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Laser Pointer Switch

Laser Pointer Switch

I modeled a laser pointer switch which you can use with your cheap laser pointer to turn it on and do stupid things like throw it in the air while doing long exposure photography. (Actually, that’s not a bad idea! Or is it?)

Laser Pointer Switch

OK, these are really part of the Laser Maze we’ll be running at Maker Faire Milwaukee this year. The last thing I did for Laser Maze was the mounts, but Vishal is still doing most of the hard work on this project. (Thanks, Vishal!)

Laser Pointer Switch

If you want one, you can grab it from Thingiverse or Youmagine. And remember kids, laser are dangerous, don’t just go pointing those things around!

Laser Pointer Switch

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Laser Maze Mounts

My plan for Maker Faire Milwaukee’s 2015 Laser Maze got a little sidetracked, but that’s okay, because Vishal ended up writing some of the code I needed for another project and then I decided to just have him take over the some of the build.

Laser Holder

I did get a few more things done in recent weeks, like making these mounts to hold the lasers in place. Adam provided us with these clamp devices meant to hold a flashlight on your bike, but the lasers are a smaller diameter and tended to shift around, which isn’t great when you need to align lasers…

In our first attempt to make something that would go into the flashlight mounts and adapt to the size of the lasers, we ran down to the basement shop at the museum and used a hole saw in the drill press to cut a piece of plastic, and then we drilled another hole, and cut out a piece using the band saw. This was a neat idea, but did not work.

Laser Holder

The hand-fashioned one just wasn’t quite the right size. We didn’t have the exact hole saw or drill bit sizes needed, and the plastic just didn’t flex enough to allow for tightening. I ended up pulling out the calipers to get exact measurements and re-create what we tried to do with 3D printing.

Laser Holder

The 3D printed version sort of worked, but it was tough to slide the laser into place. I could have just kept trying to get the perfect fit, but instead of trying to emulate the limitations of using a drill and saw, I modified the design to have less surface area where the laser was sliding in, and also allow for more flex, and more strength, due to the way 3D printing works.

Laser Holder

These pieces don’t have a lot of infill, and they don’t need them. The shape of the interior section provides extra strength because of the nature of how it’s structured.

Laser Holder

These mount should work well, and the bike flashlight part saves me the trouble of creating an entire mounting system, or modifying previous mount work.

We’ve got less than 90 days until Maker Faire Milwaukee so hopefully we can get a test set-up running within the next 30 days or so.

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Museums and Making and Work (and Fun!)

BBCM

Since the semester wrapped up at UWM and left me with a summer of no work or classes, I thought it best to get a job and return to the “normal” world of work. (I know, supposedly academics take summers off and don’t do anything. Kidding!)

I’ve accepted a position as “Technology Project Manager” at the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. I’ll be working on developing a number of exhibits as well as a few other things, not the least of which is helping plan Maker Faire Milwaukee coming up on September 26th & 27th, 2015. This is pretty darn exciting for me. I attended my first Maker Faire just a few years ago and now I’m helping organize the largest Free Featured Maker Faire in the world. I’m passionate about people showing off the amazing things they create, so helping make that possible is pretty amazing. (Also, I’m now dealing with some of the folks I’ve known for years at Make in a day-to-day capacity. Neat!)

MakeShift MKE

I’m also helping out with things like MakeShift MKE, which is an adults-only event we have at the museum once a month which involves things like fire, drinking, making, and hacking. This takes place in BAM Space the “Be A Maker” Space within the museum. (Web site coming soon!) It’s basically a mini-makerspace that does programming for kids, but also caters to adults and families. It’s still in development, but it’s going to be awesome.

Oh, and because I never finished the multiple posts I started writing, this all came about due to some work I did with the museum last fall to develop a part of their Word Headquarters exhibit. At some point I will post more about that. I promise. Also, I’m working with Arduinos and Raspberry Pis and doing all sorts of prototyping, at work, and they pay me. I think. (I’ll find out next week. Kidding again!)

Basically, it’s gonna be a great summer!

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Laser Maze 2015

Laser Maze - Photo by Eric Schneeweis

You may remember the Laser Maze from Milwaukee MakerFest in 2013, or maybe you experienced it at Maker Faire Milwaukee in 2014. Well, it’s coming back! Somehow I volunteered to design & build the hardware for Laser Maze 2015!

Laser Pointers

Step 1: Acquire lasers.

I’ve got a big pile of laser pointers, so far so good. Now, I should mention I didn’t do the set-up in previous years, and I don’t have much to work from, so I’ll be making a bunch of decisions, and if they are terrible, let me know.

In the coming weeks I’ll be designing a 3D printed mount for the laser pointers. It will hold the front half, so we can unscrew the back half to change batteries without removing the laser from its position. There is a zip tie on the laser that slides and rotates into place to hold the button down. (A simple design, we’re going for simple on this whole thing.)

Scoreboard

The scoreboard is an Adafruit 1.2″ 4-Digit 7-Segment Display. I’ll probably use a Teensy 3.1 as the controller, and there will be a big green start button and a big red stop button. You press start at one end of the maze and the counter begins… and when you get to the end you press stop and you know your time from the scoreboard.

Oh, and the laser pointers… they bounce off some mirrors and hit solar panels connected to the Teensy. When you break the beam the voltage from the panel drops (which is recognized on the Teensy) and you get penalized. We’ll add time to your total as well. So if you’re 10 seconds into it and break a beam, the timer will suddenly display 20 seconds instead of 10 (or whatever, we’ll figure out the math later.)

There should also be a buzzer of some kind, for the start, stop, and breaking of the beam. I’m just using a piezo for prototyping, but we’ll make sure we have something LOUD for the event.

There are some notes about everything on the laser maze wiki page, but I’ll keep documenting here as I go.

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MFMKE MMPIS Countdown

Countdown

So the President (of Milwaukee Makerspace) emails me and says “MMPIS countdown days to Maker Faire… can you make it happen?” Luckily, I can decipher this to mean he’d like to see a countdown screen on the MMPIS. Oh, the MMPIS is the Milwaukee Makerspace Pi-powered Informational System, and whipping up a new screen to do something simple is, well, simple. So I did.

It’s one image, about 20 lines of CSS, 20 lines of HTML, and a few lines of PHP. I hacked together some code, uploaded it, and sent Brant the instructions to load it into the kiosk via Screenly.

So the next time you’re at Milwaukee Makerspace, take a look at the countdown, and then freak out about how little time we have until Maker Faire Milwaukee!