Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Nation of Makers Meeting

My flight leaves at 6am so I set my alarm for 2:45am. I wake up at 4:40am in a panic and wondering what happened (I turned my alarm off). I had everything packed the night before so I was able to brush my teeth, get dressed and go. Which is what I did, everything was with the thought ‘no time!’ My flight was boarding at 5:30am and I needed to go. I sped to the airport and parked at the end of long-term so that I wouldn’t be pulling my hair out going through all of the stops. Smart move. TSA was pretty fast and I had time for a stop to buy water and I was in line to board. During the flight I put makesaltlake.com stickers on the backs of all of the buttons I brought to hand out to the other Makers.

We landed in Dallas and I have to change planes. I’m sitting at the window and the guy sitting in the aisle with a bag listing his address as Park City is taking a break. My next flight boards in 20 minutes so I need to go now. People up the aisle start to move and I’m stuck so I tell Park City that I need to go because I have a connecting flight. Still sitting he says ‘the line’s not moving’ I point ‘yes it is’ derp. And kind of push past him. Screw that guy. I rushed to the tram and made it to the next plane as they were past my boarding group.



Finally at Dulles! I meet up with my sister in law Valerie and  my nieces and nephew. We drive home. She has to leave and I offer to watch the kids. We all color and they show me a pile of papers they’d colored already which I have at home now.  Valerie leaves and the fighting starts. Nephew, 1 year old, wants to climb on everything. The girls want to fight about random things. I’m tired from getting up early and having a heart attack but I want to be the crafty awesome Aunt and teach them something. Paper airplanes! Yes we do that.



I showed them the best way to throw these poorly designed airplanes and the one with anger management problems gets a few good throws in before they start crashing. I’ll let you guess which one. The brother John comes home and plays with them too then Valerie and we have dinner and I get my clothes ready and go to sleep.

Wednesday August 24th, the big day. I have no idea what to expect and John is explaining that he doesn’t know how much money is on the metro card, how to put more on it and where to go. I actually did it just that, after the second try. Their infographic is horrendous. The ride took about 35 minutes and just like that I was at the White House stop, I was texting with John Fenley, head of Provolt Makerspace who got in a few days before so that was calming me down and he told me which stop to use which saved me some walking.

Once I get to the approximate area I start to see a line. Is it my people? I asked if they were Makers and they were! Ah! Makers! Immediately we start talking about our Makerspaces, sizes, location, number of members, lasercutters, 3d printers, on and on. It’s amazing. I’ve only ever had this conversation is at Make Salt Lake. I meet people from all across the country, I can’t believe it. We’re sharing war stories about how we got invited and what it took to get to DC. The line slowly moves and I see the Washington Monument. Wow.
We were told to be there 45 minutes early for security screening and that might not be enough time. There were 120 people planned and as of monday 75 on a waiting list.
Neil Wyler from 801labs.org




There’s a guard gate and I give the guy my license under bullet proof glass. He hands it back and I go through a gate. More talking with the Makers. We wind around the line. I hand my ID to another guard behind glass, this time he hands me a lanyard card with an A on it for appointment. Why twice? Couldn’t he talk to the first guy? I wait to go into the building one at a time. Once inside I have to stand on a mat with footprints on it while a dog sniffs at me behind a metal gate. I then put my bag on a conveyor belt to be xrayed and swipe my A badge on a turnstile. They tell my group which way to go for the meeting. All of this was still less invasive than the TSA if you get the pat down. The people I’m walking with immediately forget which way to go because I see our turn but they keep walking. I ask if we were supposed to go back that way which I wasn’t planning because I see a sign for a little snack shop ahead. Inside I get some water and make it into a room that looks like ones you see in press conferences. I take pictures.


John Fenley from Provolt and his 3d printed hat. Weirdo.




They say that 180 people are here. In between talks each region is introducing themselves with names, city and state and makerspace. They we have to say three words about ourselves or our makerspace. I bet the people in the beginning are pissed. The people at the end have plenty of time to think up something awesome after hearing the overused ones. Mine was don’t fear failure. I figured that was a good representation of our space. One thing about grad school was that I learned how to learn and one way was to take notes. A lot of them, on everything, I write down everything I can. This is one of those times. I wrote down what turned into 12 pages typed for the entire day. I wasn’t planning that though I did bring a book just in case. If you look at pictures other people took you can see me writing something.



What kind of nutjob takes notes like this? Proof:  http://tinyurl.com/zztamll 

Lunch was around 12 and I took some pictures of model ships around the hallways. Which were really small. Weird. People back then must have been tiny.

What does this mean?!
Food! (Jimmy Johns)
I’m trying to be the person that enjoys the experience rather than taking the pictures nonstop. Plus I think that other people were probably taking better pictures than me. Looking over them I’m thinking that yes, everyone else did take better pictures.

I have my eye on the clock because everyone seems to be just eating and hanging out. Not really concerned about time. I have no idea which way to go for the workshops and plan to wander the wrong direction which was pretty much what happened. All of the rooms were larger conference rooms and they were packed. People were keeping track of time after all.

First up Local and State Government. Not what I expected. The person leading it, Aden Van Noppen, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Senior Advisor. Instead of her leading with ideas it was more of the group coming up with our own experience and suggestions. I was hoping it would be the other way around. But she is writing a lot down. And for some of the problems people have I feel like I have experience with so maybe it’s not entirely unproductive.

Next is Funding for Arts and Creativity by Lakita Edwards who is with the National Endowment for the Arts. Wow. She made it sound like applying for a grant would be really accessible for us. Holy wow.People aren’t asking questions because it’s so intimidating and I hate that, I’m here to learn and I’m taking whatever I can get. I can find a million things to ask but I want to know what our chances are, Lakita says that for Multimedia they get about 600 requests and they fund 30% which is so much better than any of us thought. Then she’s asking me if I have something in mind. As she was talking I was thinking about making a giant wooden dinosaur that breathes fire but didn’t want to say that so instead I said I’d make a life sized wooden rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and let kids get inside. She counters with wanting to know if I could make that and educational experience. I told her I have a Masters in education and I’d start with situated learning and did she want Piaget or Vytgotsky as an emphasis? I feel like I could get some work turning grant proposals into educational curriculum.  Someone asks out of curiosity how many people have art backgrounds and immediately about half say they started out as art collectives. That blew my mind about what a makerspace could be and become. At the beginning of the meeting I saw some people at the window but I was trying to update everyone back home on my phone, which most people were doing. At the last second I jumped up to see what was outside. I had to wait until the end to take a picture. When I sat down the woman sitting next to me asked what they were looking at.


Next up, Radical New Models and they want a note taker. I sit there humbly not volunteering before telling everyone I was already doing that for the whole thing and I’d make it all avaliable to everyone no problems. Surprise, there’s no one in charge here which in fine. Everyone has amazing ideas about what a makerspace is and ways to make it more inclusive. There are some pottery collectives that have been around for 80 years that we could learn from. A makerspace in East LA started out in an old UPS van teaching printmaking about 40 years ago and then taught the kids how to monetize those skills. They are now bringing that back. A trade which turns into a career. They also focus on at risk kids and teens which to me sounds like groups that are not motivated to making and if you can get them into it as a lifestyle you can teach it anywhere. It was incredible. I love the idea of a mobile makerspace.

Me towards the end, tired but still excited.

Marketing for Makerspaces, another one without a designated official in charge which was fine. Key ideas, break the internet by making something viral. I can do that. I am all for doing something crazy for internet points. I also got to see one of the guys behind the glow in the dark plants (Biocurious). There were a lot of other internet famous people there for doing something similar. Wow.

Me and John

The last one was Geographic Goal Setting.  It was all of the people in the Midwest which as it turns out is a pretty large area. We want to organize a lot better and find ways to meet and support each other. I passed around my back of Make Salt Lake buttons and noticed people kind of picking through it which I thought was funny. We all agreed to visit any makerspace when going to another area and introducing ourselves and to any mini maker faire if possible.

This whole day was like the world’s shortest summer camp. At the end we all met up at the Naval Steps for a group picture. Of which you can’t really see me in and I’m blinking.



Now you can see me. (red circle)

This is what behind the scenes looked like:





The most important pictures though, I got the names of every kid I knew, kids from the Makerspace, nieces, nephews, friend’s kids, coworkers, etc. wrote it down on a piece of paper that I carried around for about a week.


And then:



Those suv’s are what the P gets driven around in. There are 4 different ones.

Then we were done. I passed around my buttons, one of the people there offered me one later, I told her I already had one. There was talk on facebook of meeting at a nearby bar afterwards so I took some pictures and headed that way.



After I took this picture I was trying to figure out if I wanted to go to the bar or take more pictures of stuff and I saw some people trying to take a selfie group picture so I offered to take it for them. It’s nice to know my skills as a volunteer at the 2007 Deaflymics are still useful.


The bar was called the Hunt or something like that. There were about 30 of use eating and talking for a few hours. It was a great time to bring up issues that were missed during the day and give advice, I loved it. One thing that was mentioned at the beginning was the lack of women which is true but along with that I’ve noticed a lot of the makers tend to be in IT which can limit perspectives, I’d like to see more diversity in background and experience. Which is where ethnicity comes in. All of us were in various IT positions except for a nurse which I was jealous of and wished we could have more of that diversity.


He’s not sad, just on his phone.

I got on the wrong metro train but figured it out at the next stop. The train was packed and took a minute to open the doors and right at the last second I did a Jedi wave at them and they opened. I walked off tired and laughing.

This is the right train. When I was looking at my phone texting my brother to pick me up a high school aged kid comes up asking for change. I didn’t have any but he asked me about  my book which I’d made. I told him I bought it at a thrift store and hand bound it, which I learned how to do at a makerspace, and then I explained what a makerspace was and about DC Fab Lab -one last educational moment before the day was over.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Pinball Tables

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How it all began:

My sister in law sent me a picture of my nephew at the Children's Museum of Houston at a pinball table on pegboard with dowels and rubberbands that were all movable. I needed a project for the Utah Arts Festival and Make Salt Lake and began searching for how to make an improved version.

It was rough, until I found these video and I was saved:




I took screenshots of the build and adapted what I could.

Pinball Beginnings
These were unsable. Too big, not symmetrical enough, not long enough but motivational enough for me to keep going.

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I got stuck for about a month on the flippers. I used every metal bolt I could find and epoxy and superglue. It wouldn't stay put. I got it to work for a day or two and then it stopped on the top or bottom. Finally I used wooden dowels with a nail drilled through the center and glued. That later caused its own problems but it worked. From overuse at the Arts Festival they died a horrible death and have since been replaced by metal with a hole drilled through.


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Typical testing at the beginning. A lot of it not working, or not working mostly. Discovered here I needed a back stopper for both flippers. I had so many people willing to test and offer advice. Charles was all over it anytime I needed help. He's a great troubleshooter.

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Bottom ramp isn't steep enough, balls keep getting stuck.

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How the Flippers Work.

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Took out the right side channel, this table is too small and I want more success for the players. Had to add wood filler. You can see my spinners and Pez heads on springs. As always, more testing. I film to get a record of what works. I have a gate to keep the ball from rolling straight back down. I can't quite replicate it without masking tape but I'm still working on it. The fishpond is on the dino pinball table.

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Final Paint. I wanted a clear line between what was movable for the pieces and what wasn't. I routed the top left side so that the balls didn't immediately go back down the side and home. That kind of made a mess.

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I'm missing some pez heads. I hit the thrift store and bought some toys to makeup for the shortfall. When I finished with more bobblehead bumpers I was asked about the headless toys in the garbage the next day at the Makerspace. heh. If you see Chewbacca and Wonder Woman pez heads around Make Salt Lake those are mine. The right side was sticking and I couldn't figure it out so Lisa took out the stick and turned it around. Boom. Fixed. She's a genius like that and she loves Doctor Who.

Pegboard Table

The finished product. Everything is on dowels and moveable. There are 2 layers of pegboard with 1/2" of space in between for stability. After going through all of my pictures and videos I have no idea how this succeeded. I have so much proof of failure and me in the video completely optimistic about the whole project. I seriously can't believe it. How did this happen? I also have no idea how kids were into this compared to the tables of activities around them. But no, they were lining up, they were crowded around the whole weekend. It was crazy. Some turned into pinball sharks. If they could have bet they'd have cleaned up. I am in awe and incredibly grateful.

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Some pinball sharks, I love these guys. They started making up their own games and were showing newer kids how to play and tips for hitting the bell. The wooden dowels in the flippers died on this one first and Maker Charles took it back to the shop and replaced it with metal and also fixed the shuttle. He's a beast.

The Pinball Crew

Dino table


The dino table. I bought some plastic dino toys at the Utah Museum of Natural History and added them.

Bonus newspaper pics:

Deseret News

Salt Lake Tribune