Boing Boing Meetup Tues Jun 7

June 1st, 2011 by uptownmaker

Boing Boing meetup day!

Minneapolis’ own Happy Mutant and resident science blogger extraordinaire, Maggie Koerth-Baker, is putting together a local wing of Boing-Boing’s first International BB Meetup Day. This is of particular interest to us because of the theme: “Wonderful Things”:

On June 7, bring your favorite significant object, coveted curiosity, conversation piece, or mysterious item to the Meetup (Don’t bring something that has a lot of intrinsic value). Then tell the other happy mutants about it!

While you’re at the Meetup, share your thoughts on the items that you see, and if you are so inclined, offer up a swap! Don’t forget to tweet your photos, videos, and details on any exciting swaps using hashtag #BoingBoingMUP.

Check in on the page for the event– there are already 8 names on the list and I don’t recognize any of them! This is a great chance to meet some makers from outside the group and see some neat stuff.


The Great Global Hackerspace Challenge has ended!

May 4th, 2011 by uptownmaker

Well, after five weeks, many late nights and not a little bit of craziness, the Great Global Hackerspace Challenge has ended.

Jude, Karin and I were at the shop until contest’s end at 2am Central time this morning. We generated a lot of content and I think we have a good shot at going to Maker Faire.

Here’s a little more about the project…

The Hack Factory Big Board project has a simple goal: make it as easy as possible for students to get the electronics bug. To that end, we have created a 10x scale breadboard, with components to match, to allow instructors to demonstrate the construction of a circuit to students in a round-table or lecture type setting, especially settings where demonstrations involving a projection screen and computer are infeasible due to lack of infrastructure or funding.

Those with a passion for electronics likely have a clear memory of when they first developed the obsession, and many of us will also recognize that following that passion has afforded us a good career doing something we love. The hope here is that by providing an inexpensive tool to allow an instructor to expose low-income students to the wonders of electronics, some of those students may find themselves motivated to pursue this topic through college and into a better life.

By allowing students to build a circuit without first having to make the big conceptual leaps from schematic to real-life realization, the instructor can introduce concepts to students through living, breathing circuits that do interesting things (we have used an optical theremin, for instance). Building a functional circuit fosters a sense of accomplishment which is absent from many school curricula surrounding introduction to concepts in electricity.

For younger students, the act of building the outsize components can be a good introduction. The tangible experience of shaping a resistor or capacitor imprints the name for that object in the student’s mind, providing a framework for the uses and function of that component to later be added.

Most of our content is on the main Hack Factory Element14 blog



Components (resistors, caps, diode)

Components (LEDs)

Components (ICs)

Components (Others)

Board design



There are a few other germane posts, worth viewing, Flickr stream, Jude’s post about the Minne-faire and more board details from Jude, the primary on that part.

Thanks to the Agent Silverfox team and Element 14 for putting on this wonderful event, and congratulations to all the teams!

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.

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!

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!

First third Friday electronics night

February 14th, 2011 by uptownmaker

Electronic whiz-bangs

I tried this once before (on Saturdays) and it didn’t really take, but this Friday night I’m going to set up shop for a couple of hours at the Hack Factory to answer questions and tinker with electronics.

I’ll be there from about 7:30 to about 10:00. This time, there’s no focus and no organization- whatever you want to talk about I’ll try and answer. In the future, though, I expect that we (there are some people who have expressed an interest in becoming “regulars” at such an event) will pick a project and devote some time to that project.

This event is free for members; we ask a $5 donation from any non-members who wish to attend.

Arduino for the complete newbie

February 10th, 2011 by uptownmaker

Arduino in hand

Image courtesy of the Arduino team

Twin Cities Maker is proud to offer an introductory class to the Arduino. This class will focus on breaking users into the Arduino gently by explaining the basics of the programming environment, terminology and concepts, use of online help, and modifying an existing program to suit your needs.

It assumes no prior programming experience; if you are a fairly confident programmer, you may wish to wait until the future sessions, or attend an upcoming electronics discussion night (third Fridays).

For more information, please see the Eventbrite page. Four of five tickets are already sold; if I get enough interest I will open another session as a single class on a Saturday.

Fundamentals of Electronics class

January 13th, 2011 by uptownmaker

I’ll be teaching a “Fundamentals of Electronics” class on February 1 and 3 (Tuesday and Thursday) at the Hack Factory.

The intent of this class is to lay a ground work for understanding what electronics is, why we do it, how it relates to the real world, and to provide some introductory tools for getting started tinkering.

For more information, check out the Eventbrite page. Class size is limited to five students, so register soon!

The Internet of Things

August 12th, 2010 by uptownmaker

This coming Wednesday, @jmstriegel, @johnbaichtal and I will be having a little chat about “The Internet of Things”.

If you have an interest in this (either in making projects, speculating wildly on the future of embedded internet, or just listening to us pontificate), stop by and join in!  We’ll probably be getting started at about the usual meeting time of 7pm.

Make: Day at SMM June 20

April 28th, 2010 by uptownmaker

Once again, the Science Museum of Minnesota is hosting Make: Day!

Twin Cities Maker has been invited to submit a plan for an exhibit, so we need to figure out what that plan will be. Below is some info from Nick at TPT, one of the chief organizers of the event:

Space is limited, but we can be flexible with how projects are exhibited. Here are a few things to consider:
– You would have at least one 8×3 table to exhibit and there will be a stage for presentations in the large atrium, if needed.
– We can also exhibit OUTDOORS, so take that into account as you plan!
– There is open classroom space available for hands-on activities.

We’ll be discussing options at tonight’s meeting, and next week’s meeting, but the submission deadline is May 7, so we need to get something together soon!

Monthly electronics day

April 23rd, 2010 by uptownmaker

I’ve decided to start a monthly electronics day, on every third Saturday afternoon (well, all day, if you want, but I’m only going to be there in the afternoon).

What does this entail? Several things:
1. One class a month, guaranteed. In May, it’s going to be Soldering 101 (one of the most roundly requested classes), where you’ll get a chance to watch a real pro at work (as soon as I find one) and build a kit to take home. We’ll have scrap boards that you can practice on with no fear of damage and no pressure. I’ll set up an EventBrite page ASAP; expect the class to run about two hours and cost $30, which includes scrap for practice, but not the cost of the kit. Bring your own iron and solder; I’ll make some recommendations about what to buy.
2. Ask-an-EE sessions: along the lines of Lady Ada’s popular “Ask an engineer” chat, I’ll give all comers a chance to ask me anything they want about the art and science of electrical engineering.
3. Swap-o-tron: I’ll bring stuff that I’m perfectly happy to part with, gratis, and I ask anyone who has similar stuff to do the same. Take what you need, but please use what you take, or bring it back and re-release it the next month.

I’m expecting to start the Ask-an-EE about 2pm, the class about 4pm, with another Q&A after the class.  I’ll set up my goodies in the workshop.

The date for the first one is May 15.

MakerBot drawing tonight

March 31st, 2010 by uptownmaker

The drawing will be tonight, at 8pm CDT.  It will be streamed over Ustream.  View the channel using he address A notice will be posted on the TCMaker twitter account when the channel is open.

EDIT:  The winning ticket number is 364!  Note that we started our ticket numbering at 100, instead of 0, to make a dice roll easier to interpret (4-sided dice are numbered 1-4, not 0-3.  It’s almost like they weren’t designed by someone who starts counting at 0!).  We ended up using to generate a truly random number.

Thanks to all the participants, and congratulations to our winner!

Intro to Electronics class

March 27th, 2010 by uptownmaker

I’ll be offering an introductory electronics class on 17 April at the Hack Factory.

This will be a basic class, covering amps, volts, ohms, watts, and the relationship among them.  Also covered (briefly) will be batteries and switches, and then we’ll get into some exercises intended to demonstrate concepts and get you familiar with using a multimeter.

Please register at least four days in advance of the class with Eventbrite. I will need to know how many people plan to attend in advance so I can plan for how many parts kits to assemble.  The parts kit will contain all the bits and pieces needed for this class, as well as a breadboard and multimeter, some wire, and a wire stripper.  It will also include some parts useful for other projects and parts that may will be helpful in other upcoming classes I plan to teach.

MakerBot drawing closed

March 24th, 2010 by uptownmaker

Due to what can only be termed overwhelming demand, we are closing the ticket sales for the MakerBot drawing.

Unfortunately, logistics are precluding us from arranging payment with all of you wonderful folks who have e-mailed or otherwise offered to buy tickets via non-PayPal methods.  We actually went a bit beyond the originally planned 300 tickets (~340), but shipping is going to be fairly pricey, and we plan to buy some plastic for both our machine and the winner’s machine to jumpstart the process.

Look for an e-mail in the upcoming days verifying the number of tickets we have you down for.  The drawing will be next Wednesday night at the Hack Factory- as is our standard practice we’ll have a Ustream feed set up for it so the whole world can watch.

Thanks to all who participated- this has been an outstanding experience for us and a wonderful reflection of the support the Maker community has for its own.  If you have any questions or concerns,  please send us e-mail at twincitiesmaker at gmail.

Cease using PayPal for raffle

March 24th, 2010 by uptownmaker

Per PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy, we can’t sell raffle tickets through their service.

Please cease using PayPal as a payment method for raffle tickets; PayPal can, of course, still be used for paying your monthly dues or making regular donations to TCMaker.

We’ll be selling tickets at tonight’s meeting; people out of town can e-mail us at twincitiesmaker[-at-] and we’ll figure out a way to facilitate a distant payment for your tickets.

HacFac needs a MakerBot!

March 23rd, 2010 by uptownmaker

EDIT:  The drawing will be tonight, at 8pm CDT.  It will be streamed over Ustream- watch this space and the TCMaker twitter account for an address.

EDIT:  Ticket sales are now closed.  If you bought a ticket but haven’t received an e-mail informing you of your numbers for the drawing, or of a refund of your money, e-mail us and let us know.

The drawing will be Wednesday night, March 31, and will be streamed live over Ustream.  Watch this space for more information.

Shamelessly stealing Borrowing a good idea from our colleagues at AS220, Twin Cities Maker is putting up a raffle to fund the acquisition of a MakerBot.

Rules are simple: $5 a “ticket” (tickets are actually virtual- you’ll get entered into a spreadsheet and we’ll randomize a selection), 300 tickets are available, no limit (if you want to buy all 300, be our guest!).  Need not be present to win, nor a member of TCMaker (and membership is, of course, not going to improve your chances of winning).  We obviously can’t guarantee the delivery schedule (currently, they are on backorder until batch 14 is ready in mid-May; they are accepting pre-orders, but unless we sell out of tickets in record time, we will probably miss the pre-order bus, too).  Winner will be expected to pick up the prize from the Hack Factory- if you are outside of the metro area, we’ll drop ship it to you from the MakerBot mothership.

Buy your tickets via the usual Hack Factory payment methods: PayPal, or in person at one of our meetings with cash or check.  If you use PayPal, please make sure that you clearly state in the message that the money is for the raffle.  We’ll e-mail you back with a range of ticket numbers. Please do NOT use PayPal, as that would violate PP’s Acceptable Use Policy.

EDIT (3-24-2010  17:50 CDT): We’ll be selling tickets at tonight’s meeting; people out of town can e-mail us at twincitiesmaker[-at-] and we’ll figure out a way to facilitate a distant payment for your tickets.

EDIT:  To be clear, the winner of the raffle gets a MakerBot.  This is a “one for you, one for me” thing- we’re selling enough tickets to fund the purchase of TWO MakerBots, and one goes in the Hack Factory.

HACKQuarium at the Hack Factory!

March 18th, 2010 by uptownmaker

Sugru - hack things better

It’s been mentioned in the semi-weekly update, and here’s the skinny:

This coming Friday, March 26, the Hack Factory will be hosting a HACKQuarium.  What is a HACKQuarium?  It’s an event (FREE to members; TCMaker respectfully suggests a $5 donation for non-members) where you get to play around with sugru, a fun new material designed specifically for the DIY/hacker/maker community!

Sugru is a hand-moldable material that can be used to repair or improve existing items.  Check out their website for examples of things people have done with it. Start thinking about what YOU want to do with it- bring your stuff to fix, hack, or trick out.  Prizes will be awarded to the best uses!

We do ask that if you plan to come, you register in advance so we know how many people to expect.  As with most TCMaker events, BYO snacks or beverages, or we’ll have some non-alcoholic beverages on hand for purchase.

Robot Dance Party: Jazari World Premiere

January 31st, 2010 by uptownmaker

Meet Jazari, a band of funky robots who could have come straight out of a Jules Verne novel. Patrick Flanagan, a Minneapolis local, has kept these machines under wraps until now, showing them only to a lucky few. This evening he will introduce his robot groove ensemble to the world. These steamfunk automatons will make you shake it to a new kind of home grown groove.

This also marks the birth of Smart. — a mix of parties where it’s hot to be Smart and where people who build crazy beautiful things rule the roost.

Smart. will be at CodeSpace- a workspace on Harriet Ave in South Minneapolis. Note that at least some of this event overlaps the standard Wednesday meeting- if you want to get your key or pay your dues, it might be smart to come to the Hack Factory pretty close to 7pm…

To RSVP for Smart. check their EventBrite page.

Get your key to the kingdom this Wednesday!

January 25th, 2010 by uptownmaker

This Wednesday night, we’ll be passing out keys to the Hack Factory to those who have paid their dues and become members of Twin Cities Maker.

We’ll be asking for your February dues, plus a $50 membership deposit.  $20 of that deposit is for the key fob itself; our landlord will charge us that much for lost fobs.  The remaining $30 is to help pay the deposit on the space; if you choose to terminate your membership, we’ll refund that to you.

If you plan to come, please give us a heads-up, so we can get enough fobs.  You can e-mail me directly, mike dot hord at gmail, or post a comment here or on the forum.

Let the hacking begin!

Mike Hord

President, TC Maker

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