Category Archives: Greencastle’s Makerspace

Initial Castlemakers CoderDojo Session

Alice and Rebecca working on projects at October 2016 CoderDojo
Alice and Rebecca working on projects at October 2016 CoderDojo

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]

Evan shows Brian what he's been making
Evan shows Brian what he’s been making

Assisted by student mentors from DePauw, Brian and Mike spent three hours with kids ranging from Jacob, who worked through introductory tutorials from the Hour of Code, to Alice, with a fair amount of experience already in JavaScript, who learned details about working with HTML and CSS.

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!

Alice taking a quick break from fiddling with fonts
Alice taking a quick break from fiddling with fonts

Model Rocket Build

The dooDad rocket fins are glued on the outside the rocket tube speeding assembly.
The dooDad rocket fins are glued on the outside the rocket tube speeding assembly.

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 kits were simple enough for first time builders to figure out the assembly. In the background some parents discussed more elaborate designs.
The kits were simple for first time builders. In the background parents discussed more elaborate designs.

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!

Building A Robot at Wonderlab

Wonderlab/Bloominglabs workshop on building a light seeking robot from motors, switches, and a few electronic components.
Wonderlab/Bloominglabs workshop on building a light seeking robot from motors, switches, and a few electronic components.

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.

A completed 'BrainBot' - light seeking robot based on the SunBEAM seeker robot.
A completed ‘BrainBot’ – light seeking robot based on the SunBEAM seeker robot. These use $7-8 in parts and the robot seeks out light using the two photosensors that drive the rear motors.

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.

July 2015 Castlemakers Meeting

Alice tries flying Isaac's drone that he brought to the meeting.
Alice tries flying Isaac’s drone that he brought to the meeting.

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.

Some of the kids afterwards viewed the drone videos from earlier in the day. You can see one of them on our Youtube channel.
Some of the kids afterwards viewed the drone videos from earlier in the day. You can see one of them on our Youtube channel.

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!

Device Un-making

Castlemaker youth disassemble things.
Some of the devices disassembled Sunday afternoon. The speaker was popular for the magnets & crossover network (“Looks cool!”), but what got early attention was the VCR guts.

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.

Disassembling a flat panel TV.
The LCD TV that Brian brought was a huge hit.
Cuisinart Chopping
Sometimes you just have to use a hammer…

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

January Meeting Update

Henry's solar car gets ready to take on the Cubelet built robot. Rebecca shows Cam how the sensor on the back causes it to run away from your hand.
Henry’s solar car gets ready to take on the Cubelet robot. Rebecca shows Cam how the sensor on the back causes it to run away from your hand.

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.

Lego Robotic Catapult
Clay demonstrates the Lego catapult that he and his dad built while Alice, who built the wooden Ferris wheel, looks on. The catapult uses a Lego Mindstorm controller to voice activate projectiles, which were seen flying around the room frequently.

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.

Tabletop Catapult First Build

castlemakers tabletop catapult build
Cutting 2×4’s for the catapult base and throwing arm.

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.

catupult throwing arm tensioner
Trying to figure out using bicycle tube tension versus the bungee cord tensioner far group used.

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.

castlemakers catapult testing s
Group shot outside of all the kids where we tried the catapults.

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…

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 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).