Hive76’s Art Hackathon

March 10th and 11th, 3pm to 7pm

For the second weekend in March, Hive76 is hosting a day of smashing, cutting, gluing, taping, painting, and general making and frivolity. We’re calling it “Art Hackathon”. Inspired by the Bravo TV Series Work of Art, and following closely in the footsteps of Art Hack Day, the event will focus on the rapid creation of meaningful works of art out of a provided supply of recycled materials.

Hive76 will provide massive piles of cardboard, tubs of glue, masking tape, tubs of spackle, box cutter blades, and a few cans of various colors of spray paint, to let every participating individual or team create a work of their choosing. The works will be based on a single theme, to be announced at the beginning of the event.

The event is split across two, four-hour days. While participants are free to use the time as they wish, the time is designed to provide time for planning on and a moderate amount of building on the first day, with some drying and curing time overnight before finishing up the next day.

A fee of $25 per person will be charged at the door, to cover the cost of materials and food that will be provided during the event for both days. Please RSVP for the event before March 6th by emailing


What is art? To me it has always meant indirect communication–the implied conveyance of ideas through conventions of shared culture. Anything is fair game for a medium, and anything can be a potential message; thus art is infinite in both dimensions.
(more…) is a new beta service (currently free, prolly will change) for rendering 3D models in the web browser, no flash or plugins required. I guess it works via HTML5?

They only take .obj files at the moment (which you can export to from Blender). It’d be much much more useful if they automatically imported STL files, and all of Thingiverse, among other sites. I’ve logged a bug report and feature request along these lines.

Here’s a yoda head converted to .obj and imported and hosted by P3D in their demo iframe. pretty cool. (NOTE: I guess it needs a while to load in the browser, apparently. So if it’s not showing up yet in your browser, give it a minute).

Left click and drag – rotate
middle click and drag – zoom
Right click and drag – translate


NASA: The Blue Marble, 2012. Click the image for full resolution.

NASA: The Blue Marble, 1972. Click the image for full resolution.

NASA today released a crazy high-res reconstructed photograph of the world, 61 megapixels (8,000 x 8,000)… we can finally replace the one from Apollo 17 from 1972.

Here are the deets.

A ‘Blue Marble’ image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA’s most recently launched Earth-observing satellite – Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on January 4, 2012. The NPP satellite was renamed ‘Suomi NPP’ on January 24, 2012 to honor the late Verner E. Suomi of the University of Wisconsin.

Suomi NPP is NASA’s next Earth-observing research satellite. It is the first of a new generation of satellites that will observe many facets of our changing Earth.

Suomi NPP is carrying five instruments on board. The biggest and most important instrument is The Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite or VIIRS.

Image Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring


The MAKE blog recently posted a notice of an event being held this weekend–Art Hack Day–that I find very intriguing. I’ve been bandying about an similar idea, in part inspired by the Bravo Channel’s reality TV series Work of Art. The show has the typical “Top XYZ” format of elimination challenges. What strikes me about the show is that their work space looks very much like a hackerspace, and once the artists settle in to the work format, they start producing some extremely intriguing pieces.

In a lot of ways, the artist’s studio and hackerspaces are very similar; indeed, we here at Hive76 have made a former artist’s studio as our fire-retardant-home-away-from-home here at 915 Studios. So with that in mind, we are putting together a similar event to the Art Hack Day. We would like to make it an open build session with recycled materials. Stay tuned for the full details in an upcoming blog post (honestly, I will write it, really, I will).


The GPSd Project

Eric S. Raymond has recently asked for some help from Philadelphia’s DIY and engineering community with an exciting project. Amongst many other interesting projects, ESR is the lead developer on GPSd, a “service daemon that monitors one or more GPSes…”. He needs help building a cheap GPS repeater to forward the RF data from his roof antenna to his test rack in his office. For any student or hobbiest electrical engineers looking to make a name for themselves, this could be an excellent opportunity.


The JayOscillator

The JayOscillator is the stupid name that I came up with for my HTML 5 synthesizer that I’ve been working on over the last month or so.  I spent a good part of today making it look pretty, though now It works in Chrome and Safari right now. It technically works in FireFox, but the displays for the variables don’t seem to want to open their eyes. Take a look:

The JayOscillator

I named it the “JayOscillator” after the Korg KAOSCILLATOR, as my thing is a similar sort of notion, written in JavaScript.

You can try it out here for now, though no promises that the URL won’t change in the future.

Unfortunately, I think I have to give up on iPad support. Apple nerfed the ability to auto-start HTML 5 audio tags from JavaScript. Without that ability, their is no way I can keep a continuous tone going.

I’m considering rewriting this as a native app, though. Most of the effort here has been in figuring out the math necessary to get this going. Since that work is done, porting to different languages and platforms is more of a chore in API calls.


See... rendering is fun!! I downloaded a partially completed batmobile model from (thanks Xuan!), but it wasn't ready for primetime yet. So I segmented, textured, and lit everything (including the Tron style wheels), before rendering it with Cycles. Everything was done in Blender 2.61 FTW.

Blender continues to be my favorite open-source 3D modeling and rendering software package. It has seen tremendous growth over the last couple of years, moving from a fledgling modeling project to a blockbuster production quality modeling, animation, lighting, rendering, and post-processing toolkit.

It’s snowballing into a truly stunning software package. So, there’s no better time than now to teach you how to use it!

In about two weeks I’ll be offering an Intro Blender interface, rendering, compositing, and video motion tracking class right here at Hive76. I’m looking at a 2-day class January 28th-29th, probably 4 hours each day. The beauty is you don’t need to have any 3D modeling skills… there are a TON of LEGALLY FREE and INSANELY DETAILED 3D models widely available. Pick your favorite model and I’ll help you work with it over 2-days to get you positioning, rendering, texturing, and lighting. Hopefully on day 2 we’ll have enough time to try some basic animations inserted over video recorded from meatspace.

Any questions, come to our weekly Wednesday night open house and see what we’re talking about.

Option 1) Lasercut, Laser engrave, and LED-light-up your very own Snowflake

Option 1) Lasercut, Laser engrave, and LED-light-up your very own Snowflake

Join us on TUESDAY, December 20th, 7 pm – Midnight

Meet-and-Make, Hive76 and NextFab Studio Members
@ @ 3711 Market Street

This “Maker Collider” event will be a great opportunity to make awesome stuff.

We had proposed these projects:
All details are here on the Wiki

After reviewing the projects here and those proposed by NextFab members it sounds like we will be doing some form of the Chess boards, the snowflakes, some robotics, and a bunch of laser-engraving. But what if you don’t like those? Come by anyway and you can rally troops for helping you on your own project(s).

NextFab Studio will have these staff members on hand throughout the event:
Chrinstine : Textile and Industrial Design ( fabric knowledge, product design,cad, sewing )
Ian : Electronics (pcb design/fabrication, coding, wiring, soldering, etc.)
Seth : Mechanical Engineer (handtools, cad, product design)
Brandon : Multi-Media Designer ( 3d printing, graphic design, product design, cinematography, cad)

Anything you want to do, you can do. AWESOME.

Check out all their equipment.

Oh, and there will be food too. Be there at 7 pm!!

To Join in on the Discussion, please join our mailing list


Making… Paint!

Electrolysis of water for side effects

Back in late August, when we did the experimentation with ferrofluids, I discovered-for-myself an interesting process for making the requisite Fe3O4, aka magnetite. Through an electrolysis process, and then some other steps, I was able to create a fair amount of magnetite from iron screws. I ditched this process in regards to ferrofluids, but eventually picked it back up again for making paint pigments.

Yes, real paint is pretty cheap, and there are easier ways to make black pigments, such as carbonizing just about anything (though I don’t know of easier ways to make brown from a scratch process). That wasn’t the point. I specifically wanted to make paintings in which I could claim I made the pigments.

From the time of the Renaissance up to the late 19th century, artists often were engineers and scientists, and vice versa. Leonardo Da Vinci should probably be more accurately remembered as a government contractor in weapons engineering rather than artist. Prior to the industrial revolution, any painter kind of had to be a competent chemists to able to make their pigments. And any student of botany, biology, and other natural sciences needed to be competent sketch artists to be able to record their work.

I strive to maintain a lot of that tradition in my own work, and I think it’s important to know what goes in to the things we make, even if that thing is “just art”.

I started with a beaker full of salt water. Ahem, excuse me, “aqueous solution of sodium chloride”. Right. The sodium chloride acts as an electrolyte to allow the electricity to conduct through the water. Basic stuff here. I’ve got a laptop battery charger with alligator clips holding on to the plug. I have iron screws as both electrodes because I didn’t want to bother making sure I had the right polarity on the charger plug. The screws dangle from wires that are taped to my beaker so they stay in place.

WARNING! This process creates a couple of nasty things. First, there will be a small amount of hydrochloric acid produced in beaker. It won’t be a lot, but if you keep your hands submerged in it for long enough, you could get a slight rash (yes, I speak from experience, from many, many years ago when I accidentally blew up my bedroom as a kid). It also creates small amount of chlorine gas, which is poisonous! For the small scale at which I was working, as well as working in a well-ventilated room, it was not a concern. However, I should have used sodium bicarbonate as the electrolyte, it would have eliminated both of these issues. Alas, I didn’t have any at the time.

It also creates a LARGE amount of hydrogen and oxygen gas, which if you’re dumb like I was when I was 15 and try to collect it, can be quite explosive. You are forewarned!

Iron hydroxide painting

The orange stuff floating in the top of the beaker is iron hydroxide. You might not be able to tell from the picture, but there is a slight green tint to rest of the water. That is also iron hydroxide, in another form. Iron hydroxide is apparently very difficult to control in color. However, I did use a little paint brush to sweep up the orange stuff from the edges of my beaker and make this little painting.

The greenish-black iron hydroxide was what I was after. I actually thought it was the magentite iron oxide that I was looking for at the time, but I’ve since learned otherwise. Black iron hydroxide is slightly magnetic, so I balanced my beaker on top of a large, neodymium magnet to draw the precipitate down to the bottom of my beaker, allowing me to pour most of the water off of the top of the stuff I cared about.

It's kind of like silt

I wanted to boil the rest of the water out, as the leftover looked like diluted ink.  Eventually I was left with a liquid that was quite thick, almost like river mud, meaning it sputtered too much to continue boiling. The material on the edges dried out and turned brown; more on that in a bit. This was at the time we were doing the ferrofluid stuff, so I was very keen on removing the water and replacing it with a very light oil. One of our members suggested using acetone to dissolve with the water and increase the overall volatility, to speed natural evaporation. At the time, I still didn’t know that I only had iron hydroxide, I thought I had iron oxide, so this step was quite serendipitous. Green-black iron hydroxide in anaerobic conditions will oxidize to magnetite! I believe the acetone deoxygenated the water and left water protons for oxidizing the iron hydroxide. It very clearly went from a greenish-black, pluming precipitate to a very black precipitate fell out of suspension very easily and was much more magnetic. It still didn’t make a great ferrofluid (I didn’t have a surfactant, confused emulsifiers with surfactants, got unconfused and tried to use dish soap as my surfactant, and eventually just had a mess everywhere).


But I was intrigued by how dark of a black I had on my hands, and how readily it stained everything it touched (much to our quarter master’s chagrin). At this point, I had something I could start painting with. I mixed a little with some more water because I knew I wanted to do something spattery, and then made this stylistic interpretation of the classic video game “Asteroids”. There is a little bit of a brown tint to it because of an inefficiency in my process, but then I recontextualized and made it part of my process. I made a frame for it out of scrap wood, but I probably should not have. Now it just kind of looks cheesy. Grumble.

I wanted to now take advantage of the brown crust on the edge of my previous boil experiment. I realized that it was actually another form of iron oxide called hematite, Fe2O3. Magnetite oxidizes to hematite in open air under a flame, so I took some of my black material and blasted it under my pipe welding torch. I eventually shattered my shot glass that I was using as an impromptu beaker from overheating. Yet another instance of my lack of preparation and use of proper tools nearly getting me hurt. But I digress.

Steel Bearing

The last painting was difficult to work with because the water took forever to evaporate, which warped the paper I was painting on. This time, I mixed my pigment with acetone. It was more difficult to keep the pigment in suspension, but the much more volatile acetone evaporated much quicker, leaving me with dry paper that didn’t warp. The result was a painting of a steel bearing, which I thought was interesting because I’m technically painting with “rust”.


I finished up with the iron oxide by making an ink with it and this last drawing of the entrance to a mysterious forest.

So now what? Now, I’m experimenting with different metals to see what other colors I can get. I know that copper can lead to some green tints, which I’m very excited to try to replicate. I was able to

Mint-green copper hydroxide

make a very, very small amount of copper hydroxide last night, which you can see in the following pictures. I also made a small amount of yellowish brown copper oxide. Unfortunately, it rather readily oxidizes in air to make black copper oxide, which I’m not too interested in as the black iron oxide is easier to make.

Yellow-brown copper oxide

The brown is nice because it’s not as dark as the brown iron oxide, but I’m excited about the possibility of making green.

Oh, I also made a blue flame.