Introducing The WaterColorBot

Today we’re thrilled to be launching our newest kit: the WaterColorBot.

The WaterColorBot is a brand-new project from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories and Super Awesome Sylvia — a friendly art robot that moves a paint brush to paint your digital artwork onto paper, using a set of watercolor paints.

We’ve previously written about how we got started on this project (in a guest post by Sylvia), and about Sylvia’s visit to the White House Science Fair, where she was able to give President Obama a personal demonstration of the WaterColorBot.

And now, you can get one too!  We’re launching the WaterColorBot today on Kickstarter, and we’d like to ask for your support in getting it out there.  The WaterColorBot is an enormously powerful tool for helping to get young people interested in technology:

Beyond simple fun, we think that the WaterColorBot has enormous potential for STEM and STEAM education, especially as a way to get young people engaged with hands-on technology and robotics. We are particularly interested finding ways to inspire young women to pursue careers in science and technology. We cannot imagine any better way to do so, than starting with a robot co-designed by a 12 year old girl.

Perhaps more than anything else that we’ve done, we think that the WaterColorBot really can make the world a better place, one (young) Evil Mad Scientist at a time.

Maker Camp: Robots

Today, Tuesday, July 16, Super Awesome Sylvia and I will be joining Maker Camp for a special Google+ hangout focused on robots at 1 pm PDT. Sylvia will be demonstrating her WaterColorBot, which we’ve worked together on.

We’ll be on after our good friend, Erin RobotGrrl, shares some of her robot-building techniques in Robot Hangout #1 at 11 am PDT.

A round up of our “Basics” articles

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Soft Circuit Merit Badge01  g22023

Over the course of the past few years, we’ve been writing occasional “Basics” articles, about introductory topics in electronics and microcontrollers.  In the spirit of making things easy to find, we’ve now tagged them so that you can find them with this link, and we’re collecting them together in this index that will be updated from time to time.

Our “Basics” articles about electronics in general:

Additional “Basics” articles about working with AVR microcontrollers:

Field Trips: Atmel Headquarters

Sylvia

Super Awesome Sylvia and I were invited to attend Bring Your Kids to Work Day at Atmel recently. (Atmel, of course, is the company that makes the microcontrollers found inside Arduino products and in many of our own projects and kits.) We were there to help provide tangible, interesting, and playful examples of how Atmel chips can be used. And of course, we weren’t going to miss an opportunity to visit Atmel headquarters!

Photo courtesy of Atmel

The biggest hit with the kids were the Octolively interactive LED modules (sporting the Atmel ATmega164P). When the kids waved their hands over them, the LEDs would light up and ripple. Some of the kids would start out by poking and grabbing at the LEDs until they lit up, but as soon as I told them it would work “even without touching it” their eyes would get big, and they’d wave their hands over the top, enthralled.

Some of the other things we brought were our handheld game, the Meggy Jr RGB (with the ATmega328P); a Bulbdial Clock (Atmega328P again), which points rings of LEDs at different heights down at a central point to create shadow hands of different lengths; our giant Alpha Clock Five (ATMega644A); and the Larson Scanner (ATtiny2313A), which lights up nine red LEDs to make a scanning robot eye.

Photo courtesy of Atmel

Another project that captured the kids’ attention was a Keepon by BeatBots. Other demonstrations included a quadcopter and a hacked hexabot.

Photo courtesy of Atmel

We got to have lunch in the bright sun in the courtyard with Avary Kent, who was demonstrating the PuzzleBox, a brain-controlled helicopter.

Photo courtesy of Atmel

Sylvia got to give the PuzzleBox a try, triggering it to fly as soon as she concentrated hard enough.

Workbench

After lunch, we got to tour of a couple of labs. This workbench was well stocked with a Metcal soldering iron (our favorite) and lots of tools and supplies.

Workbench

Apparently the poor Pleo on this bench needed some repair.

Chip testing machine

This machine is for inspecting and testing chips after they have been removed from their housing.

We got to go into the RF anechoic chamber, and watch as our cell phones stopped receiving any signals.

Horsing around

We also had some time to hang out and horse around with friends new and old. Our friend Paul Rako seemed to be having as much fun as the kids.

Photo courtesy of Atmel

Thanks to Paul and Atmel for inviting us to visit!

From the Mailbag: On the Digi-Comp II

dcii_2
Peter wrote in about his experience with the Digi-Comp II:

I just wanted you and the entire Evil Mad Scientist team to know that the Digi-Comp II was a big success.  I used it to explain digital computers to a group of second graders and fifth graders. In an age of iPads and smartphones, it’s surprisingly hard to demonstrate the beauty and magic of digital computer.  The Digi-Comp II was perfect, looked great, and worked flawlessly. Thanks!

Play with your food: How to Make Sconic Sections

Sconic Sections

The conic sections are the four classic geometric curves that can occur at the intersection between a cone and a plane: the circleellipseparabola, and hyperbola.

The scone is a classic single-serving quick bread that is often served with breakfast or tea.

And, at the intersection of the two, we present something entirely new, delightfully educational, and remarkably tasty: Sconic Sections.

Sconic Sections: Circle Sconic Sections: Ellipse
Sconic Sections: Parabola Sconic Sections: Hyperbola

In what follows, we’ll show you how to bake cone-shaped scones, to slice them into plane geometric curves, and to highlight those curves by selective application of toppings.  We’ll also discuss some of the methods that didn’t work so well, as we refined our methods for making these.

Onwards, towards parabolic preserves and hyperbolic Nutella!

Continue reading

The Evil Mad Scientist STEAM T-shirt

Evil Mad Scientist STEAM T-shirtEvil Mad Scientist STEAM T-shirt

Introducing the Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories STEAM T-shirt. Featuring high quality screen printing on 100% cotton tees from American Apparel.

Front side: Science & Technology & Engineering & Art & Mathematics. (Black ink)
Back side: The Evil Mad Scientist logo. (Red, brown, and black inks)
Shirt color: “New Silver,” a uniform light gray.

Evil Mad Scientist STEAM T-shirtEvil Mad Scientist STEAM T-shirt

These are Great Shirts

Beautiful quality screen printing by Social Imprints of San Francisco (“Printing with Purpose”).

The shirts themselves are comfortable 100% cotton tees, made in the USA by American Apparel. (Mens Fine Jersey Short Sleeve T-Shirt and Womens Fine Jersey Short Sleeve Women’s T.)


Inspiration

The design of the front is an homage (like so many others) to the John Paul Ringo George shirt by Experimental Jetset.

Why Science & Technology & Engineering & Art & Mathematics?
It’s who we are, and it’s what we stand for.

Why not just STEM?
We, like many, many others believe that art is a critical component of good design, of good engineering, and of beneficial technology.


Get yours

The Evil Mad Scientist STEAM T-shirt is in stock and shipping now!

The Exploratorium on the Bay

Exploratorium Banners on the Embarcadero

We have been visiting the Exploratorium in San Francisco again and again since we were teenagers in the early ’90s.  And with good cause: The Exploratorium is an unparalleled museum of hands-on science, art, perception, and exploration.  It’s not a children’s museum (although it is an amazing place to take children), nor is it a place where you admire giant fossilized skeletons, nor one of those museums that always seems to have a traveling exhibit with a name like “The Science of Jersey Shore.”

Instead, it’s a place full of simple, often-amazing yet not-too-flashy exhibits that (for the most part) you play with to learn about various phenomena.  For example, at the Floating in Copper exhibit, you can get a feel for the un-earthly effects that strong magnets have in the presence of a large block of nonmagnetic, highly-conductive material.  It’s one thing to read about eddy currents in an article; it’s quite another to release a chunk of metal in mid-air, only to find that it floats down to rest, more gently than a dandelion seed.  You may have seen this exact exhibit at other museums (here, for example)— and if so, that’s quite likely because the Exploratorium makes many copies of its exhibits for other museums and publishes plans for others to make their own.

Since moving to the Bay Area in 2005 and starting the Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories blog, we’ve also been honored to present some of our own projects at Exploratorium events over the past few years, including the CandyFab, a Bristlebot workshop at the first Young Makers event, and some of our clock projects at the Open Make event on the theme of “Time.”

Palace of Fine Arts

Exterior of the Exploratorium, at the Palace of Fine Arts (2010).
Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid under CC BY-NC-ND license.

Reconsidered Materials

Interior of the Exploratorium, at the Palace of Fine Arts (2006).
Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid under CC BY-NC license

The Exploratorium has, since its founding in 1969, been located in the exhibit hall of the the Palace of Fine Arts— a huge arc of a building left over from the 1915 Worlds Fair, located in the Marina district of San Francisco, as pictured above. As the name implies, the building was designed to be a museum and was a remarkably suitable home for the Exploratorium. However, a few years ago, it came out in the news that they would be moving out of the Palace of Fine Arts, and into a space on one of the San Francisco Piers.  Of course, our hearts sank at hearing this, as we could not imagine any more perfect place for the Exploratorium. Nor could we imagine that they could possibly find a place as large and welcoming anywhere else in San Francisco. We were also worried about parking, as the Palace of Fine Arts was blessed with its own parking lots, a rarity in San Francisco.

We were wrong.

Pair of Vintage Street cars in front of the Exploratorium

Amazing space and lighting on the bay
On Saturday, we went to a member preview at their new location at Pier 15, which will be opening on April 17. We took a number of pictures as we explored, and in addition to sharing some of the highlights here, we have put up a flickr set from our visit.

The new location at Piers 15 and 17 on the San Francisco Embarcadero is right between the Ferry Building and Fisherman’s Wharf, in the shadow of the Bay Bridge.   A huge advantage of the new location is that it is much easier to get to by public transport than the Palace of Fine Arts was. There’s a MUNI train stop, and it’s just a few blocks from BART and the other public transportation that already comes to the Ferry Building.

There are also plenty of nearby parking garages and lots. We had no problem finding an inexpensive lot to park in for the day, and now taking the train is an option for us.

Looking down on plants and water exhibits

And it turned out beautifully. Here at the end of the pier, there are a number of new exhibits, many about biology and the bay.

Hall by the bio labs

The new location is much bigger: there is three times as much space. This view is looking down one of the corridors, from the location pictured previously. The museum is packed with exhibits as far as the eye can see.

So many exhibits!

All of the spaces are well designed, and extremely good looking, taking advantage of the abundant natural light.

Open areas between exhibits

There are many large open areas, as well as cozy corners and nooks. The Tactile Dome is being rebuilt on a larger scale (in a space with a higher ceiling than this) and will be opening this summer.

Carnivorous plants

Activity in the new bio labs is visible through large windows. In neighboring spaces, we saw them growing continuous replacement plants for the touchable plant exhibits and various organisms for people to look at under the microscopes.

 

The workshop at the Exploratorium

The new location has the same spirit, and despite our expectations, still feels like the Exploratorium. The workshop is just as prominent as before, and still out in the open so that visitors can see new exhibits in progress and old ones being repaired.

Playing with electricity

Our old favorites on electricity and magnetism (like Daisy Dyno) felt right at home, and were as popular as ever.

Generations exploring together

The acoustics are much more friendly, making conversations and discussions much more enjoyable.

Tidal exhibit

The one new building on the pier is the Bay Observatory, which has stunning views as well as brand new exhibits on bay topics such as geology, geography and tides. Above is a 3D tide table with the tides for each day represented by a the shape of each piece of plastic marked with the time and lunar information.

View of the city

Since this was an early preview, many exhibits are still in progress or yet to be installed. This outdoor space between Piers 15 and 17 will be opening soon and the museum plans to eventually develop additional space on Pier 17.

Bay Bridge

Congratulations to the Exploratorium on such a successful move and wonderful new home!

The museum will be opening to the public on April 17, and tickets will be available online soon. There are additional member previews coming up on April 6 and 9 as well— check the calendar for details and other upcoming events.