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.
Saturday afternoon, October 1st, saw our first CoderDojo session at the makerspace on Franklin Street. What’s a CoderDojo?
CoderDojo is a worldwide movement of free, volunteer-led, community-based programming clubs for young people. Anyone aged seven to seventeen can visit a Dojo where they can learn to code, build a website, create an app or a game, and explore technology in an informal, creative, and social environment. [coderdojo.org]
The next session will be Saturday, November 5, from 1 to 4 pm. Bring a laptop if you have one, or use one of ours! Bring a project to work on, or try out some of our coding activities! Bring a friend!
For our end-of-July Castlemakers Kids project, we built model rockets to be launched in August. Nick Adams led the group in building the FlisKit dooDad model rockets, a good rocket that first timers can get assembled in less than 2 hours. It uses laser cut basswood fins that are assembled on the outside of the rocket tube, making it easier to put together in a short period of time. The basswood fins (vs. balsawood) reduces the chances of fin breakage – they are quite stiff!
The build was also our first class/event in the new Castlemakers makerspace in downtown Greencastle. We’ve got a lot to do before it will be open for use as a makerspace, but it’s a great location that with some tables and chairs worked well for the model rocket build. With our laser cutter/engraver on order for the makerspace, I kept eyeing the fins on those rockets thinking that soon we’ll be able to make those…
The rocket launch for these (and others) will be at Big Walnut Sports Park in Greencastle on August 27th from 3-5 pm. Feel free to join us on the east end of the park, near the Frisbee golf course.
A special thanks to Nick for doing all the research into model rocket kits for first timers, the donation of kits to our group, and his time in helping everyone build the kits!
Another good regional resource for kids STEM activities is Wonderlab in Bloomington, Indiana. Besides being a fun place to visit, they also offer summer day camps for kids through 6th grade (and mentoring opportunities for those older) that can range from crazy contraptions and electronics/engineering to TV technology. They also have occasional special events, often on weekends or during school breaks, that anyone can sign up for.
Bloominglabs, the community makerspace in Bloomington, put on a 3 hour Brainbot building workshop over spring break at Wonderlab for kids and adults. Since we had some experience teaching kids to solder, ended up helping with the workshop and now helping to improve the workshop instructions. Bloominglabs also helps the Monroe County Library with speakers for the summer Make It Digital series, put on Makevention every year, and have an open shop night every Wednesday evening for those interested in making.
As we work towards creating a Putnam County makerspace, the robot building workshop is a good example of what Castlemakers will offer. Of course a makerspace is much more than just classes. But the goal is sharing/helping people to learn skills with arduinos/microcontrollers, mechanical devices, 3D printers, and more. And with the right physical location that may include welding, woodworking, jewelry making… all things that makerspaces in other cities offer.
At our July 26th meeting we shared and discussed the upcoming Water Balloon Challenge in August. Interested kids & adults signed up and there are 5 preliminary teams creating something to launch a 2″ diameter water balloon farther than you can throw it – but there are several more rumored to be forming and folks can join in at any time.
Special thanks to Isaac & Matt who brought their new drone for the sharing portion of the meeting. All the kids that wanted to try it got to fly it. We also learned that one is very durable!