About Windell

Co-founder of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.

Kids Hack Day

Inspired by the global hackerspace movement and (software) hack days, Kids Hack Day is a 1-day event held in various locations around the world, where children and adults come together to “hack” and make new uses of every day items.

This incredibly charming video from the Kids Hack Day kickoff event in Moscow on May 25 shows you what it’s all about. (And, we are tickled to see our own WaterColorBot and EggBot making little appearances as well.)

It’s Just Math

image by Bryan Kennedy
I loved this little piece by Bryan Kennedy titled “It’s just wood.” A concise philosophical statement about the freedoms that come along with knowing how to make things.

The same approach applies in so many different contexts.  Sometimes, it’s just aluminum, just software, or just silicon. It also reminds me of what a physics professor of mine used to say when explaining how simple something was: “It’s just math.”

Hershey Text JS

Hershey Text JS

James “techninja” Todd has just released Hershey Text JS, a port of the Hershey fonts to JSON, capable of being rendered quickly via JavaScript & SVG.

The Hershey fonts a classic set of “engraving” or “stroke based” (as opposed to outline based) fonts that are excellent for use with all kinds of physical cutting, drawing, and painting machines. Several years ago we introduced the Hershey Text extension for Inkscape, and you can find a more in depth introduction to the Hershey fonts in that article.  Hershey Text JS is adapted from our Inkscape extension, and provides easy access to the font data for programmers who prefer to work in javascript.

How Egg Crate Foam is Made

foamrubber
Ever wonder how they make foam rubber into an “egg crate” shape? You can tell that it isn’t molded that way, because there is not a smooth skin on the surfaces. And it clearly isn’t milled to that shape, since it comes in matched top and bottom pieces that are cut from the same initial block of foam. So how is it done? Amazingly enough, it’s done with a bandsaw.

Egg crate, acoustic, and other shapes of “convoluted foam” are cut with a special machine called a convolutor, which uses powerful rollers to feed flat sheets of foam rubber into a high-tension bandsaw.  The rollers are covered with bumps that stretch and distort the foam such that the saw cuts to a variable depth, with extremely little waste.

You can watch the process in this video from Italian Cutting Systems (noting that the bandsaws are hidden behind protective covers):

Linkdump: May 2014

BAMF 2014: Taktia

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Part of our continuing coverage of highlights from the 2014 Bay Area Maker Faire.

One of the most exciting new technologies that we saw at Maker Faire was from Taktia, a startup making augmented-reality power tools. They were showing off their semi-automated handheld wood router.

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The router sits in a robotic cradle with a computer vision system and a screen. The human guides the router by hand, keeping its center within a 1 inch diameter circle shown on the LCD screen. As the human moves the router, the cradle makes fine corrections to put the router bit exactly where it needs to be, allowing a non-expert to cut precise, complex shapes, while only moving the router along a coarse path.

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In the photo above you can see some wooden shapes that visitors were cutting out, by only moving the router freehand, while letting the robotic cradle do the hard work. We can certainly imagine other tools getting the same “robotic upgrade” — this startup will be worth watching.

 

 

BAMF 2014: Open Source Sprinkler Controls

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Part of our continuing coverage of highlights from the 2014 Bay Area Maker Faire.

We can’t say how many times we’ve heard people ask questions about hacking or building their own sprinkler controllers, but apparently here are the ones that everyone has been looking for. These open source hardware sprinkler controllers from Ray’s Hobby —  designed so that you can hack and build your own — look well-made and genuinely useful. There are neat irrigation (and multipurpose relay) controls, including Arduino-flavored variants as well as versions for Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone lovers.

BAMF2014: BreadBoardManiac

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Part of our continuing coverage of highlights from the 2014 Bay Area Maker Faire.

Not that I’m normally one to get excited about electronic breadboards, but I’ve had to change my mind after seeing these at Maker Faire. These breadboards by BreadBoardManiac are some of the finest electronics accessories that I’ve ever seen.  Not only do they snap to Lego bricks (making one heck of a cool building set), but they are also super-thin and double-sided, so that you can insert components from both sides. They suggest that you can use that feature to make multi-layer breadboards with vertical interconnects, but perhaps that is a bit of a stretch.

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Their handmade limited edition wooden breadboards are perhaps even cooler, and were made available as part of this kickstarter project earlier in the year. This is what I’d expect kids in school to learn electronics with, and it sure would be nice if a production version became available in the future. It looks like there’s also a flexible breadboard under development, amongst other types.  I can hardly wait to get my hands on all of these.

BAMF2014: Makesmith CNC

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Part of our continuing coverage of highlights from the 2014 Bay Area Maker Faire

Let’s file this under “intro machines.” The Makesmith CNC, currently available on Kickstarter for just $195 including everything but the Dremel tool. It makes very clever use of appropriate technology: Three tiny hobby servo motors, modified for continuous rotation, turn gears that turn the lead screws (well, all-thread) to drive the XYZ stage. An magnetic encoder monitors the rotation, making a high-resolution, closed-loop control system.  No bushings, melamine-coated MDF parts, Arduino control.  Planned for future open source hardware+software release, too.

Perfect?  Nope, but the creators of the project seem to be keenly aware of its abilities and limitations (many discussed here), and oh does it have affordability on its side.