Posts about home engineering

Special Summer Fun Issue of Make Magazine

Make is really is a wonderful way to find ideas. Some people have the imagination to come up with all sorts of projects to try, I don’t. But Make takes care of that for you and provides really interesting ideas for things to try out yourself.

The summer fun guide includes over 50 projects for kids of all ages.

Related: Book on Adventures in MakingAwesome Gifts for the Maker in Your LifeThe DIY Movement Revives Learning by Doing

Repair Cafes in The Netherlands

Repair Cafes in The Netherlands Give Life Back to Broken Objects

A new brand of DIY self-sufficiency is spreading across The Netherlands. Skilled craftswomen, mechanics, seamstresses, and handypersons are banding together to resist disposable consumer culture. It is the rise of the Repair Cafe, a place where neighbors get together to extend the life of their material belongings. “Fixers” mend clothes, restore furniture, rehabilitate electrical appliances, and enjoy each other’s company while industriously toiling away. The first cafe was founded by Martine Postma in Amsterdam in October of 2009. Today, there are 20 fully operational Repair Cafes, and 50 more in the planning stages.

I really like these efforts. We throw away too much stuff that has plenty of useful life left. Also it is a great way to build community. And it is an interesting way to learn about products we use everyday (both by fixing them and having your items fixed). The throw away culture is something we should aim to change. By these actions and also by engineers designing products to be fixed instead of thrown away. I donated to a similar fixer collective in Brooklyn via Kickstarter.

Related: Fix it GooBook Explores Adventures in MakingTeaching Through Tinkering

Book Explores Adventures in Making

image of the cover of Made by Hand

Made by Hand by Mark Frauenfelder, the editor-in-chief of Make magazine. explores his adventures in the world of do-it-yourself.

Frauenfelder spent a year trying a variety of offbeat projects such as keeping chickens and bees, tricking out his espresso machine, whittling wooden spoons, making guitars out of cigar boxes, and doing citizen science with his daughters in the garage. His whole family found that DIY helped them take control of their lives, offering deeply satisfying alternatives for spending time together. Working with their hands and minds helped them feel more engaged with the world around them.

Frauenfelder also profiles fascinating “alpha makers” leading various DIY movements and grills them for their best tips and insights. He offers a unique perspective on how earning a few calluses can be far more rewarding than another trip to the mall.

Related: Science Toys You Can Make With Your KidsGifts for the Maker in Your Lifescience booksTeaching Through Tinkering

Awesome Gifts for the Maker in Your Life

See the full Sylvia’s Super-Awesome MAKE Holiday Gift Guide 2011

Related: Science and Engineering Gadgets and GiftsGet Your Own Science ArtSiftable Modular ComputersArduino: Open Source Programmable Hardware

Schematics of Electronic Circuits

Reading circuit diagrams

Schematic diagrams are made up of two things: symbols that represent the components in the circuit, and lines that represent the connections between them.

If a line runs between components, it means that they are connected, period, and it tells you nothing else. The connection can be a wire, a copper trace, a plug-socket connection, a metal chassis, or anything else that electricity will run through without much resistance. Messy details like wire or cable specifications and routing, if they are important for a project, belong elsewhere in its documentation. The length of a line also has nothing to do with the connection’s actual distance in real life. Schematics are drawn (ideally) to be clear and simple, with components and connections arranged on the page to minimize clutter, not to represent how they might be placed on a circuit board.

The video and the article give you a good start on understanding schematics. There are 2 ways to show wires crossing in a schematic (the video shows one, the article shows both). Learning how to read a schematic gives you the ability to go many different directions with your home engineering efforts. Have fun.

Related: Arduino: Open Source Programmable HardwareEZ-Builder Robot Control SoftwareBuilding a Windmill to Generate Electricity by Reading and ExperimentingTeaching Through Tinkering

EZ-Builder Robot Control Software

You can get EZ-Builder Robot Control Software and try this out yourself.

Not a programmer? No problem! The EZ-Builder application allows non-programmers to easily build robots using advanced functions of the EZ-B Robot Controller. It is a Microsoft Windows application that gives you remote and scripting control of your custom robot design. Within the application, you add Controls that mimic your robot’s configuration. There are many controls for speakers, iRobot Roomba, HBridge, Servos, Cameras, Voice Recognition, Joysticks and more! There is even an easy scripting language so you may create short animations, interactions or initialization routines for your robot.

Using a Dremel, hot glue gun, screw drivers and various other tools, you can begin modifying the toy shell to fit your servos. For wheels or mobility, use continuous rotation modified servos. For arms and neck, use a standard servo. To allow your robot to see for object detection, use a Sharp IR Distance Sensor or a HC-SR04 Ultrasonic Ping Sensor.

Related: Arduino: Open Source Programmable HardwareRobots That Start as Babies Master Walking Faster Than Those That Start as AdultsRobot Built Largely From Old TV Parts

PBS Newshour on Maker Faire

The maker movement is excellent. As the program suggests it also serves to show many people enjoy engineering and making things work. Kids love to learn to accomplish things. Memorizing boring science details is not as interesting or a very useful way to create the kinds of innovative scientists and engineers that can aid our economy.

Related: Teaching Through TinkeringMaking Electricity from WindHome Halloween Engineering: Gaping Hole Costume

Hardware Hacker Challenge Invitation

Calling all Inventors, Makers and Hackers. This is a fun idea for a hacker invitation. Teams decode the invitation embedded in hardware to reveal their password for an invitation to the creation event.

Related: Botball 2009 FinalsTeen Goalie Designs Camouflage PadsEngineers in the Workplace

Great 3D Printing Presentation

Very fun presentation by 10 year old on 3D printing and the open source Makerbot at Ignite Phoenix.

Related: 3D Printing is Here (2009 post looking at 3D printers)Open Source 3-D PrintingExpensive Ink (for regular printers)

Friday Fun: Audio Engagement Ring

Fun, an engagement ring that plays a 20 second audio clip “Shelina, I’ll love you forever. Marry Me!…Shelina, I’ll love you forever. Marry Me!” made by artist and inventor Luke Jerram.

100 lbf/in² of pressure was required to cut the silver ring, using a vibrating diamond stylus. The ring is also a homage to Thomas Edison who made the first sound recording machine – the phonograph in 1877.

Using the ring, I proposed to Shelina in a hot air balloon over Bristol in 2005. We’ve since got married and had 2 children Maya and Nico.

Much better than marketing driven expensive diamonds, in my opinion.

Related: Camera FashionGet Your Own Science ArtLow-Cost Multi-touch Whiteboard Using Wii RemoteCellphone Microscope

Home Halloween Engineering: Gaping Hole Costume

photo of gaping hole Halloween costume by Evan Booth, 2006

This great Halloween costume by Evan Booth shows what a bit of imagination and engineering can do. A projection screen over his stomach displays a live video image of a camera on his back giving the illusion of a gaping hole. Photos via flickr. Very cool. Lets see what costumes Curious Cat readers can come up with.

Related: home engineering postsBuild Your Own Tabletop Interactive Multi-touch ComputerLow-Cost Multi-touch Whiteboard Using Wii RemoteAwesome Cat Cam
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