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Monday, December 28, 2015

Too Many Choices!

I have been testing the water and have decided that I just need to jump in with both feet.  I did the wood shop and rapid prototyping certifications so I could start making, and have managed to get mired in the swamp of possibilities!  This or that or maybe this other thing...  alas, I have little to show for my musings other than some sketches and a little bit of hope.

I did make some ornaments similar to my IaM fellow, Ellen, which was super fun!  I played around with different materials, using balsa wood, basswood, and acrylic.  I did learn that Lexan is not ok to laser.  It gives off toxic fumes.  The other thing to pay attention to is adhesives.  Anything with chlorine will give off toxic gas.

One of the things I am going to explore is the properties of different materials when cut and etched with different settings.  I have been talking with my forestry and building trades colleagues about the properties of different woods.  It is a fascinating science all on its own! They are going to keep slices from trees they cut down so I can etch them with a silhouette of that species and the name and maybe a leaf.  It could be a cool display.  

Friday, December 18, 2015

First "solo" project (with help)

I made my first item: laser cut ornaments out of 1/4" wood. I spent roughly 4 hours at Generator Wed night using Adobe Illustrator to create the ornaments. Even though I only used simple shapes & text, I had to learn how to:

  • navigate in the program (e.g. zooming in & out, moving items on & off the workspace)
  • make symmetrical shapes (circles & squares)
  • change text into a path, so it becomes an object
  • subtract and add shapes from one another
  • create a .001 hairline for vector cutting
I confess I did a little air fistpump at one point when I figured out how to merge text into the ornament shape so it became just positive & negative spaces for cutting.

Yesterday evening I arranged with a kind member to use a small window of his scheduled 5 hour laser cutter time (thank you!) to print my ornaments. Luckily, Annika was at the desk and helped me with the questions (& jitters) I had to start printing...and she shared her ideal 1/4" wood settings (4-94-20)! I was so pleased it all worked out yesterday...big smile!




Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Laser Cut Lanterns!

I signed up for the Laser Cut Lanterns workshop with Pete Talbot at Generator, just to help get me started. The workshop was this past Sunday, and Pete was *so generous* with his time. What an awesome guy! It was a very good workshop, with a nice balance of structure and flexibility. Pete had a star template ready for us to customize cut out openings for the light to shine through. It was my first time using Adobe Illustrator. I still need to spray paint, score, fold & assemble my light. Learning to use the laser cutter is really learning to use Adobe Illustrator or another piece of software to create EPS files. My boyfriend used InkScape, and there were lots of problems with his file. Hoping InkScape will still be a viable option for this....


Monday, December 7, 2015

SLOW start

December is here and the clock is ticking! I am acutely aware how short 2 months are.

I went to a Generator orientation last week. Fortunately, I met with Caty, my fellow-Igniter, the day before, so I knew this orientation was NOT going to prepare me to use any equipment at Generator. I've been to the space and a few events there before, so I knew where everything was located. I think I could have given that tour.

I am signed up for the protoyping certification this week. Also, the laser cut lantern class I'd signed up for weeks ago that was postponed is going to happen this Sunday. My hope is, after this week, I will be able to use the laser cutter.

I wonder if, in the future, people with this wonderful opportunity could complete the orientation and any needed certifications  before the 2 months' membership started. That way, one would really have the full 2 months to make. 

Here's what I'm thinking about making:

  • laser cut ornaments
  • laser cut lamps and a re-do of a 3d printed light I made
  • laser cut altered books (tunnel books) and laser-cut altered books with light
Here's what I'm worrying about:
  • I won't be here over the Christmas break, so I lose all that nonschool time to make stuff
  • How long it will take me to be proficient enough in the software I'll need
  • When I will find time to be at Generator, given that I'm usually away on weekends
...essentially, all variations on the same theme: how to get 2 months' of making done with life, work, and the needed certifications and learning to even get started.

As a favorite principal of mine used to say, "Ready, fire, aim!"

Friday, November 20, 2015

Welcome our first two IGNITE A MAKER educator/makers this year

From Zero to Maker   ~ Professional Development
sponsored by Vita-Learn


Announcing our Nov - Jan Maker/Educators





(Read our learning journal through this blog)
(Apply for Feb/Mar or Apr/May)

A professional development opportunity to fuel innovation in Vermont Schools. 
Learn more by following the experience of our maker/educators or apply for the next round of 
IGNITE a MAKER.





Saturday, October 31, 2015

Exploring the Arduino Bean

Tonight black hat project journey lead to more exploring and testing with the Arduino micro processor I'd like to add to my Black Hat project ~ The  Light Blue Bean.

I had previously installed the software on my Mac and was successful in using bluetooth to communicate with the Bean from my Mac.  I used the simple Blink code and was able to change the blinking patterns of the onboard LED.   The only trouble I rant into was that my Arduino version was a bit outdated, but after an update, all worked fine. 

But I ran into erratic behavior when trying to control the BEAN using Bean Loader for  IOS.  
After a little digging on line, I found I was not the only one with erratic issues.  
Decided not to worry so much about that for now and to keep exploring.

I was  successful in using the TickleApp on my iPad to communicate with the Bean.  Loved the idea of being able to use this interface for coding and introducing the power or Arduino using Tickle.  

My next step was to discover how many LED's I'd be able to include in my black hat  eTextile project.  The Bean labels its pins A0, A1, 0,1,2,3,4,5.

Since soldering LED's to those pins was not going to be conducive to the prototyping I needed to do, and the holes were too tiny and close together to use alligator clip,  my husband suggested soldering on a breakaway header male pins to the Beans first row so I could easily use male/female jumper cables to prototype.



What a great idea that was.   It also gave me some much needed soldering practice. 

With my modified Bean in place I started to prototype.

I begin by skimming through the sample projects on the Bean's LEARN page and found that the Death Star project was the most accessible for me.  It very closely resembled the Santa Hat project I created last year (blinking lights and a Piezo speaker playing Jingle Bells music  with a tilt sensor).

I followed the instruction and wired up a Piezo speaker and one LED to the Bean,  copied the sample Code into my Arduino IDE, uploaded it using Bean Loader and crossed my fingers.  As soon as I moved the Bean around I got LIGHTS and SOUND!  SUCCESS!



Next question -- How many LED will the BEAN support as is. I added another LED to PIN 4, modified the code.  NOTHING!  

After a bit more exploring I decided to remove all variables,  simplify the code by going back to the EXAMPLE BLINK CODE provided with the BEAN.  Note -  not the Arduino standard BLINK CODE, but the specific BEAN BLINK example. 

A bit more, troubleshooting revealed that the culprit was a bad solder joint on Pin 4.  Time to Step back and test all my other pins  A0, A1, 0,1,2,3,4,5 and they all worked (EXCEPT 4).   I'll resolder tomorrow. 

But I am pleased to report that the BEAN  successfully powered 7 LEDs hooked up to each of the first row of pins, and I suspect that a little solder repair will bump that up to 8 no problem. 
Not bad for one little coin celled battery.  Note:  as recommended in the Death Star instruction I used a 10 Ohm resistor on each LED.  Here's a tour of  the BEAN lighting 7 LEDs using a coin cell battery.





















Thursday, October 29, 2015

Lucie's new black hat project

As we gear up for another IGNITE a Maker session,  I'm feeling inspired to make.

The other day my grandson, Simon, and I went shopping for hats.  He found the perfect hat for Simon  and I found the perfect hat for my next maker project.    

It started as a simple black felt hat.  I started to imagine all sorts of possibilities.  

I wanted it to take my learning to a new level. As several ideas swirled in my head,  I became more and more inspired to learn more about the Arduino Light Blue Bean.     

I played with the Bean and started to become more familiar with how it worked.   I really wanted to include it as part of my Make With Code session at VermontFest 2015 and what better way than to include it in my new black hat project.  Finally inspiration struck and I ran to my studio at the Generator to grab some white embroidery thread.   I have NOT embroidered before, so I wasn't sure how this was going to play out. 




And by the end of the evening,  I was quite proud of my design.  Snowflakes seemed like the perfect thing for our  upcoming edtech conference at the Killington Ski Resort ~ VermontFest 2015.


Stay tuned for the journey of the black hat! 

Saturday, May 23, 2015


This book has been one of my best friends of late, though I have not limited myself to etextiles.
Okay, the truth is that I have more projects started than a normal person would attempt.  If I know this, then why am I continuing to do it?

Because I am not a normal person!
Because I love what I'm doing!

My plate is full, and I'm glad of it.  Normally, at this point in the school year, during the winter, with all the grading to be done and the long list of deadlines at school, I start to experience a sense of burnout.  I never get burnout from my students or from my teaching.  The burnout comes from the administrative demands and the behind the scenes work that the school day does not allow time to complete.  So it takes over my home and my evenings and weekends.  Always.

Not this year!  Working half time has given me back my life.  I go to school four short days a week and still need to bring work home, but it's modest.  I can fill my home with projects and get involved in new learning as much as my heart desires.



Have you ever heard of Genius Hour?
I am no genius, anyone can tell you.
Genius Hour is a concept whereby you spend something like 20% of your time just doing whatever interests you.  Take it wherever it leads you.  Explore your world.  So I might be at 35%, close enough....

So I am learning Linus and Building a PiBot.  It is well known that I have a thing for robotics.
Robots are fun and kids love them.  I am a bit of a kid myself.  Mainly, I look for ways to hook my students.  Robots never fail.





Friday, April 24, 2015

Hello World

After some reading and Youtube videos, I was finally able to jump in and do some programming on the Arduino micro.  I have had fun experimenting with the different sketches.

One of the things that has stuck with me most is how passion can drive learning. See, as a science teacher, I already knew, or memorized Ohms's law. However, it was not until I started having to use resistors with the LED lights, that I truly began to understand Ohm's law. My first steps in my maker inquiry has confirmed what I have always thought. If learning is for an authentic purpose, it is much more meaningful.



After tinkering around with the micro, I made my way to the Generator to borrow the SparkFun Redboard. It was there I was able to meet with Cynthia and see the amazing work she is doing with Lilypad. We have already been able to connect and share resources via Twitter. Now that we have made a connection, I am looking forward to building further our connection.

I captured some of the fun I have had with my programming. Here is an example of my "Hello World"



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Getting Oriented

In the process of taking the first steps to my new learning adventure, Making Geoacaches.

I have been able to make a few visits to the generator first with Lucie and then again with the orientation last week. Now that I have a better understanding of the possibilities, I am working on planning what I want to learn.

As an avid geoacacher, I am looking to see how I can incorporate the arduino to "make" geocaches. If times allows, may also look into how rapid prototyping may be able to help design geocaches as well.

Geoacaching is a great way to combine technology, outdoor learning, and ramification. Not only do I love to geocache for personal growth, I use the technology to incorporate into learning with the staff and students at FWSU. 

For a little background info, here is a link to a recent post I wrote for FWSU on a geocache that was created by a group of students who participated in an after school geocaching group. 

If you have questions or ideas to share about being a geocacher maker, let me know. Always love to share my passion.



Saturday, April 4, 2015

Welcome Angelique

I'd like to welcome Angelique Fairbrother to the  Ignite a Maker cadre. Angelique will be emerging as a Maker during the months of April and May.   She currently works in educational technology at Franklin West Supervisory Union where she supports teachers and students in all types of technology rich learning, including coordinating the annual district engineering day event.  Can't wait to see her grow as a maker.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Turn Signal Jacket news



I connected the power supply and the LilyPad.  The resistance of the conductive stitching needs to be less than 10 ohms between the power supply and the Pad, I borrowed a multimeter from Generator and measured about 4.5 ohms, so all good.  I laid out the LED's, marked everything with chalk and sewed the positive terminals of the LED's to the Lilypad.  I ordered some stitching glue and puffy fabric paint (insulator).  Soon I will download a program to the Lilypad and see if the LED's actually blink like a turn signal.  If the do, I'll start gluing things down and insulating the stitches so they don't short.

Also, every time I come down here I run into someone who helps me advance the STEM Academy along.  It's nice to be in a place where people have interests similar to mine and are willing to help.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Week at Generator Comes to a Close

By now, I have a pretty good routine.  It is fun to come in to play everyday!  Certainly keeps my mind off the insane cold and wind that has plagued outdoor life now for so long.
It's starting to feel like this is my new "job", except that the Generator staff have meetings that I don't have to go to!  Yay!  Also, I'm not getting paid. *pretends to be independently wealthy* No problem!


quickmeme.com/old-money-dog/page/2/

Taking home with me very specific items that are now fully organized and ready to use.  Taking with me only the tools I need. Plan to do some e-sewing and building the RedBot.  Heard back from my friend at Cannybots.  They are awaiting a shipment of parts today and expect to mail out my package tomorrow.  Haven't paid yet.  We shall see.







And how was your week?










Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Spark Fun Changes Their Kits and Assembly Instructions and Wheel Encoders

This morning I had intended to have the assembly complete of the RedBot.  It's 1:30, I've been here over two hours, but I'm not making progress except in terms of understanding the changes to the RedBot kits and their Assembly Instructions online.  I think I know now why they didn't send me the paper instruction booklet.  It was for an earlier version that included the Sensor Wheel Encoder. That's the wheel encoder I have (purchased separately), but not the one that links with the kit that I have.  The one that links to my kit has something called the Dagu Wheel Encoder kit (purchased separately) which I don't have.  So I spent the morning determining this by composing an email complete with screen shots to the good people at SparkFun. In the course of composing it, I think I arrived at the truth of the matter.  I think I can carry on even without a reply from them.  I don't think I need to order any more parts before I can build.  I'm just going to go with what I believe is the truth at this point.

Here's the confusion screen shot:

But I think I'm okay for now.

RedBot Kit by SparkFun

Today my plan is to assemble the RedBot.  What is a RedBot?
Here 'ya go:

Having trouble figuring out how to deal with the wheel encoder that I have.  Apparently I need another part that is on backorder.  I may be able to hold off on it and add it later.

This video, about two and a half minutes into this video, it tells about a new bumper product they have, but at a little over three minutes it tells about the wheel encoder.  I have the encoder, but not the other parts needed to use it.




About seven and a half minutes in is an intro to the RedBot.  NOTE:  Mine did not come with an instruction paper!  Poor me.  So I have to go digital.

Now it's time to go to the Generator as it's 10:30 and it takes 30 minutes to drive there from where I'm staying.  I don't want to be early today and have to run around in the biting cold to look for a place to wait - like I did yesterday.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Another bitter cold day spent hiding out at the Generator.  Didn't know that doors didn't open until 11 am, so had to make a run for the public library next door.  But that didn't open until 10, so I had to run to Leunig's Cafe where I was allowed to stand inside the doorway as they set up.  Once I could feel my face again, made a dash for the library just as it was opening.  Eventually made it back here after 11.

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/legalcode
https://www.flickr.com/photos/nengard/8560714678/
photo by Nicole C. Engard

Forgot to mention that the Welding and Metal Work class was postponed, so that won't start until end of March.  Alas.

US Navy photo by Ryan J. Restvedt, Public Domain

https://generatorvt.com/calendar/#!event/register/2015/3/25/introduction-to-welding-and-basic-metal-working

So today I learned more about Linux and Python and Arduino and Bluebrain to the point where my head is spinning. Multitasking as I'm downloading libraries and watching/listening to tutorials.
Delighted to switch to the simple assembly of the RedBot:

https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/redbot-assembly-guide-rev-02/ball-caster-

Continuing negotiations with the jolly folks at Cannybots in Merry England...Now I am really starting to fill up my shopping basket.  Since the shipping charge allows for up to a kilogram, they have convinced me to allow them to sell me the parts that will be needed once I've printed the plastic parts.  Since they have them all, and I would have to go online and purchase them somewhere else, I'm told that this is the way to go.  They are selling them to me at cost since I'm an educator.  Only the second one to bring CannybotMania to America -- the British Invasion!



They will ship tomorrow and I'll gave them by mid-week next week, just as I head back to school....
But that's okay, it gives me time to poor through the community forum:

http://forum.bluebrain.io/


Oh, and there was a different dog here, today, Millie.
She wasn't wearing these glasses, but she still looked pretty cool:

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mulmatsherm/2318064020/
"Mulmatsherm" on Flickr

As I was working away in my little cubby, someone came along to mop the floor, so I scooted out to chill with Mill (the cool black dog) while my space was refreshed.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Yesterday was another quiet Sunday at the Generator.  A nice Olde English Sheepdog was hanging out being adorable. Here's what he looked like, except he was indoors and it was mid-winter:


"Old English Sheepdog-Nana". 
Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Old_English_Sheepdog-Nana.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Old_English_Sheepdog-Nana.jpg
http://www.andrewdunnphoto.com/
 I inventoried all my gear purchased from Sparkfun and Adafruit (they were having a sale this fall and I went kind of crazy) and also got the latest Arduino IDE downloaded.  I searched out a bunch of resources then went home to continue on some "courses" (online tutorials) through Udemy.  Just getting into my Raspberry Pi gadget and learning what it's all about.  This whole coding business takes a lot of brain power and I'm determined to maintain a "growth mindset." Every time I put effort into it, I am that much more knowledgeable, even though I still get overwhelmed when I realize how much I don't know.  Linus, Python, the whole nine yards.  Here's a quote from the bluebrain blog (linked below):  
"There is 6 way header on the PCB and the reason it's a 6 way header is that I thought we could simply use one of our FT232 programmers as the 3.3v power source for the board. Otherwise, use a Pi and some jumpers cables or something else to wire up pin 1 (GND) and 3 (3.3v)"
I actually have some understanding of this! Growth!



This morning I lingered at home to do some twitter chatting on the new roles of Library Media Specialists.  This is a possible career choice for me now that the role has become Maker-Friendly (new term I just coined) as well as being Digito-Friendly ('nuther new term; you're welcome).


Now back at Generator and working on purchasing the bluebrain from the Cannybot folks over in Merry England (Cambridge to be exact).  They are "migrating" their checkout to a newly designed webpage, so I can't purchase bluebrain online.

Fortunately, I just heard back from them by email and they have offered to give me an educator's discount and will work out a way to get around the checkout situation.  So if I end up getting ripped off, at least I can blame it on the mother country.  :)

Here is link to the bluebrain blog:

http://blog.bluebrain.io/2015/02/17/boards-are-alive/

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sewing has begun on the turn signal jacket


I tacked down the power supply and the LilyPad, then I connected the two positive terminals with conductive thread.  I didn't make any attempts to hide the stitching, it will be covered by the hood most of the time.  I wanted the shortest possible connection between the power supply and the LilyPad so it would get the maximum possible voltage.

When I got to Generator, I forgot it was the third Thursday of the month, so there was a party going on.  It was fun to socialize and work at the same time, Generator is cool!

There will be a short period of radio silence here, winter break is next week and I'm going to Florida.  I do like Burlington, but next week will look like this and I gotta say I'm happy about it :-)



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

So along with the post I'm about to do on the robot from Sparkfun, I wanted to show something that I came across on twitter and thought would be a good project to do.  It's called Cannybots.

Here's the video:
Cannybots website

http://www.cannybots.com/

Github to CAD files

https://github.com/Cannybots/CannybotsCADFiles

Bluebrain forum

http://forum.bluebrain.io/t/cannybot-racer-high-speed-line-following-robots/21

Monday, February 16, 2015




Lee Ann and I attended the orientation for Rapid Prototyping so that we would be able to us the machinery safely and with good results.


Fortunately, there will always be people to turn to for assistance.


There's all kinds of materials available to test out designs.


This Epilog Laser requires that you be especially careful to avoid setting anything on fire!


You can see some things that others have made.


This Vinyl Cutter allow you to make banners and other items.


This machine uses a bit to carve out a design.  Some can take 30 hours to complete.


Here's something made by someone earlier.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Another teacher is enjoying the benefits of Ignite a Maker

Hi, I'm Lea Ann Smith and I am just starting my Ignite a Maker grant.  I am the leader of the STEM Academy at Essex High School.  We have 54 students in the Academy, there is a lot of energy there now and I'd like to find new ways for students learn about STEM.  I think Making is something that students in the Academy might find useful as a learning tool, so I'd like to learn more about it myself.

Cynthia and I went to new member orientation and rapid prototyping certification last week, all went well.  On Wednesday, I brought all of the parts with me to make Leah Buechley's turn signal bike jacket.  I started laying out the parts and taking stock of what was in the Create, Make Learn space to work with.  I also met some nice people, there is a fun vibe at Generator.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

IGNITE A Maker Round 2

After a successful two months with Leah Jolly and Jill Dawson as our first IGNITE a Maker residents,  we are moving over to two new maker/mentors.  I'd like to introduce to you

Lea Ann Smith   and Cynthia Day who will be our maker/mentors for February and March.
Lea Ann Smith

Cynthia Day
Both Lea Ann and Cynthia were involved in Create Make Learn Summer Institute  and are very committed to student learning as well as their own professional learning.  We look forward to working with them.

Welcome Lea Ann and Cynthia




Saturday, January 24, 2015

Jill's Chameleon Scarf

I've been comparing and contrasting my LilyPad Arduino to the Adafruit Flora.  Using the Chameleon Scarf tutorial (and code) from the Adafruit website, I have created my first eTextile made with Flora.  This scarf has a color sensor and neopixel LEDs that change color, based upon what is placed in front of the sensor.

Although I did not write any of the code for this project (which feels like cheating), I learned how to use a new feature of my sewing machine, how to add Arduino libraries, and the advantages of using Adafruit conductive thread, rather than cheaper thread.  

To get started, I bought an inexpensive cashmere scarf and sewed it in half to create the tube you see here. Using a special foot on my sewing machine that zig-zags over a cord, I was able to gather the tube into ruffles and quickly sew my power and ground lines.

The trickiest part of this project was making sure that my computer had the correct Arduino libraries added.

While sewing the circuit together, I discovered that Adafruit thread is stronger, shinier, and much easier to work with than the Spark Fun thread!  I will never go back!

Rather than sewing the ribbon into a circle, I used Velcro, making it easier to remove the ribbon and LEDs from inside the scarf.

I enjoy the process of coding with a LilyPad, but I really like the way that a Flora doesn't require as many pins to create something truly inspiring; I am a fan of neopixel LEDs and the Flora Color Sensor.






Monday, January 19, 2015

Before a laser cutter.. might we try these?

Many Maker spaces are looking into laser cutters and vinyl cutters. All of which are not affordable for most spaces.

But today while I was looking at this Pop Up Light up card project that uses a Cameo Cutter, I started to wonder if this might not be a good entry point for classroom or library maker spaces.

 Made with this cutter


 I have seen these type of cutters in craft stores but have not yet tried one.

 Here is a side by side comparison of two different types of cutters: 
The Silhouettes and the Cricut

 Looks like I also found another possible sources for LEDs ! DigiKey The site is confusing but looks like a potential source for purchasing in quantity.