Ignite Minneapolis 3!

March 29th, 2011 by videoman

Ignite Minneapolis #3 is coming up on April 21st!

Our president is going to be presenting this time! If you want tickets, signup for the mailing list!




GGHC Project Introduction

March 25th, 2011 by uptownmaker

Our GHC project actually has its roots in a class in the basement of the Hack Factory. Member Mike Hord (that’s me!) teaches semi-regular introduction to electronics courses, and the syllabus is daunting: take a complete neophyte and explain current, voltage, ohms, breadboards, and circuit diagrams well enough for them to build a simple circuit.

One of the bigger problems is making the leap from circuit diagram to breadboarded circuit. Those of us who’ve been working with electronics for a long time forget how what it’s like to not intrinsically understand the ins and outs of schematic representation of a circuit. It’s like reading- chances are, you can’t remember what it was like before you could read every word you saw (taking a trip in a country with a completely foreign alphabet- for instance, predominantly Arabic- can be a revelatory experience in this regard!).

Enter the 10x breadboard- a 2’x5′ scaled-up breadboard with similarly sized components (fully functional, of course!).

With a tool like this on the wall (or table), an instructor can easily and visibly demonstrate EXACTLY which connections the students are expected to make. The benefit of this is clear- it gives the students a jumpstart past the frustrating and awkward “why isn’t this working” phase straight into the “hey, a blinking LED!” phase.

The major benefit of it is that it can be constructed out of very cheap, very crude materials. The most expensive parts are the actual electronic components themselves, which get hidden away inside the scaled-up components- and even those are relatively cheap (the assortment of parts that I provide to my introductory students runs to about $10 if purchased in bulk). The breadboard itself can be constructed of plywood with holes drilled in it, pegboard, foamcore, disused cardboard scrap, or any other relatively flat and sturdy substrate, and the contacts can be aluminum foil, cut-down pop cans, bean and vegetable cans, or thin sheet steel. For wire, solid or stranded copper wire, baling wire, or even bent coat hangers with the paint scraped off the end can be put to the job.

The end result is a teaching aid that can bring electronics instruction ANYWHERE- mountaintop villages, inner city schools, refugee camps. Certainly there are other options for demonstrating these things to students but nothing that has the same tangible quality, or the same visual clarity. This can be used in places where a printer is unavailble, where the idea of a laptop and projector are laughable because there isn’t even electricity.

While it may seem trivial to think of instructing people in extreme poverty in electronics, the goal isn’t to create hobbyists in a Brazilian favela- it’s to plant the itch in those kids that says “I need to find out more about this”. Electronics is one of those things that, to the right person, becomes a mad, consuming passion. Hopefully, this project will provide a means to reach out to kids who would otherwise never get a chance to discover that passion and maybe, just maybe, that passion will lift a few of them out of poverty.

Starving Hacker Fund

March 24th, 2011 by Paul Sobczak

Announcing the starving hacker fund, with $75. The kind people who took the arduino/gmail class have donated to the starving hacker fund for Twin Cities Maker.

The idea is to help out with the dues if you aren’t able to make membership for the month, get sponsored and you get your dues covered. The funds are here to be used so if you are in need then follow the link.

The fund will only be available if people donate, so if you would like to contribute to the fund you can as well.

Information and current fund total.

GGHC Post number 2

March 22nd, 2011 by uptownmaker

Okay, here’s the latest update:

A few of us sat down to talk through some early details last night- nothing earthshaking, just starting the process.
– We came up with a preliminary list of organizations that may be interested in working with us on this project as educational entities.
– We’ve identified a need for a person or people who can be present to videotape meetings, construction, etc, as well as take photographs of what is happening, so we can post a reasonable amount of documentation on the Element 14 site. In the near future, too, we need to prepare an introductory video.
– We need ideas for specifics on the project.
– We established a Google group for the primary communication channel for this project. This serves several purposes: providing a single, canonical location and channel through which ALL discussion on the project takes place; keeping said content mildly protected until we can release a “pretty” version for public consumption; avoiding the possibility of important messages getting lost in the S/N ratio of the normal Google group or forum traffic; and streamlining message delivery into e-mail inboxes rather than requiring people to visit a special website to get updates.
– Meeting notices and build day announcements will be posted on the blog, and probably the forum and normal Google group as well.

Please sign up for the Google group if you are interested in helping with the project! I will post what information I have on that group tonight.

Tomorrow night from 8:00 to 8:45 there will be a call with the coordinators of the event (the good people of Silverfox to answer questions and get more details. We’ll get together at the Hack Factory for the usual jibber-jabber and then repair to the drawing room in the basement a bit before 8 for the call. Or, if there is enough of a critical mass, we’ll push the unbelievers out of the classroom and have the call in there.

The Great Global Hackerspace Challenge

March 21st, 2011 by uptownmaker

It’s official- Twin Cities Maker has been selected to field an entry into the Great Global Hackerspace Challenge sponsored by Element-14 and curated by Mitch Altman!

In a nutshell-

– Your hackerspace will create a project to help with education, using US$900 (or equivalent) provided by Element14. The project must use a microcontroller and a portable power source.
– You have 6 weeks to complete your project, documenting your project as you go. All spaces that complete their project will receive 10 soldering setups.
– Three hackerspaces’ projects will be chosen as finalists to present at the Grand Finale at the San Francisco Maker Faire. All three of these spaces will receive some really nice electronic test equipment. One person from each space will be flown out to present their project at the San Francisco Maker Faire over the weekend of 21-May & 22-May.

Week 1
– Introduce your team (video would be a great way to do this), explain your hackerspace’s philosophy, and provide a top level summary of your first week
Week 2
– Provide a basic outline of the materials you will be using in your build and any key challenges you anticipate
Week 3
– Provide an update on the status of your build and quick summary of obstacles encountered and how they are being addressed
Week 4
– Is everything going to plan? Perhaps provide footage of a visit to an educational institution you’re working with
Week 5
– In your penultimate week provide a review of the challenge to date. Is the pressure on? What have you learned?
Week 6
– This is the time to really showcase your build, why it works and what features make it stand out.

So, time to kick it in gear. The project that has been selected is the 10x scale breadboard that Jude and I have been talking about. Jude, John B and myself are all excited to be involved with this- anyone else who wants to contribute ideas, time, and anything else is welcome to do so. Because of the short timetable we need to get started post haste and probably have multiple work events per week- with the first meeting being tonight at 8pm.

There’s a post for this in the “Group projects” section of the forum; we’ll talk tonight about how we want to coordinate our efforts (new Google group, new forum category, or something else) for this project.

Let’s show ’em what we can do!

Jr Locksport Enthusiast

March 19th, 2011 by otto_pjm

Just a normal weekend, Circus and lock picking.

Third Friday Electronics Night

March 17th, 2011 by uptownmaker

Arduino in hand

Image courtesy of the Arduino team

Tomorrow is the third Friday of March, so we’ll be doing an electronics chat in the classroom. I’ll bring in some goodies and we’ll talk about Arduinos and whatever else catches our fancy. 7:00!

Arduino and Gmail Class This Saturday

March 15th, 2011 by Paul Sobczak


Eventbrite sign-up 8 spots available. (Thursday update one spot open)

This is a beginner Arduino Class we are going to talk about and build a Gmail identifyer.

What are we building:


What to bring: Arduino + Laptop (the hack factory has a few computers available if you need one also). We will have some LED diffusers available to use but they are just re-purposed Easter egg lights  (since when did anybody put up Easter egg lights?) and are not that impressive.

What to prepaire: Get yourself a gmail account if you don’t have one and install the arduino software, Python, and Pyserial

What to know: It is not necessary to know Arduino or Python, you should have a working knowledge of how computers work and how to install things, the basics. You don’t need to have any programming knowledge, but if you did it wouldn’t hurt.

Price: This class will be offered free for all, but we will be asking for small donations to a Twin Cities Maker Starving Hacker Fund to help those of us who would like to be members but have fallen on hard times.

Who is teaching: Paul Sobczak Electrical Engineer and one of the people who started Twin Cities Maker way back in 2009.

Don’t have an Arduino: What a better reason to get one you have a few days to order one and still get it in time for the class. Ladyada might be out but you can find them on other sites if you search around a bit.

Handmade Music 5

March 15th, 2011 by Paul Sobczak


Sunday, March 27 · 7:00pm – 10:00pm @ The Hack Factory

Handmade Music is an open event series for people who make stuff that makes music, from instruments to electronics to software. Events include workshops, get-togethers, and live music, all are welcome.

Handmade Music: Minneapolis Blog | Facebook Event

Presenting at Hmmm5:

Pi Day 3/14/11, 7 PM

March 13th, 2011 by Paul Sobczak


Pi day at the factory 3.14.11

Help celebrate this last year in pi, one where we learned that two quadrillionth “bit”  of pi is 0.

More on the forum.

Hack Factory Open Hack 3.10.11

A few pictures from 3/10/11’s open hack are up on TC Maker’s Flickr as well.

Roundabout Dog Winner

March 9th, 2011 by Paul Sobczak

The Roundabout Dog winner on display in the basement of the hack factory. More information about the Roundabout Dog Challenge, who the winner is, and a google maps mash up showing all the dogs entered here. Thanks to all of those who entered.

Original Challenge Post

NYC Resistor and Maker Bot Cave Tour

March 7th, 2011 by videoman

I recently visited New York, NY and got a chance to hang out at the NYC Resistor Hacker space in Brooklyn. I had a great time just hanging out, playing with things, and meeting some super awesome folks! I was also able to get a tour of the MakerBot cave, and man do they have some organization going on for all of their parts and bins with parts! I also got to see some of more advanced parts that the MakerBot is able to produce, and it was awesome! Boxes, Towers, Turbine parts, etc.  The folks at MakerBot were kind enough to give me some shwag to bring back for folks at TCMaker.  If you ever out in NYC I highly recommend checking this space out, just remember to bring something to share (I brought beer from Bierkraft).

Weekend Welding project

March 5th, 2011 by otto_pjm

Working on some upgrades for the TIG cart.

Video on Flickr

3/2/2011 Open Hack Night

March 3rd, 2011 by Paul Sobczak

More Pictures at TC Maker’s Flicker Group