Lasers to San Mateo

Road to Maker Faire

Remember my Laser Kaleidoscope project? Well, I entered into into the Road to Maker Faire contest, and now I need your vote!

Help send me (and my laser!) to the Bay Area Maker Faire. Use the big bold button below to vote for my project. (You’ll need a Facebook account, but 98.483% of people who use the Internet seem to have one.)

But why should you vote for me? I’d like to explore making this thing into a kit that would teach people about things like basic electronics, lasers, engineering, and fun. I’m hoping a visit to Maker Faire will give me the opportunity to talk to knowledgeable people and learn more about building it into an actual kit you could purchase and build yourself. That’s the plan!

So yeah, vote… vote now, not later. And then ask your friends to vote. Did you vote yet? Thanks! I appreciate it!

Vote Now!

Note: Voting is over! Thanks to everyone who voted for me… now we wait!


It’s a Minne-Faire!


If you’re looking for me this coming weekend, don’t look in Wisconsin, because I’ll be in Minnesota at the Minneapolis Mini Maker Faire commonly known as Minne-Faire!

Since we’ve finally got Red Lotus working, we’ll bring that along for some Power Wheels fun. We’ll try to find some interesting projects from other Milwaukee Makerspace members to show off, and of course I’ve got a bunch or robots and lasers and weird things in my basement I can bring.

You should also look for Joshua of Brown Dog Gadgets, and while you’re at it, check out the Kickstarter campaign he’s running for a Folding USB Solar Cell. (I’m not sure, but it may be the most successful Milwaukee-area Kickstarter campaign yet.)

And hey, if you see me there, be sure to ask for a special prize.


Laser Kaleidoscope

Laser Kaleidoscope

We managed to get Milwaukee Makerspace invited to another gallery night, and this time we’re taking part in Bay View Gallery Night at Alterra, so I figured I needed a new project. And hey, what’s better than a deadline to get a project done? (It’s like college all over again… in a good way!)


When I was at Maker Faire Detroit back in July I saw this laser spinner thingy called “The Interociter” and decided I had to have one. And by “have one” I mean “make one”… so I did.

(There’s some debate over whether it should be called a “Laser Kaleidoscope” or “Laser Spirograph” or “Laser Spinner Thingy” and while I do like “Laser Spinner Thingy” I also get sick of people thinking all my projects are Spirograph-inspired, so I went with Laser Kaleidoscope. Deal with it.)

Laser Kaleidoscope

Laser Kaleidoscope

So where were we? Oh yes, the project! It’s really simple: a laser is pointed at a mirror, and that reflects the laser onto another mirror, and that one reflects it onto another mirror, and then it shows up on the wall. You can make the motors spin by turning them on with a pushbutton, and then adjust the speed by turning the knobs. There are 3 motors (an earlier prototype had 4) and by setting them all to different speeds, you can get some crazy patterns going.

So how does it work? The laser hits the first spinning mirror, and creates what appears to be a circle. It’s really a single dot, but it’s spinning around so fast it looks like a circle. Add a second (and third) mirror, and since they all wobble just a little bit, you get much more than a simple circle.

Here’s a shopping list:

I say “shopping list” because those are the parts I (mostly) bought… Of these parts I’ll note that with the laser I leaned towards the “safe” side, but it can be difficult to see in well-lit rooms, so I may upgrade to this one at some point. The round craft mirrors came in a variety pack with different sizes. I may experiment with larger mirrors in the future.

Laser Kaleidoscope

Laser Kaleidoscope

There are a bunch more parts involved, one being the piece of wood everything is attached to, and the other parts were all designed and 3D printed by me. (OK, I had a little help with the knobs.)

The printed parts are:

  • (1) Laser mount
  • (3) Motor mounts
  • (3) Mirror mounts
  • (3) Knobs

(I also considered printing some small U-shaped things to hold the wires in place, but haven’t bothered with that yet.)

And yeah, this is why I have a 3D printer. The ability to digitally design something, rapidly create it, tweak it a bit and print a new one… that’s what I love.

My original plan was to make up a nice laser-cut case for this (I thought that would be appropriate) but with the lasers down for repair, I didn’t get that done in time. That’s actually fine, as I’ll probably end up redesigning things a bit before I’m totally done with it. So far though, I’m happy with the progress.

The video was quick & dirty, and really doesn’t do it justice, which is why you’ll need to come see it in person I guess. I figured I couldn’t write this post without including some sort of proof that it actually works. :)

Lasers! They’re awesome!


Geek Dreams

I had this dream I was taking all these photos in Milwaukee (with my phone, because I don’t have a camera anymore) and I noticed the protective screen on my phone was cracked (possibly due to the fact that the windshield of my car has a small crack) so anyway, I started to disassemble my phone, and all the keys fell out, and then I went to the Cingular store, and there was a geek girl there who fixed all that stuff, but she was busy playing Donkey Kong on some old console system, and I explained that I could fix it because people always said I was a “computer wiz” (that’s short for wizard) and if they just had the parts I would fix it. She told me to come back on Saturday and they would have the parts, then continued playing Donkey Kong on the old console system.

It’s a shame you probably can’t make it to our rummage sale this week, because “geek dreams” describes it. Some of the things I’ll be (trying) to sell include ColecoVision games, and old Nintendo, lots of game controllers, a mint condition manual for using Microsoft BASIC on the IBM Personal Computer, a NeXTStation, a TRS-80, some old Apple ][‘s and the disk drives to go with them, tons of computer cables, I think there’s even a Tandy Color Computer, and a tape drive for a Commodore as well. I probably forgot a few thing, but you get the idea…

So if you’re looking for junk… I mean stuff to kick-start your very own Maker Faire just drop me a line and I’ll drop you the details…