Maker Faire Detroit: Hackerspaces
OmniCorpDetroit had this high-powered marshmallow cannon on display. I didn’t see whether they had the opportunity to demonstrate it.
They were also showing a mysterious-looking strangely shaped being that would arise from a black sludge. This turned out to be ferrofluid being shaped by a permanent magnet traveling under the sludge tank on a rail. This friendly dude invited us to come to a workshop for making these boom cases, sadly, being out of town, we could not. But they were pretty cool. Mt. Elliott Makerspace had some tables in the tent with Omnicorp Detroit where you could design and build a wind-turbine fan and see how much voltage it would generate when applied to a fan. I heard Jeff (the founder of Mt. Elliott) give a short talk about his vision for the space and how he hopes to see similar mission-oriented teaching and mentoring programs come into being wherever they are needed. The Cessna Bar made an appearance, serving up free water. Some folks from LVL1 Hackerspace gave a demonstration of their remote controlled fire-breathing robo-pony. If you ask me, though, the controls were nearly remote enough.
Players wore sensors embedded in wrist bands to detect motion, and then by punching, blocking, and using special moves would cause huge cascades of fire to circle from behind the attacker around and toward the defender. They had some life meters, which showed the health remaining as unblocked hits diminished it, though they were kind of hard to read. We could feel the quite spectacular fire effects from across the parking lot. As the day grew hotter, they seemed to have more trouble convincing passers-by to play.
i3 Detroit had a large tent with many different projects, including the ChronoTune. Having read about this thing, I enjoyed talking to the maker about it and seeing it in person (though it happened to be broken, and we couldn’t see a demonstration).
These guys from i3 made a speaker from a high voltage plasma generator. They use PWM to affect the frequency, but it only works above ~1000Hz, so they have a woofer to help produce the lower range. It produced recognizable, if extremely low quality, music.
Right next to the plasma speaker was this mini CNC laser cutter. We didn’t see any examples of what it could do, but it impressed us nonetheless. These guys from i3 had set up a station where you could cut stencils with this laser cutter for painting on t-shirts. These Epilog laser cutters seemed to proliferate the fair, you could observe them in many booths, and they seemed quite popular among the hackerspaces (with good reason, I suppose).
This fellow had his Arduino-powered robot cruising around an arena in the i3 Detroit tent, sensing obstacles and choosing alternate paths. More interactive than some of the other displays (you could introduce, say, a hand and see if the robot could avoid it), this one had a lot of attention.
This guy in the i3 Detroit tent had created a very simple pressure chamber and using a vacuum pump and some marshmallows demonstrated the affect of decompression and compression.
This rather large and fast robot could be controlled from an app on an Android phone. Here’s another phonebot, also in the i3 Detroit tent, but we didn’t see anyone who could explain it to us. To my surprise, I only found one quadrotor in the entire Faire, this one remote controlled rather than autonomous. Though a work in progress, it was allegedly easy to control. I did not witness it in action, however. This fellow had an (VLSI 1053-based) MP3 player, a full-color POV wand (with an image of a goomba), and a phone-controlled RC vehicle. The first two out of these three are special interests of mine, and he was perfectly willing to go into great detail discussing them with me. Thanks, Nickolas. Hack Pittsburgh had a yurt filled with some of the projects they have been working on, including: A CNC cheese printer from Hack Pittsburgh. A camera they sent into space with a weather balloon, and retrieved successfully, twice. They put everything in a styrofoam enclosure with some hand-warmers to keep it functional at 100Kft. Later on in the weekend, the rolled up the sides of the yurt, so you could see how it was made, and for better ventilation (which we welcomed, gladly).