, here’s a blog post that covers a session we did before.
This Friday night, at Greencastle’s First Friday, we’ll be trying something new, letting folks carve a foam block into a car, then propel them down a wire on Franklin Street.
For the first attempts we’re keeping it simple, although admittedly we’ve got bigger plans. For Friday night we’ve built a platform to put the foam block on, participants can carve the block into a car body, then will launch it down a cable using a CO2 cartridge.
In the future we’re going to try 3D printed and laser-cut wheels & want to also try using model rocket engines for propulsion. We’ve even thought about dual tracks for racing and putting an on-board micro:bit to measure speed and acceleration. Come join us on Friday night from 6-8 pm on Franklin Street in downtown Greencastle and to try out our first prototypes!