Hackerspace Happenings for April 11

Are you a hackerspace member with an event you’d like to publicize? Send it to or tweet me at @johnbaichtal and I’ll post it. Also feel free to subscribe to my hackerspaces Twitter list. Hackerspace Happenings runs weekly(ish).

Minne Faire This Saturday

Twin Citians, be sure to visit the Hack Factory this Saturday from 12-5pm and check out the Minne Faire, a Mini Maker Faire put on by Twin Cities Maker.

Mothership HackerMoms Open Shop

Congrats to the HackerMoms on renting a space!

I started this creative group of moms, Mothership HackerMoms, last year amidst Sean’s cancer and Magenta’s birth as a way to stay sane in a crazy time. Now, 9 months later, this group has opened a sweet little hackerspace at 3288 Adeline, Berkeley 94703, around the corner from Scarlett’s preschool.
The 1,000 hackerspaces across the world are awesome techy guy spaces. But as the first women’s hackerspace ever, we’re making history. We are here to support moms who are creative or want to be. I know personally how mothers like us are especially starved for time, freedom, community. So we offer $5 childcare and a kid-friendly 24/7 member space where little ones can learn and witness their incredible, hacking, entrepreneurial moms in full glory.

Are you a HackerMom or know one? If you’re local, visit our weekly open house on Wed mornings 10am-12pm or Thurs nights 6-8pm or during workshops. You’re also invited to our bubblicious, hula hooping Grand Opening Benefit happening May 26-27, where you can come chat, play or just stuff our donation bra! If you’re not local, we’d love to hear what you think of this venture.

Denhac’s GeekShow Variety Act Extravaganza

denhac is proud to announce GeekShow – a geek/nerd art, music, and variety act extravaganza held at 3 Kings Tavern, May 12th.

Call for Artists/Musicians/Variety-Acts/Performers now open!

Do you have a MacGyver-like penchant for creating art and science projects out of LEDs, beer bottles, and rubber bands? Can someone look at your photography or paintings and instantly tell that you were a child of the 80s? Do things that glow in the dark, light up, shoot electricity, and scare your neighbors titillate your senses? Does the macabre spectacle of a circus sideshow entice you? If so, denhac has an event for you…

Hot Pants-Making Night at Vancouver’s VHS

Some people have round asses and some people have flat asses. If you’ve never been able to find a pair of hot pants to fit your very special ass, this hot pants party is your chance to learn how to customise some hot pants!

WHAT: Bring a pair of your own booty shorts / tighty whities / underwear to use as a pattern. If you own large scissors, bring ‘em. We’ve got fabric for up to 10 ten people, so please RSVP to cnorberg at to secure your spot, or bring your own fabric.

The event is Monday, April 18th at 7:30pm.

Pumping Station: One Celebrates its 3rd Birthday

Ok, three years ago in a coffee shop not far from here, Pumping Station: One was just a dream in the heads of a bunch of DIYers who had no idea what they were in for. Come celebrate our 3 year anniversary!

Date: April 14
Time: 7pm – Demos and Reception; 10pm – Circuit bent music
Place: Pumping Station: One, 3354 N. Elston (near Belmont and California)

Come check out the awesome hackerspace we’ve built and some of the cool projects we’ve made there.

The cost is $20.

LVL1′s White Star Project Update

Louisville hackerspace LVL1 hosts the White Star Balloon Project, a huge undertaking that aims to float a balloon across the Atlantic jet stream. In a project update from late last month,

We have been fairly quiet publicly, but many subsystems are coming to completion rapidly, including the helium gas overflow vent valve. Completion of anything flying on a ballon means it’s time to do some science! Tests must be done, data must be noted, hypotheses checked. Gary Flispart and I put together a detailed technical video explanation of the vacuum leak test system we’ve made.

Hackito Ergo Sum Hacker Conference

The HES Conference is being held April 12-14 in Paris, France:

Hackito Ergo Sum will try to anticipate the short term global challenges of 2012 by taking a deep dive into the findings of security researchers around the globe. Previous editions featured entirely new talks such as hacking Scada networks (including satellites!) using X25, new kernel pool overflow exploitation techniques (Tarjei Mandt won the pwnie award 2011 at Blackhat for this amazing research he first presented at Hackito Ergo Sum 2011), reverse engineering of FPGA firmwares, dynamic forensic analysis of malware using either direct RAM access or using emulation (PandoraBochs), fuzzing of virtual machine monitors at interrupt level, hacking Telco Operators at the scale of a country using the SS7 protocol, and GSM security through femtocells for instance.

Maker Faire Bay Area: TE+ND Rover Interview

TE+ND Rover

As we continue to countdown to Maker Faire Bay Area, taking place on May 19 and 20 at the San Mateo Fairgrounds, we’re continually amazed by the variety of projects that will be on display. Whatever stripe of maker you are, this is one event you will not want to miss. Truly the greatest and biggest show and tell on Earth. Last week, we got an inside glimpse into the Zevrino, and Arduino-powered cat feeder made by a father-daughter team. This week, we speak with artist and project collaborator Marnia Johnston, who will be bringing a set of three TE+ND Rovers, which are mobile, interactive, robotic plant-fostering environments.

1. Tell us about the TE+ND Rover project. What inspired you to envision it and what was the development process?
The rover project combines several things that I’m interested in — native habitat survival, robotics, and art — in one amazing package. I’ve wanted to build this garden-tending robot for some time but didn’t have the facilities or know how, so I applied for and received the Visions from the New California Award from the Alliance of Artist Communities. The award is a one-month residency at the Exploratorium and a grant from the James Irvine foundation. I will start my residency this June but, with the help of fabricator and Linux guru Corey McGuire, will have a working model on view for Maker Faire in May.

The design of the robot is based on Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests and the Mars rovers. Space exploration had a lot of influence in designing the project. I think of the TE+ND Rovers as terra rovers, exploring the Earth for the best place to grow native California habitat. Working with Corey, the rover has been modeled, and animations of the walking elements can be seen on

I’m currently working on designing the hydroponic growing platform on top of the walking base. Most traditional hydroponics use an inert medium like gravel for root development. Substrates like that won’t work on a walking rover because the gravel would roll around and destroy the roots when the rover is on anything but a flat surface. I’m creating a stable ceramic sponge-like material that will hydrate without the need for traditional substrates. I’ll show examples of the ceramic sponge at this year’s Maker Faire.

2. How do audience members become participants in this project?
Bystanders become participants by assisting the rovers in finding sunlight and water for their gardens, helping the rovers to navigate, and providing resources they need to keep their gardens healthy. Because the robots navigate using obstacle-avoidance technology, bystanders can “herd” them by standing in their way to cause them to move in a particular direction, and thereby encourage them to travel toward resources beyond the range of the robots’ sensors. There will also be a Quick Response code on a plaque on the rover that will direct community members to more information about the project, topic discussions on native ecology, and troubleshooting interactions with the rovers. The website that the QR code directs participants to will have pictures of the plants grown on the platform and descriptions of how and where they grow. In helping the rovers, participants learn about cultivating native California habitat and stretch the limits of human-robotic empathy and engagement.

TE+ND Rover

3. At Maker Faire Bay Area 2008, you exhibited another collaborative project called SWARM. Tell us about that experience. How was SWARM received?
SWARM consists of a herd of six semi-autonomous robots that have their own on-board light, sound, and navigational systems and have their own flocking or “swarming” behavior. As the spherical robots rolled around the grass at the 2008 Maker Faire, children chased after them and tried to corral them, yelling, screaming, and having a great time. Fairgoers got to “drive” the orbs using remote controls and experienced the on-board light and sound elements. The orbs made the most impact at dusk when the light system could really shine. Overall, we had a great time and fairgoers got to experience an amazing project created by a fabulous team of dedicated, talented artists.

4. Having participated previously, what is it about Maker Faire that motivated you to participate as a maker again?
To be honest, I am participating at Maker Faire because I want to talk to people about my project and do a test run. When you design a project like this, you always plan out how it will be received and interpreted. But you never really know if what you plan is what you’ll get. Maker Faire is a great way to test out all the flaws and get audience feedback. The audience gets to help improve the project, and I get to talk to intelligent, amazing people, many of whom have garage projects of their own they are trying to realize.

I love talking to people at Maker Faire because they are so interesting and they are always working on or developing something fascinating. I love hearing about what they are up to.

5. Tell us about yourself. How did you get started making things and who are your inspirations?
I guess like most people at Maker Faire, I’ve always tinkered and made things. I usually start with drawings or a plan and move on to a working model. I’ve always worked that way, even as a kid. As I grew up and my ideas got larger, I looked for other people to make things and collaborate with.

The people I look to are artists like Theo Jansen and George Gessert. George is an amazing artist who is interested in plant aesthetics and ways that human aesthetic preferences (hybridizing plants in search of beauty) affect evolution. I could gush about George all day. I also read a lot of Stephen Jay Gould, Donna Haraway, Lewis Thomas, and other authors who write about contemporary issues in science. Their ideas usually seep their way into my work as well.

6. Your bio describes you as an “interdisciplinary instigator collaborating with engineers, biologists, programmers and tinkerers.” As an artist, what do you look for in project collaborators?
The first thing I look for is enthusiasm. On a big project full of frustrations and late nights, the excitement of the end result is what is going to help sustain us. I also look for compatibility and ask these questions: will our personality types work together? Can we schedule enough time together to work on the project consistently? What skill sets are needed for this project?

The most important part of collaborating is to have fun. If the crew is having a good time, we will be more likely to meet and work together to finish the piece. Also, the end product reflects that buoyant interaction, and the viewers will experience it through the work.

[Check out the TE+ND Rover Timing Gears With Legs animation by Corey McGuire below.]

7. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about collaborating with folks across varied disciplines?
Patience. Everything good takes time. Learn to compromise. There are a million ways to make something, and your way isn’t always the best, safest, easiest, or awesomest way to do it, so listen to each other and be open minded. I’ve seen so much new knowledge come out of the cross pollination between disciplines. The corollary knowledge is so exciting.

8. What new idea has inspired you most recently?
I’m really interested in the ceramic sponge for the growing platform. If it all works out, it has a lot of applications. I’ll keep you posted.

9. What is your favorite tool and/or medium?
I like to get dirty, and my favorite medium is clay. I can spend all day and night at the ceramics studio throwing on the wheel, hand-building forms, and firing kilns. Most of my work incorporates ceramics in some way.

10. What advice would you give to young makers just getting started?
Just go for it. Don’t hesitate. You could spend a lifetime second guessing yourself and your ideas.

Next, set aside time to work. Don’t let the laundry, that TV show, or that computer game steal time away from you and your project. And work on it every week because progress feels good, and when you feel good, you’re more likely to work on it and complete it.

Also, talk about what you’re working on with friends, share it on your blog, post it on Pinterest. I spend hours looking for awesome maker projects and always love hearing about new projects as they are made. They inspire me to start something new or get off my butt and finish some cool piece. It’s the synergy of being a maker.

Thanks Marnia! Looking forward to meeting and interacting with the rovers!

Folks, for all the info you need to come join us at the Faire, including how to buy early bird discount tickets, head over to the Maker Faire Bay Area site. Hope to see you there!

NEWS FROM THE FUTURE – “I saw a bit of the future in a Taipei tax cab”

News From The Future-20


NEWS FROM THE FUTURE – “I saw a bit of the future in a Taipei tax cab”… Kevin Kelly writes-

I saw a bit of the future in a Taipei tax cab this afternoon. Mounted on the front windshield is a $100 HD video monitor which records everything that happens in front of the car. If there is an accident, the video becomes evidence. Good news if you are a good driver — which most people believe. Eventually all vehicles will have multiple cameras recording front, back and side.

Black boxes for cars, wireless video streams storing to the “cloud”, sensors storing everything. Your insurance policy of the future will include how many gigabytes you’re allowed to store.

Cool Shed/Playhouse in Boulder, Colorado

This week, I’m at the Conference on World Affairs in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado. Yesterday, I was on a panel titled “DIY: Hipster Economy” with three fantastic co-panelists Eric Wilhelm of Instructables, Tom Preston-Werner of GitHub, and Kiki Sanford of This Week in Science podcast and radio show. The panel was videotaped, and I will post it here when it becomes available.

On my way to the panel, I was walking down an alley in the University Hill area of Boulder and saw this cool 2-story shed / playhouse in a backyard.

Huge Synth Sounds from Tiny Mixtape Alpha

Jie Qi, from Media Lab’s High-Low Tech Group, took a synthesizer and distilled it into a compact, no-frills interface. About the size of an audio cassette, it has setting for multiple tones, looping ability, and five note polyphony. The sound has an 8 bit feel to it, but the real magic is in how it’s controlled They packed a ton of functionality into a small space, including the ability to share tracks with friends.

As for documentation, they’ve made a homepage and a wiki page for it, so users can obtain one and start hacking it.

[via The Creators Project]

Fine Wood NES Controller Coffee Table

Furniture and instrument builder Charles Lushear (Venice, CA) built a beautiful and fully functional NES Controller Coffee Table out of wood. He used the natural hues of mahogany, maple, and walnut wood in place of the original black, gray and red motif.


Kyle Downes’ NES Coffee Table (original colors)

How-To: Mix and Mold GFRC

Concrete, as most folks know, is strong under compression but weak under tension, and is commonly strengthened by casting it around, e.g. a grid of steel reinforcing bar (“re-bar”). Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete is, well, pretty much exactly what it sounds like: concrete reinforced with glass fibers. As in most composite materials, the fiber elements in GFRC can be carefully oriented, or randomly distributed, in the solid matrix. The nice thing about the latter method is that you can just mix the reinforcing fibers into the bulk concrete and don’t have to pre-position them in the mold. GFRC concrete panels can be much thinner and lighter than metal-reinforced slabs, and the glass fibers are not subject to corrosion.

If you’re interested in experimenting with GFRC, however, you may have noticed that practical how-to information is a bit scarce online. The notable exception, IMHO, is this pair of hands-on tutorials from Brandon Gore (who produced the cool concrete coffee table with cast-in saucers we hit last Friday), first published in Concrete Decor magazine in the summer of 2008 and now freely available on their website.

In the first, Brandon details three different concrete mix recipes used in the casting of a GFRC bathroom counter with integral sink. These are the “face coat,” which is sprayed in to line the mold and does not contain fibers, the “vertical backing coat,” which is applied behind the face coat to the panels upright services, and the “self-consolidating backing coat,” which fills in the rest. In the second article, Brandon covers the process of actually applying the mixtures to the mold. [Thanks, Brandon!]

Concrete Decor – GFRC Mix Design
Concrete Decor – GFRC Application

DIY Portable Electronics Tool Kit

Dustin White of the i3 Detroit hackerspace created this instructable on how to assemble your own electronics tool kit. Dustin suggests everything from packets of Sugru to desoldering braid, a sharpie, a dental pick, a multitool, as well as the gotta-have multimeter and soldering iron. How about you? What do you keep in your portable took kit — and what’s the weirdest thing? Leave a note in comments.

Automated Turntable Photography System

Inspired by the commercial PhotoCapture 360 system, Muris designed his own spinning-product camera controller that includes custom software to synchronize turntable rotation and photography through a single USB port. He wrote the program, built the turntable (using a stepper motor from an old scanner), and hacked an off-the shelf camera remote to provide control of the DSLR. [Thanks, Muris!]

Turntable Photography Equipment –


DIY Project Glass-like Augmented Reality

It may be some time before we start to see mainstream adoption of Project Glass-like augmented reality, but in the meantime, that’s not stoping folks like AR hacker Will Powell from rolling their own solution from off the shelf components. Check out this demo Powell put together using a Vuzix HUD, microphone headset, a couple of webcams, and Dragon Naturally Speaking. He built his own UI and was able to navigate common tasks in this supposedly undoctored video. [via Slashgear]

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