Thursday, January 28, 2010

Building the Makerbot

We opened the Makerbot box and it was awesome. Bags were flying. We began our evening speaking to Bre Pettis who gave us tips on ways to build the bot and to reference the wiki for help. There was an inventory sheet that was pretty basic. Our first feat as a group was to take inventory. As we unpacked the box, Cristina took pictures and video to visually document our progress. Alexis, Kate, and Alex took charge of inventory. Once inventory was complete there was a lull and a fog of indecision. Beth stepped in and suggested we decide on a leader to help us progress. We agreed to decide leadership by week. Our first leader would be decided through “Roshambo” or “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. Kevin came out the victor for the first week. Alex as the second runner up would be our leader for the second week. Kate opted out as leader, while the remaining group members were assigned leadership week in alphabetical order. Since there were 5 leaders and 6 weeks remaining in the quarter, Beth agreed to lead the final week.

Building and Soldering
We weren’t quite sure how to begin; there was no instruction manual. Nothing in the box indicated a starting point. We decided to pull up the wiki and see if that would help. I remembered that we needed items from our “shopping list”, which included: a soldering iron, some soldering material, wood glue, and tape. Kevin mentioned that he had a soldering iron and some material in his office, which he retrieved. I asked the main office for some tape. When I returned we scanned through the wiki for a starting point. To get to the guide on the wiki we clicked on the ‘CupCake CNC’ link at the top of the left-vertical navigation bar. The “Before You Build” link is on that page and houses the list for our “shopping list.” There were some sequential material regarding the materials, but everyone was so excited to start the building that we jumped ahead to the electronics assembly.

Alex and Kevin led us in building the assembly. There were six boards we needed to build and there were six groupmates so we all grabbed a board and with Alex’s guidance we were able distinguish the names of the pieces and how they fit onto the board. We followed the link shown on the wiki and piece-by-piece each built the assembly. Some of the questions that arose were:
  • “Is there a wrong direction to putting in the resistor?”
No the resistor could be placed in any direction as long as each is placed in the correct holes.

  • “How do we know which resistor goes where?”
The wiki shows us the correct order. The resistors are distinguishable by colored stripes.

  • “Which end of the LED goes in where?”
This was the most difficult issue we dealt with (besides where to start and how to choose a leader). As we scrolled down, there was a step on the LED. The instruction mentioned something about the short wire of the LED being adjacent to the flat portion of the silkscreen. We did not know what that meant. Alex looked at the board and noticed that the white print on the board has a flat portion where the LED is to be placed.

Soldering could now begin. Kevin checked on the soldering iron that plugged in before we started but returning to it he realized that it did not get hot. The plug was in, so Kevin jiggled the plug and for some reason it started getting hot. As Kevin worked on the soldering iron, Alex noticed that we just set up 2 extra assemblies. We only needed 4 of the assemblies and needed (2) 3 pinned assemblies. After having some trouble taking the 2 extra assemblies apart, I helped Alex with that board since I had nails.

Kevin was able to show us how to solder the pieces to the board. This is done when the soldering iron is hot. Kevin and Alex assured us that if a mistake is made while soldering fixing the solder would require merely taking the bad solder off and redoing the solder. The metal parts of the pieces that stuck out from the board were bent to avoid falling out of the board when soldering. Placing the board upside down; metal pieces sticking up, Kevin used the wire (which we were told is made of led and instructed to wash our hands afterward) by touching it against the metal and melting the wire onto the metal piece creating a metal bond. Kevin also instructed us to breathe out as we are soldering to avoid breathing in the fumes and to cool the melted bond. Alexis was able to try her hand at soldering and received praise by Kevin for her clean soldering.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints the remainder of the group was not able to solder.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Our Night Out at Metrix Create:Space

Metrix Create: Space is a very low key basement shop in Capital Hill. So much so that Kate and I, who drove, passed the shop at least 2 times without realizing it. Adjacent to the Seattle Museum of Mystery you are greeted by a giant hairy, yet welcoming, Sasquatch statue reminiscent of the movie Harry and the Hendersons. I have to admit that it wasn't like we were walking into the Cheers bar in terms of friendliness but boy were we greeted with smiles. Everyone was quite welcoming as we introduced ourselves. We wanted to learn and they were willing to do whatever possible to help and direct us to help in our learning process. We first met Matt, the owner, and told him Beth says, "Hi". Giggle. Like Alexis, I was quite intimidated by the thought of going to Metrix Create:Space. I pictured a dark dank nerd-filled space with the air of intellect and closure. Instead of the cold shoulder, they gave us a tour of the shop and we were shown a room that housed the 2 in-house Makerbots, the different materials used, and a laser cutter (not part of the Makerbot process, but cool nonetheless.) We were then introduced to Matthew, who is a Systems Administrator at Google during the day and a Makerbot enthusiast by night. He knew the ins and outs of the Makerbot and created a copy of the Makerbot from scratch, using much of the same materials. Unfortunately, the cost of building one from scratch was equal to buying a kit. Throughout the night I felt like Matthew was our guide into this Makerbot world. He introduced us to so many new facets of "Makerbotting". It was a quick, private, interactive how-to-Makerbot session. I really appreciated the troubleshooting tips, such as using painter's tape to avoid warping the platform. The patrons were not hermit intellectuals lacking social skills at all, they were very cool and welcoming. Smiles all around and asked us back. During our evening of learning, a man brought his son to see the Makerbot in action. The awe in the boys face was amazing. Who would have thunk it, Metrix Create: Space is also family friendly! As a matter of fact Matt, the owner, mentioned his son, Mason, age 4, frequents the shop on Tuesday nights. As I recalled the evening to my husband, he quickly made plans to hire a babysitter for our younger son so that we could bring our 5 year old. I really enjoyed my time there and learned so much, being able to touch and smell the Makerbot and its creation was a great bonus.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kevin's Bio

I am an all around geek. Luckily I’m in the HCDE undergraduate program which lets me dabble in all things technical, from ideation to creation, I have some technical skill to help the process along. I am personally vested in ubiquitous computing and it’s implication of the loss of privacy, interaction design, self-directed learning, and the social impact of current web technologies (alteration of social dynamics). I also have an unbridled passion for anything technical and mechanical, I love to watch and figure out how things work. Let the Makerbot madness begin!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Alexis' Bio

I am an undergraduate in the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering, concentrating in Human-Computer Interaction. I am interested in engineering education, informal learning, and product design. I am excited to build the Makerbot, but also somewhat accident prone—this should be an interesting experience!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Makerbot Shopping List

Here's a link for the Makerbot Shopping List:

Kate's Bio

I’m a first year Master’s Student in HCDE. My undergraduate degree is a self-designed, inter-disciplinary degree combining Women’s Studies, Media Arts, and Literature. I’m interested in gender differences, computer mediated communication, and education.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

We begin!

Six students, a windowless room, and a makerbot on the way. Chaos is inevitable.

We want to advocate for making things rather than consuming them. Creating culture rather than passively bystanding. Figuring out how to get some technical chops when you come late to the geek table.

This is actually a research project by a group in the Human Centered Design & Engineering department at the University of Washington. We're affiliated with the Design for Digital Inclusion Lab. This post is being written by Beth Kolko, director of that lab.

This is a project that is about both research and education. It grows out of my desire to better understand innovation, which in turn grows out of many years of fieldwork around the world and studies of how people adopt and adapt technology in places ranging from Liberia to Uzbekistan. Over the next few months this group of students is going to build a CupcakeCNC 3d printer, master the art of making things with it, and teach other students how to make things -- and they are going to document their journey. They're not especially technical (although 3 of the 6 claim to have at least held a soldering iron before), and they've got only themselves and the Internet to lead them. Together we are both researchers and study subjects, and we'll be participant-observing ourselves.

But this isn't about methodology. It's about discovery. And with luck, it will also be about learning a little more about how people learn complex skills, how they open to innovation, and how education can respond in creative ways to new models of inquiry.

Also, it's about fun.