posts tagged with the keyword ‘mkemakerspace’


Click Whir Squee

Occasionally I show up at Milwaukee Makerspace with no clear idea of what might happen when I’m there. This piece, titled “Click Whir Squee” is the result of one such visit. Another member brought in a box of old computer hardware, including a Hewlett Packard Colorado T100E Tape Backup Drive. Being a fan of old technology (1997 is old, right?) I opened up the drive to take a look inside. I also powered it on and stuck a tape in it. The drive came to life and unspooled the tape and made a lot of spinning motor and tape loading sounds. Not everyone knows what these things sound like. It brought back some memories. (At my first job in the tech industry I had to load daily backup tapes into two tape drives. I remember the sound fondly.)

I somehow decided I should mount the tape drive to a piece of wood for display, so I went to the Wood Shop and started cutting up some scrap wood I found. Steve showed up to do some training, so I sat in on that for a bit so I could use the compound miter saw and the band saw. I had all the pieces cut by the end of the evening and knew how I was going to mount it.

I ended up taking all the pieces home and assembling it in my basement workshop. I manage to only split one piece of wood. Just a minor split, but a reminder to slow down when working with wood. The rest of the assembly went very smooth.

Click Whir Squee

Since the majority of fun with this drive is the startup sequence, I decided it should continually turn on, do its thing, then turn off, and keep repeating that. I’ve been playing with ATtiny85 chips lately, so I put one into service to trigger a 5 volt relay (which I also grabbed from Milwaukee Makerspace) and put the following Arduino code on it.

 * TapeDriver.ino

int relayPin = 3;
int onTime = 70000;
int offTime = 15000;

void setup() {
  pinMode(relayPin, OUTPUT);

void loop() {
   digitalWrite(relayPin, LOW);
   digitalWrite(relayPin, HIGH);

Yes, this is pretty much a glorified blink sketch. Sometimes the simplest things are exactly what you need. (Astute readers will see that the device will be on for 70 seconds, and then off for 15 seconds, and repeat indefinitely.)

Click Whir Squee

To power the ATtiny85 and the relay I found a Samsung phone charger on the Hack Rack at Milwaukee Makerspace. It even had a long cord, which was quite useful. You can also see one of the tapes that this machine uses. Now, if you really want to find some contrasts, consider that the modern day phone charger pictured here was used to charge a phone that probably had 8GB (or more) of solid state storage. The tape next to it could store 400MB of data (or 800MB of compressed data.) I should have included a MicroSD card which can store 8GB of data that I routinely buy for about $6 USD.

Click Whir Squee

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Since I removed the case there was no indication of what this thing was. I felt I should have something that told a bit of the story. I chose to mount the beige power pack, with “Hewlett Packard” emblazoned on it prominently.

Click Whir Squee

Oh, and while the whir of the motor is quite satisfying, we can do better. There is a wooden arm to which you can affix a small piece of material with a binder clip, which will then be activated when the primary motor spins. Fans of baseball cards and bicycle spokes, this one is for you! I call the “Annoy-o-tron” mode. (Look, if you’re going to use an ATtiny in an Annoy-o-tron, at least be original, right?) I’ve experimented with paper, vinyl, and plastic, but finally settled on a piece from an anti-static bag which some electronics were shipped to me in. It seemed fitting.

Click Whir Squee

Click Whir Squee

Click Whir Squee

Gallery owners and curators take note! This piece is ready to be mounted to a wall, and needs just two outlets to power it. It’s pretty much guaranteed to amuse some visitors while annoying other visitors. Art isn’t always about being pretty.

Enjoy the video below which allows you to experience this wonderful piece over the Internet while in the comfort of your own home (probably while wearing pajamas.)


Maker Faire Milwaukee

While I’ve been posting a lot lately about plastic and other odd things, pretty much all of my time these days has been filled with planning Maker Faire Milwaukee.

If you’re not familiar with what a Maker Faire is, here’s a quick description from the history page of

Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned.

What I love about Maker Faires (I’ve attended about eight of them in various cities the past few years) is that the people who share their work (or play) are passionate about what they do, and they love sharing it with others. I find this inspiring, and I usually leave excited about what I saw, and eager to learn new skills and make new things.

I’m planning to do a talk about The Power Racing Series, and help out showing off tiny electric vehicles built for under $500, but most of my time will probably be spent working with the folks from Betty Brinn Children’s Museum and Milwaukee Makerspace just making sure everything runs smoothly. (The two organizations are co-hosting the event, and I’m an employee and member of them both, respectively.)

I hope to see you at Maker Faire. If you’ve got kids, it may inspire them, and if you’re a kid at heart, you’ll love it too. (Don’t get me wrong, adults are welcome too!) And, Maker Faire Milwaukee is FREE to attend, thanks to our great sponsors! (And yes, there are still sponsorship opportunities, so get in touch with me if interested!)

If you want a preview of what you’ll see, check out some of the blog posts I’ve been writing.

(Oh, Maker Faire Milwaukee takes place at State Fair Park on September 26th & 27th, 2015, and Harvest Faire is also happening at that time, and also free, so really, there’s something for everyone… Come on down!)



I’m not sure the world needs (or is ready for) the Pop-Up Go(at) Controller, but I’ve built it. I know, I know, I can hear you asking “What is the Pop-Up Go(at) Controller!?” Well, here’s the story.

Back in August I posted about the Milwaukee Public Museum’s snake on the Milwaukee Makerspace mailing list. Seems the snake was in need of repair, so I asked people how they would build a snake. Shane suggested that the space should have a pop-up goat, and thus, I had to build a pop-up goat.

I mean, I didn’t have to, but one thing I’ve discovered over the past few months is that my work tends to be reactionary. People say things, or do things, and it prompts me to make something. So I made something.

Milwaukee Makerspace

I didn’t really make what Shane suggested, but I took the basic idea and did my own thing. I started with a photo of Milwaukee Makerspace I took last year. This would serve as the backdrop for the piece.


I dug around for a nice picture of a goat I could use, but as luck would have it, my daughter Madeline (also a photographer) recently shot a goat (with her camera!) so she allowed me to use her photo.


The construction of the piece was done using MicroRAX, which is an Aluminum extrusion-based construction set. I’ve had some lying around for a while, so it was good to put it to use in a project. It cut easily with a hacksaw and bolts together using a few screws and plates.


The goat attaches to a servo thanks to a few magnets. The image of the building and goat are photos I had printed, and then attached to some paperboard. The building slides into the slot of the MicroRAX.


The servo mounted easily to the MicroRAX, and things are adjustable, so if I need to slide the servo up or down or left or right, that’s easy. Same with the front pieces that hold the building photo in place. I like to plan things to be interchangeable and adjustable when possible.


There’s an Adafruit Perma-Proto Board on the back, along with an Adafruit Trinket microcontroller to make things happen.


There’s a few screw terminals to allow for connection of power (AC adapter or battery) and a button to activate things. I typically build button enclosures, but for my silly project I decided to use a giant heavy metal electrical box with an old industrial push button. It’s so much overkill it hurts.

White House

As mentioned, I wanted the P.U.G.C. to be extensible, so here’s another idea for it. I can swap in a photo of the White House, and a surface to air missile. Ka-Boom! Smite thine enemies! ‘Merica says “Take That!!!” and so on…

Mac Flag

Or maybe you believe it’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy? Just enable “flag waving mode” and you can fly your freaky colors of freedom above the original Macintosh. Mr. Jobs would be so proud! Or angry.

And yes, the ‘at’ part in “Go(at)” is meant to be dropped as needed so this becomes the Pop-Up Go Controller. I can also hear you saying, “Those are some awesome photos, but is there video of this P.U.G.C. in action?” Well, of course there is!



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!


Milwaukee Maker Faire

The news is out! We’re throwing a Maker Faire right here in Milwaukee! The fine folks at Milwaukee Makerspace in collaboration with the file folks at the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum have been planning for months (and months!) and can now officially announce our own Maker Faire. (And yes, it’s a full-scale event, not just a Mini Maker Faire. This is going to be big!)

Maker Faire Milwaukee is happening Saturday and Sunday September 27th & 28th, 2014 at Wisconsin State Fair Park. (For the record, this Maker Faire is within 5 miles of my house. Exciting!)

And best of all, this Maker Faire is totally FREE to attend, thanks to the sponsorship of many fine Milwaukee organizations.

So yeah, plan to attend, and check out in the coming weeks as we add more information. If you do the social things, follow @mkemakerfaire, like makerfairemke, and +1 all the posts.

If you’re interested in being involved or helping to run things, get in touch with me and I’ll point you in the right direction.

(And hey, I’ve got plenty of time to prepare my talk…)

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