Category Archives: Makers

Weekly Maker Meetup Update


The Weekly Maker Meetups have settled in nicely at Watershed PDX.  Make it here! Have some projects you’d like to work on, but could benefit from a creative atmosphere?

Unfamiliar with the Weekly Wednesday Maker Meetups? They’re a make it here event, where people of all ages, skill levels, and backgrounds are invited to work on projects and brainstorm ideas in a safe, supportive, creative atmosphere.

We will supply internet and a space to share ideas and collaborate with a community of fellow creators and makers of all stripes, techies and non-techies alike. We’ll share tips and tricks, and support your creative endeavors! We hope to provide an environment conducive to collaboration, project design, and creation.

The goal for the meetup is to support the local creative scene while providing an opportunity for you to build a network with people of varied skills and serve as an incubator for interesting collaborations of all kinds.

Who should attend? Everyone! From the completely curious, inexperienced beginner, hobbyists, formally educated/ trained professionals.

What sort of projects have people worked on? Sharing a passion and sampling of homebaked bread, tech that would enable the creation of a marauder’s map, origami, large scale art projects for SOAK, an introduction to hardware, pinball machine repair, and creepy doll modifications.

From sewing to electronics to art projects, whether your craft is handmade products, designs, or experiences, we hope you’ll join us! Our next meetup is Wednesday, March 2nd, 6:30-9pm at Watershed (5040 SE Milwaukie Ave).

Important things to note:

  • There will NOT be a meetup on 9 March 2016.
  • By attending this event you agree that neither Watershed nor myself is liable for any injury you may receive while working on your project and that you will follow the Code of Conduct and be awesome to each other.

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Filed under Community Building, Events, Makers

Make, Mod, Create*

Every day, millions of people are working individually and together to make, mold, and mod the world into a better, more enjoyable place. Crafting the details of Oracle‘s glowing armor, rebuilding a Yak, collecting environmental data, and developing new technology are just a few of the many forms of making. Whether you recognize it or not, dear reader, you are one of them.

“Everyone is a maker and our world is what we make it.” – Dale Dougherty

No one is too old to learn a new skill, and breathing life into almost any creation you can imagine is becoming easier. Supplies are more affordable, new tools are more user friendly, websites such as youtube and Instructables bring lessons into your home, and D.I.Y. communities are sprouting like explosive polymerization eliminating the need to be the reclusive tinkerer.

If you are having trouble seeing yourself as a maker, or are toying with the idea of making, but uncertain where to start, try following Adam Savage’s Ten Commandments of Making:

  1. Make something, anything. Getting started can be the most difficult part.
  2. Make something useful.
  3. Start right now. Do a mock up with the tools you currently have available. Never underestimate the versatility of everyday items.
  4. Find a project. Always pick a project that will get you interested in learning a new skill.
  5. Ask for help, advice, and feedback.
  6. Share. Share your techniques, your sources. What are you hiding?
  7. Recognize what you find discouraging, so you can work through it. Acknowledge failure is (usually) part of the project, and an incredibly useful learning tool.
  8. Measure carefully. You can always trim a little more, putting it back can be tricky.
  9. Make things for other people.
  10. Use more cooling fluid. Caring for your tools and using them properly will help them last longer and make using them easier.

If you identify as a creative type and want to hang out with other creative types, you might try checking out your local chapter of Dorkbot, drop in for an open house at a makerspace, or if you’re in the Portland area, drop by our Monthly Maker Meetup!

Further reading:

*This post was originally written for the OSH Park blog, where it was published on December 11, 2014.

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Behind the Scenes of Mindbender Mansion 2 with Thomas Hudson*

Since opening as a temporary museum in 1949, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry has hosted countless exhibits, both stationary and traveling. Traveling exhibits varying in subject matter and size, take wondrous, interactive experiences to five continents, twenty-three countries, and 1240+ clients.

One such exhibition is Mindbender Mansion. Six years after it originally debuted in 2008, OMSI decided to recreate the popular exhibit and contracted Thomas Hudson to design and fabricate electronics for four of the interactive features- the Tilt Table, Spelling Fever, Feeding Frenzy, and Sensing Squares. In this post, he shares a behind the scenes look at what went into the creation of the Tilt Table and Spelling Fever.

The Tilt Table

Photo credit: Thomas Hudson

The Tilt Table is a fun take on a pinball machine. Rather than pulling a plunger or tapping buttons and using flippers, players manually move the table to score points by dropping the ball in goals.

Photo credit: Thomas Hudson

Each of the seven goals has a ball ejector consisting of a simple coil that jettisons a metal rod into the ball. These are sourced through pinball distributors, and are powered by a ~40 volt power supply from Digi-Key. Thomas and his team used relays to convert a 5V signal to send ~40V to the coils for a fraction of a second, which triggers the metal rod to eject the ball.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hudson

Sparkfun’s infrared emitters/receivers were used to create a pinball sensor. An IR beam is projected through a plexiglass tube. When the pinball is present, it breaks the beam and introduces as analog signal into the uController. If necessary, they could be then be tuned appropriately. Mounting the sensors under the table mitigated most of the IR interference from the sun or other light sources. This resulted in very little need for tuning the sensors, and typically a flawless operation.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hudson

In keeping with the feel of a traditional pinball experience, their team wanted to provide the typical sound effects players would expect. To accomplish this, they used an audio shield with SD card on the Teensy3.1 uController, and filled the SD card with all the usual pings and whistles.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hudson

Since the Teensy requires 3.3 volts, they used two level shifters to communicate between 3.3 and the 5 volts necessary for lighting effects and operation of the timer/ scoreboard. A 14-dip, 74AHCT125 level shifter controlled the WS2812 RGB LED rings from Adafruit.  These created attractor LED patterns around each hole that changed to a solid once the goal was made. The other level shifter, a simple mosfet design from Sparkfun, facilitated I2C to the timer and scoreboard. Both shifters are visible on the white protoboard above.

The scoreboard and timer displays are visible on either side of the table.  These are Adafruit’s 0.56” Seven Segment displays.

Spelling Fever

Photo Credit: Thomas Hudson

Spelling Fever poses questions to the participants, which they answer by stepping on a combination of letters and safe squares out of an array of 128. Click here to see it in action!

One of the genius bits of mechanics utilized in the 2008 exhibit was the step-on button. After the button is fully depressed, any additional pressure is absorbed by springs.  A button is mounted with each letter in in a lightbox. The letters are backlit by four LEDs mounted facing downwards, diffusing the light and reflecting it off an aluminum plate.

The LEDs were wired in parallel at 2.25 volts, consuming about ½ amp and heating up the aluminum a little. To decrease the heat and runtime for the LEDs, they used an ‘attractor pattern’ when no one was using the exhibit.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hudson

For ease of transport, letters were divided into banks that can be disconnected for shipping. Each bank consists of 32 letters. Each bank of letters connect to a master controller over I2C.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hudson

Four shift-in registers shift IN all the inputs from the buttons stepped on. Four shift-out registers shift-out to mosfets that trigger the LED lights ON and OFF.  These parts are on a large shield above that fit over an Arduino.

Related Links:

Thomas Hudson’s website

More about Mindbender Mansion on OMSI’s official website

*This post was originally co-written by Thomas Hudson and myself for OSH Park’s blog.

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Filed under Makers, OMSI, Thomas Hudson