In each issue of MAKE magazine (since Volume 10), columnist Tom Parker offers a new installation of Make Money, where he shows you examples of how “Sometimes it costs more to buy it than to make it from the money itself.” Tom has covered mouse traps to eye glasses to an abacus, and in the latest issue, Volume 26, he’s outdone himself with an awesomely complex combination lock made out of 5 quarters, 2 half-dollars, and a penny (plus an assortment of scrap metal, nuts, and bolts. A combination drawer lock bought online can run between $15 and $20, but Tom’s money-made version came out to about $2.26. The following images from the column show a head-on view, disassembled view, and a side view:
Check out the full details in the Tom’s column on pages 146 and 147 of MAKE Volume 26. Subscribers, read it now online in the digital edition.
From the Pages of MAKE:
MAKE Volume 26: Karts & Wheels
Garage go-kart building is a time-honored tradition for DIYers, In this issue of MAKE, we’ll show you how to build wheeled wonders that’ll have you and the kids racing around the neighborhood in epic DIY style. Build a longboard skateboard by bending plywood and build a crazy go-kart driven by a pair of battery-powered drills. Put a mini gasoline engine on a bicycle. And construct an amazing wind-powered cart that can outrun a tailwind. Plus you’ll learn how to build the winning vehicle from our online Karts and Wheels contest! In addition to karts, you’ll find plenty of other projects that only MAKE can offer!
» BUY or SUBSCRIBE
One of the most iconic creatures to roam the Maker Faire is, hands down, Russell the Electric Giraffe. I remember falling in love with Russell the first time I met him, back in 2006, at the very first Maker Faire. He is one of the sweetest robots you’ll ever meet. He’ll be at this year’s Maker Faire Bay Area, taking place next weekend, on May 21 and 22. Russell took some time out from his busy schedule recently to chat about friends he’s made at previous Faires, his favorite kinds of music, and what Maker Faire looks like from 17 feet up.
1. Russell, you are truly one of a kind. Tell us about yourself. How were you conceived?
Back in 2003, Lindsay [Lawlor] was at the Burning Man festival and rode around on several art cars, including a zebra powered by a lawn mower engine. He was inspired by the site of art cars that looked like animals, and saw how much they were liked by everyone. After much contemplation, he decided to build a large robot giraffe, which eventually became me! He saw in his mind what a huge robot giraffe would look like in the dark with his spots changing to multiple colors to the beat of whatever music was playing nearby. Sort like a huge “color organ” from the 1960s in the shape of a giraffe. It was that image that inspired him to create me.
2. Can you share some of your technical specs with us? What makes you tick? What are your dimensions?
I’m about 17 feet tall with my neck raised. I weigh about 2000 pounds and run on batteries which are charged by a propane engine or outlet. I can carry 9 children or 4 adults in comfort on my back, and have at one time carried nearly 30 people at once. My software is hand engineered by Russell Pinnington, which allows me to know when people are touching my nose or other pet sensors. This allows me to talk to people who are near me.
3. Tell us more about your good friend Lindsay Lawlor. How did he first get started making things and who are his inspirations.
Lindsay is a crazy sort of kid, who never went to college. He just knows how to read very well and understand electromechanical devices. He’s always built mini bikes and model airplanes and also worked for Laserium, running laser shows and building his own laser projectors. People who started from scratch with things and became famous through their successes have always been very inspiring, from the Wright brothers to Nikola Tesla to Ivan Dryer of Laserium. Lindsay has always done things on his own and never let anything stop him.
4. You’ve been at every single Maker Faire Bay Area since the beginning in 2006. What keeps you coming back every year? What does the evolution of the Faire look from your perspective up there?
The Faire is simply amazing and the most fun I have ever had. It’s my favorite show to attend, and to watch the show evolve each year has been very entertaining. To see all the other technologies and art each year is what keeps me coming back, along with the Maker Faire having made me something of a mascot. I’ve been on their tickets and posters a few times now [2010 poster below], and the honor and respect they show me is very gratifying! The kids are probably the best, seeing them squeal with delight when they see me, and their parents who are also fans. Each year it is wonderful to entertain everyone there!
5. You always evolve a bit each year. What’s new for 2011?
This year my changes are minor, but nevertheless important. Updates are being done to my servo controls, software, and electrical system, as well as our presentation to the public, working on new posters, T-shirts, and other items. In the future, I’ll be getting a whole new head and neck made out of aluminum, with a further change later to a seven-segmented neck, so that I’ll be able to twist my neck and look about. Right now is neck is a very stiff single piece, and I don’t like it very much! I will also get a motorized tongue that I can stick it out and waggle at people!
6. What are your hobbies? Where do you go on your off time? Where are your other favorite places to roam?
I like to munch on spare electronics, which drives Lindsay crazy when he looks for things and they are missing. I spend my downtime relaxing in my new huge workshop that Lindsay just recently purchased, along with his new home. Thus, the reason for not too many changes this year. As for other places to roam, I can be found in various places in San Diego on Halloween and Christmas, going out to parades and such. I have entered the Ocean Beach Christmas Parade twice, and both times received a “Best In Show” award!
7. You always make so many new friends at the Faire each year, robotic and human. Who are some of your most memorable Faire friends?
In my second appearance in 2007, as I was walking off the trailer the day before the Faire, I suffered a major electrical failure in my main drive motor. It essentially melted down! Lindsay was frantic and managed to find a new motor for me, but needed some big tools to do the job. It turned out that one of his biggest inspirations, Mark Pauline of SRL, was there, doing his own exhibit, and Mark was gracious enough to lend him some tools to fix me. So, in his very first meeting with Mark, Lindsay was forced to beg for help from him all in the same moment. Mark later showed up and complimented Lindsay on the creation of such a large beast as myself.
8. You’re also known as Rave Raffe, so we know you like beats. What’s your favorite kind of music?
Wow, I like so much music, but lounge, chillout and psy-chill are some of my faves. If I had to name favorites, Lindsay designed and built me to the music of Bluetech, Carbon Based Lifeforms, Higher Intelligence Agency, Pete Namlook, and many others.
9. What is your motto?
“Are you going to eat that?” [hungry look]
Thanks Russell! Can’t wait to see you, buddy! Check out the site for all the information you need to come out and play with us at Maker Faire Bay Area. And check out the video below, from the 2008 Maker Faire Bay Area, to see Russell in action.
We do not have a dog where I live, but we do have Roombas (and a cat). While this example above is funny, it’s also a fun engineering challenge. How would you modify the Roomba to detect dog poop and stop instead of making modern art all over the place?
You may have already seen Matt Richardson’s wonderful Snail Mail Push project. Our Arduino projects guy, Riley Porter, has put together a snail mail hack of his own. His new workshop is in his backyard, far from his mailbox. Rather than having to walk to the box obsessively to see if mail has arrived, he developed a prototype for this wireless device that alerts him to the mail’s arrival. It’s a wireless Arduino system with a photoresistor sensor that detects when the box is opened and alerts Riley, via a wireless connection and an Arduino, in his shop.
See Riley’s project featured on the Make: Arduino page
Snail Mail Push Alerts
The University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Lab, famous for those crazy quadrotors that can fly through windows and hula hoops, has been working on getting groups of the robots to fly together in formation. Just like with a formation of fighter jets, there’s a leader robot in each squad along with several follower robots. The followers have just two jobs: follow the leader, and preserve the shape of the formation.
What year does Skynet take over again? [Via Tinkernology]
The Kitchen-Table Industrialists @ NYTimes.com… A lot of familiar makers celebrated. A version of this article will appear in print on May 15, 2011, on page MM50 of the Sunday Magazine with the headline: Meet The Makers.
If you lived in Detroit in 1961 and watched Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” at a drive-in, you might have caught a 30-minute trailer called “American Maker,” sponsored by Chevrolet. “Of all things Americans are, we are makers,” its narrator began, over footage of boys building sand castles. “With our strengths and our minds and spirit, we gather, we form and we fashion: makers and shapers and put-it-togetherers.”
Fifty years on, the American maker is in a bad way. Such is the state of American industry that waste paper is among the top 10 exports to China, behind nuclear equipment but far ahead of traditional mainstays like iron and steel. Manufacturing employment has fallen by a third in the last decade alone, with more than 40,000 factories shutting down. More Americans today are unemployed than are wage-earning “put-it-togetherers.” But the American romance with making actual things is going through a resurgence. In recent years, a nationwide movement of do-it-yourself aficionados has embraced the self-made object. Within this group is a quixotic band of soldering, laser-cutting, software-programming types who, defying all economic logic, contend that they can reverse America’s manufacturing slump. America will make things again, they say, because Americans will make things — not just in factories but also in their own homes, and not because it’s artisanal or faddish but because it’s easier, better for the environment and more fun.
What makes this notion something less than complete fantasy is the availability of new manufacturing machines that are cheap, simple and compact enough for small companies, local associations and even amateur hobbyists to own and operate. What once only big firms with hulking factories could fabricate can now be made in a basement or by e-mailing a design to an online factory-for-hire. These machines can produce all sorts of things, including plastic pencil holders, eyeglass frames and MP3 players.
Since it was not included in the article, I’d like to say thanks to Dale and the MAKE/Maker Faire team for always being the expert match maker for makers & reporters – and of course if you really want to “meet the makers”, Maker Faire is next week :)
OK, so, maybe it’s a bit crotchety for Friday morning, and I’m doubtlessly preaching to the choir in this forum, but it’s hard not to cheer along with Mike Rowe’s Wednesday testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. I want to quote the whole thing.
It occurred to me that I had become disconnected from a lot of things that used to fascinate me. I no longer thought about where my food came from, or how my electricity worked, or who fixed my pipes, or who made my clothes. There was no reason to. I had become less interested in how things got made, and more interested in how things got bought.
Update: Mike Rowe is coming to Maker Faire. Woohoo!
[via Boing Boing]
Bring back shop class!
The Pendulum Challenge Kit from the Maker Shed includes everything you need to make the project featured in Make, Volume 26. At the heart of the system is a pre-programmed PIC micro controller that runs the internal state machine which processes the game’s switch inputs and drives its LED outputs. The game’s most distinct feature is its array of 15 LEDs (14 red and 1 green), arranged in the shape of an arc to simulate the path of a swinging pendulum. For added sound effects, the game has a piezo buzzer.
Tinkerer “thechoozen” of Cologne, Germany built this superb Wall-E robot with a Mini ITX computer, an Arduino, and some servos. Nearly every step is documented from concept through paint! [Thanks, Petar]
If you want to apply a maker’s mark or other repeated pyrogram to wooden goods, but can’t justify the expense of a custom branding iron, a practically identical effect can be achieved by applying a strong solution of ammonium chloride, for instance using a foam rubber stamp, followed by relatively mild heat.
On heating, ammonium chloride decomposes into ammonia gas and strong hydrochloric acid. Ammonia diffuses away into the atmosphere, leaving the strong acid behind, which burns the wood. The resulting chemical burn is indistinguishable from a heat burn for all practical purposes.