With everyone being so busy for the holidays, December is a good time to reflect upon what’s occurred during the last year.
Personally I’m encouraged by what all happened in Putnam County related to making things. There were many others besides Castlemakers involved: Area 30 expanded and won their Robotics competition, TZ started a cardboard creations making club, Putnam County Library started a summer making series, DePauw Robotics club hosted a making event for area kids, 4H held a robotics workshop … the list could go on and on. Castlemakers grew too, a lot of it is in our blog, but even that didn’t cover it all.
We don’t have makerspace/fab lab yet locally but I wouldn’t be surprised to see one in 2015. And the physical space/equipment shouldn’t be the main goal anyway IMHO, that’s only one of the tools that can help. That can be a ‘build it and they will come’ kind of goal.
It’s more about getting kids and adults to learn-by-doing; some often call it a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) culture. Actually, I’m going to rephrase the DIY and instead call it DIO – Do It Ourselves! To me the real goal should be creating, making, and innovating things in our community. Developing and using the skills that you have, along with sharing them with others.
Then everyone gains; harnessing one of the strengths of teamwork and groups. Infusing a culture of learning into our youth and adults; that way you’re better prepared to face challenges & issues that you may not know how to solve. Maybe too just to have some fun while working on something… or maybe even creating new things that can help others.
Castlemakers reached an important milestone in 2014: we formed a working group to create an official organization. The ‘Knights of the Castlemakers’ met and agreed to do a filing with the state. And as a January update, we’ve got our articles of incorporation accepted by the State of Indiana. We’re not a 501c3 yet (the IRS makes that decision), but we’ll be working on that in 2015.
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…
In a recent trip down to Berea, KY I got to see firsthand how the Arts community is starting to converge with the making culture, kind of putting the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering Arts, Math) in to STEM!
Berea of course has been known for years as an artisan center and you can see the maker culture/impact there even if it is not always called that. Artists have always been makers at heart, you only have to watch the mechanics of someone weaving fabric or tapestry in a large loom or listen to someone describing the pickling process when silver soldering a necklace or bracelet to realize there’s a fair amount of STEM that artists can use in their craft. One studio I was in had a period table of the elements on the wall next to their casting area.
What I found interesting was how the personal fabrication tools that makers are embracing are being used by artists, and vice-versa. Smaller CNC machines, laser cutters, and 3D printers are all being used to create art, but then anyone that’s been to a Maker Faire knows/has seen that already. That jewelry or napkin holder may be made with something that could be built in makerspace!
There’s a core group of Castlemakers that are working towards creating a more permanent place, a makerspace, for us to create things. And to hold some of the parts and fabrication tools we’ve started collecting, including some best shared, that would allow people to make things – young and old. If you’re interested in helping, send us an email.
If you’re interested in finding out more about making your own artwork, Berea now has a series of art making workshops that you can sign up for. The biggest is their Festival of Learnshops in July, but there’s an upcoming Holiday series called Make It, Take It, Give It that starts the end of November which looks to be really good also.
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.