A homemade alarm system made from two “normally closed” audio jacks is the focus of our most recent Weekend Project, the Alarm Bag. The alarm system, built into an enclosure (above), can be installed into any bag (in our project, a messenger bag is used) or even modified to act as a door or window alarm. The 2-jack design means the alarm will activate whenever the second audio jack (the trigger) is removed. It’s an interesting use of components not typically designed for this purpose, except for the 102dB Piezo siren which is an absolute screecher of an alarm!
Sign up below for the Weekend Projects Newsletter to access the projects before anybody else does, get tips, see other makers’ builds, and more.
Sign Up for the “Weekend Projects” Newsletter
This microscope is a project by Sacha De’Angeli of ChemHacker.
Sounds like kits will be going on sale, you can sign up for news at the link above. [Via element14]
Clever idea I first saw in a recent issue of The Family Handyman. The flat-folding “cone” style filters will be easier to handle. It’s similar to the Post-It note trick, but less likely to leak out the sides. See also, e.g., the coffee cup trick for catching debris while drilling overhead.
Imagine waking up and seeing your design for a circuit being used in a product by someone who never contacted you to ask if it was okay. You will not get any payment for their usage of your design, they’ve raised over $31,000 dollars, and they’re selling something you worked really hard on. You have no control over what someone does with something you made. Is this a nightmare? Perhaps for some, but this is actually a dream come true for others. And it’s what this week’s Soapbox is about: Open-source hardware kick-starting Kickstarters!
Let’s kick it :)
Kickstarter is quickly becoming one of the most popular funding options for people who make things. It’s called the largest funding platform in the world, and for good reason: it is.
I’m seeing it more and more here on MAKE. Have a clever idea? Are you talented and skilled enough to make it happen? You can submit your project to Kickstarter, and if it passes their guidelines (this is where their editorial comes in), you can post your project and get funding. The average amount of funding is $71, and the most common funding is $25 per backer. The people with Kickstarters usually give some incentives for people to back projects like the physical item, a T-shirt of the final shipping product, etc.
But many of the Kickster projects are open source. This means they’ll get funding and release things like software, hardware, schematics, code, and more. This is the feelgood part and the community side of the best projects, and my favorite ones.
Now why would someone do open source? Sometimes they just want to, and other times it’s because they’re using open source for their Kickstarter. That’s right, with open source, you can make money off of someone else’s work. You’ll just need to publish your work under the same license and share back any changes. This is really useful for software (the world runs on open source software), and for hardware it’s becoming increasingly popular. Why? In a bit, I’ll let a maker explain some of that, but here’s why I think open source hardware is going to fuel many, many Kickstarts:
Here are a few of my favorite examples where open source hardware is either being used for projects on Kickstarter, or the projects themselves are open source.
So by now I hope you’re saying, OK, Phil, maybe open source hardware could be used to get some really interesting products out in the world with Kickstarter, but is there anyone out there actually doing this who could talk about it? Do you have firsthand knowledge about this, Phil, or are you just trying to convince people open source hardware is a good thing, again?
Yes there is, and I interviewed Ryo Chijiiwa of bootstrapsolar.com, the maker of one of my favorite recently funded projects on Kickstater that uses open source hardware and is based on something I even helped develop at my other job at Adafruit (an open source hardware maker in NYC). There are a lot of projects that use open source hardware, but this one I knew about and was thrilled to see in a successfully funded Kickstarter.
The maker, in his own words, talks about how he got into electronics and how open source hardware helped him. It’s a great maker-view of what it’s like working on a project that’s crowd funded. Say hi to Ryo!
Thanks for doing this interview!
Tell me about yourself.
What got you into making electronics?
I first started thinking about this project in the days immediately following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan back in March. There were a surprising number of people in the worst-hit areas saying that, after essentials like food, water, fuel, and medicine, what they needed most was a way to charge their cellphones. I saw this as a relatively new problem, since we’ve never been as dependent on these little devices as we are now, and this trend is being reinforced by widespread adoption of powerful smartphones.
Unlike many of the other problems in a disaster, I also saw this as a relatively easy problem to solve. I knew this because I was living in my cabin at the time, and the only supply of electricity I had was my meager 145-watt solar array. As small as that is, keeping a handful of phones charged is even cheaper and easier. I knew that $100-$200 worth of gear ought to be able to keep half a dozen phones charged, and that could keep an entire community connected with the outside world.
About a month later, I went to Japan to volunteer with a U.S.-based organization on a project based in Iwate, one of the hardest-hit prefectures. One of the things I did there was to take a team of about a dozen volunteers to this remote town, where we camped out (literally) in a tsunami-struck house that had no power (and only about half the walls). We were working in three different job sites, and to coordinate, we needed to use cellphones. Guess what? We had a hard time keeping them charged. One of the volunteers had a solar gadget, but it was nearly useless.
Later, when I was starting BootstrapSolar, this experience inspired me to work on a portable solar phone charger. As a software engineer, you get used to creating something if you’re not happy with what’s out there. I think I approached this project with a similar mentality, even though I have no background in electronics.
What is BootstrapSolar?
Instead of writing a business proposal and getting funding, I decided to bootstrap the process by developing a product first, as one would do in the software world. My initial thought was to build something for disasters — a kit that could be stashed away in evacuation centers, or be given to disaster responders. But, after some exploration, I decided to start with something smaller that had widespread appeal. Based on my experiences in Japan and on my property, I decided that it would be cool to have a solar phone charger that was affordable, but also powerful enough to actually be practical. So that’s what I made.
The BootstrapSolar Power Pack Kit (soon to be renamed the “Chi-qoo”), is a portable solar device for charging small electronic devices like phones, iPads, eBook readers, Arduino projects, and many others. It comes with a 5W solar panel (with the option to upgrade to a total of 10W), a 6000mAh/22Wh LiPoly battery, and two USB ports that support up to 1.5A of output. It comes with a bamboo enclosure, and will be available as a kit that requires basic assembly (but no soldering). The way it works is quite simple. You can use solar panels (or a wall plug as backup) to charge the power pack’s internal battery, and then you can use that stored energy to charge your device by plugging it into the power pack’s USB ports.
Why did you decide to use Kickstarter?
How did open source hardware and open source software help your project?
On the software side, I used Inkscape, an open source graphics program, to design my laser-cut bamboo pieces. If I’d had to go buy a copy of a commercial graphics program, that would’ve blown away a quarter of my budget. While not open source, free (as in free beer) software, like Eagle CAD for circuit board design and SketchUp for 3D modeling, helped too.
Since you’re basing your product on open source hardware, are you publishing everything you do back as open source hardware?
Since BootstrapSolar is crowd-funded, I will also incorporate openness and transparency into all aspects of the business, by making my expenses public too. This is actually an idea that’s inspired by my friends, who opened a transparent produce store called Open Produce in Chicago.
As a side note, I recently got a message from someone who is interested in manufacturing and selling clones of my kit in the Philippines. That kind of venture would only be possible to do legally with open source hardware. Some people might wonder whether I’d lose money that way. The reality, though, is that at the price point I’m selling my kits at, my product would not really be viable in that market anyway. I can also maintain my competitive edge by staying ahead of the innovation curve. It takes weeks or months to start manufacturing and selling a product, even a clone, so if I crank out new products or new versions every couple of months, I’ll always stay ahead. Furthermore, I can compete with copies by ensuring that the product experience is more than just the physical components.
Have you contacted the designer, Limor “Ladyada” Fried and Adafruit?
What is your goal for your project?
If this product works out, will you use Kickstater again?
In fact, even though my project has done well (I’m just shy of reaching 400% of my goal as I write), they initially rejected my proposal because they didn’t think it was a good fit. To some degree, I think they were right. I’m hoping that sales of this first kit will fund the next project, but if I decided to turn to crowd-funding again, I might look at alternative options. I don’t know if there are any yet, but I think it’s a matter of time before someone builds a crowd-funding service tailored specifically to small businesses.
I wanted to point out that Kickstarter isn’t the first to do crowd-funding, it won’t be the last, and even Starbucks is considering it. Here’s what the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz is thinking about:
And lastly, before I wrap this up, I wanted to share this Kickstarter that could use some love:
As the maker movement marches forward, we’ve hit a lot of milestones: a place to share what you make (MAKE magazine/MAKE blog/Maker Faire, Make: Projects, Instructables), places to meet up and build things (hackerspaces, TechShops, meetups/DorkBots), tools to create (Inkscape, MakerBots, laser cutters, gEDA, kiCAD), places to sell what you make (Etsy, kit businesses, Maker Shed, direct), and now ways to fund your projects (Kickstarter). It really is true: if you can dream it, you can make it, and now you can probably get funding for it. And if you use open source hardware, you have an advantage and a way to give back value at the same time. That’s what’s so exciting to me right now, and I hope we see more open source hardware fueling great Kickstarter projects.
Cal Haunts NorCal is more than a Halloween haunted house, its a hands-on space that shows others skills in foam fabrication, decorating, and animatronics that are integral to their many scare tactics. Robert Santos shows these frightening spooks and props at Maker Faire Bay Area 2011.
Watch more videos from Maker Faire Bay Area, NYC and Detroit.
How do you make a walking biped robot, with only three servos? Without saying a word, Frits Lyneborg from Let’s Make Robots shows you his inventive way of doing just that! Download the programs used in the robot on the video.
Subscribe to the The Latest in Hobby Robotics Podcast in iTunes, download the m4v video directly, or watch it on YouTube or Vimeo.
Tools needed are very basic like a saw, drill, ruler, hot glue gun, etc.
Materials are the 3 servos, some wood (4 paint sticks), hot glue, a couple of screws and some thread locking fluid. The servos are controlled by an AXE230, and batteries are used as balancing weight. You can use either 3 “normal” batteries, or 4 rechargeable; You just need somewhere between 4.5 and 5.5 volts.
You can adjust the the height of the batteries, and there are several parameters to adjust in the programming code as well, to make your robot walk well. You can also port the simple code to any other micro controller of your choice, and add sensors, arms and more to your own walking robot.
An entry from Bay Stater John Neiner in Starship Modeler’s 2007 Yellow contest:
According to Instructables user nsnip, they’re made from Baltic birch! To make this board, he cut the rounded ends off stacks of sticks with a table saw, laminated them stick-by-stick in five layers with alternating grain directions, and glued the whole thing together in an improvised vacuum press made from a clothes storage bag. Impressive, meticulous craftsmanship.
|Your requested content delivery powered by FeedBlitz, LLC, 9 Thoreau Way, Sudbury, MA 01776, USA. +1.978.776.9498|