Thursday, June 25, 2015

Jewelbots, a new way to engage girls in coding?

The next step in engaging girls into coding could be jewelbots. Jewelbots are friendship bracelets that will allow girls to communicate with each other while Bluetooth syncing with their iPhone and friend's bracelets. They remind me of a girl's hair elastic they are so thin (which might be a design flaw). The bracelets are not available just yet but you can get on the email list.  These bracelets will allow girls to send messages between synced bracelets or get message updates about social media or texts from their phone. So how do girls learn code? The program is Arduino open source based and the website alludes to being able to program a multitude of different commands into the bracelet. reports girls will be able to send messages through Morse code in the bracelets. Another merging of old technology and new!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Our interactive wall is underway!

Last week, when we demoed our 3D printers, one mother asked me, "Why is this at the library?" I think projects like our summer interactive wall will be the answer to her question. Thanks to the help of local artist Sally Dean Mello ,"maker in residence" Kevin Osborn and students from our Tuesday Tinkering Lab, we've begun working on an interactive wall that can be wheeled around the library. Our goal was to have a painted mural wall that patrons can touch with 3D moving aspects.

We started by buying a plastic screened wall which Sally designed and outlined a garden scene. We decided upon this wall because we could move it around the library, or maybe even take it on the road, rather than using one of our permanent walls. For the past 2 weeks, students have been coloring it in with acrylic paint during our Tinkering Lab. We invited art students from the high school to come over and now we have a few newcomers to the Lab. 

While this has been going on, we have also been designing 3D printed moveable parts like butterflies, bees, flowers, and fish to bring the garden to life with our Ultimaker 2, Cube Printer, and even 3D Doodler.  Some students designed their own items while others found already created files on thingiverse or tinkercad. Just the act of selecting what items to print was exciting for them especially for students intimidated by the software.

For the month of July, Kevin will be training students to use the Sparkfun Arduino Inventor's Kit to make the parts move using motion sensors, servos, and sound mp3 shields. Students will learn electronic skills of bread boarding, wiring, and programming the Arduino in C++ code. This whole project has been a wonderful pairing of makerspace and art. Students who might be reticent to learn 3D printing or electronics could be lured in by the artistic aspect of painting the mural and get hooked. Not to mention the marketing appeal of having a finished project to help patrons understand the applications of library makerspace initiatives that were designed by the community. Isn't that what STEAM is all about? Stay tuned for more updates as we go!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Practical 3D Printing Applications

Many of you might be struggling with patrons or staff saying, "Ok what are you REALLY going to use a 3D printer for? I don't want to print out toys." 

Here's a story:

A staff member's mother had broke the knob off her air conditioner. They tried gluing the knob back together to no avail so she would just have to use pliers to turn the piece of metal left that attached the knob right? Wrong! We can just design something in tinkercad to fix the error.

All I needed was the broken knob in question which I measured out in mm and replicated in the design software using the round roof and cylinder shape.  My main concern was that the hole would fit securely so I made sure to measure the height and width of the hole as accurately as I could. I love that the metric system is in 10s. 10cm=1mm where cm is conveniently on most rulers opposite side of the inches.  It fit like a glove! I recommend using the strong setting in the cube software so the piece is strong enough to turn.

Imagine a few years into the future when these printers become more affordable.  You break a part of an appliance like your expensive vacuum. You email the company with a picture of the part in question and they send you a 3D printer replacement file. You print it out on your home printer (or design the part yourself) and you have found a cheaper (and more environmentally friendly) way to make those appliances last. Besides 3D printing organs, what is more practical than that?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

3D Printing Tips

Here are some go to tools to have when 3D printing: box cutter, needle nose pliers, wire snips

The wire snips are handy when you build any kind of supports or rafts onto your project and you need to carefully cut them off. The needle nose pliers I usually use to remove gunk from the tip of the extruder and the boxcutter was for getting off those 3D printed jobs that have stuck themselves to the non heated plate.

My newest tool: painter's tape. Sometimes the simplest things can make life easier. As I was struggling with my box cutter to pry a 3D creation from our Cube 2 non heated plate, a man went by our table at the Cape Cod Mini Maker Faire and said, "Oh just cover the plate with painter's tape". EUREKA! I still have to cover the masking tape with our special glue before printing but now when I try to pull off the creation I just pull at a tape strip and it comes off easily. No more soaking the plate for 10 minutes in hot water or prying it off with a knife (or in the case of the Maker Faire having neither!).

Before the bunny ring, I had printed a chicken and when I tried to pry it off (without the tape) I broke off its legs!!! Nothing like 3 hours of printing for nothing. Luckily a glue gun did the trick to put it back together but the painter's tape would have made it a non issue. 

Check out all the fun things we've printed in our Flickr Album.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Making Makerspace connections at outside events

Well, we went to the Cape Cod Mini Maker Faire last Saturday and had a blast.
Our project table of soldering, 3D designing and 3Doodling was constantly busy and we had to force people to give us a lunch break!

Paul Harhen, our Duxbury engineering friend/inventor, showed up in his homemade car that he drove down on the highway. Wow!

Much of the fun was connecting with the other folks at the fair - Chris Connors and his Martha's Vineyard teens, the gentle folks from the Truro and Centerville libraries, and folks who had made their very own 3D printers.

Getting out to non-library events is a must, we feel, to keep up with all the new things coming down the pike.