Category Archives: Engineering

Electronics Flea Market: Now in Sunnyvale

Pile o' instruments

We’ve written about the Silicon Valley Electronics Flea Market many times before. Make that many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many times before. It’s a great source of inspiration, beautiful objects and interesting conversations.

We’re writing about it now because it has moved locations! The April 14th flea market will be at the parking lot of the Sunnyvale Fry’s. We’ll hope to see you all there this weekend!

Tap List with AxiDraw

The folks at Sac City Brews use an AxiDraw to create their tap list. The AxiDraw plots out the beer name, info and logo onto a piece of acrylic which gets mounted in the tap list above the bar.

Best of all, they’ve mounted the AxiDraw in plain view, so patrons can see it getting ready for the next beer to go on tap. (You can see video of it in action in their Yelp pictures.)

If you’re in Sacramento and are looking to try out a new tap house, check them out. Thank you to Todd for sending us the pictures!

Presidents Day @ The Tech

On Monday, February 19, we’ll be celebrating Presidents Day at The Tech Museum in San Jose.

Spend your Presidents Day with us! We’re bringing you even more hands-on science fun than usual. You’ll build straw rockets and design colorful climbing robots. We’re also teaming up with Kickstarter to give you a sneak peek at some new tech.

The hours are 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and we’ll be bringing the MOnSter 6502 and demonstrating how microprocessors work with our giant version of the classic MOS 6502.

AxiDraw, JavaScript, and Generative Art

Matt DesLauriers published a two-part blog post, Pen Plotter Art & Algorithms exploring his JavaScript workflow with AxiDraw and generative art.

Unlike a typical printer, a plotter produces prints with a strangely human quality: occasional imperfections arise as the pen catches an edge or momentarily dries up, and the quality of the ink has the subtle texture and emboss that you normally only see in an original drawing.

He has also posted his source code on github for the articles.

Part 1 covers getting started and explores Delaunay triangulation. Part 2 delves deeper into developing algorithms.

Plotter Portraits

Plotter art portrait drawn by Jojo the robot

A couple of creative artists, Makio&Floz, are offering custom plotted portraits, drawn by their AxiDraw, playfully named Jojo the robot.

Makio&Floz is a duo working on digital based projects. Without limiting themselves to a virtual space or a physical one, their goal is to explore design and generative art using code as a pencil.

You can upload a photo, preview the “Plottrait”, and order your own custom generative art piece.

Plotter portrait in progress

Callie’s Crown

Callie's Crown

Last year while attending FIRST robotics competitions with the Firebots, I had the privilege of serving as a judge at both the Central Valley Regional and the Sacramento Regional. Judging gives an opportunity to get to know the folks involved in the competition, whether they’re students, mentors, or other volunteers like you. I’ve judged and volunteered at a few events now, and one of the great things to see is the way that the community builds and nurtures itself.

Neopixel Tiara by Callie

One of the students I met in past years, Callie, had graduated from her team, but keeps coming back as a volunteer. Callie was refereeing at both events, and shines brightly as a role model. Literally. She built an LED tiara and programmed it to light in the event colors of red, white, and blue.

Neopixel Tiara by Callie

She let me take a few pictures of it. It is made with Adafruit Flora Neopixels, a Gemma controller and a small LiPo battery.

Callie and her crown

She’s a student at UC Davis, and is a truly wonderful role model for the high school students at the events. While you don’t necessarily need an LED tiara to shine as a role model, Adafruit does have a tutorial so that you can make one, too.

Using the WaterColorBot to teach programming

Water color painting titled Ocean Woman
JR has been volunteering in a high school programming class and wrote up a thoughtful post about his experiences using the WaterColorBot in the classroom. He wrote a Python library that allows users to directly control a WaterColorBot by writing Python code.

To be honest, this library is a pretty insane way to control the bot. It’s needlessly low-level: you’re manually controlling the brush’s position, you’ve got to remember to wash and re-ink the brush every so often, etc. If your main goal is to just get the bot to paint a pretty picture, there are lots of better ways to go about it.

As a teaching aid, though, it’s been a total success, because it lets students flex their burgeoning Python skills and actually make a real thing in the process! We’ve been blown away by the stuff our students have created.

He has also documented and shared his code on github.

AxiDraw on Stage

In unusual uses for our drawing machines, AxiDraw is playing the role of the master of ceremony in Joël Maillard’s play “Last sheet (after the big lack)”, a production about the robotic future being put on by Theater Marie in Switzerland.