This last Saturday we had 2 events going on in 2 different cities, a bit of a landmark for Castlemakers. In Greencastle we had our first STEAM class for the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana. 15 girl scouts and parents from Indianapolis learned about sensors and coding using Circuit Playground Arduino based boards.
At the same time, in Bloomington, we had a booth at Makevention, our 2nd year there. Makevention is a little harder to describe. If you’ve ever been to a Maker Faire that’s close, especially this year since they added workshops and presentations. Makevention is a celebration of the Maker Movement, you can learn about all kinds of DIY/making – from robotics to soap to swords/knifes to lock picking to…
At our booth we had some of the PuttCode robots which we used on the CoderDojo mini-golf hole, although several other holes from previous Putt Putnam County events were there also. The other booths were also interesting, it’s a great event for seeing what other groups in the area are doing and making. It’s usually the last Saturday in August and definitely worth attending.
If you’d like first hand experience in building a kinetic art piece, Volunteers are needed through 3/31 with a new sculpture created by Phillip Beesley and the Living Architecture Systems Group in Bloomington. “Amatria” is a sentient architecture installation on the 4th floor of Luddy Hall just off 10th street that will be visible within the campus.
The new sculpture is composed of polymer & metal scaffolding structures that hold glass vessels (including vinegar batteries) that power the LED lighting & kinetic mechanisms responding to motion & sound. Most makers will recognize many of the components, from Adafruit circuit boards to laser cut acrylic components being made on location. The delicate mechanical moving structures alone are amazing, but with the network wiring/sensors/circuitry and software add another whole level of complexity. It’s not running yet, but will be by the new building’s grand opening April 9-13.
Check it out sometime or better yet volunteer by 3/31 for great hands-on experience with an extremely complex Internet Of Things (IOT) sculpture. A flyer is posted on our Makerspace window with more details or you can simply visit the 4th floor of Luddy Hall in Bloomington between 10am & 7pm through 3/31 to volunteer. We’re also offering an IOT class on 4/26 at the Makerspace, although for beginners, not anywhere near this level!
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.
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.
Despite the forecast, it was a beautiful sunny afternoon at Big Walnut Sports Park after we delayed the rocket launch a week. Besides the DooDad rockets built by the Castlemaker Kids, we had others show up with their own rockets, creating quite a show. We ended up with multiple launch pads and variety of different sized rockets and objects becoming airborne.
The ‘objects’ part are a little hard to describe, although they all used rocket engines. There were various polyhedrons and cardstock printed lawn darts (no chute, but colored with crayons by some younger kids – landed with a ‘thud’ nose first). Then there were the flying plates…
All of the kids (and a few of the adults) learned the proper setup and launch procedures before launching the model rockets. Thanks to the Greencastle Parks & Recreation Board (along with the Putnam County Airport) for letting us use Big Walnut Sports Park for launching the rockets. And a special thanks to Nick Adams for teaching the class, bringing his launch equipment, and teaching/supervising everyone who launched that day. And to Jonathan Green for bringing his tub full of objects, it definitely added some more fun to the event!
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!
Last month we were asked to do a STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) related activity with the Summer Enrichment Program at Gobin Memorial Church. It’s a great program which provides positive interactions for at-risk kids in Putnam County. Their goal was exposing these elementary aged kids to a STEM activity; I also wanted them to make something that they could experiment with at home.
We originally looked at doing something with Brushbots, but it turns out those kits are hard to find now & pricey. For Castlemakers Kids we built our own from scratch, but didn’t have enough pager motors on hand & ordering in bulk would take too long. So I settled on making catapults using wooden craft sticks and rubber bands.
There’s a lot of different craft stick catapult designs, but we went for simplicity. Had to, there were more than 60 kids in two sessions – plus only around an hour to build them. The large range of ages, 2nd through 6th grade, meant some would get the ‘lesson’ and others would have no idea what I talked about, but at least they were exposed to it!
After dropping a few names, like Galileo & Newton, I explained the basics of a lever using a see-saw example. Also mentioned Newton’s laws and apples falling from trees; then told them they were to decide which would hurl further – a marshmallow or a grape. This craft stick design can provide fairly consistent force input since everyone pretty much pulls it back all the way (who doesn’t want to launch it the furthest!).
The kids each build a catapult with 6-8 kids and 1-2 counselors helping at each table. It worked well, especially considering there wasn’t time to coach the counselors first. Everyone involved certainly had fun and when they’re exposed to levers and Newton in a more academic setting they will have heard of it. Lessons learned: Grapes have more mass than mini-marshmallows but don’t go as far & the model I made with a binder clip (stronger spring/more force) definitely shot things further. Mini-peppers… well things were degenerating at that point & we ran out of time.
We didn’t have enough bottle caps to glue on the throwing arm (they still work without them), and several of them were going to add when they got home so they could launch more. I also brought one with a longer lever (2 craft sticks), hopefully a few of them made those at home!
This week we explored the world of paper mechatronics (sometimes called automata or Karakuri in Japan). In the Castlemakers Kids meeting, using 2 sheets of paper cardstock, we created a cam/lever mechanism that caused a sheep’s head to nod when the crank was turned.
For thousands of years people have created mechanical toys and dolls out of metal, wood, or in our case paper. The primary use seems to be for entertainment and amusement, but it also offers incredible opportunities to teach people about levers, cams, gears, linkages and other mechanical mechanisms. Ever looked inside a mechanical watch, clock, or older film projector? You’ve probably seen a Geneva stop or Maltese cross (along with a lot of other mechanisms), but may not have known what to call it.
We made a design created by Rob Ives, who has an UK website on cardboard cutouts, called “Agreeable Sheep”. It’s a cute model and uses a single cam along with a lever which nods the sheep’s head when the crank is turned. I can also heartly recommend the book Karakuri by Keisuke Saka if you decide to try a hand at making mechanical paper models. He covers how they work and has a wonderful gallery of karakuri that he and high school students in Japan have created. The tips and instructions for basic mechanisms are worth the price of the book if you want to try make different models or creations of your own.
I’m sure we’ll be doing this in the future again, there are plenty of other things to try. My mind is already buzzing about scaled up models could be made out of big sheets of corrugated cardboard…
It’s been a busy time for Castlemakers this last month; we received our first grant a few weeks ago for equipment. A group of us have been working very hard to create a physical location for Castlemakers, a makerspace, and watch for an announcement soon.
Several years ago I wrote something about ‘what is a makerspace’, which have become even more popular since then.
Their numbers and importance has grown since that first post, with the White House proclaiming this week in the US as a Nation of Makers and hosting a reoccurring Maker Faire this coming weekend (June 18th & 19th). If you visit different makerspaces, as some of us have, it’s a very entrepreneurial movement with many different makerspace models. You’ll find makerspaces as community co-ops, ones associated with libraries, ones that are affiliated with science and children’s museums, and even some at universities.
Perhaps one of the largest and most successful makerspaces is Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville, MA which I visited last year. Started in 2010, it’s grown from a 1,000 sq ft “hole in the wall” to a 40,000 sq ft facility with over 600 members! What impressed me the most in my visit: the projects being built & how they bridged different disciplines along with oozing creativity and innovation. The sheer size & scope of the current facility was also impressive, but the people involved & what the makerspace environment seemed to be the key why it works.
Locally we’ve been making great strides in creating our own makerspace here in Greencastle. Thanks to a June 2016 grant from the Putnam County Community Foundation we’ll be purchasing our first major piece of equipment, a CO2 laser cutter. Of course we’ll need a place to house it, and we’re very close to that.
While in Chicago last month to see the Strandbeest exhibit we took two maker classes. The first class was creating a greeting card using an electronic cutter and the second an acrylic keychain with a laser cutter. Both were hosted at public makerspaces, although the largest was called a Fab Lab (alternate name for a makerspace).
The Chicago Public Library (CPL) Maker Lab workshop began by teaching Inkscape to design the greeting card. They supplied a blank template, then using a laptop with Inkscape we added text and art for the card. The saved file was put on a flash drive, imported into the electronic cutter program (Silhouette), and then drawn on the card (the cutter’s blade was replaced with color felt tip pens).
CPL Maker Lab was the first publicly accessible maker lab in Chicago, created in July 2013 with a fairly large corporate grant and a 6 month trial/study. While a major portion is classes, they have plenty of ‘open shop’ times, at least 3 hours/day. They worked closely with the Museum of Science & Industry (MSI) in creating it, which was our other makerspace/fab lab visit.
The Fab Lab in Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry goes back about 10 years and is part of MIT’s Fab Lab network. Located in the back of the MSI it’s easy to miss, I had walked past it on two previous trips to the museum and hadn’t noticed it was there! While not open to the public for personal projects or general use, the classes are available for a modest cost ($7-9/person in our case) once you pay the general admission to MSI. They do fill up, so consider booking in advance.
The class was well run and began with an overview of the lab, which has a lot of equipment and well organized. We used Inkscape to create the drawings, like the CPL Maker Lab class, and a template to get everyone started. This was a much more scripted class, which was needed because of the 1 hour timeframe. There was plenty of assistants to coach folks through the lesson and very helpful to all, even offering suggestions to some indecisive younger kids! This lab caters more to the young, although there were adults like myself attending.
These were good examples of the Museum & Library-based models of makerspaces. There was significant institutional support in creating both and in these cases they have a massive potential user base to draw on. There are also many makerspaces in our region that started with extremely small budgets and even self-funded. One thing I love about the makerspace community is their willingness to share with others; I ended up with curriculum content and contacts that offered to help we move from a makergroup to makerspace in Greencastle.