Archive for September, 2010

Mod Lab’s September 22nd Meeting Recap

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Last Wednesday featured the making of a super sensitive sound to light converter from CanaKit and talks of interesting hacks to the Roomba and Spykee. Guy told us an interesting tidbit on knowing if a battery still has a charge- just…stick your tongue on it. Since the body is conductive you’ll either get a little shock or not when your tongue comes into contact with both the positive and negative ends of the battery. Never thought to do that before!

Excitement is building for the Mini Maker Faire we are hosting in November- it’ll be the first of it’s kind in Canada! Already we have a huge showing of interest from makers in Canada and the U.S. to be a part of it. For more info visit the Maker Faire page.

My knowledge of resistor conversions based on their color bands is still developing so Guy helped me sort out the right combination and proofed my work. Mike Baker had never soldered before so I set him up soldering the ends of the board:

J.C., one of the founders of Twegather, followed up with a bit more:

Our group effort was indeed a super sensitive sound to light converter- the picture below was taken with me barely blowing on the microphone!

I plan to mod a case for it that gives it some personality too. Since then I’ve released a Instructable on making an LED acorn lantern- check it out!

How To Make An LED Acorn LanternMore DIY How To Projects

Mod Lab’s September 8th Meeting Recap

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

The meetup of hackers and makers at the first Mod Lab of September had a few people working on testing Infrared LED’s and others talking about the upcoming Electric Fields festival and projects that will be featured there. Guy, an electrical engineer that makes robots in his spare time and member of the Ottawa Robotics Enthusiasts, gave Henri and myself a lesson on determining the tolerance of any given resistor (an electrical component that produces a voltage across it’s terminals when energy flows into it that allows one to fine tune how much energy is flowing into your circuit) based on the pattern of coloured bands that each have.

Henri is in the process of finishing his senior project at Algonquin College and needs Infrared LED’s to complete the motion detecting part of it. Guy brought in some of his for Henri to try out and I had brought my Arduino board in to play with and see if I could get a Processing sketch onto it before the next open O’Reilly class (Processing and Arduino in Tandem– Creating Your Own Digital Art Tools. We’ve been meeting at the lab every Tuesday while this is on- please come join us!) Once we determined the right amount of resistors we needed to control the voltage coming from the Arduino (my board was registering an output of 4.81 volts) I loaded a simple Blink sketch onto it and we turned the board to face the camera on my computer as infrared light is not visible to the human eye but is through a camera lens:

Success! Now Henri will have to string enough resistors together to have a long row of Infrared LED’s illuminating motion- good luck with that Henri. Our next meetup will be on September 22nd- hope to see you there!

A tour of NYCResistor

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

I was fortunate enough to arrange my schedule so as to spend July and August in NYC this summer, and although it is with mixed feelings that my time in NYC has passed, the fall in Ottawa is promising as Electric Fields is right around the corner and I look forward to catching up with the Mod Lab which has been busy with activity.

With the Mod Lab in mind, I’d like to take this opportunity to share a pictorial tour of Brooklyn hacker-space, NYCResistor, where I had the privilege of working as “hacker/artist in residence” for the duration of the summer.

One of the first things that struck me as I became familiar with the space was the amusing sense of humor that ran through the place.  From the surprise in the freezer

to the LED lion mascot

to the “self cleaning” coffee table, which everyday spills its contents into a box on one side:

But don’t let all the fun stuff fool you, though, this can be a place of serious creation, making, hacking, and engineering.

Grab a cold, caffeinated Club Mate from the fridge and let me show you around . . .

Here’s the main meeting and working space:

which includes a large, multi-person work table — complete with power bars conveniently mounted under each edge — plenty of lighting for late night hacking, a nice little kitchen and lounge area, and an extremely organized and well-stocked tool chest:

For bigger projects and to accommodate larger groups, there’s the secondary room:

On the left wall, you have the grand collection of components and parts, again all neatly organized:

This wall is the result of “Thingsgiving,” a sharing activity where all the NYCR members contribute extra and unneeded components and parts from their personal collections; as you can see, it amounts to a great resource which really is more than the sum of all its parts.  This wall was invaluable to me as I worked on projects in the space, where a needed resistor, capacitor, power supply, you-name-it, was just a short hunt away.

There were also some great “historial” artifacts hidden away in there, including a first-gen, etched Arduino:

NYCR also has some great fabrication resources.  A whole room, dubbed “Tool Town,” dedicated to power tools and machining:

And, as far as I was concerned, saving the best for last, we have the laser cutter:

complete in its own room with a dedicated filtering arrangement.  I can’t praise this machine enough, it’s an extremely enabling tool which embodied the idea of “rapid prototyping:” draw up your design in various CAD programs, then almost as easily as using a regular printer, cut or etch your design, do some test fittings, and iterate until you’re happy.  For details about all the projects I realized this summer with the aid of this machine, stay tuned for an upcoming post on my personal project blog.

With all these tools and resources at one’s disposal, it’s no wonder that Makerbot Industries was born from this space and some its members, who’ve conveniently set up shop on the main floor of the same building, behind this unassuming door:

I wish I could give you a tour of the “Bot Cave” as they call it, but it’s full of top secret Makerbot developments!

I’d like to wholeheartedly thank the NYCR crew for their hospitality in opening up their space to me, and look forward to bringing some of their enthusiastic, “get the job done” spirit back to Artengine and the Mod Lab here in Ottawa!

Critical Blogging resting and waiting for the new year.

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

?This announcement is notice of the early end to the Critical Blogging Residency undertook in partnership between Artengine and Vague Terrain. Our resident blogger, Rhiannon Vogl, is leaving the residency in order to take on other professional challenges which we know she will excel at. We are excited to start the next edition of the residency in the new year so keep an eye out for the call for applications in February 2011.