Category Archives: Making

Holiday Making

Acrylic Prototype ornament
Prototype green acrylic ornament.

This year we decided to pitch in and help Main Street Greencastle’s Santa in the Park project by making holiday ornaments to give away in Santa’s gift bags. We’ve held classes in making holiday ornaments before, so it seemed like a natural fit with one big difference. Instead of making 5-10 ornaments designed by class attendees, we needed to make 500 ornaments for the gift bags in 2 weeks or less!

Laser cut holiday ornament
Closeup of the final laser cut wood ornament design .

3D printing the ornaments, which we’ve done in our classes, was out due to the time constraint. Recently I helped a local entrepreneur make his parts for a new product idea on our laser, creating a little over 150 pieces in 15 minutes. They needed to be extremely precise and were slightly smaller than ornaments, but that had me thinking this was the way to go. What we needed was a simple to engrave & cut design that could be done in a reasonable length of time.

Finished laser cut Castlemakers holiday ornaments.
Getting first batch of holiday ornaments ready for delivery.

A local high school student, Hyrum Hale, came up with design that with a few modifications we could use. Our first prototype in green acrylic looked nice but wasn’t really visible on a tree, plus enough acrylic was hard to find due to Covid. Getting it to engrave/cut quickly required additional work; size of the ornament, material choice & availability, laser settings, and laser bed calibration/set up all were factors that determined time per ornament, quality, and repeatability. Making 500 items of anything means you learn a lot!

Although the cutting/engraving time was still substantial, we made the deadline and are really excited for our first time doing this. There’s a few extras at the Makerspace if you’d like one. We’re also already thinking about a new design for next year…

Covid face Shields

Thanks to a gift from SeeMeCNC in Ligonier Indiana, we’ve been able to donate an extra 150 face shields to Putnam County Hospital in case they’re needed for a Covid-19 case surge.

Covid Face Shields
Case of Face Shields given to Putnam County Hospital.

Last month we started making face shields for those that needed them, but 3D printing can be a slow process. You can do some things to speed up/optimize print time, but if you need a lot of something it’s often not the way to go.

Steve Wygant at SeeMeCNC/Blackpoint Engineering, who makes 3D printers and designs plastic injection molds (among other things) recognized that problem and did something. Within hours he took an open source face shield headband design used in Europe and turned it into an injection molded piece. Then they took their in-house machines used for 3D printers to make headbands and face shields for others. They even started gave away cases of the injection molded parts to groups like Castlemakers who were making and donating face shields in their local community.

Making a Face Shield with a Cricut Maker
Cutting face shields with our Cricut Maker.

We took their headbands and then created face shields by cutting overhead transparencies and report covers to make the shield. Thin clear plastic is in short supply everywhere! Our lasercutter works well to cut overhead transparencies quickly, but the slightly thicker clear report covers us a material (PVC) that’s not safe to lasercut. For those we developed a template we could use with our Cricut Maker. I’ll add some details on our covid-maker webpage.

Makers & Covid

Castlemakers window display of covid-19 projects on Franklin street.
Face shields and a 3D printed mask made at the makerspace.

Our blog posts have been running behind lately, but we’ve been busy the last few months. We’ll update with some older entries since like many folks we’ve had more ‘stay at home’ time with the COVID-19 mess that’s been going on.

Even though we’ve stopped having public events since mid-March, there have been things going on inside (using recommended guidelines). Our main 3D delta printer has never been worked so hard in such a short time since we got it 3 years ago.

The picture to the right has some examples of what’s been made there to help first responders and others with the COVID-19 battle. We can’t make things in large quantities, but we can fabricate and adjust quickly – plus worldwide the makerspace community has rapidly stepped up to help people where they can. Longer term existing manufacturers will and are already starting to fill the gap, but it sometimes helps to do locally what can be done until the gap is eliminated. We’ve got a special webpage with some local covid making projects in Putnam County and more details about how the face shields, face masks, and ear savers can be made.

Girl Scouts / Makevention

Central Indiana girl scouts learning about electronics & Arduinos.
Central Indiana girl scouts learning about electronics & coding.

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.

2nd Floor Main lobby of Makevention, but a lot more in other rooms and first floor.
2nd Floor Main lobby of Makevention, but a lot more in other rooms and first floor.

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…

Makevention Makerspace panel which included Castlemakers.
Makevention Makerspace panel including Castlemakers.

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.


Making Kinetic Art

Fourth floor view of the new interactive sculputure being built in IU's new Luddy Hall.
Fourth floor view of the new interactive sculpture being built in IU’s new Luddy Hall.

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.

Installation of components & wiring for the sentient sculpture in Bloomington.
Installation of components & wiring for the new Amatria sentient sculpture.

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!

2nd Annual Putt Putnam County Recap

Course setup, we even had a few homemade putters in the bucket by the door.
Course setup, we even had a few homemade putters in the bucket by the door.

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.

Getting past the rotating mermaid tails to reach the treasure is tough with Under the Sea built by the Green family.
Getting past the rotating mermaid tails to reach the treasure is tough with Under the Sea built by the Green family.

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.

Time Turner, a steam-punk hole built by 11-12 year old kids, used a BBQ rotisserie motor and old bicycle inner tube to rotate the clock face (which has a paddle underneath). The pulley and golf ball tee were 3D printed & the clock numbers were cut using the Makerspace laser cutter.
Time Turner was built by 11-12 year old kids using a BBQ rotisserie motor and old bicycle inner tube to rotate the clock face (there’s a paddle underneath). The pulley and golf ball tee were 3D printed & the clock numbers were cut with the Makerspace laser cutter.

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.

Putt Putnam County Playoff

Scorecards & voting ballots were available for those playing the course.
Scorecards & voting ballots were available for those playing the course.

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 younger player's excitement shows at a successful putt...
The excitement shows with a successful putt…

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.

This hole won best Putnam County themed hole, even though the moving covered bridge didn't get completed.
The Hale’s hole won best Putnam County theme, even without the moving covered bridge completion.

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.

Castlemakers Model Rocket Launch

Ty launches the first rocket of the day, one he built several weeks earlier in the model rocket class.
Ty launches the first rocket of the day, one he built several weeks earlier in the model rocket class.

One of the later launches

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.

No that's not a flying saucer. It's actually two interlocking plastic plates floating down after launch...
No that’s not a flying saucer. It’s actually two interlocking plastic plates floating down after launch…

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…

Recovery is much quicker & easier when you have an energetic chase crew!
Recovery is much quicker & easier when you have an energetic chase crew!

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!

Setup area for launching with a few onlookers at Big Walnut Sports Park.

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!

Summer Enrichment Program

Simple catapult testing built using 8 popsicle sticks and 2 wooden craft sticks.
Simple catapult testing built using 8 popsicle sticks and 2 wooden craft sticks.

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!

Testing an alternate design which uses a stronger spring.
Testing an alternate wooden stick catapult design which uses a stronger spring.

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!