Maker Collider Event with NextFab Studio: TUESDAY

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

How I Became A Maker

Growing up, my dad worked overseas for the State Department so we moved all over the Middle East. DaveI always wanted to know how everything worked, and my dad had a hint of an interest in electronics and other hobbies, but resources were always a little limited and there weren’t any skilled mentors I could learn as much as I wanted from. I recall spending a lot of time coming up with wacky invention ideas, most of which in hindsight are probably infeasible, but coming up with the ideas was always half the fun anyway. My dad would bring home articles from magazines on topics he thought I’d find interesting, like building simple robots, or making red jello lasers. Periodically I would get an inkling to try realizing one of my inventions and I would save up my allowance money, eventually putting together an order from a surplus catalog in the States. It would take 2 weeks for my snail-mail order to arrive there through the diplomatic pouch, and another 2 weeks to receive my parts, and as you can imagine of a young kid, I usually ended up getting bored with waiting and abandoned the original idea for something I could do much sooner. I had a great set of books, a silver hard-bound set called “How Things Work”, which was wonderful for fueling the inner mad scientist in me. In about 4th grade I remember spending a fair bit of time designing the space ship that I hoped would eventually rescue me from homework and school, and also allow me to explore and perhaps begin colonizing Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. (Needless to say, that one hasn’t panned out. Yet.)

I really had an interest in how almost everything worked, picking up as many things as I could. One day my dad brought home the first Magic Eye picture I’d ever seen, and after struggling with it for an hour it was an incredible feeling when the image of the earth finally popped out at me in all its 3D splendor, and I’d been bitten by the 3D bug. Living where I did, we didn’t have access to hardware stores or Radio Shack, but there were petrified forests, ripe with geodes and other marvels of geology that I loved to learn about. In slightly later years I learned some interesting things about chemistry, and am probably fairly lucky to have all of my fingers and toes. After figuring out how to make a surprisingly effective blowgun with quite nasty darts, I got a taste of what fun working with projectiles can be, going on in much later years to build a high-power rocket that is fired from a pneumatic cannon.

I was always interested in computers, and had a burning desire to learn how to write my own software. In elementary school I stumbled onto HyperCard (an incredible thing at the time), and I was off and running teaching myself some basics of algorithms, and writing simple tools and games. (I was never particularly interested in actually playing games, much preferring to explore and learn, or take things apart and dream of what I could do with the pieces.) Discovering programming was a bit of a boon for me, because it was a way of inventing for free — no materials to buy or wait for in the mail, no tools to wear out, if I could dream it and if I had the motivation, I could make it happen for nothing. From that point on I think I just assumed that I would go on to major in Computer Science when I got old enough. Little did I know that when that time came, I would abandon it after feeling like the educational system was beating all the fun out of it for me.

I’ve always found myself wanting to understand things, but having to teach myself. While that has been frustrating, usually taking much longer than simply being taught by an expert, I think it has been valuable for shaping how I approach challenges. Making things can be a puzzle, an adventure, or a game, and it’s so much more rewarding in the end than something you’ve bought or watched on TV.

How I Became a Maker

Probably the single most important decision about me that my parents made was to remove me from the institutional education systems and home school me. There was talk from my teachers of getting me diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, but really I was just bored with my classes and had no socially acceptable concept of how to deal with that boredom (incidentally, I still don’t, but that’s a story for another day). Unfortunately for  Mom and Dad, they quickly learned that my disruptive, destructive tendencies would be visited upon them if they did not find ways to entertain me.

Enter: TOPS Science.

TOPS is brilliant. It’s a combination of comic book and pragmatic science lab. Everything in a TOPS science workbook can be done with house hold items. The topics cover a wide range: electricity, chemistry, biology, geology, meteorology–I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually came out with a nuclear physics issue. I couldn’t get enough of them.

The materials were always simple, and something you probably had lying around anyway. For example, the electric circuits module used aluminum foil backed with scotch tape for wires, paper clips to connect them, and clothesline clips and rubber bands to make a flashlight bulb holder. There were never any exotic parts or chemicals in a TOPS module, and if something was slightly out of the ordinary, it would show you a convenient source for scavenging it from some thing else.

Even after all of the worksheets were done, I would still continue to play with the left over pieces, hooking up DC motors vultured from broken toys, making LEGO gears, testing out rubber-band belt drives, building switches made from bent-up paper clips and aluminum foil, and winding solenoids from ballpoint pens and wire from who-knows-where.

Some things that resulted from a combination of my boredom, ingenuity, and youthful ignorance:

  • A small catapult with a surprisingly long range and a poorly thought-out target area (i.e., a plate glass window).
  • A coil gun that scared the family dog into knocking over a ceramic vase.
  • Experiments in electrolyzing water for basic hydrogen and oxygen that resulted in several toxic chemicals as well as one small explosion.
  • Experiments in electroplating objects with metal from nails and paper clips that looked suspiciously a lot like the previous entry with largely the same results.

It was that second, small explosion that prompted my parents to buy me a computer as a compromise to prevent me from continuing with my increasingly dangerous pursuits in the physical sciences. But, I still carry the basic principles of analog circuits because of these awesome, little books. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve them because it would often lead to new ways for me to endanger my life/the carpet, but they are perhaps the most significant part of how I came to be a builder and maker of things.

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!