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.


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.


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.


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.


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/)


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!


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)


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.




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.








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.


Azteeg X5 Mini

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






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.
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


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.


03 2014

International Tabletop Day 2014

International tabletop day

International Tabletop Day

Want to hang out with a group of fun geeky people at a Hackerspace and play some awesome games? How about homemade snacks and homebrew beer? Still not awesome enough for you? Well, how about we hack an Xbox Kinect and scan you, then 3D print a custom game piece with your face on it, or make custom game counters on a laser cutter?

Come on by Pumping Station: One, Chicago’s biggest Hackerspace, on April 5th and have some fun and maybe even learn a few skills! Bring your favorite games, or if you want some supreme geeky-points, bring a game you designed and play-test it with us [we can even discuss how to spruce-up your game with lasercut or 3D printed pieces, hint-hint]!

This event is public, so bring your family, friends, or just awesome gamers you know and wanna hang out with! If you want to take part in making the 3D printed game pieces, or laser cutting custom counters, we do ask for a minimum of $1 suggested donation to cover materials. If you want to see this stuff continue into the future, please donate more! Proceeds will go to Pumping Station: One’s donation box.


03 2014

CNC Steampunk Harp – Getting Your Guts in a Knot – Part 3


Elizabeth and Ryan with a fully strung harp

Elizabeth and Ryan with a fully strung harp

[See Part 2]

At long last, the CNC Steampunk Harp that Elizabeth and I have been building is, at least functionally, finished! In previous posts, I documented the process of routing pockets in the side of the harp using PS:One’s CNC router, and our road trip to Sector67 in Madison, WI to use their seriously awesome laser cutter. This completed the work on all wooden parts of the harp, and so I could finally assemble it.

First, I had to glue the stiffener boards to the back of the sound board and used the drill press to make holes for the 33 strings. Gluing the sound board to the harp body required a lot of fast work: driving nails to hold the sound board in place, flipping it over and trying to wipe out the dripping glue while only having access to the inside via small holes, flipping it over to drive more nails, rinse, lather, repeat… all the while, the glue is starting to set. Then I glued the trim strips in place that covered all the nails. After that glue dried, I used a 1/4″ roundover bit on a router to clean up the sides of the sound box, and… oops! To my horror, I realized I forgot a step in the directions that said I was supposed to use extra nails to reinforce the area where the sound board joins the base near the pillar. Seeing as the harp has over 1000 lbs tension on the sound board and I really don’t want it pulling itself apart, I used the pneumatic nailer to shoot brads through the lower front trim strip. Then I needed to use wood putty to cover the brads. Oh, and did I mention that the angle of the nail gun wasn’t quite right and the brads poked through the bottom? So I had to bend them over with a nail set and cover those holes as well with wood putty. You live, you learn….

Read the rest of this entry →


03 2014

Caught in the Shop

I was walking through the shop tonight and saw something awesome happening. I took some crappy photos to show you (and I’m not sorry about it!).

That's a big piece of metal

Our Cold Metals area host, Mike, holding a big piece of metal. He’s going to turn it into a smaller piece of metal.


Mike and Dean work on centering the piece.


This is the part they’re trying to reproduce. This is a pulley for our new(ish) Johnson horizontal band saw. You’ll note that it’s bent. It’s also incorrectly sized, so there’s a bushing that’s been inserted that you can’t see. This bushing has no key, so the pulley was fairly noisy and inefficient.




03 2014

NERP: Playing with the BeagleBone Black

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.

Tonight at NERP, we’ll be playing with the BeagleBone Black. We’ll compare the look and feel of an original Angstrom Linux install with a fresh Debian Wheesy install. Beagles and their kin are complicated little devices, and there’s lots to see and try out (and fix) for a newbie user. We’ll sniff around the Beagle install and hardware just to pick up some landmarks for future projects and ideas.


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 17th, 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



03 2014

Adding digital speed indication to a drill press.

There’s a big bin of 5 digit, 7-segment displays sitting in our electronics lab. It’s the sort of thing that cries out for a project. I found one that’s the perfect shape for a digital speed readout for our big drill press, whose mechanical RPM indicator was broken.

2014-02-16 18.26.53

Testing out the display PCB. It’s got 3 16 bit shift registers.

The display was pretty simple to reverse-engineer. There’s a header on the back that’s connected directly to the relevant pins on the first shift register. Apply power, fire up a basic sketch built around shiftOut(), and away we go.

2014-03-10 21.16.13

My test rig, showing that the RPMs pretty close.

My code (patches welcome!) is not terribly complex. Basically I use a Hall effect sensor to trigger an interrupt every time a magnet glued to a wheel in the drill press passes. The time between interrupts is used to calculate RPM.

2014-03-13 21.25.16

Magnet + Hall effect sensor.

All told, I spent maybe four or five hours on this project. It’s probably the simplest possible solution to the problem, and my total investment is less than $10 in parts. And we’ve got an accurate readout of the speed of this big drill press.

2014-03-13 18.49.28

Complete system.

I’m out



03 2014