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Sylvia in print +New features, episodes & posts!

Submitted by TechNinja on April 21, 2012 - 5:13am

That's right, "Super-Awesome" Sylvia is in MAKE: Issue 30! Head over to the MakerShed (or your favorite newsstand) and pick up as many as they'll let you buy at once!!

Not only does it have Sylvia waxing nostalgic of her favorite moments at Maker Faire, but it's chock full of amazing and unique projects that you could get out there and make.

Sylvia's two page article in MAKE Magazine Volume 30, go get yours today before they run out!

Though it's been quite a while since our last blog post (and video) we're glad to say everything is just fine, and that's one of the reasons we're so slow to catch up. First, announcing two brand new site features: Printables, a place we'll be storing everything we make that's worth of sharing and duplicating at home, and Press, where we'll be posting quotes and links to articles/reblogs about the show, and it's also a good starting place for people who might want to know more about the show but don't know where to start. Also we've switched the comments over to Disqus, seeing as the spam problem was just not going away.

Also, since the last blog post we've been to the amazing Exploratorium Open MAKE:, The Parallax Expo, and Sunday 4/22/2012 we'll be heading off to Robogames! (thanks to goading from RobotGrrl)

We'll have photos, video and blog posts for most of these events coming in the next few weeks so stay tuned!

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DML wrap up, MAKE Photoshoot, and more...

Submitted by TechNinja on March 15, 2012 - 10:49pm

Another amazing adventure in sunny San Francisco March 1st-3rd for Sylvia and I, off at the fabulous Digital Media and Learning Conference 2012!

Sylvia gives two thumbs up in front of the DML 2012 Sign in the hotel lobby

Getting up at 5am, and driving over Thursday morning, Sylvia was happy to take the next two days off school to be part of an amazing gathering of teachers, superintendents, professors, entrepreneurs and educators/students of all stripes smashing together to try and make sense of how the web and maker culture is transforming how learners teach, and how teachers learn.

Left to right: Gever Tulley, Super-Awesome Sylvia

The audience for the Democratizing Learning and Innovation Panel Thursday at 10am had Sylvia up on stage with her now good friend Gever Tulley, creator of brightworks school and all around incredimaker, and other new awesome best friend, Jess Klein, big brain behind Hackasaurus. We were the very first “featured” panel, and this was our very first panel ever! I found it pretty nerve-racking, but Sylvia had plenty of confidence for both of us though, especially after the cheers she got for her demo video.

Sylvia in front of her demo at the DML 2012 Science fair Once we finished the panel, we grabbed lunch with a few new friends from Mozilla, then headed back to our room to rest for the big event that night: the DML Science Fair! At 4:30pm we headed down to the floor to setup, with a TV, my laptop and three hunks of kitchen light diffuser with buttons and copper pads glued to them messily wired up to an Ethernet enabled Arduino, we were ready!Also setup on the table apart from our Squishy Space race demo (playable here) was a screen playing Sylvia’s Squishy circuits episode, some of our favorite MakerBot printed items, and a soft circuits musical instrument made of ribbon.

Sylvia pushes a button on one of the squishy circuit control panelsSoon, hundreds of eager Press and other science fair patrons began flooding the room, with almost every one at least glancing at the odd sight of three people occasionally jumping up and down and yelling at a TV screen trying to control space ships with lumps of green conductive dough. It thoroughly amazed me how many people enjoyed the game enough to stay for more than 5 minutes (one game last about 1 minute and automatically resets). Though we don’t yet have a budget for handouts or stickers, I think people still got to walk away with something memorable.

Sylvia reacts to an exceedingly cute turtle pictureSylvia sits silhouetted in front of a circular aquarium window at the California Academy of SciencesSylvia poses on a bronze Galapagos TortoiseA preserved transparent fish On Friday, after peeking in on a few sessions, it was off to the incredible California Academy of Sciences. Our very first time, Sylvia was unstoppably ecstatic. It is truly an incredible place, full of animals, plants, specimens, the worlds largest all digital planetarium, and so much more, we stayed until they closed and still didn’t see everything. Sylvia’s absolute favorite moments: Getting to ask a scuba diver questions while he was in the water (and anything else to do with the aquarium), the planetarium show (completely awe inspiring!), and the incredible butterflies and frog specimens in the rain forest room. We hope to make it back soon with the rest of the family and possibly see the rest of what it has to offer, but chances are by then there will be even more to see! Somehow, we're actually OK with that.

Sylvia reacts as a tyranosaurus rex skeleton looms above her

After a long day immersed in science and exploration, we retreated back to the hotel to prep for one final trip: MAKE Headquarters for a cover photoshoot!

Arriving only an hour late for getting lost, we found our way to the Beautfiul shooting location in Occidental California, where after a bit of hair and makeup work (and 4 changes in wardrobe), Sylvia was hung up on a harness and fussed over by photo professionals for at least 2 hours before they finally got just the right shot. Still, lots of of fun, and One day Soon Sylvia may just be on the cover of a Magazine.

Sylvia outside on a harness sitting on a ladder being photographed

Up next for us, we’re heading off to the The Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium in San Francisco for their OpenMake event all about Tools. We might just get to meet my childhood idol Tim Hunkin! Oh the places you can go, when you get out there to make something...

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Hello Digital Media & Learning Conference 2012!

Submitted by Super-Awesome Sylvia on March 1, 2012 - 2:36pm

My dad TechNinja and I are here in San Francisco for DML 2012! If you're at the conference, come by and say hi (and maybe get a photo), we'll be going to some panels and we'll have an awesome demo tonight at the science fair! Dad will have code up later and talk about how it works in a post after the demo, or during if you want to come up and ask us! See you there!

Sylvia stands in the lobby room of the DML 2012 Conference

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Conference wrap up, and here comes another one!

Submitted by TechNinja on February 28, 2012 - 11:34am

Sylvia and I had an awesome time at our very first local conference, Dare 2B Digital 2012! And now coming March first, our second, the Digital Media & Learning conference in downtown San Francisco. Oh, so much to do....

Sylvia teaches girls about 3D printing and Tinkercad.

The front of Sylvia's Makerbot After a chance meeting with the awesome Mozilla staffer Lukas Blakk, Sylvia and I were invited to the Dare 2B Digitial conference to help teach girls about tech, so of course we said yes! On February 11th Sylvia and I got up at 5am with CraftNinja mom and headed out to the eBay campus in San Jose to get ready for troves of young women (7th to 10th grade), eager to learn all about technology. Sylvia instructs a volunteer on how to use Tinkercad to create a 3D model With her trusty Makerbot, and laptop primed and ready with the incredibly awesome HTML5 powered TinkerCad, Sylvia walked them all through the history and basic workings of DIY era 3D printers, followed by helping excited volunteers through creating their first 3D model, then printing it before their eyes. With most being able to design, print, then take home their very own piece. Though it was planned we'd be able to borrow some Mozilla laptops for the girls to each use Tinkercad in groups, this fell through and we improvised with paper and taking turns (which almost worked). With the exception of a sudden Makerbot power supply failure 10 minutes into the 2nd session (and subsequent fevered run to Frys electronics to replace it), everything went smoothly, at least for our first conference.

Conference goers draw out their ideas for what to make in 3D

After 8 hours of teaching, learning and making things, we ended up with a great sense that what we're doing (no matter how imperfect), is really helping kids get connected, not to mention we made a lot of new friends (including our new awesome buddy from Microsquish, Kenny Spade!). Sylvia even took up the first half of the San Jose Mercury New's take on Dare 2 be Digital. One adventure down, a few million more to go.

Next up on the agenda, DML 2012: We'll be in town for all three days thanks to the incredible people at Mozilla for sponsoring us!! Sylvia and I will be up on stage for the featured panel on Democratizing Learning, and then later on for the "Science Fair" where we'll be showing off my "Sylvia inspired" Squishy Circuits powered rocket ship game using HTML5 and CSS3!

Also some exciting news, during DML we'll be taking a quick side Adventure over to Make Magazine headquarters in Sebastapol for a 3D photo-shoot on a zipline. The fun never stops :)

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MFKC Schedule

Submitted by TechNinja on June 25, 2011 - 6:50am

We didn't get our exact schedule pinned down in time to ensure it was printed with the flyer for Maker Faire Kansas City, so here's the breakdown for Saturday and Sunday:

Saturday June 25, 2011

  • Main Hall Booth (various times throughout the day): Crazy Putty
    • What do you get when you bond the polymer chains in PVA glue together with borax? Crazy Putty Fun! Come by and make yourself some, totally free!
  • 12:30 @ Science City Test Kitchen: No-heat lava lamp
    • Learn how to make your very own groovy lava lamp with standard household items.
  • 2:30 @ Science City Test Kitchen: Molding / Casting with Composimold and Composicast
    • Want to learn how to clone real objects? With some special ingredients and a little bit of work you can make a mold and cast almost anything into resin.
  • 4:00 @ Make Center Stage: Arduino Laser Tripwire Alarm
    • With this simple Laser Tripwire, you can protect your room like it was a museum.

Sunday June 26, 2011

  • Main Hall Booth (various times throughout the day): Chicken in a Cup
    • Recreate the sound of a chicken with this cool little noisemaker, yours to keep when you're done!
  • 12:30 @ Science City Test Kitchen: Mr. Backpack
    • Got an old stuffed animal that needs to be a little more practical? Make it into a backpack! We'll show you all the steps and parts you need to do it yourself!

This may end up changing a little, so be sure to check back when in doubt. See ya there!

Sylvia getting "bitten" by a utahraptor in Science City, Union Station.

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Off to Maker Faire, part 2: Kansas City!

Submitted by TechNinja on June 22, 2011 - 11:24pm

This year, the Kauffman Foundation has graciously offered to sponsor Sylvia and I to be a big part of their Kansas City Maker Faire. We incredibly honored to be brought halfway across the country just to see and be seen by our fellow makers.

Sylvia holds a sign that says "Maker Faire Super Awesome Sylvia!"

We plan on doing multiple group sessions on things we've done before (Molding/casting, ALTAlarm), and a few new-to-us classics (Mr. backpack, No heat lava lamp). We also hope to bring kids and adults together to make some simple things they can take home and be proud of (Crazy Putty, Chicken in a cup). It's going to be great! See you there if you're coming, and if you can't make it, we'll be posting some photos to Flickr and a video to come.

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Maker Faire and so much more!

Submitted by TechNinja on June 1, 2011 - 2:50am

May 21st brought us to the 10th annual Maker Faire (The 6th in San Mateo), with Sylvia and I running two demos at the Make: Live stage.

Our very first time presenting together, the demos were a little harrowing, but still lots of fun. For the first demo we showed everyone how to mold and cast a miniature pointer finger we’d made out of sculpey. Little urethane resin pointer fingers When the demo was done, we gave out a bunch of finished Composicast urethane resin mini pointers to everyone! The audience had a great time and so did we.

For our second demo, we attempted to show off and of our version of an Arduino Laser Tripwire Alarm, though because of laser and microphone difficulties, it ended quickly and without much fanfare. At least we had some fun with it, and the code is out there for all to use and enjoy.

Sylvia gets out of school soon for summer break, and she'll be posting up her own log of the incredible makers she met and things she did this year. Not to be missed!

As for the future; we’ve signed up with Make Magazine to do a volley of Mini Maker shows, about once a month (or more often if we can make it) for the summer and beyond, as long as we can keep the show ideas flowing, and near as we can tell, there’s plenty to be made. We're also going to start a brand new post section called "Show and Tell", that chronicles the adventures of people like you, kids, adults, teachers, moms, ninjas and the rest. People who actually got out there and made something because of the show, and want to tell the world.

If you or someone you know made something and feel proud about it, drop us a line on our contact form!

At the end of June we’re heading off to Maker Faire Kansas City, our very first out of state Maker Faire! We’re going to try and do something great for the community there, and hope to see all our favorite makers, and hundreds of new ones. Arc Attack will be there, and maybe Sylvia and I can work up the courage to get in the Faraday cage like Adam ;)

Obviously we'll have to work on our "Robot" skills that don't involve servos and micro-controllers.

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BAMF Demo: Arduino Laser Tripwire

Submitted by TechNinja on May 22, 2011 - 10:16am

At Bay Area Maker Faire (BAMF) 2011 (and now at Maker Faire KC) one of our demos is how to build your very own laser tripwire to help guard your room!

Inspired by action_owl's version at instructables, Sylvia and I made up our very own version with audio feedback for calibration, and authentic alarm sounds!

The ALTAlarm inside a mint tin

Get the code at Github to copy and paste into your Arduino IDE right here!

More instructions, build details and the like to be updated after our Demo today.

Update: Alrighty, so our demo didn't go quite as planned, with our cheap laser diode falling to pieces during the presentation, but we did our best with what we had. We're quite sure that with more time we'd have had everything working great! Not that it matters to much, as there's always time for you to get out there and try it yourself!

As the code explains hints at, for this build you only need a few things:

  • An Arduino (any version will do)
  • A small cheap red laser diode (a small laser pointer will do)
  • A small piece of mirror, or something else flat and reflective
  • An infrared LED from a remote control (or something else to sense the light from the laser)
  • and last but not least, a speaker (if you want a noisy alarm)

For the code as it stands, plug your laser's positive lead into pin 13, one lead of the speaker into pin 10, and the positive lead of the LED into analog pin 0. All the other leads go to ground. When powering up, the laser gets ~3volts from pin 13, which should be enough to light it and send it's photons off toward the mirror, where they will bounce off. If aimed correctly they should find their way back to the infrared LED.

When infrared light hits the LED, it sends very tiny (but measurable) voltage back through to analog pin 0. On our LED, this was read at around 115, or about 0.5v. Without the laser, this came down below 100 reliably, so we set the alarm threshold at 95. If the LED's value stays above that number for more than 5 seconds, the alarm is considered "Armed" (it gives a nice beep every second to let you know, then a double beep when it's armed). If the beam is broken (and the LED value drops below the threshold), Woop woop! Alarm!

A serial signal is sent at the same time, and if you have a program on a computer listening for this, you can trigger any action you want! Maybe a twitter message for every intrusion, or perhaps an email or text message silently alerting you!

We may just want to go ahead and do a quick video on this cool little project in a bit, with all the bugs worked out this time :)

Leave a comment if you've got questions! Thanks!

Update: For our Maker Faire KC demo, we took out the middle man mirror and replaced the Arduino powered laser diode (which gave us problems galore!) with a simple laser pointer pointed directly at the LED. This is an invisible modification and doesn't require any code change, so you can make yours either way.


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