RedBull Creation 2012 Entry

RedBull Creation challenge entry. It’s a brain-wave game. The players stand on opposite sides with wireless headsets that measure brain waves. One of them presses the big red button on the back, and then as they focus the power of their minds, the arm responds to their brain wave readings, and moves back and forth according to who is focusing best. After 10 seconds the Bullduino (visible at the front in the window) checks whether the pointer is in one of the green scoring zones. If it is still in the yellow zone, it’s a tie and it just returns to center. If it is in one of the green zones the player on that side is the loser, and the ball sprays that player.

KC Maker Faire 2012

This past weekend, Dave and Eric and I met up with quite a few Omaha Maker Group members at the KC Maker Faire, and had a blast.  We were initially going to have a booth to show off the awesome projects from around the Makery, but had far more people who wanted to go See the Faire instead of Work At the Faire.  Somehow, this change was miscommunicated to the Powers that Be, and we ended up with a booth and sign anyhow (notably unmanned).

We definitely got to see some neat stuff, including one of those optical-resin based 3D printers. ArcAttack was pretty awesome as well, if amazingly loud.

Beyond that,  it was an excellent a venue to share ideas… Looking through my pictures, I think Eric and I had identified at least 3 or 4 projects we want to try, and dozens of smaller ideas.  I saw a few 3d printer innovations, a “bubble printer” (by ArchReactor),  a portable whiteboard cart (For the Makery, at Hammerspace); We also a “waterflow table” (aka a Sluice Box) at Science City, where it pumps water down a trough, and you insert dividers to change the flow paths.  It seems pretty trivial, but would be one of those “fun to mess with” sorts of things.

I was a bit surprised that there wasn’t more merchandise (specifically Arduino kits and whatnot), although I’m not sure that this was a bad thing, in retrospect.

 Overall? Probably one of the more amazing Making experiences I’ve had. I got to see neat things, talk to interesting people and generally have a good time with friends, old and new.
I’ll be back next year, and would seriously consider making the trek to one of the larger Faires on the coasts.

Lincoln Makerspace

Somewhere, deep in the capital city of Nebraska, is a building.  This building is full of smoke, full of mirrors.  Inside, birds take flight, machinists grind away in a vast darkened wonderland, and countless scavenged items from around the countryside rest in hulking, sometimes dilapidated heaps, thrown into rows awaiting re-discovery and thrifty sale.

Need to romp in an old grain silo turned on its side?  Do you want a 50s era dental xray machine for arcane experiments?  Wait, is that a VW Thing?  There’s an old jumbo-tron!  Think of the possibilities.  And oooh look!  Fiberglass light fixtures the size of your mom!  We could turn these into Death Star replicas!  That’s a rather large magnifying glass over there and, ah… wait.  Who really needs an Applebee’s sign?

That’s not really the point, people. Stop looking at that sign.  This, friends, is the home of something much more special something you might need way more than an Applebee’s sign.  The hackers and makers of Lincoln, NE lurk these grounds.  They are Lincoln Makerspace, and select members of OMG had the pleasure of meeting them this past week.


This fine group of enterprising guys work out of an old window factory.  They currently spend most of their time in a small office space on the second floor, where you can find various works of art, Maker style.  There’s an automatic drawing machine, kinetic sculptures, a record player with an ember on top that creates a flaming vortex when lit, and a dapper CNC milled likeness of Einstein, to name a few things that decorate the space.

Beyond that, the picture gets more dirty, more crazy, more awesome.  Their small office space is part of a huge building that has pretty much everything a maker would need to have an A team style warmachine creative fit.  Professional machine shops aside, the old window factory and Lincoln Makerspace have a 20x10ft CNC to call their very own (incidentally, this is where Einstein came from).  That would be impressive enough, were it not for this:

Gosh, what’s that?  It looks like a 10ft tall robot arm, fully armed and operational.  But what is it for?  What…does it do?

 Group member interests, when not flinging people around in racing chairs, include bioinformatics, physics, free energy, engines, robots, and art. So far Lincoln Makerspace is a small group, but they pack a big punch and have a very high cool projects to member ratio.

Omaha Maker Group is impressed.  If you’d like to get to know the Lincoln Makerspace, you can reach them here.  We look forward to working with this great group of guys in the future!

Balsa Bridge Bash Results (with movie of stuff breaking)

Results are in! 

After a run up of making throughout the week, the bridge competition began at the Makery last Sunday to test the designs of our participants.  In all, there were 9 entries (some last minute).


In short, the rules:

May contain only balsa wood and Titebond 2 wood glue.
Must fit within a 50 x 20 x 10 cm rectangular volume.
May not contain more than 6oz of glue by wet volume.
Must have a smoothish road deck no less than 6cm in width.
 - suitable for a HotWheels-style car to easily roll over
Deck ends must contact the upper surface of the test rig support planks.
Deck must have no more than a 10% grade (where grade = 100 * (rise/run))
Deck must accommodate the load plate.
Some part of the load plate must fall across the midpoint of the span.
There are no limits on construction tools or technique.
The load plate is 10 x 5 x 1 cm, and has a loading hook extending from the center of the bottom surface which requires 1 cm annular clearance through and below the bridge deck.
Bridges will be loaded progressively (w/ minimum shock load), starting at 5kg and progressing in 1Kg increments to 10Kg.
Upon reaching the maximum load, the bridge must hold for 1 minute.
 - Disputes as to whether a bridge ‘held’ will be resolved by vote
Bridges that fail will be ranked by the weight carried without failure and bridge mass.
Bridges that do not fail will be ranked by the mass of the bridge.
The open span between the support planks is 30cm.
The open span is between rectangular, fixed, smooth, level, coplanar planks with a thickness of ~2cm.
The bridge may touch the top or inner surfaces of the supporting planks, but may not touch any other surface, nor be affixed to any surface.
The load plate will support a wire or rod from which the test load will be suspended.


And so, our bridges took to the field.  Most, thankfully, were able to take the designated test weight.  Ironically, the ones that didn’t pass the test seemed to fail because of over-engineering.  The resulting bridges flirted a bit  too close to weight limits and efficiency and ultimately couldn’t stand up to the test weight.  The results:
As you can see, Dave K emerged victorious, with a design that was the lightest to survive the task of lifting 8kg, and which went on to lift 1452.61% of its own weight.  Impressive!


By now you may have worked out that there is a category in the results called “Fail Weight.”  Well, we at OMG like to test to the limits of design.  Also, we’re all about 8 years old at heart and like to break things, filming the results in slow motion video if at all possible.  So, without further ado…every last bridge getting destroyed/max tested to sexy music:

Join us for our next competition, to be held this Sunday!  See the forum for details.

Getting more throttle resolution from an old RC Controller.

I have been flying my tricopter around lately, and have been getting a bit better at not running it into things. However, one thing in particular has been bugging me about the my controller for the tricopter. The throttle stick resolution has felt really low, especially when compared to a friend's newer and nicer controller. When flying it around at the Makery there was about one notch of difference between it barely skidding around the floor, and heading straight to the ceiling.

So, tonight I took it apart to see what I could do about getting finer control out of it.  It turns out there is just a small spring arm with a bump at the end riding on notches molded on the back of the joystick. I believe this is pretty standard from what I’ve seen online.

This is one of the times where having a 3D printer, and knowing how it works pays off. I needed a very specialized piece with several notches running up a curved surface. This immediately reminded me of the surface that 3D printers make as they lay down each layer of an object. So I took a few measurements, fired up the 3D modeling software and made a “cap” that will sit on top the current notches, so that the spring rides on it instead. You will notice that the 3D model has a perfectly smooth surface, but we get the ridges that it needs by setting the layer height for the printer.  I measured the old notches at .5mm on center, so I set the layer height to .3mm for the first try.

After trying to print one by itself, and having it end up all blobby and malformed, I remembered to turn the “cool” setting on in Slic3r,  and put five of them on a plate to make sure they have time to cool between layers. I also turned the fan on, which I believe is why they all came detached from the build platform halfway through the print. After turning that off and trying it again, 3 out of the 5 finished properly, and I was able to test it out. It worked great! The new piece fit right over the top of the old piece and the spring lined up perfectly on top.

It turned out to be a great improvement over the original. The ridges were smaller and more rounded, which gave it a lighter feel, but the spring was compressed more, so it still felt like it was strong enough to hold position. And most importantly, it had better resolution, and I can fly it around without worrying so much about it running into the ceiling while indoors.

All in all it took about an hour from idea to completion. I would say it’s definitely worth trying this if your controller is like mine.


Egg Drop Contest – Results

Last Sunday (April 1st) was the first Omaha Maker Group Egg Drop.  The competition was much in the same style as the Nerf Gun Mod Contest run last fall; This competition had a lower entry barrier, and thus far greater turnout, with 10 total entries (Eric entered twice).  All the eggs survived the drop, but Stephanie was the big winner, with a score that bested the next entrant by a factor of 4. Click through for full results, and a little high-speed video, thanks to Ben. Continue reading

Microscope Photography – Integrated Circuits

On Tuesday night, we were disassembling some old printers, and salvaged some large ROM chips. Patrick got the idea to use the mill to remove the top layer of the case, and expose the IC inside.  Here are some photos we took of the chip’s insides with a microscope. Magnifications range between 4x and 40x, thought the 40x were pretty difficult to illuminate properly, because the lens obscures most of the light. As for the cameras, we  used a little point and shoot and a cell phone camera, both just held up to the microscope’s eyepiece.

Contacting the International Space Station

Last Wednesday, OMG member Pat Joseph (KØCTU) stopped by the Makery to see if we could make contact with the International Space Station, as it passed overhead.

The Space Station has a few amateur radio operations on board, and the one we were making contacts with was an automatic mode known as APRS. The automated station heard my transmission and sent back an acknowledgement three times during the pass.

About a  half-dozen people took part in the attempt.  James and Rick manned the antenna, while Pat ran the radio.  The rest of us provided moral support :)

The antenna that Pat brought down was pretty innovative. The main body was made from plastic conduit, and the elements were built from bits of metal tape measure.  The result is a quick-setting antenna that is difficult to damage, yet easy to fold up and store.