Ten people at First Maui Maker Meeting

We had a meetup at Ben’s house yesterday (Sept 16, 2010) – our first real Maui Maker specific meetup!  There were 10 people there (not counting Ben’s two boys and visitor).  Ben and Hiro provided pizza and fish tacos, and drinks.  The meeting started about 7:30pm and the last of us left at about 11:45pm – sorry it was so late Ben/Hiro!

First Maui Makers Meeting: L2R Jerry I (me), JerryB, BrianT, ColeS, Dave, Wayne,BenW, Garret, Crystal, and Hiro

We had a lot of good round table discussion as well as introductions.  It was very encouraging to see all the people with enthusiasm for the space.  We are working on getting the biz aspects established and looking at physical spaces.  There are a few different spaces available at Hali’imaile in the Maui Land and Pineapple Co buildings.  Some are huge quonset huts, some open sheds and perhaps a few smaller closed office type space.  The range offers options for expansion if/when we grow and/or need larger project spaces.  We dont yet know what the ML&P folks think but we’re pursuing it from several angles.   Stay Toon’d!

Building the Solarbotics Beetlebot

In mid-August I received a Solarbotics Beetlebot robot kit for review.  According to my friend at Evergreen Solar, this is a beginners, no-solder kit featuring a simple bump-and-turn robot that looks kinda like a beetle, especially when you add the stickers Solarbotics includes:

Beetlebot With Cover

Beetlebot cover removed

Connor and Shion show off Bot in bag before build

Since this is a simple, no solder kit intended for young kids, I figured it would not be fully fair to build and review it by myself.  I recruited my friend Ben who volunteered his son Shion (8yo, 3rd grade).  We set up for a sunday afternoon build and dinner.  Shion’s brother Hugh, and Shion’s friend Connor (4th grade) were both there and excited about the robot.  We unpacked the kit, putting the screws and other small parts into small bowls so they didnt get lost.

Shion building the bot

The other boys helped a bit at first, reading directions and helping with screws, but enthusiasm waned a bit when it became apparent this is really a one-person project.  Shion kept at it, with a bit of help from myself and his dad on occasion and was able to complete the build in about 1hr 45min. He said it was lots of fun. The best part was figuring out the wiring and hooking it up.  (wait till we try the arduino breadboard kits on him!) He thought the BeetleBot would be a good kit to do with his fellow scouts. He also thought it should have a solar cell on it since the company is called “Solarbotics”.  Sounds like a lesson in hacking is due!

Shion with finished bot

I’d recommend having a kit for each kid, and having a few parents hanging around to help out.  However, parents need to be careful about jumping in and doing too much!  Enthusiastic dads need to curb their enthusiasm and remember its the kid’s project. (not that Ben and I jumped in too much… just general advice).

The instructions that come with the kit need a bit of work for this level of audience.  Perhaps some drawings instead of photographs to illustrate some steps. Step 5 was misprinted in our kit and an errata page was included.  Some of the screw holes were very tight and hard for kids to handle. Other holes seemed quite loose.  Running the screws through holes first may help thread the holes.  Some other review sites have recommended hot glue to hold loose screws.

Testing the wall bouncing

Kitten checking out the Bot

Ground clearance was an issue for us on first tests, causing the bot to not move or to move in a tight circle. This wasn’t mentioned in the instructions, but we found the battery case and some other underside items may contact the ground. Having a flat surface (table) with light behind it allows you to look between and find contact points that can be adjusted around.  Tightening screws and setting the tail drag height fixed these.

Overall I found it to be a pretty decent kit for kids of about this age (7-9) with adult supervision.  Check out some of the other reviews for additional info and hints:

Catalog, instructions and finished beetlebot

Playing with the Laser Cutter

I’ve been experimenting with the Epilog Helix 24 the last week or so.  I picked up several new types of wood, including some 1/8, 5mm and 1/4″ plywood.  My flooring vendor also gave me a whole bunch of samples/discards.  I also acquired a few narrow pieces of pine (?) when my wife ran a cheap cutting board through the dishwasher. It came apart in 3 or four pieces.  Oh well… more for me to play with!

I figured Thingiverse.com was a good place to pull some sample objects. I’ve used it before for Makerbot items.  It had a lot of items tagged with Laser keyword and I grabbed several…

I liked the Business card caliper by alikins (thingiverse thing=782) and picked up a couple packs of paper metalized paper to try it out. The result was not quite satisfactory, although I only did one test. The author did not include settings information and I found it cut more than it etched, and it didnt etch everything I thought it would. Still it was a cool first test. More experimentation is needed!

Thing 892: Laptop Stand with Hokusai Wave by langfordw

Then I tried the Laptop Stand with Hokusai Wave by langfordw (thing 892).  It looked pretty cool but is only available as an SVG file. Rendering on my laser requires using Corel Draw.  This meant importing it and trying to print.  I grabbed a 24×18″ sheet of 5mm plywood from Home Depot (cut from 2×4′ using laser) and used the wood-eigth-inch settings provided by Epilog.  Woops – nothing printed, and job finished REAL fast.  Looking at things, I realized the settings were vector only and importing into Corel treated everything as a raster, so I edited the file to make the cut lines ‘hairline’ width. I also stuck ‘MauiMakers.com’ on the base. Then I ran it as a combined setting.  This time it rastered out the wave lines and cut the edges – dead center of the 24×18″ board, lots of waste there.  It didnt go very dark on first pass, so I ran it again. The waves got darker but the lines still were not cutting all the way through.  I left if and went on to other things, but came back today with more success. I realized that 5mm is more than 1/8″, closer to 1/4″. So I started off with the wood-quarter-inch settings, and made it combined vs vector only. It worked !!  Only problem is it wont hold my mac book pro 17″.  The mac book has a curved underside, and it slides right over the ‘lip’.  I found a variant (thing:1391) that is bigger and works for 15″ macbook.  I might try this soon.

Laser cutting the rocket parts

Old School Space Rocket... 2.0 by syvwlch, with horses

Next up I tried Old School Space Rocket… 2.0 by syvwlch (thing 202). This is a cool object resembling the model airplanes I built as a kid, with ribs and spars made from balsa wood.  I selected a 12″ square of nice plywood from Woodcraft.  Again the original file is only available as SVG, so I had to tweak thinks to make them hairline. I also had some weird problems this time with only parts of the file actually firing the laser. Other parts moved the head as if to cut, but no lights!  I dont know why it did that, but I tried again the next day with a fresh bit of wood and reprinting. This time it worked! well, almost. The cuts didnt go all the way through (even running it 2x) in some places.  I decided to use a razor knife rather than burn more of the support shelf. The result looked pretty good as a sheet.  I popped out most pieces without a problem, but one small spar snapped in two at a spot that wasnt quite cut through. Drat.  Well after fumbling with wood glue,  I managed to get the whole thing together.  It looks pretty cool!!  Horses werent sure what I was doing and asked for more carrots.

Turtle on old jeans, after washing. Umm a bit to much?

I’ve got a whole bunch more from Thingiverse to try but it was time to get back to the Maui Makers Turtle… I had a couple different things to try etching.  First I had seen the laser do jeans, so I grabbed an old pair and Fired The Laser. It looked like it worked well, but when I washed the jeans the truth was there to see. I guess the power was up too high or whatever – maybe it works best on new denim? I’ll have to give that a try… when I’ve got some denim to test on…. new jeans are a bit too expensive to burn through.  Still the turtle looks pretty cool like this.  Its on the bottom of one pant leg.

Thinking I had success with the jeans (before washing).  I grabbed a t-shirt (I got lots of em) and fired off the laser. I had a harder time getting the

Turtle on T-Shirt didnt work so good either

material to lay down. At one point it stopped lasing and I realized the extra material was blocking the incoming laser — and burning up!!  Well a quick Stop button + rearrangement worked fine.  The result again looked pretty good as it came out of the laser.  However when I washed the shirt it was obvious the settings were very wrong.  I dont know if the t-shirt idea would work at all on other settings.  I got a whole lotta em to burn through so I might do more experimenting here.

Maui Maker turtle engraved on brazilian slate from Maui Stone

Next up I had some pieces of slate and other stone given to me by the former tenant of my house (before I bought it).  April owns/operates Maui Stone down in Kahalui and I had stopped in to say hi.  I happened to have one of my floor cut samples with me and she thought it looked very nice.  She gave me several different types and sizes of stone tiles to play with.  I first tried a really big tile of light colored stone.  After 4 passes, you could just barely see the image if the light was right.  Not enough.. So I switched to some polished brazilian slate.  The result was MUCH more satisfying, although I dont understa nd why the laser cut out and left some streaks. The URL doesnt show up well either, but its a good example.

Then I had heard/seen that a gray scale image could be used to raster different depths.  Ben Ward had sent me a copy of his new Maui Labs logo as a smallish raster.  I enlarged it a bit and test fired it on one of the bits of former cutting board.  I liked the results, except for the aliaising effects.  Need to try this again with better source material.

Maui Labs logo shows 3d effect of gray scale

The 3d effect was encouraging but I needed to get some calibration and examples of different depths.  So I made a sample file using a gradient fill in Corel Draw.  I etched the result in some fine grain floor samples (labeled Tiger) that Jim from Wisteria Lane had given me. I ran the etching in 3 places. Once using only a single pass, once with two passes, and once with three passes.  The results definitely show the gradient depths, although I think the deeper depths also show a lot more carbonizing and its hard to tell depths. The results are promising, so I’m going to start looking around for a good gray scale image and see how well I can etch a photo.

Gray scale One Pass

Two passes etching gray scales

Three passes etching

Free live online class on Arduino and Processing

O’Reilly and Creative Live are offering a 5 week (one session/wk) class “Processing and Arduino in Tandem: Creating Your Own Digital Art Tools” .  The class is free if you can make it to the live version – tuesdays starting Aug 31 at 3pm PST (Noon Hawaii time).  The O’Reilly description says you dont need programming or electronics experience, although you do need to have an arduino and some other parts.  O’Reilly sells a kit ($75) with all the parts.

It looks like a good opportunity to learn the basics.  I’m not sure how useful this will be to those with programming and electronics experience, but I’m planning to watch the live classes.  Mostly I hope to learn about teaching with the Arduino and Processing.  I’ve done a bit of experimenting with the Arduino and toyed with Processing.  Both are aimed at making it easier for non-techies to use computers to create interactive applications.

  • class info on O’Reilly.com
  • class info on CreativeLive.com
  • Arduino home
  • Processing home
  • Arduino on Wikipedia
  • Processing on Wikipedia
  • Videos about Hackerspaces and FabLabs

    I ran across a couple good videos on other hackerspaces and FabLabs recently and thought it would be good to collect a few of them them for reference.  It may take a while to watch em all so pace yourself.

    Hackerspace Videos:

    Good Basic Background on what is a hackerspace:

    Bre Pretis interviewed about starting NYC Resistor:

    Austrialian Hackerspace (Previously blogged here):

    Tokyo Hackerspace Open House:

    VIMBY on Chicago Pumping Station One

    VIMBY on Hive 76 Philadelphia:

    FabLab Videos:

    The original 2006 TED talk by Neil Gershenfeld:

    A Shift: a documentary on FabLab in The Netherlands

    The Fab Lab at Lorain County Community College in Ohio

    Fab Lab Manchester UK

    2010 APMM Talk by Neil Greshfeld (4 parts)

    Simi Valley Adult School Basic Machinist

    Basic Machinist Projects

    Examples of Eight Projects from SVAS Basic Machinist class

    As I mentioned back in Desktop Fab, Basic Machining and CNC last fall I took the Basic Machinist course at Simi Valley Adult School.  I am taking this opportunity to document the class a bit more.  The main effort was on 8 projects, with basic math and print reading supplementing and supporting the projects.   The projects provide opportunity to use most of the machines in the machine shop.

    Sign on SVAS DVD player shows its age.

    There are a number of safety and basic use videos students must watch.  These are all on DVDs and small 12″ CRT tvs are provided with headphones.  The videos vary in age but generally are fairly old…. Some appear to be from the early 1970s and transferred from filmstrip originals to videos and then DVD.  They are series of stills and you can hear a ‘ding’ just before each frame change, which was the old cue to film strip operator to change the frame. Generally quality of both video and audio is pretty low, but the information is good. Some of the old hair and cloth styles give away their age.

    The first project is a simple T-Slot cleaner (sorry no pics).  It is used to clean out the t-slots in Mills and other machine tools.  The tool is made from a piece of flat sheet steel. Students first draw out the shape to scale, then inscribe it on the metal – paint part blue, then scrape lines with scribe tool.  The basic shape is then cut using a hack saw, and filed to shape with a metal file.  Test fitting is done with two different Milling Machines in the shop, as t-slot sizes do vary.


    SVAS Project 2 - V-Clamp

    The second project is a V-Vlamp.  This project requires using most of the tools in the shop. Students first draw the block and clamp ring to scale.  The block and clamp blanks are then cut from steel stock – a horizontal band saw chops them to rough size.  The block is placed in a lathe and facing cuts are made to bring the two ends to size.  The block is squared to 1.900″ in the vertical mill, then layout ink is applied and scored according to drawings. A horizontal mill is used to mill out the slots in sides and bottom of V. A band saw is used to cut the basic shape of V, and burrs removed.  A vertical mill and existing V block are used to mill the V.  Lastly a surface grinder is used to bring all sides (including V) to size within tolerance.  The grinding process is very time consuming and a bit messy.   This completes the block.  The clamp follows similar process: cutting stock, squaring in lathe, layout ink.  Center is drilled out using the lathe, the outer shape is cut using a band saw. The top hole is drilled and tapped with the aid of a tap holder in the vertical mill.  The screw is fashioned from a piece of 3/4″ stock and turned on the lathe. Threads are then cut and the end cap made by cutting off a piece using the lathe’s cut off tool.  The turn handle and end cap are press fitted into screw after it is assembled into the clamp.

    Cutting block from raw stock on horizontal band saw

    Facing Block on Lathe

    Milling Face on Block

    Cutting clamp using band saw

    SVAS Project 3: block clamp

    The third project is a vise stop.  This is a very useful tool later on.  Actually we used one when making the V-Block Clamp.  It is attached to the vise block of a mill (CNC or manual), allowing a measured/centered part to be removed and replaced without having to re-measure. It was a fairly simple piece to build, requiring milling, drill/tap and surface grinding. One trick is to drill the three holes with the pieces clamped together.  This insures the holes will line up.

    SVAS Project 4: Screwdriver handle

    The fourth project is a screw driver handle.  It is made from basic steel stock and so is not really strong enough to be a real screwdriver, but it lets us learn several techniques.  We actually used the original stock back in Project 2 as practice for cutting threads. First we cut The stock piece is held in the 3 draw lathe chuck using a ‘Lathe Dog’, a clamp that transfers the rotary motion to the piece when held between centers. After practicing cutting threads, we turned the part down to size… sizes actually. The handle portion is knurled, drilled, and bored.  The cap is turned from another piece – rounding well applies careful planning of depths on a manual mill. The cap is press fit into the handle.

    SVAS Project 5: Indicator Holder

    Project 5 is an indicator holder – device used to which an indicator can be attached.  Mostly it is an exercise in turning aluminum on a lathe.  The different diameters are intended to be grasped in different sized chucks.

    SVAS Project 6: Tapping Center

    Project 6 is is a Tapping Center. Two parts are turned from HR Steel.  The upper piece is turned to two diameters and then both ends are drilled out.  The lower piece is drilled and pointed to 30Deg.  A rod is used to join them, with a spring between. The upper piece goes into a mill chuck.  The bottom point goes into the back end of a tap handle over a hole to be threaded.  The Tapping Center holds the tap handle vertical while it is turned by hand.

    SVAS Project 7: Angle Plate

    Project 7 is an Angle Plate. It is used to clamp a part at an angle. It is made by cutting two chunks of 1/2″steel and milling them flat, and drilling an array of holes in the upper.  A third chunk of 1/2″ steel makes a hinge between them. Once milled to size, the pieces are assembled and ground flat. The end and side plates fabricated from 1/8″ steel plate.  Note: the class curriculum was changed shortly after I finished, with a hole gauge replacing this part.

    SVAS Project 8: Hammer

    The last Project, #8, is a hammer.  This uses all the lathe turning and knurling tools we learned before, along with the Taper Cut.  The handle is drilled out to give the hammer a proper balance.  The hole is threaded and an end cap is fabricated to fit.  The head requires some tricky turning to get all the curves, including the very fine dome on the face of the hammer head.

    Letters from Fab Academy

    The MIT Fab Lab has a distributed learning component (Fab Academy) where people located at other Fab Labs around the world can connect in via video conferencing systems for class lectures, etc. The remote participants then use their local equipment to do the lab exercises.  The academy basically followed the MIT course “How To build (almost) Anything)” over the last 9 months.  Students earned Certificates as they completed the 1-2wk segments on various digital fabrication tech, which combine to form the Diploma at the end of class. The first academy just completed with participants from

  • Barcelona
  • Amsterdam,
  • India
  • Ohio
  • COEP India
  • Iceland
  • Kenya
  • Rhode Island.
  • Shawn Wallace, member of AS220, the Providence, RI location (a community space like Maui Makers) has been posting “Letters From Fab Academy” to the Make Magazine blog.  They make very interesting and inspiring reading.  It is my hope that someday we can have a Maui Fab Lab participating in the Fab Academy.  Here are links to the 6 letters on Make:

  • Letters From the Fab Academy, Part 1 Make a Press-fit Construction Kit
  • Letters From the Fab Academy, Part 2 Making and programming circuit boards
  • Letters From the Fab Academy, Part 3 Mold making and casting
  • Letters from the Fab Academy, Part 4 3D Scanning
  • Letters from the Fab Academy, Part 5 Interfacing microcontrollers and applications
  • Letters From the Fab Academy, Part 6 Machine Design (DIY CNC bot)
  • Laser up and running again!

    The new HP desktop seems to be working fine, although it has to stop and think sometimes.  Amazing that with such great increases in computing and graphics power, the user experience is still pretty much what it was 20 years ago.

    Yesterday I burned some more flooring samples. I had to recreate (again) the artwork, since previous versions are stuck on my dead laptop – or the two host machines I used back in California for earlier tests (if owners havent deleted em yet.) The turtle logo is pretty easy now as I have some good starting art and know the basics of converting bitmap to outline objects in Corel Draw.  I havent tried that EngraveLab yet. The manufacturer’s web site touts “Free 1 Hour training for ALL new customers”, but when you go to sign up, it says “not available in conjunction with promotional package pricing”. They did say on Monday they would send me a PIN to take the training, but have yet to send it. Grrr. Another learning cliff to scale.

    Minwax stain pens in Red Mahogany and Ebony on bamboo flooring.

    Anyway, as I was wandering thru Home Depot on an unrelated excursion, I passed the MinWax stain display and decided to pick up some things to test.  They have some pens that hold stain – expensive for amount, but ease of application may count here.  I bought an ebony and a red mahogany  used them on the earlier floor samples with url. They worked pretty well. The text was too small to get the pen into but running it across the surface got enough into the etched portion, and the rest wiped off very easily.  I think the black ebony stands out a bit better. Not sure about the red on bamboo.

    Minwax stain and poly shades on bamboo.

    I also picked up a couple small cans of the regular Minwax stain. I got a regular stain/sealer in ebony and a PolyShades in Red Mahogany. I picked up some small artist brushes – not much selection at Home Depot! These worked pretty well, although some still got on the top surface.  This time it didnt wipe off as easily, but a little mineral spirits on a cloth and it looks pretty clean.  The polyshades should dry with a satin finish. Alas it seems I got some dust in it from somewhere – probably hay dust, given the four bales of alfalfa sitting less than 10 feet away. I gotta build a real workshop – and a horse shelter.

    Darker solid wood with logos and stain

    Next up I scanned the Wisteria Lane logo from a brochure they gave me. Thats the place from which I purchased my bamboo floor. They gave me a bunch of samples of different types of wood. This time Corel was not so forgiving with its outline creation.  It came out ok but its got the jaggies – not pixel aliasing, but weird bumpy curves.  I burned it and the turtle into a sample of solid darker wood, and then used the red mahogany polyshade stain on it.  Both of them came out looking pretty good – however I would rather have line art for starting point with the logo, especially if we want to make it any bigger.

    Boo Boo Zoo image on pine cutting board

    Then I scanned some artwork from a flyer from the Boo Boo Zoo (aka East Maui Animal Rescue). It converted pretty well with Corel, except it had a lot of white islands making up details.  The laser uses gray scale to determine power/cutting depth.  Earlier experiments showed that sometimes ‘white’ is not the same as Dont Etch. So I spent a bit of time removing the white objects.  I burned the image into a piece of white pine we had lying around.  It used to be a cutting board until my wife put it through the dish washer.  Do not put wood things in dishwasher – i keep telling her. Now she has an example of why.  The result looks pretty good, even before I try to remove the scorch marks.

    Turtle on pine cutting board pieces

    Last up is a test with the turtle on some of that cutting board pine.  I had to use two pieces of the board as the turtle is about 5 inches tall.  The upper piece was cleaned with a wet cloth and still shows some scorch/resin stains.  Dennis took some light sand paper to the lower piece and it removed all the marks very nicely.

    Thats about it for this round.  I only have another two days on island so I wont get around to finishing off the stairs this trip.  I need to figure out the alignment on those too.  The wood is already cut so I’d rather not make mistakes.  I also need to get some magnets so I can fool the door interlocks to operate the laser with larger pieces sticking out the front.

    Lasers In Maui!

    We now have a Laser Cutter/Etcher!!

    delivery van

    Laser gets delivered by Delivery People

    Crated Epilog Laser in my garage

    This afternoon (6/24/10) my Epilog Helix 24, 40 watt laser cutter finally arrived at my home in Haiku, HI (Maui).  The laser can do a variety of cutting and etching.  The manufacturer provides a good reference page that shows the types of materials that can be cut and/or etched.
    The laser shipped a week ago from Golden Colorado, via Los Angeles, Honolulu and finally to Maui.

    So far I’ve unboxed it (as you see in pictures) and realized I need the 4″ exhaust hoses to connect to the Harbor Freight ‘dust collector’ I brought over last week as my luggage. Its a noisy little beast but it will do for now.  I initially bought some basic vinyl dryer hose but the instructions say to use only metal hose.  Thats probably a good idea aside from the heat issues – the vinyl hose tends to collapse under the vacuum pulled by the dust collector.  The hose crushes into the fan inlet and stops sucking.

    Here are some pics from the unboxing:

    Unboxing the Epilog Laser

    Paper Carton Removed

    Air Assist Pump included, unboxed

    Palette has ramps with hooks that fit in slots.

    Ready To Roll off. Additional boards added at lip of garage.

    Ready to roll, waiting on Dennis to assist.

    Opened hood - etching software app included!

    Next level - Goodies!!

    Manuals, cables, pump, etc

    Sample materials, catalogs, etc

    Rotary attachment for round stuff (bottles, glasses, flashlights, etc)

    Next layer - honeycomb cutting table

    Bottom layer - z table to hold targets

    Off the palette - time to set up

    Laser Setup in Garage

    Opened right side to look around, Z table mechanism with air inlet on upper right

    Back side, air inlet in upper left, laser along top, exhaust at bottom center

    Ben Ward came to help and play

    My new island friend Ben Ward came over to help me set it up and play.  He brought the beer!

    First Burn!! Logo in two sizes

    Our first burn is the Maui Makers logo – turtle with URL. We did it in two sizes using Corel Draw.

    I’ve got a lot of reading and testing to do. The stairs in my house are the first big project.  Meanwhile the flooring people asked if they could have some more samples for a Home Expo today down at the Maui War Memorial Gymnasium. And of course, The Wife arrives today so I gotta clean the house first. Laser will have to wait.  But it is here and we have burned stuff!!

    Any Maui artists out there who would like to experiment with some new medium, drop me a line: jerry@mauiMakers.com  The primary software I have is Corel Draw, although they shipped me Engrave Lab.  We can start with any image – bitmap or line art – and then chose the target (wood, acrylic, metal) and try it.

    Me and My Laser!!

    Silhouette SD paper and vinyl cutter

    Paper Fabrication with Silhouette and ModelMaker

    Silhouette SD paper and vinyl cutter

    Silhouette (aka Craft Robo) paper and vinyl cutter

    I recently stumbled upon a great web site for teaching with paper crafting – DigitalFabrication.org is from the Curry Center for Technology and Teacher Education at U. Virginia. The site is mostly about using a Silhouette (aka Craft Robo), a desktop paper/vinyl cutting machine about the size of a small inkjet printer.

    Costume CampBells Soup Can

    Matt’s costume Campbells Soup Can

    I have one of these machines and it is currently on-loan to CrashSpace. It does a good job cutting card-stock and vinyl.  One of the Crashers (Matt Pinner) used it to make a Campbell’s Soup costume with vinyl decals. Matt gave a class on using it back in May. I made some simple vinyl stickers for a car window.

    Back to the Digital Fab site … they have some good videos and FAQ on the site about using it for teaching kids using paper cutting/folding (aka Kirigami).  One really cool video is this one showing the creation of a rack and pinion system from card stock.

    They use a combination of Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw and a neat tool called fablab ModelMaker. The latter piece is a fairly low cost 3d modeler that drives the Silhouette and is targeted at schools/educational market, they are similar to the new wave of affordable 3d printers that have been made available.  They have a nice video showing kids from Punahou School (Oahu) using the machine with an inkjet printer to create ‘cereal boxes’ to learn math (although they may not know it.

    I emailed the creators of ModelMaker and learned they are working on a program to roll the software out to a few more Hawaiian schools.  Also the software can create STL files to output to the Fab@School 3D printer.  Since this is the same format used by Makerbot, I’m going to have to experiment with it for both of my machines!