Milwaukee Makerspace Grand Opening Recap

Grand Opening
Photo by Michael Diedrick

The Milwaukee Makerspace Grand Opening & Mini Maker Fair was held on Saturday, April 9th, 2011 and wow, what an event it was! The photo above should give you a little indication of the crowd. It was “several hundred people” from the estimates I heard…

I’m mainly going to talk about my own experience, since I really didn’t get to experience much of the event, which is sad, and weird, but also cool.

Pete and Sam
Photo by Michael Diedrick

So, I got there around 10am and Matt was heard to say “Hey look, Pete brought BarCamp!” due to the amount of stuff I tend to bring with me, including projects to show, camera equipment, tripods, audio equipment, projector, tables, Time Lapse Bot, and other things. I got set up at a table and put out my projects. As usual, I was way too ambitious, and actually pulled back and didn’t show everything. This was a good decision, as there was just too much going on. The two projects that got the most interest were the Egg-Bot and the Friday Night Drawbot.

Photo by Brant

The Egg-Bot is just, well, it’s just cool. I had to explain a number of times that I did not “invent” it, but I built it from a kit. I gave a brief explanation of it (including open source software/hardware, Inkscape, etc.) to a lot of people. One kid was interested in it, and I told him how much the kit cost, and then he complained it was too much. I then described the parts used to construct it, and as soon as I said “laser cut” he was like “oh, yeah, laser cut, OK!” and then he was sold, and thought it was something he should have. (I did point out that it was all open source and he was welcome to get all the parts and assemble his own.)

Photo by Brant

I ended up printing about 50 eggs throughout the day, pretty much non-stop. I ended up doing someone’s name on an egg, and then printing one with the word “VEGAN” on it, and then at some point a mom asked if I could print a monkey. A monkey!? Well, off to to find a monkey. And a candy cane. And a rose. And a cat. And the Rebel Alliance logo… I somehow ended up being a one-off egg printing factory! (But it was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot more about Inkscape.)

We gave away a lot of eggs, and I (mostly) remembered to tell people they were raw eggs, and advised the kids not to squeeze them, put them in their pockets, or drop the on the car ride home. One very young girl suggested I should have got up earlier that day (maybe 4am) so I could have boiled them all. As my excuse, I told people it would be easier to preserve them by blowing out the insides since they were raw. One woman gave us a dollar for an egg. (We added it to the Makerspace Donation bucket.)

Drawbot Action

And what would the day have been without some Drawbot action!?

I don’t know, but I do know I’m lucky Sam showed up and took on a lot of the Drawbot maintenance. He also ended up exploring Drawbot in ways I haven’t yet, using the Ultra Fine Point Sharpies, and the results were pretty darn good. I’ll try to scan some of the drawing this week. I’ve also got some reprogramming of Drawbot I want to do soon.

Oh, and I ended up telling a lot of people about the Arduino, and how the Drawbot worked, and explained that it was pretty darn easy to build, and if they came down to the Makerspace on a Thursday night, someone could probably help them get started with Arduino hacking.

Now, as for the rest of the event… I missed most of it! I was at my table for nearly 8 hours straight, with just a few quick bathroom breaks here and there while Sam watched the table. I think I need a “Back in 10 minutes!” sign or something. But really, it was a blast talking to so many people and answering questions… but it was also exhausting. I didn’t feel comfortable enough to just leave the table unattended for any large amount of time, so I’m not sure what the solution is… except to have someone else work the table along with me.

I have almost no photos to share from the event, and no video (except for the stuff Time Lapse Bot shot) so head over to the Flickr pool to see some more photos.

Oh, and word from the makers is that they all loved it, it was a great/successful event, and they can’t wait to do it again. Well, they can wait about a year maybe. :)


Sharpie Conditions

Drawbot Crazified

After I made the Friday Night Drawbot I told the folks at Sharpie about it, and they posted it on their blog.

The only problem was, I read their Terms and Conditions, and was unable to agree to all of them…

I figured I had a few options, either submit my post, and just ignore the wording of the Terms and Conditions, not submit my post at all (and I have done this in the past, given up on things due to the ToS, etc.) or I could submit it, but add a disclaimer… I opted for the disclaimer.

Terms and Conditions

I built a Drawbot that uses Sharpie Markers. (A Drawbot is a robot that can draw pictures)

Please note that in your Terms and Conditions I cannot agree to 3. B. (“each and every element of the Submission is an original work created by you” I used ideas that others have had, and code others have written. Drawbots have been around for many, many years. Open source hardware, and software, were used which were not created by me. I did however, write the post, and take all the photos. That work is all of my own.)

There was no way I could accept “every element of the Submission is an original work created by me” when I used other people’s code, other people’s ideas, and hardware that other people designed and built. Sharpie’s Terms and Conditions are not bad in any way, they just make it harder to take into account the culture of sharing that exists nowadays. I mean, lawyers like to see things in black and white, but there’s a whole lot of gray being created lately.

So the next time you’re confronted with an agreement, and a text box, let them know what you can and cannot agree with.

Also, I’d like to thank Sharpie for posting submission, even with the “disclaimer” I added to the description. I’m assuming most people don’t have an issue with the Terms and Conditions. I am not most people, obviously.


Friend of Drawbot

Remember my Drawbot? We’ve been busy “tweaking it” now and then to make different drawings, and I’m sure it’ll be an ongoing project, but one of the most exciting things about it was the comment I got from Howard Patterson.

Howard was kind enough to provide his own code, and he also sent me these photos of his Drawbot.

Friend of Drawbot

Friend of Drawbot

Awesome… I mean, it’s not like the Drawbot is some standardized platform (or is it!?) but I think it’s cool that by sharing build info, photos, and code, we can have a common result.

Howard says he’s using an Arduino Duemilanove with a shield and mini-breadboard attached. I think this also shows the strength of the Arduino platform, as anyone can get an Arduino, the other parts, and get up and running with this pretty quickly.

Thanks for sharing Howard! :)


Friday Night Drawbot

Arduino-Powered Drawbot

Friday night turned into Robotics/Art night at the 2XL Makerspace. I remembered seeing this Drawbot Project, and while you can modify normal servos to be continuous rotation servos, I already had some continuous rotation servos on-hand, so we got to work. (Or play, if you prefer.)

Drawbot parts
Drawbot parts

The Drawbot consists of just a handful of parts. Here’s a list of the items we used:

All of these pieces are available from our friends at Adafruit Industries. You can probably find the parts elsewhere as well, and you don’t need a Boarduino specifically, as any Arduino board will work. I just used the Boarduino because it’s small.

Sharpies and Corrugated Cardboard
A Pack of Sharpie Markers

Oh, you’ll also need some Sharpie markers (I recommend a nice 8-pack of various colors) and a 9 volt battery, a platform, and something to hold it all together.

Servos taped together
Servo motors held together with some tape

The building of the Drawbot was pretty simple. I started by using a bit of tape to stick the servos together with the wheels facing out. This gave me the width of the “platform” I would need. (It had to fit between the wheels.) I used corrugated plastic because it was handy. It’s very lightweight, easy to cut, and pretty strong. You could certainly use cardboard or something like a plastic CD case, but I’m telling you now… corrugated plastic is awesome. (I’m already using it in my next project!)

Once I had the servos secured to the platform with some rubber bands, I put the battery and the breadboard on top of the platform. The placement may be a little tricky, as you need to determine the correct balance. I wanted it to be a bit heavier on the side that would hold the marker, but didn’t want too much weight on that side. Rubber bands make it really easy to move things around.

Close-up of Drawbot
Close-up of Drawbot

With most of the pieces in place, I added the jumper wires between the servos and the breadboard. That’s it for the wiring.

At this point I wanted to test it out. I was impatient and just wanted to find some continuous rotation servo code. A quick search led me to the post Controlling a Parallax (Futaba) Continuous Rotation Servo with Arduino. I ended up simplifying my code even more. Right now the Drawbot just goes in a circle. Yeah, it’s simple, but that’s the way I like to start things. Get the simplest thing working first, and then go from there. (Code is at the bottom of the post.)

Marker holders
Marker holders made out of corrugated plastic

So we now had a robot that went in circles. At this point we figured it was time to draw something! Back to the corrugated plastic. This is another place where the plastic shines. I cut a small piece, and then cut a hole with an X-Acto knife where the marker was going to go. I cut the hole a bit small, and when i slide the marker it, it held it nice and tight. I’m glad I didn’t use cardboard, as it just doesn’t have the strength of the plastic.

Drawbot on it's first run
Drawbot on it’s first run

With the marker in, it was time to test it. We put it down in the center of a 24″ x 18″ drawing pad and turned it on. It spun around drawing circles. Success! We managed to build a robot that can create artwork. :)

Artwork by Drawbot

Since things were all loosey goosey, meaning, our marker holder could shift around, the pad was on an uneven floor, the servos were probably not perfectly matched, etc. We got a circle, and another circle, and another one, all overlapping. In a perfect world I’d suppose you’d just get a circle with every other circle drawn directly on top of it. I think it turned out better our way.

Drawbot making overlapping circles
Drawbot making overlapping circles

We figured that two markers would be better than one, so we tried that next. The results were pretty good. Here you can see how the circles start to overlap. We’re hoping to try with some bigger paper to see what happens when it doesn’t run out of room.

Here’s our code…

 * Drawbot.pde

int servoPinL = 9;
int servoPinR = 10;

void setup() {

void loop() {

Again, this code is really simple. All you’ll get is a circle, or, a bunch of circles. But now that we’ve got the Drawbot working, we can start playing around with modifying the code to change it up a bit. We look forward to more robot-created artwork in the future!

Note: Check the project page for more info.