Friday, December 23, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Science Toolboxes: An Update

We have been expanding our science kits in the
children's room in an effort to introduce non-traditional circulating items for over a year now. We have littleBits, Raspberry Pi 2, Sphero, Cubelets, KEVA planks and Makey Makeys. Our newest editions were the robots, Dash and BeeBot, which gained popularity after we had them out to test during the Hour of Code. I happen to be showing one of the kids the littleBits kit, since all the robotics kits were out, when I noticed some bits are just not holding up during circulation.

Our littleBits kit included Lego adapters, mounting boards, and the small starter kit which doesn't seem to be available anymore with 10 bits included. If you are new to littleBits, they are small magnetic pieces, each with their own function, that can be put together to make an electronic invention. Bits include lights, sensors, motors and speakers. You can integrate them into recyclables, Lego projects, sewing projects...you name it! For a while, we used them in house for makerspace activities but we decided to try to circulate them for personal patron use. If you are looking to go this route, here's some advice:




First thing to watch is the battery wire. You might want to electrical tape it because they are constantly breaking. I have already replaced this at least 3 times. I have no idea why there's exposed wires on there to begin with.

2nd thing to watch is the plastic screw driver which is necessary to change the color of lights on the LED or the pulse speed input so it's something that's necessary but apparently fragile as the head usually breaks off.


3rd thing that breaks continually is the vibrating motor output which also has an exposed wire between the motor itself and the bit. Perhaps electric tape would help in this instance too? Or just take my advice and get another output that's just as fun but less exposed like the Buzzer. I have been keeping my eye on the pressure sensor input as well since it says DO NOT BEND and yet it always comes back with a bit of a crease (but still works::knock on wood::). I might swap that out for the motion sensor input since it seems more durable. I would advise to take out anything with exposed wires or fragile components and save those for in house projects.

My other failed attempt at a science kit this year is the 3Doodler 2.0, the first plastic extruding 3D pen, which has too many nozzle and jamming issues. One caused by even a seasoned user like myself while prepping it for circulation. The nozzle broke straight off while I was trying to fix a jam. The previous user left filament in the pen which I can image happening often during circulation as well. Even though my boyfriend swears I have hulk hands, I WAS being careful and following the instructions to the letter. Here are some examples of the fine details to fixing jams with this pen:

  Unscrew the nozzle only when the pen is hot (Spoiler: the nozzle isn't that secure in the removal tool once out so don't do it over your lap). It also makes references to "pulling out" the filament GENTLY or it could ruin the gears inside. Then using another special tool (which could get lost easily) to push filament through the pen, stopping when you feel resistance..this is all very detailed, delicate work that could occur at home with the patron or every time this comes back jammed to the librarian.

Even normal pen usage is quite detail oriented, you have to be sure that the temperature matches the filament being used and (spoiler: once out of the package PLA and ABS look the same!) So if you were going through with the kit, I'd only keep one or the other in there so they don't get mixed up.

So moral of this story is science kits are a wonderful thing to add to your library collection but there is always time to reflect on the number and delicacy of the pieces being circulated.



Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Adventures in Soldering: Holiday Tree Project Velleman MK100

I was infuriated that there weren't any soldering videos out there for this so called "beginner" project so I made my own with mistakes and all. Keep in mind I've only soldered twice in my life. Once I made a Larson Scanner for a pumpkin (Battlestar Galactica Cylon) and the second time I made a Maker Bot badge. 

Keeping with the Christmas theme for the makerspace events this month, I used the Velleman MK100 kit Christmas Tree.  I will tell you out of the three projects the Maker Bot badge is where to start as a "beginner". When I hosted the class last Saturday, anyone who hadn't soldered before watched a brief intro video Soldering 101 from Adafruit (I just skipped to where there are close ups of the soldering procedure) and then I supervised while they made a Maker Bot badge. I am happy to say that all the kids successfully finished the tree and badge in an hour and they all worked (SPOILER: unlike my first try). The middle schoolers were on their own but Gr. 4-6 required a parent to help. It made my day that a dad and daughter pair came to complete the project.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Cozmo, the new library pet?

I saw a very interesting ad on Hulu last week which introduced me to Cozmo, the latest edition of mass market toy robots. Cozmo is Wall-E come to life literally AND I NEED HIM.



He has his own personality that is directly affected by your actions with facial recognition software so he can actually recognize you and learn your name. He can request if you'd like to play through a phone or iPad and if you say no, he gets SAD! The more you play with Cozmo, the more features you unlock. Here is an awesome unboxing and demo of his skill set from Dad Does. He might be this year's hottest Christmas toy since he's "out of stock" at the moment everywhere and is going on e-bay for $500.


Needless to say, this is on my library wishlist. Imagine kids coming to visit Cozmo and he would recognize them and want to play ? He's the new allergy friendly library pet! TAKE MY MONEY!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Happy Hour of Code Week


Don't forget that next week is the Hour of Code, a global initiative to entice people of all ages to learn one hour of coding through games.  You don't need to do anything more than download some promotional materials and lead patrons to the website for them to sign in.  To extend the hour of code beyond the website, we'll be putting out some of our robots to try.

This year's newest addition to our circulating collection is the adorable Dash robot. Who is by far my favorite robot that I have played with because Dash actually has a personality! I immediately wanted to hug him and yell "Johnny 5 Alive!" Dash talks, blinks, lights up and runs around on 3 wheels. He has a companion robot, Dot, many fun accessories, and even Lego brick adapters.

The apps that I downloaded for him on our iPad gen. 2 (gen 1 won't work) are:

Blockly
Path
Blockly Jr.
Wonder

Wonder is the hardest and least intuitive app, aimed for experienced robotics users or at least middle school students with Path being the easiest.  I posted a video of Dash at the race track using Path on Instagram. Blockly took a few minutes to get going but if you have any experience with Scratch programs it will be immediately understood.  All of these are free downloads.

My other new robot this year is for the preschool set called Bee Bot. He doesn't require an iPad and is simply there to teach basic order of operations using 7 buttons on his back: LEFT, RIGHT, FORWARD, BACKWARD, STOP, PAUSE & GO. Here is a great classroom example of its use.  You could build it a little obstacle course and challenge kids to safely make Bee Bot go through the path.

I was practicing with Dash today at the desk and a little boy about 2 came up to it completely in awe. He WOULD NOT talk to me but he readily said, "Goodbye Dash!" on his way out. His grandmother had said this is probably his first experience seeing a robot and isn't that what the " Library of the Future" is all about?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

3D Printing Holiday Ornaments

This holiday season, I was inspired by snowflake silhouette 3D prints and wanted to teach a class using the draw-print image method I have blogged about previously.



This time I would skip the drawing step and use google images to find a pre-made silhouette.   I started by googling Mario star silhouette. I saved the file as a JPG then converted to SVG using online-convert, imported into Tinkercad, then hit CTRL + D  multiple times for smart duplicate (thank you Tinkertips). I tried once with mario stars and twice with the Doctor Who Tardis.


Here are my results..

 My conclusion was trying to teach a class in this is much too complicated for beginners. It required much more precision (as shown in the Mario star snowflake that broke apart because the stars weren't connected enough) as well as finding silhouettes that lend themselves to 3D printing. The Tardis was having issues because of design alone. By making the Tardis 20% fill, it wasn't enough for the 48 mm size to complete the shape, then when almost doubled to 98 mm it was still stringy and took over 4 hours..which anyone who has a 3D printer knows that it could be many things in the "under extruding" troubleshooting category. Maybe the nozzle retraction, maybe the nozzle needed to be hotter, etc. I gave up for now.

Moral of the story I went to doing very simple ornaments like the one shown below. These were 2 hour or less designs using the Google image search- print silhouette method.


Let's go step by step with the tree..

1. Google image search for "Christmas Tree silhouette", right click on mouse and SAVE IMAGE AS. 



2. Go to online-convert.com. Under image converter chose SAVE AS SVG, click GO.

3. Next page, CHOOSE FILE, then scroll down to CONVERT FILE. 


4. Open Tinkercad, CREATE NEW DESIGN and go to IMPORT (right side toolbar). I recommend changing the settings to scale to 10% with 5mm thickness otherwise it is going to be HUGE on the screen. Click IMPORT.



5. Add cylinders for the "balls" , I just got one to the size of my liking, turned it into a hole using the INSPECTOR, and then copy and pasted a few more so they are the same size and moved them around the tree


6. Add a ring shape to the top.  (Ignore the ring in the last picture I'm working backwards in the tutorial)

7. Highlight everything and click on GROUP. 


There are a few different avenues students could go in. They could make cylinders sit on top of the tree for christmas balls, add letters, star on top, or make an ornament of their favorite characters instead to make it a bit less Christmas focused and potential for a fun Hanukkah gift!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

DIY Halloween: Unicorn Light Up Hoodie

This tutorial is a combination of the DIY unicorn hoodie tutorial I found on Pinterest and Adafruit's light up unicorn 3D print tutorial. I used some supplies from Adafruit's candle bows that we made a few years back instead of buying new materials. You can buy the sewing conductive kit separately on Adafruit without the bows.  I won't go through every excruciating detail but here are some tips that they don't mention and a few workarounds that worked for me based on my supplies. 

Supplies needed from both tutorials: 
Hoodie (dress in my case)
Yarn
3D printed Unicorn Horn with LED base
3D printer with clear PLA filament (I didn't use flexible as the tutorial calls for and it was fine)
1 LED (11mm tall X 7.91 mm wide)
Conductive Thread
Needle (small enough the fit through the battery holder brass side holes. In the Adafruit kit, I used the smallest needle on the right)
Battery Holder
Regular Thread
Felt (not necessary but handy- see bottom note)
Safety Pin
Scissors

Unicorn Horn

Step 1: Make sure that the LED works. I placed the battery in-between the leads, matched up the sides of the LED to the positive/negative sides of the battery and squeeze. ++/-- It should light up. 


Step 2: Label the positive lead of the LED with a marker. It will make your life easier later. The positive lead is always the longest one but once you bend them it's hard to tell. 

Step 3: Place the LED in the 3D printed holder and bend the leads out in opposite directions, Attach unicorn horn on top by sewing regular thread in the printed holes first to stabilize the horn. The LED leads should be sticking out in opposite directions. 

LED leads poking out from under the holder




Step 4:  Using conductive thread, sew the LED leads separately. One thread should wrap around the positive lead of the LED through the positive side (labeled brass hole) of the battery holder. Another separate thread wrap around  the negative lead of the LED through the hoodie to the negative side of the battery holder (labeled brass hole). Wrap it around each lead few times back and forth. Make sure it is tight. The positive thread and the negative thread shouldn't be touching or the circuit won't work. The battery holder is directly underneath the unicorn horn on the inside of the hood. The conductive thread is the silver, regular thread is the white. 
view from the top with LED lead wrapped in conductive thread


view of  battery holder from inside the hood

Step 5: Unlike me, make sure to take your tutorial pictures BEFORE assembling. This is the part where I would add all the yarn hair in (despite seeing the above pictures to the contrary) and this tutorial does a great job in walking you through that piece.  I used tri-colored yarn and wrapped 30 times around my hand rather than 3 separate spools of each color 10 times for each "pom pom". It took the whole package including making the tail which I just attached to the back of the hoodie with a safety pin. I also hand sewed each "pom pom" on the seam of the hoodie while the tutorial says glue gun would work. I didn't trust it!


In hindsight, I should have sewed (or glued) it all onto one long felt strip that I could easily take on and off with velcro or a button from the top of the hoodie. Now I have no way of washing the hoodie but if it is just meant for one day then it doesn't matter. Another word to the wise, I purchased this hoodie dress discount at Sears for $3 and thought that the lilac color wouldn't matter. However, when making the ears I had a terrible time finding a matching felt color so I ended up cutting off the front hoodie pocket and hand sewed ears. I should have gone with a white color! Alas, seam ripper you are a good friend today.


Monday, October 17, 2016

More 3D printing opportunites

Think of all the kits in your collection that may have been thrown away because the parts could not be replaced! I recently designed a replacement xylophone mallet for a circulating children's kit. Thanks to the digital caliper I was able to measure the dimensions from the old one on the right (was it chewed!? these mysteries bother me) and added some upgrades like a handle using premade shapes in Tinkercad to the new one on the left. Since printing in PLA isn't as strong as the typical ABS plastic, I made a thicker bottom. This printed in 2 hours and took me 15 minutes to create in Tinkercad. Just another example of staff using the 3D printer in their daily lives!


Speaking of which, Halloween is coming up so this year's costume was inspired by an Adafruit tutorial on lighting up a unicorn horn.   The library staff has decided to be storybook characters this year so it was right up my alley. The free horn, including a bottom to fit an LED and sew-able clips, took 2 hours to print with clear PLA on our Ultimaker 2 Extended (I did not have flexible filament and it worked just fine). We have leftover conductive thread and LEDs from the adafruit candle bows we had made a few holidays ago which I sewed into a hoodie rather than soldering or buying any more materials that the tutorial suggests.  I then went back to my days of hand making pom poms out of yarn and VIOLA! A more detailed tutorial including a picture where it actually lights up will be posted next week.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

DEMCO has a makerspace section

DEMCO, a huge retailer of all things library, released a makerspace section of their website that offers furniture solutions like makercarts, portable storage cabinets and even popular science kits like littleBits! For libraries having a tough time buying from outside vendors, this would be a viable solution, albiet a bit pricier than other vendors. Libraries usually have a DEMCO supply account especially if they have bought furniture in the last decade. I'm drooling over the 3D printer cart as we speak.



Even if you couldn't afford DEMCO prices, maybe there is someone handy on staff that could DIY some of these furniture ideas onto stuff we already have. If I could buy anything in my dream makerspace, my top 3 would be: 3D printer cart, STEM cart, and some mini folding flip tables.   I'm really into everything being on wheels lately. Our library's makerspace isn't "dedicated" so the thought of having roving carts and tables that are easy to cart around our 3 floors is very appealing. A librarian can dream can't she? :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Halloween 3D Printed Pumpkins

I can't take credit for this one. I subscribe to the Newton Free Library events calendar because they have lots of great examples of STEM programming and this one particularly struck me. This October they are virtually "carving" pumpkins in Tinkercad. Thanks John Walsh!

The skills learned in Tinkercad for this project are holes, grouping, using multiple workplanes and rotating shapes. TIP: Make sure to leave plenty of room between the eyes and the mouth or it won't have enough solidity to print properly. I left 11mm distance between the end of the eyes and the beginning of the mouth. 

Step 1:
I imported a pumpkin shape from the web and added a sphere from the pre-made shapes on the left sidebar of Tinkercad.


Step 2: I added a new workplane on the front center of the sphere (now orange grid appears). I used the roof for eyes and the round roof for the mouth out of the pre-made shapes. The shapes needed to be sized and rotated. Then grouped it all together.


Step 4: I made all of it a hole which is the essential "carving" of the pumpkin and moved it into the center of the white pumpkin. This would make the inside hollow for the most part and cut down on printing time. Plus it will add dramatic effect when a light is shined through it.



Step 3: I grouped everything together.




It took about 4 hours to print a 50 x 50 x 61 mm (ish) pumpkin without any supports besides the brim. (Supports are a PAIN to get out of the pumpkin this small). CURA set up was for "normal print" with print speed of 50mm/s.













Anyone who knows me will not be surprised that my second one was a cat!
HAPPY HALLOWEEN!