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!
Last Sunday afternoon we had a winter (indoor) version of our ‘un-making’ events. Thanks to folks that brought things: the VCR was a huge hit for the motors, gears and moving mechanisms inside and was the main star until the LCD TV showed up! We gained lots of new motors, gears, lasers, & magnets for future projects.
I was a bit surprised in all the interest in the circuit boards. Several kids starting using pliers and cutters to get capacitors, coils, and heat sinks off – it quickly spread from there (hope everyone checked pockets before the wash!). Found a soldering iron, which was a hit, but next time we’ll bring desoldering tools and more soldering irons. With the obvious interest in (de)soldering and the questions they asked, we’ll definitely do some soldering/electronics in a future session.
We’ve already gotten an offer for a barcode scanner (great laser in those!) and with a few more circuit boards to tear apart, so we’ll have another un-making session soon. Plus they only tore apart one speaker and with warmer weather coming up, I’m thinking we need to make a garden hose/ speaker water stream reverser…
At our first meeting of 2015, the kids brought in things they got or made over the holidays. There was a pretty wide range – from Ryan’s “Cool Circuits” and Boyd’s Tinker Crate (creative building/experimental kit in-a-box that comes monthly) to an owl pellet (no, Eli didn’t ‘make’ that!). Very encouraging seeing all of the other STEM related things they brought and all seemed to have a great time showing them off and trying them out.
We talked about some upcoming projects: Brushbot parts are on the way, watched part of a short demo reel on Robobrrd, and discussed a couple of different paper air rocket launcher options we could build. Based on the votes we’ll try to do both of the latter two, but both are still early in the planning stages.
We’re going to prototype the Robobrrd first, it looks like fun project that could involve both young and older kids. It’s a robotic bird made out of popsicle/craft sticks, felt, glue, servos, and controlled by an Arduino controller – there’s lots of options and a good open-source community behind it. Several adults (and a DePauw student that’s volunteered) will be building the prototype on Tuesday evenings. Let Chris know if you’d like to participate or help.
We also briefly discussed the catapult build and developing a more regular schedule given the problems last month of finding a regular time. For now we’re going to meet on Sunday afternoons at 2 pm, working on a project every 2 weeks and a more general meeting once a month. Our next meeting will be February 8th and will be either the Brushbot build or work on the big trebuchet. After the meeting most of us walked down to the Brickmania Lego event at City Hall.
This afternoon we built our first round of table-top catapults. A great turnout and thanks to the parents that helped out. With 15 kids there we ended up with 4 groups building a ‘quick and easy’ wooden catapult… well sort of. Like many projects there were some imperfect/missing parts and since we hadn’t tried the plans almost everyone made modifications. But we were able to get all 4 launching racquet balls in a couple of hours and I heard lots of ideas on how to improve the design.
Learning to use hand saws seemed to be a big hit with the kids, everyone that wanted got to try a back saw or the hand rip saw. I heard several kids comment that they could see why adults like using the power saws! Everyone also got to drill and use power screw drivers to assemble the 2×4’s. We tried both bungee cords and some bicycle inner tubes for the throwing arm. No clear winner with the designs we had, more experimentation is needed for the throwing arm tensioning. One thing we learned, the cup that holds the ball makes a difference – if it’s too deep the trajectory of the ball changes.
I’ll put additional pictures on our catapult project page later & more comments on what we did – the one we built today was based on an Instructables project. It turns out some of the dimensions were wrong and the lengths didn’t add up correctly. But that’s part of the learning, how to adjust when things don’t work and to figure out a way to make do with what you have on hand.
Although the hydroponics group wasn’t there today, they do have sprouts and will be moving them to their float tank soon. Special thanks today to Bob Hershberger for letting us use the Robert Bottoms (Southside) Community Center & to Brian Cox for getting the wood.
Next up for the Catapulters – table top torsion catapults for comparison purposes. And of course the larger group build: the Behemoth trebuchet. We now have a stack of 4×4’s to start cutting mortise and tenon joints along with a trailer for the big one…