Nov 2010 Maker update – meetup, space, mobile, biz

Aloha makers

This blog post is to update on progress and a few other things.

First, NPR Morning Edition had a segment today on Hackerspaces. It talks about how people are repurposing (hacking) stuff to give it new function. Reuse vs Recycle vs discard. The emphasis was on fun projects this week. Next week’s segment will talk about small businesses that have been spawned by maker spaces.

Back to local news: we had a great meetup at my home in Haiku. There were about 20 people attending – a terrific mix of techies, builders and artists. We even had a visitor from Oahu – Jim Bartz is a Makerbot owner and came over to check out our community. I showed off the laser etcher, Makerbot and some (alas failed) prints from the Silhouette vinyl cutter. The level of interest and the terrific mix of people gives me lots of encouragement.

Next – Hunting for a home

Hali'imaile Base Yard Unit 11, set back from road behind security fence. It is not directly visible from road, being behind two other buildings.

Unit 11A is small - 10x28ft - and quite dirty. It might work as starter space.

We went back to Hali’imaile again to take a long serious look at the spaces available. Unit 11 has two we have been considering. Unit 11A is about 300sqft and Unit 11B is about 2000. One too small, one too big. Both would require significant cleanup and infrastructure improvement (fixing leaks in roof, open grate doors, etc).

Unit 11B center area. This is a long room, with a bit less dirt but more stuff.

We would need the landlord to do a fair bit of improvement on the building (fixing leaks) and they plan to tear it all down in 2-3yrs. It is a good location – fairly central, upcountry (out of heat) and has some awesome views.

Pauwela Cannery has been suggested several times. The rates are lower than ML&P’s and it is more secure/cleaner. There are a fair number of maker businesses already located in the building (eg. Maui CNC). However Haiku is not very convenient for those not already living on this side of the island.

Mobile Lab

Maui has a very distributed (and fairly small) population. One of our issues in finding a permanent home is getting a location that is equally inconvenient to all. Even places in the central valley are not all that convenient.  It takes me 1/2 hour to drive to Kahului from Haiku, about the same for people in Kihei, twice that for some west maui residents.  This is especially problematic for our outreach efforts to schools, etc.  A popular solution to this for other spaces is to build a mobile lab or hack bus.  MIT Fab Lab built 30ft trailer back in 2007 and outfitted it with a ShopBot, Laser Cutter, and a whole lotta other tools.  It was most recently used in D.C. in support of the National Fab Lab bill.

MIT Mobile Fab Lab trailer

MIT Mobile Fab Lab trailer

The Dutch Fab Lab has built one in a fairly large van. Check their Flickerstream for pictures. There is a community page, Hack Bus, that lists another half dozen.

I think a small (16′) enclosed trailer would be a good size for a Maui Mobile Maker Lab. This would let us take some of our equipment to schools and community centers around the island. It would also give us a more secure, cleaner, controlled environment for expensive toys like the Epilog.

EL Wire and Soldering Classes
Recently I met the folks who put on the Source Interactive Arts Festival. This is a great eclectic bunch of artists of all sorts, our own flavor of Burning Man. I gave a short intro to Maui Makers at a recent ‘art storm’ event they held and got a tremendous response. One area in particular sparked lots of interest – EL Wire and other light up clothing. There was actually a good bit of discussion about how to do this before my presentation. Afterwards, I decided it was time for a class. So I’m going to put together a small class or two on soldering and EL Wire. I might need to have two classes – one on basic technique and one on use of EL wire. I have found a couple starter kits that look good. MakerShed has their Learn To Solder Kit for $15. It includes soldering iron, etc and a small noise making electronc board. Cool Neon also has a Learn To Solder Kit specifically for EL wire. If you are interested in either class, drop me an email!

Lasers and Bots : Thurs Nov 18 2010

I’m going to host a Maui Makers meeting at my home on Thursday November 18, 2010 from 5:30-11pm. I’ll show the Epilog Laser cutter, Makerbot 3d Printer, and some of the other tools and toys I have here. Festivities will start in late PM (5:30) and continue until everyone (but me) leaves. I’ve got a grill if you want to cook something, or bring something pre-cooked. BYO drinks, art, projects, questions, answers, friends, etc.
Email me for directions. Jerry Isdale

GOOD interviews my friends at CrashSpace

CrashSpace is the maker space I helped start back in Los Angeles (ok Culver City) last year.  

GOOD magazine interviewed the people at CrashSpace and posted an article with this video:

Crash Space from GOOD: Edge of Progress on Vimeo.

Its impressive and inspirational. The Crashers have done a lot with a fairly small space that didn’t have any equipment when it opened last december/january. A small number of motivated people got together and a created an awesome community space. Crashspace blossomed from a coffee house meeting to an empty building in about 2.5 months. It took another 3-4 months to get enough paying members to cover expenses. Basic furnishings appeared as member (and friend) donations, along with an assortment of used electronics, books, etc. Members (like Justin Corwin) stepped up to host regular events. Justin has hosted Radio Mondays just about every monday since last december. Carlyn Maw started running the weekly member meetings on tuesday nights. After business and discussion of member projects, Carlyn leads members in the very popular ‘Take Apart Tuesday’ where they take apart one or more of the donated items to explore how it works, and explore how it might be repurposed. I started hosting local Makerbot owners on 3rd sunday of the month. Theron Throwbridge helped build the CrashSpace ‘bot in April and then took over hosting the monthly meeting. He has done a fantastic job. Michael Clive brought in his milling machine and lathe. Many other members contributed time, hosting and participating in events.

I hope we can do half as well with Maui Makers.

A Visit to The Transistor in Provo, Utah

[This article was written back in august/sept but held in abeyance until the Vimby/Scion Hackerspace Challenge show on The Transistor was released.  The video went live today so embargo is off.  The zombie car/shooter at the end is what they built for the challenge.]

I was in Salt Lake City Utah for a visit and decided to visit a hackerspace called The Transistor about an hour’s drive south in Provo.  This is one of the five spaces that competed in the Scion/Vimby Take on the Machine challenge, which had completed a couple days before we arrived.

Their public calendar shows a public Arduino night every saturday. I confirmed it would be on with Deven, the primary contact and drove down with my teenage son, an avid maker. The I-15 freeway between the cities is undergoing construction and google maps has the wrong directions, so we got a bit lost.  Fortunately, the city planners in Utah laid out most of the streets in simple cardinal directions, and numbered them starting from Main Street in each town.  Once you know if its N/S, E/W street, it makes finding a place pretty easy, at least for a geek.

Door leading to The Transistor

The group was originally founded in October 2009 as HackSLC, located in a huge warehouse in Murray, Utah.  Unfortunately the mini TechShop-style shared workshop didn’t work out, due to lack of paying members and too large a space. (hmmm lesson here for Maui Makers and other spaces.) In January 2010, HackSLC shut down and the core group moved to the attic of a light industrial building in Provo.  They got a good deal on rent (discounted by providing IT services to the primary building occupants), and went with the “Benevolent Dictator” model.  A small core group covers the rent and owns (I believe) the basic equipment.   They have a two tier membership rate – $90 for full members and $45 for starving students.  Deven, one of the leaders, said they have only a half dozen or so full members, and a few starving students (or otherwise unemployed), then there are the friends who drop in on events for the community spirit.  Since the core group covers rent, etc, they are pretty laid back about the non-paying friends.  Judging by the number of people I met there by the time we left, they are doing quite well.

Tim and Deven, two of the core members, hangin in the machine area with drill presses, saws, etc

The space itself is basically two rooms, the primary big one, and a smaller storage/project space.  The big room has a nice collection of desks and equipment at one end, and couches (social space) and work tables at the other.  Off to the side is an alcove separated by several hanging sheets of plastic (formerly signs).  The alcove serves as the dirty equipment area, with drill press, saws, welding, etc.  Its a nice little setup.

Saturday’s is The Transistor’s Public Night and normally its ‘arduino night’.   They had brought in pizza the night we visited. There were several people working on arduino and other projects.  There were also number of other people setting up for a night of DnD game play.

Here are some pictures of the space.  Below are a few more of various projects we found around the space.

Big room's electronic and other work area

Tim and Deven hangin in bench/desk area

Big Room with DnD players in lounge area

Big Room looking towards lounge area

Big room - behind tim & deven are the plastic dividers that separate the machine (dirty) space from main room

Chop, Miter saws and welding setup in machine area


There was a Harbor Freight vise bolted to one of the benches in the work shop area. Apparently it had arrived without a handle.  Being good hackers with a welder handy, they welded a socket to the shaft and – Voila – a ratcheting vise.  very nice.

Harbor freight forgot to include a handle for the vise. Hackers fixed it with a ratchet!

The Seizure Machine
An old hand cranked AC generator was hacked with a couple LEDs. Turning the handle makes the LEDs flash. The device was nicknamed “The Seizure Machine” because flashing lights sometimes bring on seizures.

The Seizure Machine - LEDs powered by hand cranked ac generator

Brian trying out the Seizure Machine on me. Cool lights but no seizures induced.

Minimalist Arduino

The space has developed its own arduino clone “the minimalist arduino kit“. Its a $7.50 kit gets you the basic electronic parts need to make an functional arduino, if you add a breadboard.  For more robust projects, you need a circuit board – and they designed and built a few in house.

Minimalist Arduino on board

Bottom of board for Minimalist Arduino kit

Zombie Car-duinos and Laser Weapons

A neat arduino based project is their Zombie-car shooting gallery.  A number of cheap RC cars were hacked up to carry an arduino with bump and other sensors and a wireless (xbee) network card.  Some barbie/ken dolls were doctored up with paint, and an IR sensor and attached to ride the cars. Next they hacked up some cheap toy guns with IR LEDs (maybe lasers?) and pulsed them to distinguish between weapons.  Remember that second room I mentioned? They setup some tables with a mini-town.  The car zombies run around the town under computer (operator?) control and competitors try to shoot them.  It wasnt running when I saw it but it looked like fun.

Carduino - RC car hax with arduino and xbee wifi

Carduino with acrylic bumbers

Zombie Bride with IR Target on her head

Several Zombies and their carduinos

Zombies riding on carduinos with laser guns to shoot em down

Shooting the Zombie Cars

Zombie Carduino hides under chair

Zombie Town


EL-wire Tron costume

Syuzi Pakhchyan showing off her awesome Quorra (from new Tron flick) costume using EL-wire

Thats Syuzi Pakhchyanh, showing off her awesome Tron (Quorra, new film character) costume.  Syuzi is one of the innovators and author in the area of Soft Circuits (aka Fashion Technology). She taught a class at CrashSpace in LA and helped out at the Siggraph tutorial I attended this past summer.  For this costume she used Electro Luminescent tape (EL) and faux-leather.  She is promising a tutorial on how to work with this material in the near future.

I have Syuzi’s book, the MakerShed Conductive Booster Pack Kit, a Lily Pad (arduino board for clothing), and various other soft circuit parts.  I’ve done a bit of sewing with conductive thread but I am not very adept at sewing. I’m looking forward to doing more with this tech, especially in collaborations with people who can sew!  Syuzi did say she would be very interested in teaching a workshop at our space.  Perhaps that will be one of our Make-cation events.