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.
One of our main goals as a non-profit is providing educational opportunities to the community. Like our Learning to Solder class in May and our upcoming Introduction to 3D Printing Design July 8th (2-4 pm at the makerspace).
In May participants built an LED Chaser (or Larson Scanner), to get first hand experience soldering electronic components, LEDs, and an integrated circuit on a circuit board. Thanks to George Edenfield of Putnam County Auxiliary Communications (local Amateur Radio group) for leading the class.
For the Intro to 3D Printing Design class, we did a prototype class last December when we had kids design & print holiday ornaments. Everyone had fun and we learned that too many people trying to print 3D parts at once can take a long time! We’ve added 2 more 3D printers in the makerspace, more laptops, and changed to a quickly printing basic design that offers more learning.
In the upcoming class (for both old and young) you’ll be designing a custom ring to fit your finger and adding an adornment on top. It’s a great way to learn the basics in Tinkercad and prints in 4-5 minutes per ring depending how elaborate you get. Special thanks to the Maker Lab at Chicago Public Library for the idea – like almost all makerspaces they willingly exchange information and share ideas to help the maker movement!
We’ve had so much going on lately that blog posting fell off the list. But with so much recent news to tell, we’ll start with a few shorter posts on events and recently made items that folks stopping by the Makerspace have expressed interest in.
One of the most exciting things – we received 10 new Chromebooks from the Techpoint Foundation for Youth. As our monthly CoderDojo has grown, we’ve been looking for ways to have more computers available for kids that aren’t able to bring a laptop to learn more about coding at the meetings. This wonderful gift allows us to have pre-configured Chromebooks for kids to use.
Saturday July 1st from 1-4 pm will be our next monthly CoderDojo meeting of the free coding club for youth ages 7-17. We’ll have programmers there to help, or if you’d like to help the kids learning programming please stop by also!
And if you like coding, the inaugural CoderDojo Indiana Hackathon will be in Indianapolis Saturday July 22nd from 9:30-4:30 pm. Anyone can enter & we’ve already got one local team entry going.
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!
Yesterday we made a trip to SeeMeCNC in Goshen, Indiana to get a large format Rostock 3D printer kit from the manufacturer. SeeMeCNC began as Blackpoint Engineering 20 years ago, but got into the open source 3D printing world early on and began making 3D printers as SeeMeCNC in 2011, their primary business today. Their main product line is a series of 3D printers based on the delta robot design, versus the more traditional Cartesian design in most RepRap style printers that uses XYZ coordinates.
SeeMeCNC embraces the open source design movement. Their design information (both hardware and software) is readily available and the active user community helps to improve it. They also make the parts right here in Indiana. Once you see all the equipment jammed into their facility, you realize this is not a firm that buys different parts and boxes them up; they actually design and make their own parts to have parts designed for each product and to have better quality control.
We currently have a member loaned Printrbot Metal Simple that is an awesome compact printer, but wanted something for the makerspace that offered a little larger build area. A delta robot design is a different design that most of our participants have seen (except for Travis who sells 3D printer parts). We chose the Rostock Max V3 printer, which has a build area of 275mm dia. by 400mm tall (10.8”x15.7”). The SeeMeCNC Rostock line is well proven; the new version adds an accelerometer probe on the hot end plus significant fan and heater improvements. They’re transitioning over from the V2 due to simplified parts and reduced assembly time.
Thanks to JJ in engineering who gave us a great tour. We’ll be putting the unit together over the next week or two (if we can wait that long!). Join us or come to one of the open shop nights on our events page – we’ll be glad to show it off!
After the interest in the Subaru Indiana Automotive tour, a group of Castlemakers went on a tour of a Hydroponics Lab at Airy Knob Farm just outside Greencastle last month. The ½ hour tour, which was a science project for Victor & Linda Hunter’s grandkids, went over the basics of hydroponics in their proof of concept center for growing fruits & vegetables year round. There is a pretty big ‘concept center’ with over 500 plants growing when we visited & the kids did an awesome job with the tour.
Hydroponics grows plants in a mineral rich water solution without any soil. Because the plant’s roots don’t have to use energy seeking out nutrients, most of the growth goes to top portion of the plant with the root ball being significantly smaller and a much bushier, more compact plant. Supplemental lights often help that growth when it’s used in practice today (hydroculture goes back to Babylonian times & the 1600’s in Germany).
We learned a lot, including 3 different types of irrigation systems used there, the process of germination to harvest, and how the lighting & cooling systems are used to control plant growth. The kids on the trip put seedlings into the larger growth units & also could test the nutrient solution used with the plants. With the water/nutrient solution recirculation, this type of plant growth uses a lot less water than traditional farming!