Mini Maker Faire – or “How I annoyed hundreds of people”

On March 26th, our PR director forwarded an email to one of our mailing lists. This email detailed the Chicago Northside Mini Maker Faire, which was to happen in a little over a month. I decided that PS:1 needed to have a presence there, and it couldn’t just be a booth with some folks sitting behind it talking about hackerspaces all day.  An electronic project was very much within my skillset, but I didn’t want it to become yet another ‘how to solder’ class — they had one or two of those already. I wanted something that could be assembled quickly and offered a chance to talk about electronics if the assembler was interested. If they weren’t, they should have a fun doodad to walk away with.

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The final revision of the board art

I needed a project, something that would engage kids and adults. Something that was easy to assemble, cheap and offered a chance to learn a little bit about electronics (but didn’t require it!). I recalled a field trip I went on in high school. We went to an engineering firm or something, and they had us assemble little crystal radios on card stock. There were just four components that twisted together on the back, then you hooked up the crystal earset and bam! crappy radio.  I settled on a crappy optical theremin – using a photoresistor to modulate the pitch of a buzzer.2014-04-27 20.28.52 Thinking about it, I decided I could probably manage something pretty cool with five components or less if I used a microcontroller of some sort. I settled on the Atmel ATTiny45, which is an AVR in an 8 pin DIP package. Some clever folks have already ported the Arduino libraries to work on these small chips, so all I had to do was come up with a design and write a few lines of code. I won’t bore you with excessive details, you can check out the github repo.

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I had a number of parents and teachers assemble kits, too.

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Justin helping someone out

I learned a lot with this project, and  I think some other people did too. I had kids as young as 5 assemble these boards with guidance, some of them with surprisingly little help. Everyone seemed to like them, and I ran out of components for kits. I’m calling it a huge success, and I hope that this project is replicated and taken to other faires, expos and ‘learn electronics’ nights.   –Derek

08

05 2014

U Can Has BeagleBone Black (but only one).

 BeagleBoard_Boris_Tux

NERP is not exclusively Raspberry Pi, the small computer interest group at Pumping Station:One in Chicago. NERP meets every other Monday at 7pm at Pumping Station:One, 3519 N. Elston Ave. in Chicago.

The BeagleBone Black is a small single board computer in the same vein as the Raspberry Pi. The two boards are similar in appearance and composition but different in style. Both boards are based on 32-bit ARM-based processors. The Beagle’s is more recent and faster. The RPi is designed as a teaching platform that happens to have very nice graphics and video, but not much i/o. The Beagle’s graphics are wanting, but it has tons of i/o on the board. The Pi is more polished than the Beagle, in that what’s supposed to work usually does. The Beagle is more suited (for the moment) to dirty-fingernails hackers who enjoy hardware for its own sake.

One thing the two boards have in common is that their first manufacturing runs sold out quickly. It’s been weeks since there were any BeagleBone Blacks to be had for sale. (People have been hoarding them as OEM parts for their startup projects.) In the last few days, BeagleBone Blacks have been trickling out of CircuitCo’s production line. There are about 47,600 boards in the pipe, but you’re allowed to buy only one. http://specialcomp.com/beaglebone/ has them now for $45.00 each.

It’s time to give the BeagleBone Black another look at NERP.

Tonight we’ll go over some of the getting started routine, and have a peek under the hood of the Bonescript, the Beagle’s Arduino-like programming environment built on Node.js.

It’s time to give the BeagleBone Black another look at NERP.

Tonight we’ll go over some of the getting started routine, and have a peek under the hood of the Bonescript, the Beagle’s Arduino-like programming environment built on Node.js.

Find NERP and Pumping Station:One
at http://www.meetup.com/NERP-Not-Exclusively-Raspberry-Pi/
and http://pumpingstationone.org/
Doors open at 6:30pm. The next meeting is April28th, 2014. NERP is free and open to the public.
Ed Bennett ed @ kinetics and electronics com
Tags: electronics, embedded, NERP, Open Source, raspberry pi, hackerspace, Beagle Bone, Element14, Pumping Station One

 

 

28

04 2014

Intro to Programmable Logic & FPGAs – April 27

fpga-architecture

I’ve been bugged to death lately about doing another FPGA intro class…and after a full year, it’s finally here.  We’ll be going over some theory & concepts first before we hit the real stuff.  Familiarity with digital logic circuits is highly recommended, but you will still learn something regardless.  A basic overview of what will be covered:

  1. Combinational Logic – Basic Logic Gates
  2. Sequential Logic – Flips Flops
  3. CPLD – Complex Programmable Logic Device
  4. FPGA – Field Programmable Gate Array
  5. Nintendo DS ReView – An Example of What FPGAs Can Do
  6. Xilinx ISE & Verilog – Synthesizing the First Project
  7. Using Clocks – Blink that LED!
  8. State Machines – Alternate between blinking different LEDs!
  9. Video Example – Making an 8-bit VGA controller

I’ll be using the Elbert FPGA development board for most of the examples we’ll be doing.  Having the board is not required to attend.  I will bring a disc with the software tools in case anyone would like to install them.  We will be using Verilog as the HDL (hardware description language) in this class, since that is what I am familiar with.

The Details:

  • Who: Anyone (Open to the Public)
  • When: Sunday, April 27th – 2:00pm to 4:00pm….but we can chill until 5:00pm.
  • Where: 3519 N. Elston – 2nd Floor in the Electronics Lab
  • Cost: FREE

 

19

04 2014

Tonight at NERP: Movement detection with Motion


NERP is not exclusively Raspberry Pi, the small computer interest group at Pumping Station:One in Chicago. NERP meets every other Monday at 7pm at Pumping Station:One, 3519 N. Elston Ave. in Chicago.

To do make a security-cam type device with a Raspberry Pi or a Beagle Bone, the software must run on Linux. There are several computer vision based motion detection applications available for Linux. The OpenCV framework can be used to build Computer Vision applications that do heavy mathematical operation on streams in real time. (It also can be used to draw colored shapes on your screen.) If the versatility of OpenCV isn’t needed for a simple camera app there are a number of movement detection and recording applications to choose from. One of the oldest is Motion. Motion is command line driven. It produces its output as a browser viewable video images, stills, and a few control output options. In contrast with writing applications using OpenCV, it’s very simple to unbox and and fire up Motion. With its simplicity comes limited versatility, but it might be suited to your CV needs.

Find NERP and Pumping Station:One
at http://www.meetup.com/NERP-Not-Exclusively-Raspberry-Pi/
and http://pumpingstationone.org/
Doors open at 6:30pm. The next meeting is March 3rd, 2014. NERP is free and open to the public.
Ed Bennett ed @ kinetics and electronics com
Tags: electronics, embedded, NERP, Open Source, raspberry pi, hackerspace, Beagle Bone, Element14, Pumping Station One

14

04 2014

Mini Maker Faire in Chicago at Schurz High School – May 3

Reserve your spot to the third annual Chicago Northside Mini Maker Faire! Tickets are FREE to the public, but by reserving early you guarantee your spot. Now you can e-sign the media release on Eventbrite and skip the line! As always, your generous donations allow those who cannot otherwise afford Maker Faire to attend for free. Recommended donations are $10/adult, and $5/child under 12.

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/chicago-northside-mini-maker-faire-2014-tickets-10903088431

Pumping Station: One will hopefully be there with a table. Come visit us!

 

–Derek

10

04 2014

A Good Egg or, What Happens When Hackers Celebrate Pysanky Day

Okay, so first of all, Pysanky Day is a very special day celebrating the thousands-of-years-old art of Ukrainian egg decorating (a “pysanka” is one such egg, “pysanky” is multiples of them).  Now, there’s not an actual Pysanky Day; folks decorate the eggs traditionally around Easter time.  In my household, however, we celebrate several different holidays around Spring:  Passover, Easter, and Ostara.  Each year we decorate eggs and it’s grown from just Paas dyes to pysanky.

When I asked one of my fellow hackers if they’d like to learn the art, they got totally excited about using the Egg Bot.

The what?

The Egg Bot!

Of course, there’s a bot for eggs.  Why?  Because Hackerspace.

And thus, Pysanky Day was born.

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A celebration of the ancient:  the plain egg is drawn on with melted beeswax using a tool called a “kistka.”  Based on technology that’s about four thousand years old, it just consists of a stick or dowel with a hole drilled in one end, into which is inserted a metal funnel.  The funnel is held in place with copper wire.

After heating the tip of the kistka in a candle flame, a small amount of wax is scooped into the fat part of the funnel.  It takes some practice to get the wax to flow smoothly without making drops of wax on the egg.

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One of my favorite designs, this is from one of the series of five Ukrainian Design Books available from the Ukrainian Gift Shop in Roseville, Minnesota. Part of the design was done with a traditional kistka, and part was done with an electric kistka.

In principle, the electric one works the same as the manual one; I like it better because the flow of wax is much more even.

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We got to playing with the Egg Bot, which brings us up to present day technology. Using a pen, it writes on the egg. The writing is completely programmable.

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And finally, in true hacker style, we used the 3-D printer to print an egg holder in the shape of a bunny rabbit. One of our members, walking through the space toward the end of Pysanky Day, commented, “Oh! Rabbit Pants!”

Yup. Hackerspace.

 

All egg images used by permission, copyright: CC-BY-SA Everett C. Wilson ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/).

Image of the Egg Bot from the Egg Bot site, (http://egg-bot.com/)

05

04 2014

Digital Game Night, 4.5.14

This Saturday it’s time to bring the pain…the childhood pain we all experienced playing video games never to see their ending. It’s time to pick up the controllers, yell at a screen, and speedrun through the night spanning Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and Xbox 360 arcade games. The whole night starts with a round of You Don’t Know Jack where the winner gets to decide the first console/game of the night (from there on group votes will decide.)

This event is available to all members of PS:One and begins at 7pm in electronics. See you there!

03

04 2014

CNC Build Club: 32-Bit Controllers for CNC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

32-Bit CNC Controllers are making a strong showing lately.  I have several that I can show, compare and trace to roots of at this week’s CNC Build Club (Thursday 4/3/2014 @ 7:00pm)

TinyG

The TinyG has been around for a few years.  It can be purchased here.  It started as an XMega firmware/hardware project, that has been morphing into a cross process solution.  The basic TinyG is the XMega on their own hardware with 4 on board stepper drivers. It has very advanced motion control algorithms, including constant jerk.   The project is open source and on Github.

tinyg

 

TinyG2

The second, but less popular format, the TinyG2, is running on a standard Arduino Due with a driver shield.  Here is it shown with a gShield.

 

 

 

tinyg_due

 

Smootieboard

 

The other popular 32 Bit CNC controller is he Smoothie project.  After about a year of prototypes they did a popular Kickstarter.  The Kickstarter is over and delivered and you can buy the hardware.  The project is open source.  Most of the motion control is based on a port of GRBL.  The project details are here and the GitHub repo is here.  The project supports 3D printers, laser (cutting only) and CNC routers.

smoothieboard

Azteeg X5 Mini

This is the Azteeg x5 mini.  It is a another hardware solution for Smoothieware.  It is available for sale here.

AX5MINI-2

 

 

 

03

04 2014

Tonight at NERP: Drew demonstrates Software Defined Radio

NERP is not exclusively Raspberry Pi, the small computer interest group at Pumping Station:One in Chicago. NERP meets every other Monday at 7pm at Pumping Station:One, 3519 N. Elston Ave. in Chicago.
radio-1
Software Defined Radio is a set of techniques for generating modulated RF waveforms in a transmitter, and demodulating the waveforms in a receiver. In traditional radio transmitters, the broadcast carrier waveform is generated in resonating analog circuits. The carrier is subsequently modulated in a specific way to encode information onto the carrier waveform. There are several distinct methods for doing the encoding and modulation. At the receiver the modulated carrier is received, amplified, and decoded to extract the transmitted information. Analog circuits are bulky. They could never fit in a cell phone, for instance. Worse, a specific analog circuit can operate over a very narrow range of frequencies (a “band”) and the modulation/demodulation method is inflexibly determined by the circuit topology.

Software defined radio allows the radio hardware to generate the physical carrier frequency and modulation format by algorithmic synthesis. Until recently, open (or open-ish) hardware capable of doing the waveform generation math in real time was not available at an affordable price. This has changed. Tonight at NERP, Drew Fustini will demo Aafruit’s “Software Defined Radio USB Stick” receiver. From the product description on the Adafruit site, the little radio does some absolutely amazing things. Software is eating the world, and radio is on the menu.

Find NERP and Pumping Station:One
at http://www.meetup.com/NERP-Not-Exclusively-Raspberry-Pi/
and http://pumpingstationone.org/
Doors open at 6:30pm. The next meeting is March 3rd, 2014. NERP is free and open to the public.
Ed Bennett ed @ kinetics and electronics com
Tags: electronics, embedded, NERP, Open Source, raspberry pi, hackerspace, Beagle Bone, Element14, Software defined Radio Pumping Station One

31

03 2014

Special Circuit Bending eSymposium this Sunday

Sunday, April 6

12 PM – 4 PM, FREE

Hacking upstairs in Electronics, open jam session downstairs in the Lounge.

Hosted by Patrick McCarthy of the circuit-bending act Roth Mobot.

Bring something to hack, something to drink, and whatever tools you think you’ll need. PS:One has an excellent assortment of tools but they are finite. Components are available, but please donate some cash to help cover whatever you use.

Radio WFMT will be on location recording a documentary about the eSymposium.

31

03 2014