So much happened at Castlemakers in 2017 it’s been a challenge to keep the blog current. This entry started in December, but had to be finished in 2018 – which I guess highlights 2017’s theme of expansion and growth! 2017 growth included:
Thanks to several generous gifts, Castlemakers added more equipment in 2017. Perhaps the most notable was our desktop CNC (Computer Numerical Control machine, a Nomad 883) which we’ve now put into use and will be offering the first class in January. Techpoint Foundation for Youth also gave us 10 Chromebooks, which are getting heavy use in our Castlemakers CoderDojo (a youth coding club) and the gift helped with our classes.
Since last June we’ve had general public STEAM oriented classes essentially every month for the old and young. From 3D printing & Arduinos to lasercuttering, they provide practical learning using technology where the participants take home something they make. What a great way to learn!
With a new Makerspace soft opening in December 2016, memberships now offer 24/7 access to the physical space and equipment. ‘Open shop’ times offer anyone a chance to use/try the equipment for their own projects. But the real value is the associated people/members and their knowledge. Plus it’s a great way to try/use an expensive piece of equipment that you can’t justify for yourself.
But the real growth is with the makerspace community & people. It’s the December CoderDojo with 10 kids spending their Saturday afternoon practicing computer coding along with showing and sharing what they were working on. You could see kids programming a tablet to adults there teaching robot navigation and a 12 year old coding a humanoid walking in an online landscape he designed.
It’s also listening to a member take what he learned in our laser class to create a wooden 3D map of his farm. It’s a 3DPO regular showing off the 3D printer he designed or seeing the cable supported 3D printer in which the print size is only limited by the room’s walls.
2018 looks very promising indeed…
Our December class was something new for many of us, learning about electronic/vinyl cutters. There are several different brands available; we were given a desktop Cricut and there’s some local expertise so that’s what we used! But the basics apply to all of them. The Cricut Explore we have in the Makerspace will cuts and draw using different color pens on a variety of different thickness material including paper, foil, vinyl, cardboard, fabric iron-on, magnets, and even emboss leather.
Laurie Hardwick, who has several Cricut machines, taught the class & did a fabulous job. After showing some great examples, she then covered the design software. With a 2 hour time limit folks chose to modify existing designs, but it is possible to import images into the software (and perhaps a later class). It was amazing how such a professional looking product could be made in such a short time!
Several folks wanted to come back and try more. Our machine is available for anyone to use during open shop times or even by special arrangements. Castlemakers also offered to host a meetup for Cricut or Silhouette users, just get in touch with one of us. Last year we had one girl come in and create letters for her 4H project, it certainly makes it easier that using stencils or cutting out your own!
Earlier this month we had our 2nd annual ‘build a mini-golf hole’ competition, which was held at new location at the Makerspace downtown. Well, sort of… too many holes to have it inside, so we lined them up on Franklin Street sidewalk in front of the Makerspace the first Friday of November. And what perfect weather it was for playing a round!
Always love to see creative mini-golf holes and this year’s build was no exception. The guidelines are on our Putt Putnam County webpage, but the basic idea is simple: get together a group of folks and build a hole. We provide materials, create/add you to a team & mentors if you need it, plus a time/place to play when done. And of course those cute little pencils and a scorecard.
This year there were a few more family built holes, but it was a mix of different team entries. Of the eight holes there, a personal favorite was Antigravity – you can view a video here of this creative hole in action. This year there were a lot more moving part entries, a category we added this year. Under the Sea’s motion was impressive (and it’s assembly/disassembly capability) and the steam punk look of Time Turner’s entry turned out even better than the builder’s thought.
Our goal next year is having an earlier completion date at a First Friday event downtown and more community organization built holes. Start coming up with your ideas now; you don’t need to be involved in Castlemakers to participate & have fun!
Thanks to all the participants that built holes, mentors that coached the younger teams, and everyone that came out Friday evening to enjoy the fun. And to Headley Hardware for donating some of the project materials.
Join us this Friday, 11/3, from 5:30-7:30 pm for our 2nd Annual Putt Putnam County competition. We’ll have the mini-golf holes outside the Makerspace on the Franklin Street sidewalks. Try your skill at these home-built miniature golf holes and vote on your favorites. Pre-competition intelligence is indicating there is a lot more motion designed into this year’s holes…
And of course our monthly CoderDojo is Saturday 11/4 from 1-4 pm at the Makerspace where youth are always invited to learn more about computer coding from professional programs and other kids!
If you walked by the Makerspace this summer and looked in the window, you may have noticed a very large model rocket. It was the first stage of a creation that Nick Adams, who taught our ‘build a model rocket’ class, built last year and launched. Several people have stuck their head in since it left and asked us where the rocket went. The short answer is he prepping it for an even higher/faster launch this Labor Day weekend in Kansas.
Earlier this year Nick asked if we could make something that would plug the air intake holes, the kind of project we love! When you go supersonic a flat surfaces creates even more turbulence, so for his upcoming flight he wanted a more streamlined version. Plugging 4 intake holes on the side of the rocket would help.
We initially fabricated a plug out of foam, using a hot wire cutter at the Makerspace, then scanned the piece so it could be 3D printed. Creating the styrofoam piece was easy, scanning… well the Makerbot Replicator we have wasn’t quite up to the task initially. Learned that covering the foam with masking tape helps (the foam color and irregular surface created problems), but it was still less than a satisfactory design.
Then one of our younger makers, Ephraim, helped by creating by creating a quick model in Autodesk’s Inventor. That design came closer, but we missed measuring a few key dimensions like the chamfer where the plug goes into the rocket. We finally ended up redrawing with Fusion 360, which turned out to be the best solution. Although the program has a steep learning curve, it allowed us to make several more design changes quickly & easily to get the 4 pieces printed out last month.
This weekend Nick’s letting Castlemakers take the rocket to show off at Makevention in Bloomington, Indiana – an annual celebration of making things. Located at the Monroe County Convention Center, it’s open to the public and a great event! Stop by and see the assembled 12.5 foot tall rocket and also stay tuned to Nick’s YouTube channel. I’m sure he’ll have a video of the launch posted not long after the launch on August 30th!
As Castlemakers moves from a youth oriented makergroup to an all ages Makerspace, we’re not neglecting our roots – offering kids interesting hands-on STEAM activities. Last month, for on one of our ‘un-making’ events, we used weed whackers to expose kids to internal combustion engines. It seems like small 2-cycle engines are a throw-away commodity anymore, so after collecting 8-10 weed whackers (and one lawnmower engine) we had everyone tear them apart to see what’s inside.
Tear down days are always popular, and surprisingly the girls outnumbered the boys for this one. With everyone being warned in advance to wear old clothes we threw down several pieces of plywood and cardboard out back, put a bunch of tools out to help, then let them go at it with some occasional supervision & suggestions.
These single cylinder engines seem to be the perfect size for kids. We began by removing the pulley and clutch off the engine. After explaining how the piston pulls fuel into the cylinder, you can explain how an engine is a controlled fuel explosion. Centrifugal clutches & carburetors were another whole discussion. After piston removal everyone seemed fascinated by how the crankshaft/rod converts the linear piston motion into rotation. A few of the piston/rod/crankshaft mechanisms were saved (although several went home), it’s a good tie into the paper mechatronics we did last year.
Special thanks to Doug Salter, a 25+ year mechanic at Ryder Truck, who donated at least half of the weed whackers and also helped by coaching the kids on disassembly and how the parts inside worked. And another nod to Jerry Hecko, our makerspace automotive repair shop neighbor, who gave us the 4 cycle lawnmower engine for comparison and often has the right tool when we don’t have one.
If you’ve been following our blog, you might think Castlemakers is a just a kids focused nonprofit. That’s definitely how we started, but our mission is broader than that – providing and encouraging scientific and creative skills (i.e. STEM or STEAM) by creating opportunities for all. Much of our first two years has been providing youth-oriented opportunities, which is now being called Castlemakers Kids, but with our new makerspace downtown we can expand to all ages.
One way we’re doing that is offering community classes to allow people to learn, try, and build or make things that they may not have experiences with. Certainly software and some of the new digital fabrication tools like electronic cutters, 3D printers, and single board computers(i.e. Arduino & Raspberry Pi). But also how to use more traditional tools and then combining them with electronics/soldering, sewing/crafting (clothing with sensors/electronics are popular), woodworking, and fabrication. Watch for our first community class at the makerspace to be offered in soldering and electronics in March.
A third way, using our physical makerspace, is a community location where people can share ideas, have access to tools and equipment, and create things. A place that will spur creativity and innovation in our community. Some of this is outlined on our what we offer page. You can also stop by and see for yourself, perhaps even build something if you’d like, by coming by sometime during one of our ‘open shop’ times where some of the people involved in Castlemakers can help you with a project or just explain/show you what we have. Better yet, get involved and participate – no experience is necessary and you’ll help our community grow!
December has been a busy month at the makerspace, kicking off with an open house as part of the Main Street Greencastle’s First Friday event. We had a great crowd, several estimated over 100 people, most of us were too busy explaining things & showing off things to count during the 2 hour event. Well, it actually went well beyond that – some folks couldn’t seem to get enough and we were there more than an hour after things were supposed to end.
Our regular monthly events, the Castlemakers CoderDojo & the 3DPO (3D Printer Owner’s) Meetup, also were interesting – always enjoy getting new faces at the CoderDojo and the 3DPO Meetup. 3DPO topic this month was a show and tell of a good and bad 3D prints. The self closing iris box (printed for the Open House) everyone found interesting, but it was the 3D printed Imperial Walker that quickly became the main topic. Rather amazing project that was done at Area 30, literally over a hundred hours of print time & more than 30 pieces that were eventually assembled into something that could walk(sort of). For the ‘bad’ prints… well everyone learned and tried to diagnose what went wrong on the failures. One common theme, many of the failed/bad pieces were part of the good ones – reinforcing the mantra practice makes ‘better’ & it takes some 3D printing failures to get really good parts.
For our last Castlemakers Kids meeting of 2016 we used Tinkercad, an online 3D drawing program, to create holiday ornaments. Then we printed them out for the kids to take home! This was also a test for an intro to 3D printing class that Castlemakers will be offering in 2017. Right now we don’t have enough computer equipment to do that, but hopefully donations and grants will get us there next year. You can read about some of our additional plans for 2017 on our what we offer webpage.
Last month was our first annual Putt Putnam County miniature golf course set up at the Putnam County Public Library. A first time event with pretty limited promotion we were unsure about attendance. Turns out it was great, there was a steady crowd in the Kiwanis Room downstairs in PCPL – two estimates put it at 70-75 people for the two hours we were ‘open’. The designs were fantastic and most played the course multiple times.
A little refresher on our fall build project. Teams were formed in August and September (most were 3-4 kids working with a mentor) to design and build a miniature golf hole with Castlemakers supplying any materials if needed. There were 5 categories for judging and if youth were involved they were encouraged to do most of the building. You can read more about the build guidelines & categories on our project page.
We’ve already used holes in another event and were asked to bring them to another in February. So one learned lesson is making a few more portable holes. And the large jello moat seemed like a really great idea at the time but…
I also overhead some mentors talking about the advantages of building the holes in a common place (our makerspace) where the groups could see other group’s progress. We’re definitely doing the event again in 2017, for there’s already scheming minds planning more elaborate designs.
It’s been a very busy week at the makerspace, even though a lot of our equipment is still coming in/being decided. Besides the Castlemaker Kids meeting & open shop nights, the 3D printer build continues and there was a lot of activity there for our Putt Putnam County miniature golf build.
We also had our first 3D Printer Owner’s (3DPO) Meetup a monthly meeting to get 3D printer owners to share their successes, failures, and experiences with each other. Anyone that’s done 3D printing quickly realizes it can be a complex undertaking. Like many things in life, product manufacturers tout things as simple to do but really are quite challenging to master & do well. This group’s 3D printing experience is with Fused Filament Fabrication, although one attendee has a beta Stereolithography 3D printer kit.
What an interesting group of people and first meeting at the makerspace! We started with background/experiences and then discussed future meeting topics. Six people attended (and 2 regrets) which represented a broad range of printers and experiences. No one had the same 3D printer/manufacturer, although one person did have 2 models from one firm. Reasons for a printer were even more diverse – ranging from artistic endeavors, “building a prototype for my Kickstarter campaign” (which he brought to show us), gift, curiosity/interest, and of course wanting to make things. We even had someone there who sells 3D printer parts on eBay & is designing his own RepRap printer!
Future topic ideas included software used to slice 3D models and control the printer, designing printable parts, and the physical hardware used. But most of the interest was troubleshooting prints. So for our next meeting everyone will bring in a ‘bad’ print to share to get comments from everyone else.
Becoming a community innovation resource for technology has been a long term goal for Castlemakers, last week we took another important step towards that.