Mike's Light Sculpture

The Electronics and Sculpture class I taught this semester wrapped up a few weeks ago and my students showed their final projects at Arts+Tech Night in May. I’ve included a few photos in this post, but each student also posted their project online, so check below for more links.

Lionel's Brick

The class was structured around five projects in total, with three being smaller projects focusing on digital input/output, analog sensors controlling 2-3 digital things, and the third using analog input/output. The last two projects were larger, one being the mid-term project and the other being the final project, which was then shown to the public during Arts+Tech Night, and treated as an installation for the event.

Greg's Drumming Machine

The books we used for the course were Make: Electronics: Learning Through Discovery by Charles Platt and Programming Arduino Getting Started with Sketches by Simon Monk. I think the amount of reading was fairly minimal, but needed up front for a lot of the things we did later in the semester.

William's Ugly Box

Much of the first half of the semester was spent going through some of the basics of electrical circuits and getting up to speed with the Arduino, learning how to wire things up, write code, and use libraries. Some students had never written code before, while others had never really built physical things before. Some students were more versed in the digital arts while others were more skilled in creating sculptural things. Students who had access to the DCRL had an advantage due to the tools and equipment they had access to (and the fact that they studied with Frankie.)

Matt's Controller

As part of the class, each student had to post their work on a public web site. Some students had blogs or portfolio sites, and some created new sites. Here’s the list of students and their web sites:

Not every student managed to write up their project, which caused me much sadness, but many did a great job of documenting their work and process.

Alycia's Kiosk

I’ll be teaching Electronics and Sculpture 318 and 418 again in the fall, and it looks like 6 of my 318 students are returning for 418 (the advanced class) so I can’t wait to see what they come up with next time!

Arduino Nano Holder

I made another boring 3D printed part, and I say that in the best possible way. I mean, in some ways we may be at the point where creating a custom part is a little boring.

For anyone who has access to a 3D printer the magic at first is having a machine that can make a thing. The next level of magic is being able to design a thing and then make that thing. (I’d add that making a thing repeatedly, in an automated fashion, and sharing the thing with others who can do the same, is another level of magic.)

Anyway, I needed a thing, so I did a search and found the thing, which is an Arduino Nano mounting base. I downloaded it, printed it, and it wasn’t quite what I needed, and didn’t print very well. No matter, I just designed my own.

Arduino Nano Holder

Here’s my Arduino Nano Holder. I designed it very quickly, printed it, and it was ok but not great, so I tweaked things a bit and printed again. The same afternoon I needed a thing, I had a thing. I then shared the design with others so they could have the thing. In the first two days it was online 14 people found it useful and/or interesting.

I think that people forget that half the magic is in the physical making of the thing, and the other half is in the “virtual” making of the thing. Designing the thing with software. This is part of the problem that the “I’ve got a 3D printer, what do I do with it now?” presents.

Plenty of organizations are getting 3D printers with no clear plan of how they will be used. They are magical machines, but magic requires a wizard, or whatever you want to call someone with the skills to design 3D objects. And yes, the software is getting better/easier, so there is hope.

I may need to design another part next week, and it probably won’t be amazing or spectacular, but it will get the job done, and getting the job done is more important to me than magic.

Photo by Todd Bol

One of the projects I started and haven’t made much progress on yet is the Little Free Hack Rack. The concept smashes together the idea of a Little Free Library and a Hack Rack into something that’s just crazy enough to work.

We even set up a web site at littlefreehackrack.org for this thing… Oh, and what is this thing?

Little Free Hack Rack
Illustration by Kathy

Just like a Little Free Library the Little Free Hack Rack should be a weatherproof enclosure with a door, but it would contain miscellaneous items that could be useful to makers and hackers. You could stock it with some resistors, LEDs, capacitors, or other components. You might put your old cell phone in it, knowing someone might grab it just for the screen or the keypad. We might be able to keep old tech out of the landfill by promoting the recycling and reuse of materials.

I’d love to some day offer plans to create your own Little Free Hack Rack with cut files for laser cutters and CNC machines. In an ideal world someone at a makerspace could download the files and build their own Little Free Hack Rack and have it out near the curb in a very short time frame.

Let me know if you build a Little Free Hack Rack for your front yard!


I’m almost set for the Zoom Milwaukee Symposium this week. I’ll be in the Maker Plaza teaching people how to solder with the DIY kit I’ve been working on for the last few weeks. (Check out Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV if you haven’t seen them yet.)


It doesn’t look like a lot, but there’s over 100 PCBs that were made at home. I cut all the vinyl, etched them, drilled them, cut them apart, and sanded the edges.


There are a few options for LEDs, ranging from plain green and blue to flashing red and flickering orange. (There’s probably over 400 LEDs here.)


The resistor you use will depend on the LED you choose. I’ll be able to talk about limiting current and how it is calculated for different LEDs.


And of course there are batteries. I’ve got 100 CR2032 cells, which came in just under $18 for all of them thanks to ebay.

Binder Clips

There are 144 binder clips to hold the batteries to the PCBs. Again the cheapest I could find, thanks to Amazon.

Wire & Solder

A few spools of solid core wire and some solder. (I’ve got more solder than this, not that we’ll need a lot, but multiple rolls are helpful.)


I also went crazy and got some Neodymium magnets in case people want to attach their PCB to other things. (I tried to arrange the magnets a bit more orderly for the photo but it was impossible!)

Zoom PCB

Here’s the back of the PCB. You can see how the board has been etched to leave just the copper traces to complete the circuit. (The ring around the edge is just a guide for the cutting and sanding.)

Zoom PCB

Here’s the front of the PCB. You can see the LED, resistor, and the wire that leads to the back through the hole which serves as the battery connector. And of course the binder clip holds the battery in place.

Zoom PCB

You can remove the arms of the binder clip if you want to stand the PCB up, attach it to something, or just be more streamlined.

Zoom PCB

Zoom PCB

PCB Wearable

And hey, with the addition of the magnet you can even turn it into a wearable! Be the envy of the Zoom After Party (wait, is there one?) with your flickering, flashing, or constantly lit LED PCB!

This is just one post in a series, check out the other posts as well:

Craft Hammer

I made a few Baltic Birch hammers (laser etched and laser cut) as a follow-up to my CRAFT Screwdriver (which was just vinyl cut.)

Craft Hammer

Here’s the design and mock-up. I use Inkscape for the design process, and occasionally create the mock-up images using Photoshop.

Craft Hammer

This hammer is not the size of a normal hammer. It’s over 400mm long, which (being nearly 16 inches) is big. Why such a big hammer? Because, reasons…

Craft Hammer

Actually, this specific hammer was given to Frankie Flood, who has had a huge influence on my work the past few years. Since he’s leaving Milwaukee, I wanted to give him something that would be suitable for hanging on the wall in his new studio.

Craft Hammer


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