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Freeside is a Georgia nonprofit corporation, organized to develop a community of coders, makers, artists, and researchers in order to promote collaboration and community outreach. Learn more »

This Week at Freeside

Again with the weekly (more or less...) list of delectable offerings by Freeside, your friendly local dragon and hamster breeder.

Sunday, 10/20: Freeside Laser: Basic Usage and Safety at 2pm
Learn how to use Freeside's new Laser Engraver/Cutter (wiki page). You'll learn how to use the software toolchains to cut or engrave vector and bitmap artwork into a variety of materials. And after the class, you'll be eligible to schedule a one-on-one session an approved user to supervise and assist with your first project, and thereby gain authorization to use the laser unsupervised. That's right. Just you and the laser. $40/person. Pay on Meetup.

Tuesday, 10/22: Chump Car Build at 7pm
Ever wanted to race a car, build a moving art project, or learn to work on a car? Here is your chance to do one or all three! Please join us at Freeside to learn more! And it's totally free, man.

And simultaneously...

Tuesday, 10/22: Open House at 7:30pm
Where the house is open, and the tours are free. If this is your first time to visit Freeside, or you want to hang out with the members, here's your best chance. Happens every week, but you want to go this week, I promise. Free, so long as you are more than 50% organic, original human material.

Wednesday, 10/23 and Thursday, 10/24: 
Introduction to Electricity, Magnetism, and Energy at 7:30pm
In this class you will learn the terminology of electricity, magnetism and energy. You will learn some of the history behind the works and discoveries of Einstein, Maxwell, Tesla, Faraday and many other experimenters and theorists from the past to the present. We will not avoid discussing controversial aspects of the differences in the views of these larger-than-life individuals. Two nights only! (Attend one or both nights!) $20/person. Pay on Meetup.

As always, check out the Meetup for more info, and to RSVP to classes and stuff. And don't forget to take a snapshot and email it to me!

May the rest of your Octuber be spudtaculous.

Trading Post: Milling Edition

Step right up, ladies and gents!  Never seen such fine taxidermy before?  The best in all the land!

I see a lot of disappointed faces - you there, reading the article!  You some kind of Internet-dwelling, city slicker?  Oh, you are.  Very well then - that's totally not a problem!  What's that you say?  What's going on?!

Welcome to the Trading Post - tales from the wild and unsane world of hackerspace skills trading.

One of the key benefits to being part of a community of skilled people with diverse backgrounds is that you're surrounded by opportunities to try something new and learn from each other.

Whether you're into taxidermy, python, arduinos, or rebuilding arcade machines, you can leverage your skill set to learn new skills from other hackerspace members.  If you successfully find a match, then that's what we at Freeside call The Gift of the Magi moment.  Cherish it.

This week, I promised Paul I'd get his website hosted and up and running with Wordpress.  In exchange, he'd let me take his Introduction to Milling class for free.

My project was simple: machine a new set of jaws for Freeside's bench vice.

The first step in the process is measure, measure, and measure again.  It was little later reflecting on all this that I realized all that talk in middle school about proper measurement and significant figures.  We spent a good hour on the measurements themselves.  After some quick instruction with calipers, and how to draw the plans for the part, I went through and filled in all the measurements, twice - then Paul re-measured, and we were good to go.

Freeside has a vertical mill on loanation from Paul.  It's a pretty awesome machine - it wasn't until I actually got hands-on experience with it that I got some serious appreciation for how versatile it is.  The first thing I learned how to do was to aligning the machine vice.  A dial indicator was traversed across a machine square, and put the vice in alignment.  So, in a sense, more measuring.  Accuracy is king - Paul told me we could machine at a thickness less than a human hair.  This is more than enough for our bench vice jaws!

The milling itself is a straight-forward process, once you understand how the measurement on each axis corresponds to the measurements on the part's plans.  At some point, we had to make some spindle speed adjustments by changing the belts.

After all the milling was done, we drilled out the screw holes, and used another bit to taper them.  The final step is to use a file to smooth out each edge of the machined part.

The end product is that there to the right.  Shiny!

Although I ran out of the time we had agreed on to finish the pipe jaws together, Paul added those in later.  Now, we just need one more to complete the set!

We had a small scare trying it out on the bench vice, when the screw holes didn't line up properly.  It just ended up being a matter of not having them wide enough, so crisis averted!

Besides making something useful for Freeside, I really got a serious appreciation for all the time and skill that goes into manufacturing.  There's some interesting problem solving that I wasn't used to, especially when you're faced with the constraint of one mistake completely messing up the part.

Atlanta Mini Maker Faire - Learn to Solder - Call for Volunteers

It's about time for Atlanta Mini Maker Faire 2013 (10/26). LearnToSolder.org and Freeside Atlanta are once again hosting a free Learn to Solder tent. Last year's tent was a huge success, teaching around 100 kids (aged 4 to 80) how to solder together a basic electronic kit. This year, we hope to double that number, but we need help!

We've got all the supplies, irons, solder, project kits, helping hands, band aids and burn gel. What we need are volunteers to supervise and mentor the kids in constructing the kits. These kits are simple, and designed for first timers, but gives them something they can be proud of and show off. You're there to help troubleshoot (solder bridges, cold joints), teach (show them how to do the first joint), and supervise (make sure they know which end of the iron is the hot one), etc.

Sign up for a shift (as many as you want!) today!
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ah20TrVBysxUdGVKSHd5a0VDV183UEJWamhSX1ZVNlE&usp=sharing

Information about the AMMF: http://makerfaireatl.com/

This years Learn to Solder kit: http://www.makershed.com/Learn_to_Solder_Skill_Badge_Kit_p/mkls01.htm

This Week at Freeside

Hello to all. I hope you're having a fabulous week, made even more tantalizing with the following offerings from Freeside for your enjoyment and edification.

Sunday, 10/6 Liberated Tech Pre-Build and Build at 1pm
Tuesday, 10/8 Chump Car Build at 7pm and Open House at 7:30
Wednesday, 10/9 TED Talks and Discussion Night at 7pm
Thursday, 10/10 CryptoParty at 8pm
Saturday, 10/12 Bicycle Repair 1 at 3pm and Freeside Build Day (and potluck) all afternoon.

And if when you head over to one or more of these events, go ahead and take pictures, share ideas, dig yourself eye-ball deep, and make the space a part of yourself, just as you are a part if it.

Have ideas for classes or events at the space? Get in touch! The only limit is yourself.

-Kendra

An End to a Legacy: Painting Over the Mural

Great numbers turned out to fight the good fight on Thursday. Together we faced the mural and, each in our own hearts, said words over the icon that had been the auditorium mural. I had hated the mural, but in spreading the first layer of grey-green over the inaccurately spray-painted earth, I realized that I did not hate it, but loved it, in its passing, as a metaphor, a cautionary tale. It represents what happens when art and science are separated. Like a guitar tuned to .05 Hz below standard. Like a sculpture slowly collapsing from lack of structural support. The moon, so obstinately shining on the far side of the sun, was a reminder that only together can artists and engineers accomplish beautiful and functional things.

We should all take care to remember that, as we move forward into a brave new age that contains 3D-printers, makerspaces, and DIY culture. Engineers, do not sneer at the BA's of the world. Artists, do not abstain from telling technical types that their designs are fugly (very nicely, of course). And you creatures who have a foot in both lands, do not reject one side of yourself. Only together can we prevent the Bad Astronomy Mural from happening again. Only together can we see the sun's own light shine on the correct side of the moon.

A metaphor for art without science

A metaphor for rising above, on very sturdy ladders.

Helping Rachel from Liberated Tech take apart things for the art party while paint dried.

A blank canvas, a metaphor for what we made, itself a metaphor. It is an infinity mirror of metaphors, if you will humor me, and even if you won't.

Motobrain: High Tech Automotive Power Distribution Unit

It's been about a year since my last Kickstarter, a failed attempt to launch a mini USB host Arduino compatible mirocontroller platform. I am back for a double helping of humble pie. This time, my project is a Bluetooth 4 enabled automotive power distribution unit (PDU) and solid state fuse block. I go into great detail of the details of the project at my website motobrain.net and at the Kickstarter page. Suffice to say, it is a really smart, smartphone programmable, PDU with 8 outputs and 4 inputs. The inputs are used to link outputs logically with other circuits (either OEM circuits or custom switches or sensors).

It is a very flexible system. For example, you can setup your aux fog lights to turn on with the ignition BUT it will also turn them off whenever you turn on the high beams. The PDU can sense the ignition and you can program circuits to turn on the in response to the ignition and by linking the high beams to one of the inputs you can program the PDU to shut down the fog lights when that input wire goes to 12V. It may sound a little complicated, and I suppose it is, but it is not hard to do either.

 The Kickstarter launch went great. We reached 10% of our goal in an hour. At 3 days into the campaign we've reached about 30% of the goal so I have to be pleased with the progress we've made. Yesterday we quite a bit of press as well and I think it will put us over the top eventually. Engadget and Hackaday both ran stories and we had mad traffic at the website.


ProCSS Your Styles


Do you need to brush up on your CSS-fu? Freeside is hosting ProCSS, a professional CSS development lecture and workshop Saturday, September 7th 3:00 PM. ProCSS is a people-first look at what makes code good, and how CSS development can be organized for rapid development of front-ends with minimal fuss from browsers and whiny clients. Students will be taught to abandon improvised ("hacky") workflows in favor of a more pragmatic approach that keeps work simple as projects get complicated. The techniques taught in this course apply to dinky five page websites and to enterprise scale web applications.

ProCSS is for people who have used CSS, but who need more practice or a better way of doing things. Experienced CSS developers can also benefit from learning new tools introduced in the course, such as CSS preprocessors and component libraries.

Attending the course gets you lecture notes, source code and an one hour long workshop hosted by an experienced front-end developer. The open source examples are open for students to contribute to on GitHub, which means you can pad your resume for helping other students while sharpening your skills.

ProCSS teaches you what CSS development is really about, and what it means to future-proof both your web application and your outlook on web development.

You can't learn this stuff in tutorials!

If you want in on this, RSVP on Meetup.

Hacker Trips: Making Awesome

This is the first of what are (hopefully) many installments of Hacker Trips - encounters of the first and fourth kind with other hackerspaces throughout the country.  Freeside knows no bounds; our members appear and disappear throughout the world!  We're coming to your hackerspace and it's gonna be OK!  My own travels are likely going to take me to the DenHac sooner rather than later, so I'm definitely planning to report on that.

Tallahassee, Florida.  The word Tallahassee means "abandoned fields" in Seminole.  It is a town of about 180,000 residents, home to FSU and FAMU colleges which turns the city into a ghost town during winter and spring breaks.  Tallahassee kind of looks like a shrunken Atlanta - complete with its own perimeter, airport, and transit system.  I grew up in Tallahassee.  I have fond memories as a child of traversing its fine ground water drainage system that linked all the neighborhoods together, and some parts of downtown, like the old DOT building.  Days of feigned illnesses and put home from school spent unproductively wandering into random backyards or behind government office building shrubbery.  

No dice if you seek manatees, but plenty of turtles and the occasional alligator one must take care not upset while engaged in psuedo-urban trekking.  If there's anything Tallahassee does have is a super abundance of wildlife, forest, and a unique concentration of allergens that defined my destiny.  When I didn't have my face buried into a tissue during the pollen season I was stuck at home, behind an air filter, reading.  No regrets!

There's a handful of fun stuff to do in Tallahassee while you're there.  You can eat the pizza slice bigger than your head at Momo's!  Shoot a game of pool over cheap beer and get served free pizza at Poor Paul's!  There's cool food trucks, art, and live music at Railroad Square.  While you're there, you can also catch a documentary that details how Edward Ball exploited every single square inch of Wakulla Springs.

This past Sunday, I was able to make a pass through Tallahassee and visit Making Awesome (MA).  MA is a 5000sqft, free-standing facility located on a community college campus over on the west side of town.  Had I known about Making Awesome as a young person, maybe I might have picked up on a few skills after school I could be using today.  They share the hackerspace ethos and Freeside vision of providing an environment where exploration and play with technology is encouraged.

There I met with David Brightbill, one of the founders and president of MA, and he quickly put a beer in my hand faster than I could say, "Bully!" We talked at length about our experiences running hackerspaces, trading war stories and the whatnot.  It was a pretty chill space, but you could tell its members definitely enjoyed using all parts of the Making Awesome for their projects.  He took me on a tour of the space.

First thing I thought was great was their access control system.  Here's parts one, two and three of their write up on how they got it working.  Although it's a wired system (in contrast to what we're trying to do with Vuvuzela) it was inspiring to see the whole set up together.  They, too, share a love for the Raspberry Pi so we spent a good while talking about our different approaches.  They've also got plans in the works to create an access system where the RFID card has to rest on a sort of flat reader in order to render a machine operational.  Just a heads up, MA - we'll be copying you on that one.  Let's work together - like the co-mod!

MA has not one, but two CNC machines - one is huge, a 4ft square or maybe 5ft square machine (my eyeballs are spaced weird so who knows) that had some foam swords sitting on it - no doubt, bound for Dragon*Con.  Seeing foam pieces carved into fantastical shapes has got to be some kind of international symbol of trustworthiness.  The other CNC machine is this beautiful machine to the right.  It's a work in progress, but David tells me that when it's completed they'll be slicing through metal like a Talking Heads video.

This wooden thing redefined my architecture.   It's a giant, mobile, tool storage gazebo.  It has all the right places to stow away the tools.  I had intense and wild visions of tools getting stored properly at Freeside if this thing was around.  You could basically push it over to whatever you were working on.  They took that same concept from musicals where the piano is on casters and turned it into a useful thing.  This could appear at Freeside in some kind of musical production.  Grease meets the Village People, directed by John Waters, or such as: everybody dancing with this thing.  I want to dance with it.  It's a world of possibilities.

This was a particularly cool project - Launchpad: Moon - an educational economics board game designed at MA as part of the NASA Space Apps challenge.  It was inspiring to see the laser cut board and pieces!  I've mentioned it a few times but I'm trying to be super sneaky about turning our Analog Game Night attendees into the wonderful world of game development and prototyping.

 Finally, we rounded out the tour with visiting their hydraulic press (watch your hands!), the radial arm saw (watch your arms!), and a totally legit 1930's sewing machine.

It was lots of fun to spend a few hours with the Making Awesome gentlefolk.  If you're ever in Tallahassee for reasons, then you should definitely stop by.  You'll both feel right at home and simultaneously also be made to feel at home!




Infinity Mirror Prototype build

For our art project for Alchemy this year, we plan to build a huge archway in the forest with a portal to hyperspace. This is no easy task, so we decided to do some small-scale prototyping so that we can look into some of the challenges of this build and play with different effects to see what looks the coolest.

Our design is based around an infinity mirror, which is a cool device that is build from one regular mirror and one two-way mirror. Lights placed in the center echo between the two mirrors until they fade too low to be seen. The viewer looks through the transparent side of the two-way mirror and can see the effect move with their perspective.

Kevin and Edward working with the assembled frame.
That's the two-way mirror in the foreground.

 I had some help with the build from Kevin and Edward, who came in for the Tuesday night open house and got recruited to the project. Nathan (not pictured) also joined in to help, so we had 4 people working on it.

We also made the two-way mirror using a standard piece of glass from Home Depot and some mirrored window tint that we ordered online. That was fairly easy to do with 4 people on it, but it would be a total nightmare to do by yourself. Important lesson from the prototype: tint is REALLY difficult to get right.

Once we had both mirrors, we did a quick test by holding the two-way mirror over the regular mirror with the LEDs laid out in between to see how far apart we'd like to space the two.

Because it didn't need to be pretty, but it needed to be easy to disassemble and reassemble, we opted to just build it out of 2x4s and support the frame with cross-braces from the back.

We slotted the 2x4s on the table saw so that we could slide the glass in and out of the assembly. Then, after more tries than I care to remember, we got the frame cut down to a size so that the slots matched the 24x30 dimensions of the glass pieces. We slid the mirrors in while we only had 3 of the 4 frame pieces assembled so that we could get a tight fit with the supporting cross-pieces on the back.

We left the fourth side wall off until the end so that we could attach it with a hinge and a lock, which allows us to pull it apart as needed. We attached a hinge and a locking mechanism that we had laying around the space and the frame was done.

Rather than painting it, we opted to just use black tape to darken the inner walls. Next, we measured the total width of the inner chamber, which was 4x the width of the LEDs as we had planned. For the tunnel to look "even", the spacing between the two LED strips had to be double the spacing between each strip and the side wall. We did the math and found two jigs that were those heights and used them to lay out the strips. Interestingly enough, the adhesive on the backs of the LED strips can't handle the heat that the strips put it out... so we ended up stapling them to the walls.

We accidentally switched Nathan for bizzaro Nathan in the process.
The real Nathan is trapped in mirrorworld somewhere. Safety third!
Finally, we attached the control box and IR receiver for the strips to the top of the hinged piece. The primary colors worked fine, but when trying to get the ting to fade, it started flashing purple and got unresponsive to the IR remote. The problem ended up being that I was using a 12v 1a power supply and needed at least 3 amps. A bigger power supply fixed the issue.

After about 3 hours of work, we got a working prototype finished and learned A LOT about building the full-scale model. Some of these issues would have cost hundreds of dollars or pushed us behind schedule waiting for stuff in the mail. The total cost of this prototype was $100 and I'm gonna turn it into a coffee table when  I'm done.

Here's a video walkthrough of the final prototype (before I fixed the amperage glitch).



Event Highlight: Analog Game Night

Howdy e'rybody! Just wanted to give you a little update on the awesome that is Analog Game Night. We're now up to bimonthly, with board and card game fun to be had on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of every month.


Last Thursday was the first time we went for the second night a month, and given only two days' notice, we still had 11 people show up to play Isla Dorada and The Good, The Bad, and The Munchkin.

There was also poi, Chex mix, a yoga demonstration, and excellent taste in beer. 

So now you know. Y'all come now, and bring games, friends, and beer if you're so inclined and of age. It's a good time, and has been a great way to introduce new folks to the space.

Incidentally, I am also learning to make videos and work a DSLR, so we made this time lapse video of the first few hours of the evening. Enjoy.