Needed: mentors for the Schurz robotics team

Schurz High School, located just down the street from us on Addison & Milwaukee, is hoping to boost involvement in their FIRST Robotics Team (FIRST: For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). And they need your help!

WHO? Experts who want to mentor amazing teens in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, coding, robotics

WHAT? FIRST was founded over 25 years ago by inventor Dean Kamen. First teaches skills to kids from age 6 to 18. Learn more here.

WHEN? Tuesdays from  3 – 6 pm (or any amount of time during that block you can commit).

WHY? Because children are the future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.
Show them all the beauty they possess inside. But really because you get to help design and keep a rad robot-bulldog t-shirt. Plus, robots.

Schurz is a neighborhood school with no entry requirements whose student body is 95% low-income youth. It is the site of Chicago Northside Mini Maker Faire, where PS1 has a regular presence.

Interested? Contact Christina at [email protected].

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Wondering how to get authorized on the Tormach? Here’s how

When PS1 got the Tormach 1100, our single biggest investment in a tool, we were determined to do it right. Not just the installation, but also creating an educational path that went far beyond a standard authorization.

PS1 has just launched its first two provisional authorization sessions. Students were selected who had already attained the prerequisite authorizations. To get authorized on the Tormach, you first need to get authorized on:

  1. Tier 1 Metals
  2. Bridgeport
  3. ShopBot

You should also be proficient in CAM before getting authorized on the Tormach.

Assuming you have all that stuff on lock, getting authorized on the Tormach is as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Take an online course and pass the associated quiz
  2. Attend a Tormach live training (2-3 hours)
  3. Submit a personal project for CAM & G-code review

Events & Resources

In addition to the authorization path, there are lot of ways to get more familiar with the Tormach and its amazing powers.


Fusion360 Meet-UpsAndrew Camardella hosts biweekly Fusion360 meet-ups to spruce up your CAD & CAM skills. All skill levels welcome. Check the events page.

Tormach user Meet-UpsStarting this winter, will be having public Tormach user group meetings to discuss tooling, projects, machine optimization and other related topics.


Tormach wiki pageStay up to date with Tormach resources at PS1 on our wiki page.

Tormach Slack Group: Join our slack group #Tormach_User_Group at to talk with other PS1 Tormach users about all things Tormach.

Thanks to the team

This educational program was designed by Alisha Ciardi, along with:

The Danger Committee

  • Andrew Camardella
  • Andrew Wingate
  • David Earl
  • Abel Greenwald

Education Team

  • Alex Berkowitz
  • Alisha Ciardi
  • Andrew Wingate
  • David Earl
  • Kathryn Born
  • Nick Prorock
  • Ryan Himmelblau

Current Authorizers

  • Alex Berkowitz
  • David Earl
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Bringing VR/AR tools to PS1

VR Demos at PS1

I’m Mark, the new kitchen area host, and I’m trying to bring all the benefits of VR/AR/MR to disciplines across Pumping Station: One. Below’s an example of how I’m using it for food design.

You are welcome to come talk to me about incorporating experience-creation tools for food purposes during kitchen office hours Saturday 10am to 12pm, but I’m also interested in enabling you to use these for your own projects. Sundays from 12pm – 3pm we’ve been having “Let’s Make VR” upstairs in electronics. The current project is trying to capture our space in a demo that can be shared with the outside world using VR, helping members capture and display their projects in virtual spaces using photogrammetry and 3D scanning, and recording 360 training to be used in the app.

Screens from a new PS1 VR gallery.

If you’re an area host and you’d like some training recorded, reach out to me to schedule a time. If you want to use our tools to recreate and capture experiences, see how your furniture is going to look in your living room before making it- or send it to a friend and let them check it out with AR tools, come to one of the above events and let’s talk about it. More members are getting familiar with the tools & we’ll be posting tutorials to Canvas soon.

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Halloween party this Saturday

Head on over to PS1 this Saturday, October 27, for Halloween good times from 6pm til midnight.

Will there be door prizes? Yes, there will be door prizes!

Will there be adult food and adult beverages? Yes, there will be plenty of both!

Will there be costume contests? Of course there will be costume contests!

Plus music! Games! 300 seconds of spooky!

Don’t have a costume? There will be supplies on hand so you can make your own costume!

Frequently asked questions

Q: Can I bring a guest who is a non-member?

A: Yes! Yes! Yes! All are welcome to PS1’s Halloween spooktacular!

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PS1 T-Shirts, Just $10, Available for a Limited Time.

Long have you wanted to display your PS1 pride and now you can with your very own 100% cotton T-Shirt that features the ‘Fire’ version of the classic ‘Snowflake’ logo.

This durable heat pressed graphic (wash inside out and hang dry) also features an informative and impressive list of PS1 tools.

Available Tuesday nights during open house / member meetings and at certain events. They come in S,M,L,XL,2XL,3XL which run modest so if you are on the edge go up one size.

There may be another run of shirts towards the end of the year. After that there are no assurances, if shirts are available the graphics and colors may change. Next year the price for shirts (if available) goes up to $12.

A perfect gift for all the makers on your holiday list – Thank you.

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Crappy robots battle this Saturday at PS1!

Update — that was pretty epic:

Hebocon is a contest that pits tiny, crappy robots against one another in miniature sumo battles. Whichever crappy robot falls over or exits the ring first, loses. But the important thing is, the robots must be crappy.

PS1 will be hosting its first-ever micro-Hebocon this Saturday, October 20. A micro-Hebocon is like a regular Hebocon, but even crappier: all robots will be powered by a wind-up motor that provides about four seconds of energy.

PS1 is providing the motors free of charge. Also beer, free of charge. Bring whatever other parts you desire, or see what is available in the micro-junkyard of odd robot parts that PS1 will make available at the event.

The micro-junkyard will include an Iron Chef-style surprise ingredient. Probably not octopus, and probably not uranium…but maybe!

Worried you won’t be able to create a functioning robot? No worries, there is also an aesthetics award to be given out to the fanciest robot on the strip.

The event takes place from 7pm to 10pm, this Saturday, October 20. 21 and over only, please. No entrance fee, but please email Kathryn Born if you plan to participate. [email protected]

Oh, one other thing: if you do happen to be a skilled roboticist, don’t despair! Just challenge yourself by adding a handicap:

  • Try combinations that you would never do at work, like making a propeller with dried squid rather than plastic or metal;
  • Avoid technology that you’re familiar with. Do not use a soldering iron, or other tools;
  • Make it with your left hand (if you are right-handed);
  • Make it with your feet;
  • Leave the most important part to a 5-year-old child to make it for you.
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Join us at Locktoberfest!

Locktoberfest is coming back to PS1 on Sunday, October 14 from 11am to 5pm. The event is fun and free (although you should register if you plan to attend). Come learn how to pick locks, marvel at the skills of experienced lockpickers, eat food, and drink exciting beverages:

Locktoberfest is a party! First things first, we’re here to have fun. What’s fun for us? Lockpicking! Also: beer and brats and…. you! Locktoberfest is open to everyone, from world class lockpickers to those interested in learning for the first time.

More details here.

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Open House Chicago: volunteers needed

Open House Chicago is a great annual event. On the weekend of October 13 – 14, 250 locations across Chicago open their doors to the public to give them a glimpse, for free, of what goes on inside.

PS:1 is one of those 250 locations. This is our second year of participation, and it is not only an honor to be included, it is a rare opportunity for us to show ourselves off to a much wider swathe of the public than we normally interact with.

This is more than just a vanity exercise. We are trying to use OHC to drive new memberships. New memberships are critical to our finances and bear heavily on issues like how we will navigate the building sale. It’s an important weekend for us.

So we need your help. I am looking for three types of volunteer:

  1. Tour guides. Open House Chicago tours are not the same thing as our regular Tuesday tours. They need to be shorter and, for lack of a better term, more interesting. That is, OHC visitors don’t care about the authorization process or Tidy Space policy. Tours should be quick and more focused on the big picture of PS:1. What is a makerspace? What is the maker movement? What do people do here? Etc.
  2. Demo monkeys. Staring at an unused CNC plasma cutter isn’t that exciting. Watching a CNC plasma cutter carve up plate steel is cool. For the OHC weekend, ideally we will have our tools in operation, so that people can witness the act of making firsthand. Lathes, lasers, mills, printers, you name it. If you can operate it, please come help us show it off.
  3. Personal projects. Do you make your own musical instruments? Your own telescopes? Your own costumes? Consider dropping by during OHC to show off some of the great stuff you’ve made at PS1 to the public, even just for a few hours.
  4. Organizers. Beyond the work on the weekend itself, we need to get ready for the event. Even if you’re not available on October 13 – 14, perhaps you’re interested in laying groundwork for the event.

If you think you might be interested, please submit your name here.  Signing up isn’t a commitment — even if you just think you possibly could want to help, get in touch.

By the way, Chicago Architecture Center, the organizer of the event, offers training for tour guides that includes free swag and other fun perks. Training with the OHC isn’t required, but if you want to participate in the OHC training, please register your interest now — we will schedule the training session soon.



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NOMCOM blogging: Google will give PS1 $10,000 per month

Google has a program called Google Ad Grants that gives any qualifying nonprofit — and PS1 certainly qualifies — $10,000 per month in free search advertising. It’s not cash, but it’s still a pretty sweet deal. We just have to go claim it.

The bag of free money comes, of course, with a catch: it takes a lot of work to spend $10,000 a month on search advertising, and even more work to spend it well. This was by far the most nitty gritty and practical talk I attended at NOMCON, much of it focused on the mechanics of running a successful search advertising campaign.

If you’ve never had the misfortune of managing an ad campaign on Google, here is a vastly oversimplified rundown:

  1. You, the advertiser, bid on search terms in an open auction.
  2. When someone enters your search term into Google, your ad may be displayed on the search results page if you have a winning bid.
  3. You only pay if the searcher clicks on your ad.

Google Ad Grants recipients don’t really pay anything at all, because they are playing with house money. You get $10,000 of funny money to burn through each month (technically, $329 each day).

Importantly, Google caps the amount that recipients of Google Ad Grants money can bid at $3, which is low enough to put popular search terms entirely out of reach. The trick to a successful ad campaign is finding search terms that are both relevant to the audience you are trying to reach and also priced affordably enough that it makes sense to bid on them.

But there’s much more to a campaign than just choosing keywords. The purpose of displaying advertising is to drive traffic to a specific page on a website. That page should be relevant to the specific search term. For example, if someone searches for “Arduino hacking,” sending them to the PS1 home page would be somewhat pointless. Sure, there’s a small chance the visitor will carefully explore the site to figure out what PS1 has to offer electronics hobbyists. Haha, just kidding: she will immediately slam on the back button. $3 of funny money flushed down the toilet.

What you want to do instead is send the visitor to a page on our website with a headline like, “Interested in joining a community of Arduino hackers?” And then show the NERP schedule and invite her to sign up for a Meetup. Or something along those lines.

People who take this stuff seriously tend to bid on lots of search terms. In this case, a lot means 250,000 or more. (Automation can help a bit: there are sites with names like KeywordShitter that, well, what it says.) The pros tweak and optimize their landing pages. They test out dozens of variants of ad copy out to see which ones perform the best.

In short, search advertising is specialized work that is often outsourced to agencies.

But it doesn’t have to be quite as bad as all that. Start small. Borrow keyword lists from other makerspaces that already advertise online. Set up a single landing page for each of the areas within PS1. Etc. It’s still a lot of work, but not necessarily an insane amount of work.

Which maybe brings up some questions: do we even want $10,000 per month in free search advertising? What would we do with it? The answers are: yes and a lot.

The most obvious use of the money is to grow membership. But there is a lot more than that you can do:

  • Attract people to one-time events, such as Fusion classes or the upcoming Chicago Open House that PS1 is participating in.
  • Engage in geographical market research by targeting campaigns to different Chicago ZIP codes to see where interest in makerspaces is highest.
  • Solicit volunteers for specific roles or events (lots of people are looking for volunteer opportunities online).
  • Target specific types of makers to bring new people to under-utilized areas of the space.
  • “Smoke test” new offerings like classes by advertising them and seeing what kind of response we get.

And so on. Basically, if there’s anything you want to try to spread the word about, Google Ad Grants gives you hose of cash to point at it.

Next steps: refreshing the website and enrolling in the program.

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