Fun at the Fun Palace

Last Saturday (18th June) the Lancaster and Morecambe Makers were hosting a ‘Gadget Destruction’ workshop as a part of the Lancaster Mini Fun Palace.

What is Gadget Destruction?

Well it is as simple as it says on the tin, it is a chance to take apart gadgets and items and see how they tick.

The theory works like this:

We all pass through the stage of wanting to pull apart things to see how they work (some of us never leave that stage). Often though we do not get the chance. If they are functional then our parents/guardians and siblings might be a little miffed if we take a screwdriver to the items. If they are broke we may not be praised for the mess or potential danger.

The destruction of gadgets creates a lot of e-waste
The destruction of gadgets creates a lot of e-waste

Gadget Destruction with the local Makers gets around that issue. We have a bunch of adults who have happily taken things apart for years and sometimes put them back together, fixed, or as essential components in something new.

We also have a lot of experience in guessing a function by what the item is connected to, and we learned those from friends, books, the internet, TV and by pulling stuff apart. We like to share in taking things apart and we want to make sure that people learn the skill in doing that. It isn’t just by force (though occasionally force is used) mostly it is by working out the many ways that things are fixed, learning how to take it apart helps in learning how to put it back together.

We are also experienced in knowing what can be a danger before you take a screwdriver to it (so we took away batteries and other hazardous items that were easy to remove or taken out during the destruction process).

How Went the Day?

We had a great time. Thanks to a whole load of gadgets donated to take apart, laptops, monitors, desktops and other assorted paraphernalia. Some people even brought their own.

We had a spectacular group of people who came to visit us. I didn’t have time to count how many came through but at one point there were twenty children between ages three to twelve, with their parents, all taking something apart.

Taking things apart
Children of all ages studiously taking things apart

The Library staff and Fun Palace organisers were very helpful and very supportive and seemed to love allowing us to cause a small area of mayhem in the centre of the library (we did however clean up after ourselves).

Cleaning up after the event
Cleaning up after the event

The kids loved it. I had parents telling me that their normally fidgety children had spent three hours quietly destroying things. But it wasn’t really destruction, it was just messy education 😉

The thrill of being able to pull apart a laptop, or a TV or a toaster was exhilarating and liberating. The look of delight on faces when asked ‘what can I take apart’ and you answer ‘want to pull the rare magnets out of a laptop?’.

As for me, I brought along a five year old who loved being able to take apart a laptop and spent a good twenty minutes playing with diffusers from a television. It was ace.

Ben and the diffuser
Ben and the diffuser

So even though I was a part of this and loved being on the ground on the day, I want to say thanks to all my fellow LAMMers. This includes those who couldn’t make it on the day but helped in the preparation and take down of the event. You’re all stars.

Castles

Those of you that know me will already know I have two young boys (and a third imminent), for those that don’t well, you do now. As a small, fun, afternoon project with some cardboard I recently built a castle with the eldest to replace the one that got wet that he built at school.

Which got me to thinking…

I have Inkscape. I have access to a Makerspace. It has a laser… to the drawing board.

After about a week of real time passing (and about 8hrs playing in Inkscape) I had design version 2.0 of my castle (if we assume that the cardboard was version 1.0).

It’s not bad, it needs a few tweaks and stuff but it came out quite well. A few hours with a pot of glue and a Stanley Knife for minor corrections (mostly tight fighting pegs) and it was all done.

The kids love it, and you can all have a look at some of the pictures of it below.

Now, will I have time to do a version 3.0? I think it needs a redesign from the ground up to be bigger 🙂

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A boy and his castle
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I even built little supports for the battlements
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It’s a ‘LAZ’R’
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45 minutes to cut 3 sheets of A3
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Towers and supports – roughly Lego Minifigure sizes
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The Gatehouse could be modified to have a drawbridge as well as a portcullis
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A whole bag of bits to assemble
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Hmmmm very church-esque

More ballz

As part of the continuing Manchester MakeFest preparations, and in particular the Amazeballs challenge from Manchester HACMan tonight I completed the next step of my marble (well pinball) run drop.

This is a large version of the version 2 Lammballz. So essentially a Version 3 Lammballs and is 555mm by 300mm made from a combination of perspex and birch.

Big thanks to the ever-wonderful Tom Bloor for help with the setting on the laser cutter, design done as always in Inkscape. Images of the unfinished (needs lots of glue/fixings) version with business card for scale, below.

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I Made a Thing

So last night I made a thing at the hackspace and although it is relatively simple and small I am inordinately proud of the thing that I made.

You may, or may not, have heard that there is a Makers event in Manchester (Manchester MakeFest, I believe this to be a faire or carnival of makers) that is to be held at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) on the 11-12th August. For that event the folks at Manchester HackSpace have created a AmazeBalls challenge and we at LAMM are trying to create something for it.

My small part in this is to create a small pair of ball drops. One of which I am cutting out of wood using the laser cutter and the other I am making from scratch (predominately) using a 3D printer. This challenge is a great way for me to start to play with both Laser and 3D printing.

Last night I designed a simple rail in Inkscape.

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I then took the simple rail and extruded it in OpenSCAD with a lot of patient and generous help from Tom Bloor (who guided this old duffer through the openSCAD way of doing things).

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And then I sliced the resulting stl files in the 3D printer softare.

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Then I printed and played with them as they seem to work 😉

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It was a great achievement, I said it was small, for me and it was another example of how a place like the Lancaster Space can inspire you to create using a variety of tools even if you are new to them or an ‘old duffer’ like me. Thanks all for the pointers and help, a big thanks to Tom for all his gentle tutelage.

Stamp It

There was a small, determined, and succesful combined effort at the Lancaster Space this week.

Stamps

Those of you familiar with the MakerSpaces will know that there is a MakerSpace Passport. This is a copy of a traditional passport with the idea that you fill it with stamps from the various hackspaces you visit.

Hackspaces themselves are encouraged to make stamps for the visitors.

We at LAMM took this into hand and made a collective effort amongst some of the members to make a stamp for the Space and for the LAMM people.

Make It

  • Darren provided us with some laser-ready rubber from which to create the stamps.
  • Claire checked online for the details and did the organising of data and information.
  • Mark designed the logo in Inkscape.
  • Tom designed the handle and performed the Laser and 3D printer duties.
  • Ian drank coffee and cola and made jokes when we forgot to reverse the first cut.

The end result is something we are proud of and also means we have now costed the time, effort, process for creating custom stamps, which is another service we can provide or that we can teach to local people.

The Wonderful Chaps at Andrews and Arnold

andrews_and_arnold_ispStarting a Hackspace is a daunting task, there is the finding of a space itself, the tools, members, and then the inevitable bills to pay. Hackspaces tend to be run as businesses, as such they are liable to pay rates, they usually have rent, there is power and then the associated costs. There is little left over for luxuries such as Internet, which is a shame as the Internet and connectivity is an essential need in the modern world.[1]

We discovered that our budgets would likely suffer if we had to get an internet connection, however we approached some providers for their rates and explained our situation. That’s when those wonderful chaps at Andrews and Arnold came through for us.

Andrews and Arnold are renown in the community as a professional internet provider. They are not the cheapest service, and there is a reason for that, they focus on quality and not cutting corners or reducing customer service or satisfaction. For the Lancaster and Morecambe Makers they have generously agreed to provide us with a year of internet provision to help us establish ourselves.

We at LAMM and the Space in Lancaster are humbled by the generosity and it will help us settle and establish in our first year. We will raise a merry toast to our Internet Sponsors at Andrews and Arnold.

[1] This is especially true if you are trying to be a digital/creative hub and work space.

Bedside lighting

I am new to the whole hacking, making, playing, soldering and generally hands-on construction and so my time at the hackspace is always a steep learning curve.

One of the projects that I have been tinkering with was to take a couple of old, well toys really – but toys for me as an adult, and make them into something new. What i decided to do was build a bedside light with two switches, some ultra-bright LEDs and a blue LED. The toys were a Doctor (model of David Tennant’s doctor) and a TARDIS safe (that had stopped functioning).

I basically ripped the electronic guts out including the microchip board, added a bit of lego and Sugru’d LEGO in the TARDIS and to David’s feet so he would stand upright, and then made a board for the 5 lights in the doorway. A little tinkering with a drill got me the holes for two switches, a push button for the decorative lights and a two stage switch for the main ultra-brights, and we were done.

I have re-used something and made a useful light for my bedside. It is hardly on the same scale as the hacked sensors that have appeared on this blog in the last week, but I am still moderately pleased with the result.

Sponsors Page

Yesterday we added a new page to our website at Lancaster and Morecambe Makers. This is the Sponsors page and it is to recognise all those who have made a contribution to our group and our hackspace.

The sponsors page is about the companies who have given us support, services and advice to help us come into existence. But we think our sponsors are also individuals and the first group we want as a permanent roll cal of honour on the site are the Founder Members who gave us funds to help us get off the ground.

Take a few moments to have a look at all the people who have helped so far, and if you can help, or know someone who might be able to help us make more services or grow, then please point them at us as well.

Two 3D soon to be Three or Four…

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The Space in Lancaster has acquired a second 3D printer that can be used by Members who have completed the 3D Printing training. This machine is the property of Mark Keating who is allowing use of the machine by members as long as they pay for the costs of the material that is extruded.

The printer is a model of the Replicator 2 and has twin nozzles. This means that it can be used to print with two different maetrials at the same time and can utilise a variety of printing techniques. It should be possible to combine elements such as hard filament and ninja flex to print wheels with tires in situ on a single run.

The printer will take PLA and ABS and is being tested with other materials. It can also handle support material allowing for more complex prints to be achieved.

At this time Mark and Tom are calibrating and testing the printer, they will soon add a part cooling mdification which will further enhance the machine and will be looking to add a glass bed.

A Code of Conduct

The Directors of the Lancaster and Morecambe Makers have today published a ‘Code of Conduct’ to the website that will also be posted in the Lancaster ‘Space’.

There are strong reasons to set a basic code for behaviour in shared spaces and to announce in advance what measures can be taken to respond to any potential incidents. This is particularly true for the ‘Space’ as we wish to encourage younger members to attend and to make the ‘Space’ available to all sections of our society.

We’d ask all members, visitors and guests to be aware of the Code of Conduct which is based upon a principle of respect.