All posts by chris

Robotics Competition Overview

Kicking off our Make it on Mondays series we have arranged for a brief overview of 4 common robotics groups; VEX, Lego, FIRST, & SeaPerch, including what some of the local Putnam County programs are doing.

Area 30, Putnam County 4-H, and the DePauw Robotics Club will be there talking about what they’re doing with Robotics, along with some information about other regional competitions. If you’ve heard about VEX kits or Lego Mindstorms in Putnam County;  or maybe just heard/wondered what is FIRST Robotics or SeaPerch from friends in other parts of Indiana, we’ll try to have some more information for you at this event.

This will be an open question/sharing session at the end, so if you have information you’d like to share about other Putnam county robotics groups please let us know or simply show up and share it with everyone! We’ll be meeting in the Community Room at Area 30 next Monday November 3rd at 7pm where you can see one of the robots that have competed at regional events.

Making in Art

In a recent trip down to Berea, KY I got to see firsthand how the Arts community is starting to converge with the making culture, kind of putting the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering Arts, Math) in to STEM!

Artisan using a loom to create fabric with a weave/pattern for the upcoming Christmas season. The control mechanism is fairly complex that allows the flying shuttle and the proper heddles in place.
Artisan using a loom to create fabric with a weave/pattern for the upcoming Christmas season. There is a fairly complex mechanism that moves the flying shuttle and puts the proper heddles in place at the right time.

Berea of course has been known for years as an artisan center and you can see the maker culture/impact there even if it is not always called that. Artists have always been makers at heart, you only have to watch the mechanics of someone weaving fabric or tapestry in a large loom or listen to someone  describing the pickling process when silver soldering a necklace or bracelet to realize there’s a fair amount of STEM that artists can use in their craft. One studio I was in had a period table of the elements on the wall next to their casting area.

One studio creates pewter casting molds using table-top CNC machines and 3D printers.
One studio in Berea creates pewter casting molds using table-top CNC machines and 3D printers.

What I found interesting was how the personal fabrication tools that makers are embracing are being used by artists, and vice-versa. Smaller CNC machines, laser cutters, and 3D printers are all being used to create art, but then anyone that’s been to a Maker Faire knows/has seen that already. That jewelry or napkin holder may be made with something that could be built in makerspace!

There’s a core group of Castlemakers that are working towards creating a more permanent place, a makerspace, for us to create things. And to hold some of the parts and fabrication tools we’ve started collecting, including some best shared, that would allow people to make things – young and old. If you’re interested in helping, send us an email.

If you’re interested in finding out more about making your own artwork, Berea now has a series of art making workshops that you can sign up for. The biggest is their Festival of Learnshops in July, but there’s an upcoming Holiday series called Make It, Take It, Give It that starts the end of November which looks to be really good also.

Making at Feast of the Hunters’ Moon

Hunters' Moon Craftsman
Using a tree limb for tension, some rope, treadle, and his leg a craftsmen shows kids how pioneers used a simple pole lathe to make table legs for furniture.

This weekend in West Lafayette is the Feast of the Hunters’ Moon festival, which recreates what it was like in the 18th century at Fort Ouiatenon in Indiana. This was my first visit to the event and I was surprised with the how much effort people went into recreating the life at a trading post/military fort in the 1700’s and also with how many ‘making’ things going on there! There was blacksmiths, furniture making, soap and quilt making demonstrations and we only saw a small part of everything that will be going on there. Thursday & Friday it was only open for school trips, but this Saturday & Sunday (10/4 & 10/5) it’s open to the general public. A lot of fun and there’s even authentic food from the era there at the event. With the nicer weather this weekend I suspect you may want to get there early…

We’ve also forming our second making/build project – actually it’s going to be 2 projects: Catapults/Trebuchets & Hydroponics. It’s still early in the process and all are welcome to join us. Next general group meeting will be Sunday evening, 10/5, at the Community Room downtown above Eli’s Bookstore. We’re still very much in the idea stage, but as things develop there will be more information on the Projects page.

Downtown Shovercrafts

kids_shovercraft_downtown_greencastleOn Labor Day weekend we had our first public Shovercraft showing – what a great time for the kids!! A huge thanks to the Greencastle Farmer’s Market for their assistance. And for letting us shove the kids down Washington next to them while they were on Indiana Street downtown that Saturday.

shovercraft_youth_downtownWashington Street Hovercraft overshootAll of the craft hovered, some of them maybe a little too well if you look through the pictures! The kids loved it & the part I really enjoyed was the excitement seeing the kids helping each other and showing those walking by how their craft worked, even letting some of the other kids see what it was like to ride a leaf blower powered hovercraft.

There was a little on-the-spot fabrication work needed on some of the craft, part of the experience, but they worked remarkably well. I’m setting up a photo album of photos, but there’s also a lot of pictures on the Farmer’s Market page and a fair number of pictures and even a video on Facebook from some of the people there.

greencastle farmer's market hovercraft
The Shovercraft pit area next to the Farmer’s Market.

We even took one of the craft down to the Bloomington Makevention later in the day and did some runs in their parking lot. Not as far as the twinkie cannon that was going off near our launch point, but still another fun event. Bloominglabs Makevention was an incredible event by itself, I’ll post more information on that event later.

Next up for Castlemakers: Pumpkin projectiles. Well we actually have more in mind than that, maybe some hydroponics & RC/electronics projects are being tossed around. Show up for our next general club meeting (9/28 @1:30 pm in the Community Room above Eli’s Books downtown) and find out more!!

Shovercraft Demo This Saturday!

The Castlemaker’s Shovercraft showing/demo Shovercraft under construction
will be this Saturday (8/30) at the Greencastle Farmer’s Market on the square in Downtown Greencastle. These leaf blower powered hovercraft, built by our 9-11 year old Putnam county participants, will be on display a good portion of the morning – so stop by! We’ll fire a few up around 9:30 before the music at the Farmer’s Market starts at 10 am.

prototype hover!

These hovercraft are being called them Shovercraft because they only have a hovering fan, not propulsion , so they have have to be shoved. Well and part of the upcoming competition will be landing the craft on a shuffleboard for points. I’m sure we’ll give demos several other times this Saturday, the kids are pretty excited about their craft. Look for us on Franklin street portion of the Market from 9-11 am Saturday.

The project update page can’t keeping up w/ flurry of activity this week, but there are some photos and a video of the work-in-progress so far.

Regional Maker & Robotics Events

Bloominglabs, a makerspace in Bloomington Indiana, has their Makevention this coming Saturday, August 30th, from 10 am to 4 pm. It’s at the Bloomington, Indiana convention center and you can read more about the event here:
http://makevention.org/

Last year they had FIRST & the FIRST Lego League robotics equipment there, it looks like the local high school team at least has a booth this year. Should be a good opportunity to see some interesting maker projects and if you’re interested in robotics get a feel for what’s involved in fielding a FIRST robotics team.

I’m working on Making speaker series this fall to start in October in Putnam County. The first topic will be on the different robotics team competitions – including have our local VEX robotics team speak about what they’re doing.

There’s also an upcoming Robotics Encounter down in Scottsburg Indiana for kids in grades 3-12  on September 27th. It’s sponsored by the local 4H/ Purdue Extension office down there, but out-of-towners are encouraged for the 10 am to 3 pm workshop. You can read more about it in the flyer or call the Floyd County Extension office at 812.948.5470.

Shovercraft Update

Our hovercraft teams have been hard at work & we’ve got a 4th team that will be joining us at the upcoming event. Several teams now have prototype shovercrafts running, there are links off the project page. Our public showing/competition will be at the Greencastle Farmer’s Market in late August.

Quick reminder for the shovercraft teams that we’ll be meeting as a whole group again Wednesday August 13th, 7 pm, at the Southside Community Center (605 Crown Street).

Un-making & Learning

Usually we think about kids making things, but the other day I realized that un-making things can be every bit as important. Maybe it’s how we begin tinkering & building things, learning how existing things work by taking them apart.

It started with my daughter and her friend asked to watch a movie. IMG_9401_1I suggested they go out in the garage instead to tear apart some equipment that I’d gotten for our maker group to build things with. The old equipment was made mostly of 80/20 extruded aluminum (some call it erector set material for adults) and it was held together with lots of things that needed to be unscrewed and disassembled.

I was a bit uneasy thinking that it wouldn’t go over well. I wasn’t sure they would like it. But turns out I was wrong… they loved it!! 45 minutes later there was nothing but a pile of pieces laying on the garage floor!

In the process, I learned something from watching/helping the kids take it apart. I really never thought about how to use a screwdriver, you just sort of well… do it. But then in watching it hit me at some point I must have learned from someone else.

Little things like knowing how the blade or hex wrench should go into the screw head, keeping the screwdriver straight up so it doesn’t slip out and get the best torque – even using the long side for leverage with an allen wrench to break the screw loose are things that is best experienced. With some occasional guidance and encouragement you also don’t give up on the task and keep learning. Kinesthetic, hands on learning isn’t the same as reading it in a book or watching a video. And the girls started encouraging each other and before long I was hearing “I get to do that one…”  – and they were having fun while doing it!!

So get out and help some kids take things apart. Building things is good fun too – don’t miss the opportunity to help them learn the tactile and hands-on portion of learning to use tools and components whether it’s making or ‘un-making’ things. Goodness knows there’s not as much in schools anymore.
Maker Materials
In fact, we’re going to host a tear down session of more equipment for the Castlemakers group this Saturday @ 11 am. We got lucky enough to get more old equipment to tear apart. Join us if you’d like – I can’t promise how long after that it will stay assembled, but we’re going to have fun tearing it all apart!!

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I’ve been negligent by not talking about some other maker events going on here in Greencastle. Putnam County Library has been having Maker Tuesdays – short 1-2 hour events at the Public Library. I’ve only seen a flyer on it posted at the library but I was able to find something on the Putnam County Library online calendar. There’s another event coming up Tuesday July 29th, or stop by and I’m sure they can give you more information.

First Shovercraft Meeting

Initial Shovercraft planning
Initial Shovercraft planning

We had our 2nd Castlemakers meeting upstairs in the Eli’s Books community room last week; it was the official shovercraft kickoff meeting. It started with a video of a simple home built ‘shovercraft’ someone built and then the kids discussed what might be needed to build one.

Then there was a small demo of a simple hovercraft made with a balloon, disposable water bottle, and an old audio CD (with lots of tape on it). The demo was a hit with the kids judging by the number of balloons used!!

The kids involved got to find out their team members (3 teams with now 4 kids each) and their adult mentor for the project who also helps them on the project. There are lots of possible designs and one of the first thing they’ll be deciding includes: what shape (circle? rectangle? boat shaped?), what type of ‘engine’ (or leaf blower), and chair/no chair. Plus lots of other items, including how to decorate it! Each person there got a notebook to draw and keep notes in – the young designers/makers took off from there.

Our next full group meeting will be on July 10th at 7pm to review how the designs are coming, although the individual teams will be meeting between now and then. We now have a goal for completed shovercraft and either a ‘who goes the furthest’ or hovercraft shuffleboard competition on August 16th or August 23rd – depending on our final location. There will be more information and updates later!!

Shovercraft Build

Basic parts used to make a "shoveable hovercraft"
Basic parts used to make a “shoveable hovercraft”

The mentors have met after our last group meeting and we decided on a Shovercraft as our first group build project. It looks like there will be at least 3 groups of 3-4 kids building one, then we’ll have a competition/race in August.

Our next meeting is Thursday June 12 at 7pm in the Community Room above Eli’s Books just off the square downtown. Please feel free to join us, we have 4 mentors willing to give their time so we can investigate, design, and create these craft for the competition. Even if you haven’t been involved so far, you’re welcome to show up and have your 9-14 year old daughter/son participate in this youth-centered maker club event.

Keep watching our Projects page for more details on how the team builds are going & when we’ll have the challenge/competition for the groups in August.