Open House, December 1st, 2010

a simple motor
a simple motor

We enter the cold, dark days of December with a super Open House meeting. As always, the night starts off with our 7pm Scrum stand-up meeting for members to update everyone on the progress of their projects. 8pm starts the official Open House, with pizza, soda, and snacks.

Keeping in our new tradition of “mini projects for open houses”, Adam and Jack will be showing everyone the basics of building electric motors. Previous open houses covered Glowsticks and Bristle Bots. Building simple motors is really a lot easier than you might initially think. Hand-made electric motors are a fun way to learn basic principles of circuits as well as a handy skill for any project that needs a little movement. Come on down and play with electromagnetic fields with us!

Toys that made me a maker

Pipeworks wrench
Pipeworks wrench

I visited my parents at home this Thanksgiving in Hillsborough, NJ and rummaged around the house I grew up in. One of the things I found was a Pipeworks wrench from my childhood tinkering. Pipeworks was a wonderful system that used basic PVC pipes with special connectors to make 90º and 45º angles and seat to snap in. They were like LEGO furniture. I created a wheelbarrow and lemonade stand as in the instructions, but of course quickly moved on to my own designs. The last and best being a small cart I dragged around on my bike until it fell apart. Here’s a video of kid actors having fun with the set. Good times.

Of course, the Pipeworks were only one in a string of awesome toys that encouraged making. As any kid, I had LEGO (that is the proper collective noun apparently.) A true LEGO collection is measured in mass, and I still have about 40lbs of LEGO in my parent’s attic; the ABS plastic withstanding the seasonal temperature shift, but the forgotten batteries corroding the contacts of the battery box in my super-awesome death robot on wheels.

Construx helicopter
Construx helicopter

But every kid had LEGO. I also fondly remember the more obscure Construx. This set was like a smaller Pipeworks with beams that could be connected to make stuff. I had a set like the one pictured here with pulleys and wheels, and I kind of remember breaking those beams quite often with the wrong amount of torsion. It was very architectural though.

I had some K’nex too, another beam toy, but a bit more flexible and durable than Construx. K’nex came out in 1993, and by the time I got some, it was a bit too late for my tinkering age. I was sliding into the deep abyss of adolescence and the darkness of CompuServe image boards.

As a kindergartner I would also play with the lacquered wood blocks at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Grandma had a special set of blocks that she kept high on the mantle away from kids hands. They were heavy stone and rounded from years of play; she played with them when she was a kid. It’s amazing that while researching this post, I found those same blocks: Anchor Blocks, or Anker-Steinbaukasten as they are known as in Germany where they are still made. They are quite expensive now too. Is this the best present for my pieces and nephews? Maybe they can share a set.


There was also a crazy toy called Zaks that I had a bag of. Zaks are equilateral triangles and squares that snap together at the edge. When completed, these polyhedral models look a bit like the STL mesh files I build today with the makerbot at Hive76. What made this set especially cool was that some pieces has a 4-stud LEGO pattern on them that allowed for easy attachement to LEGO models. I don’t know why I didn’t use this mind-blowing connection more in my models, but I remembered it just fine. Maybe I didn’t want to get my toys mixed up. I should have been building super intensive toys with Construx and the frame, Zaks, the moveable skin over a upper skeleton of K’nex with all the inner workings and details handled by LEGO attached to the top of a Pipeworks cart. Sigh. These are the regrets of a youth misspent. Today you can print out a Duplo block to Brio track adapter which to me seems like the greatest thing in the world. I wonder if I can print a Zaks-Construx adapter, or a new line of Pipeworks connectors with LEGO studs …

I got to get to work making stuff!

Tiny Terminal Using MSP430 and HD44780 Display

We have dozens of these HD44780-based LCD displays — now we just gotta make some use of them.  Here’s an experiment using an MSP430 to create a display that can be written to using serial data.  The displays actually have chips in them that can send the data as a differential signal (a la RS422), so it should be possible to send the serial over great distances if needed. The displays are also waterproof and have a six key membrane keyboard built in.  With the addition of a $1 MSP430, the setup turns out to be a pretty sweet building block …

A preliminary version of the HD44780 library for MSP430s is available here.

Multithreaded Banjo Dinosaur Knitting Adventure 2D Extreme

Along with being highly neighborly, and slightly insane Travis Goodspeed is also great reverse engineer. He is consistently a bringer-of-weird things to conferences (and the parties that inevitably follow). Many of those cool & weird things are objects designs and/or builds himself.

So It’s not a huge surprise to see him hacking on an amazing collaborative project to make an interactive tapestry creating game. As far as I can tell, as people play the game the winners custom designed image is added to the end of the tapestry. The game appears to be an scroller/shooter game, which is controlled by waving around RFID tags. Geez. And here I was, thinking having #15 high score on Hive’s Spy Hunter machine was cool. One more amazing projects from an awesome Philly resident.

Hive76 is on NPR!

No Joke! Jon Kalish from NPR visited our space for a raucous open house last month, and witnessed the amazing font of Chaos that is Hive76. This week, he featured us in his Weekend Edition piece about American hackerspaces!  Whoot! The segment features Brendan and Chris’ boombox suitcase, Chris’ Meatcards, and Jack’s USB Typewriter, among other great Hive76 projects.  Have a listen and hack on!

Bristle Bots

Tooth brushes, vibro-motors, and batteries, oh my!

For Wednesday’s Open House, we made little Bristle-Bots. A Bristle-Bot is a little robot consisting of a vibrating motor–similar to one found in a pager or cell phone–taped to a tooth brush head, that runs around a table like a little rodent or insect. They’re really easy to make, a ton of fun to play with, and a great time to extend and hack.

The basic, smallest design:

A larger motor needed two brush heads:

The bigger motors tended to drain the batteries really quickly:

This was probably the best one, the builder actually soldered parts of it together. It now lives on in the “Trophy Case”

Next time, we’ll be making Christmas decorations based on the MSP430 microcontroller.

Officers and Elections, and Board Member departure

Last night was elections at Hive76. It’s my pleasure as the previous Instigator to announce our new slate of Management, who were elected with 100% of all the members that voted. If you need to reach them with questions or feedback, they are available at

Quartermaster – Brendan
Brendan has been around for quite a while, and us the longest standing member of Management. He’s been Quartermaster as long as we’ve had the position. He keeps the space clean and usable, and makes great amps and audio tools.

Book Keeper – Jack
Jack is one of Hive76’s Co-founders, and is the brain (and hands) behind USBTypewriter. He was previously our Events Coordinator, and is now going to be keeping our books.

Chief Technological Officer (CTO) – Adam K.
Adam is one of the powerhouses behind making Hive76 awesome. He’s done a great job as CTO setting up tools to make the organization run smoothly. Above and beyond his officership, he invests a lot of time keeping Hive active, and getting things done. He’s also our #1 print-ninja for our Makerbot.

Secretary – Chris T.
Chris is a designer, artist, and maker at large. He continues his post as Secretary (aka secretarat). He’s also an expert in cutting things into meat with lazzzors.

Instigator – Mike Hogan
Mike is an gentleman and a Maker of first degree. If you’ve taken a micro-controller class or electronics class at Hive, you’ve probably met Mike. He’s also our inside source for MSP430’s.

Events Coordinator – Sean M.
Sean is a developer, zombie-dummy maker, and now our Events Coordinator too. He has some great ideas for 2011, and some cool classes are already in the planning.

Congrats! *ding* to all our new officers, and thanks to all our old officers. If you want to reach them all at once, you can always drop them a line at they are available

On a sadder note, Adam Elkins has retired from the board of Hive76. He’s done some great projects (like the Free Spirit Stickers), and has constantly brings the coolest water-rockets to the Make:Philly picnic. We wish him the best of luck with whatever cool project he’s onto next.

We are now accepting nom-nom-nominations for a new board member for the open seat on the board. We are open to hearing nominee ideas from anyone. If you have a good idea for a nominee (even if you are not a member) feel free to drop a note on our discussion list with the name of the person, and why they would be a good board member. The members will consider the nominees, and vote to choose the best board member they can decide on.

Open House and Elections!

Come to Hive 76 for our last open house for November, this Wednesday the 17th. As always, there’s a ton to see and a boat-load to do.

  • At 7:00PM, we’ll be updating our Scrum board with the latest status of our projects.
  • After the Scrum meeting, we’ll be holding elections for our management team.  If any members wish to cast a vote but are unable to attend the meeting, please check the Member’s group discussion for instructions.
  • At 8:00PM, we open the doors for our regularly scheduled Open House meeting. There will be free pizza and soda, and maybe even a few college drinks for sale in the ‘fridge as well.
  • Continuing our new tradition of Mini-Projects For Open Houses, we’ll have parts available for any visitors to make Bristle Bots. If you didn’t come out to make glow sticks last week, then you missed a ton of fun.
  • Adam will be showing off the MakerBot and training any interested parties in its basic operation,
  • and Sean will be bringing the skull of the Flaming Zombie Dummy to the Hive 76 “Trophy Case”.

As always, it will be pure, crystallized awesome. What else are you going to do on a Wednesday night, watch reruns of MythBusters?