Prosthetic LIghts

multi colored lights in a dark room as if plotted on a graph...but as a long exposure photo

While working with a prosthetist (someone that designs, creates and fits artificial limbs) to record and analyze the behavior and performance of of amputees wearing prosthetics, we discovered that we could do more than just capture the information with gyroscopes and accelerometers… we could display it in real time. But that was too much for the human eye to handle. Using a programmable LED strip we were able to strobe different colors representing different axes and motions. And by taking a long exposure photograph in an otherwise dark room we were able to capture rather striking images of the exact data we were seeking to plot. It was real life data visualization.

multi colored lights in a dark room as if plotted on a graph...but as a long exposure photo
Gate tracking with pulsed lights, accelerators, and long exposure photography

Dry Ice Jenga

Group watch a man play jenga with tongs and dry ice over an empty aquarium

Jenga is a pretty simple game… that gets a wee bit trickier when you can’t use your hands. In particular playing with tongs to handle the dry ice means that if you squeeze too hard the dry ice will squeal as it sublimates under the tongs and the tongs move as you squeeze and the gas escapes. It just seems to make people more nervous, but it looks cool – especially if you add blinking LEDs. Using a mitre saw with a simple jig is a good way to turn out uniform pieces in short order.

Flip Flop

The basic flip-flop circuit or astable multivibrator (try telling a bunch of middle school kids that’s the name of this thing). This version was built after the Feltronics Flip Flop, but make so all the components could be used with feltronics. The negative voltage across electrolytic capacitors and the initial race condition meant that this was never the best first contact teaching tool, but that only inspired us to come up with something better. (ssh – this picture isn’t really a flip-flop, can you figure out what it really is?)

Who needs a fiberglass substrate? Paper circuits for the win!

Ben

Of course we have made the flip flop circuit many different ways

Head Manufacture of Felt Integrated Circuits

Giant Jenga

Large Jenga set made from 2x4s

Bored kids at home demanded something to do. 20 minutes in the shop yielded a few hours of fun. Shoes required, and your head must remain out of the fall line. Super easy to make, but one component is not to be missed, the stacking jig to help set things up. We took Giant Jenga everywhere, including MakerFaire Atlanta at Georgia Tech among many other places. This also started a trend for us of making giant versions of simple games and toys.

Feltronics Radio

The first radio created with Feltronics, while functional, was a bit complicated. And as can be seen in photographs of our early days, we did not have a consistent product. All of the pieces were cut by hand, and some individuals did a slightly better job. But it worked! A working radio transmitter in felt!

Felt circuit schematic symbols on whiteboard in the form of a radio circuit
Early feltronics circuit with a mix of hand-cut and laser cut parts.

The second iteration of the Feltronics Radio was a work of simplicity. Working with large fuzzy components is great for the the whiteboard in front of a large classroom. But whiteboards are still only so big and complex circuits lead to very busy schematics that also happen to be difficult to comprehend. The answer was to boil a radio down to it’s most essential components. Thus the 5 component transistor radio transmitter was born… in felt. This particular radio puts out a 1Mhz signal. There is a bit of drift as is to be expected in such a simple radio, but that just makes it easier to pick up on a receiver (no phase lock loop radios please). Kids can understand what each of the 5 components do individually and can even work out how then affect each other. Kids literally have the “I know kung fu” moment, and never look back.

Felt circuit schematic symbols on in the form of a radio circuit connected to oscilloscope showing generated 1Mhz waveform
A much simplified radio… with proof of life!

Soldering Station

Kids soldering. One child has a traditional soldering iron, the other is at a station where the soldering iron is held in place and the components and solder are moved under the held iron.

Soldering is often a challenge when you only have two hands. Having another person offer a third hand usually just results in someone getting burned. Ben decided to not only flip the solution (a third hand to poorly hold the object) and have the soldering iron held stationary. This solution worked great but for all the parts and setup it needed to scale to be useful. Hence the multi station solder… station. Complete with lights and fume extractor.

But you don’t always need a soldering station for a group of people. Sometimes you just need a soldering station that can hold the soldering iron for you.

Laser cut wooden soldering station with fume extractor fan, fume containment dome, lights, and captured (held for you) soldering iron
Ben’s improved soldering station that doesn’t involve kids (or adults!) grabbing the wrong part of the soldering iron.

First Radio

Child holding circuit breadboard with very few wires and an earpiece

The the magic they bring and the powerful way they forever changed the world, radios don’t have to be that complicated.

Joshua Made his first radio with some wire, and earphone, and a diode. He jammed one end of the wire into the ground and a breadboard. Connected that to an earphone which was in turn connected to a diode. The diode was connected to the other side of the earphone and to one more piece of wire thrown high up into a tree… the antenna. That was it!

Radio was brought to life. He could immediately hear a trumpet playing music… on the radio. No tuning required. Actually no tuning is even possible with this simple design, you hear the loudest, strongest station broadcasting. But it’s so simple! This magical arrangement of uncomplicated stuff can pull electromagnetic waves out of the thin and turn them into music.

But the best part was that immediately after hearing sound from no where, Joshua thought of nothing other than to share it with his sister.

Boy and girl crouch low to ground to listen to very primitive radio
Upon hearing sound from the first radio he ever made, Joshua shares it with his sister

Charlotte Mini Maker Faire

Child sitting at a soldering station with adult looking on

Hackerspace Charlotte puts on MakerFaire Charlotte with Discovery Place.

Child sitting at a soldering station with adult looking on

You could call it the greatest show-and-tell on earth, where “makers” — crafters, educators, tinkerers, tech enthusiasts, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, designers, students, performers and exhibitors — show what they make, and share what they are learning as they create. On Oct. 10, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Charlotte makers showcase their inventions, creativity and resourcefulness at the city’s first Mini Maker Faire.

The family-friendly festival, located inside Discovery Place and along North Tryon Street between Sixth and Seventh streets uptown promises to push the limits of art, science and technology.

“Charlotte has a very strong community of innovators, and we are thrilled Discovery Place has the opportunity to help showcase and celebrate the people who make our city a great place to live and work,” says Catherine Wilson Horne, president and CEO of Discovery Place. “Our goal is to educate and engage the local community with the Maker movement in order to attract and inspire curious thinkers, doers and learners, in addition to serving as a platform for local and regional talent.”

Maker Camp at Discovery Place

Child sits watching 3D printer in the Library

Make: CommunitySince it started in 2012, over a million campers connected through Maker Camp and shared their experiences with other campers in the Maker Camp community.

Maker Camp is a great way for communities large and small to engage kids this summer with cool projects and activities. Maker Camp is free for everyone online. Everyone can join, no matter where they live, because Maker Camp is online, and it’s free!Imaginon - The Joe and Joan Martin Center

The children’s Library in Charlotte, Imaginon, hosted Make events all summer long. One of the Charlotte Makerspace members even left a 3D printer out for the kids to play and experiment with all summer long.

Child sits watching 3D printer in the Library
Google and Make’s summer Maker Camp Imaginon with Makerspace Charlotte
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