Stokes’ ProjBlog

A journal documenting innumerable, mostly terminally in-progress undertakings. Nerdiness abounds.


Kickin’ it February 18, 2012

Filed under: Miscelaneous Projects — Stokes @ 1:06 am

Razor trailer, first attemptThe new Artisan’s Asylum space is big. Very big. 31,000 square feet big.

The space maintains a fleet of Razortm kick-scooters. In a space the size of Artisan’s Asylum, they are actually quite useful; the space is the width of two city blocks, and it can take several minutes to walk from one end to the other. A scooter can make it in half the time. The only problem with the scooters is that you really can’t carry much of anything on one. I decided to remedy that.

One of the scooters has a ‘basket’ on the front, made from a square nail bucket. It’s very handy, good for moving small tools from shop to shop, but you can’t carry anything much larger or heavier than that. I decided to build a trailer hitch and trailer for handling bulkier cargo.



Look upon my workbench, ye mighty, and despair! November 4, 2011

Filed under: Miscelaneous Projects — Stokes @ 10:35 pm

My built-in workbenchWith the wrap-up of the big Artisan’s Asylum buildout, I was finally able to outfit my own 100 square foot workspace and unpack the 64 cubic feet of stuff in my assigned gaylord*, everything shipped over from the old Willoughby & Baltic space on Joy Street.

The huge new Artisan’s Asylum space is part of the former Ames Safety Envelope factory on Tyler Street. The slim majority of the place has been divided into 50 and 100 square foot rental plots, separated by chest-high partitions. Even with wood, welding, machining, and electronics shops — each nearly as large as the entire space on Joy Street — there are more than 100 of these private spaces. My space is #7, directly behind the front desk. It’s also next to the electronics shop (E+R, for electronics and robotics) where I do most of my work.



“How I Spent My Summer Vacation” November 29, 2010

Filed under: Miscelaneous Projects — Stokes @ 4:28 pm

I have some excuses for not updating my project blog in a long, long while. For one, I spent a month doing this:


Part 1:

Part 2:

Incidentally, do kids still write ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’ essays when they get back to school, or have they gone the way of Penmanship classes and Chisanbop?


A display of character(s) December 8, 2009

Filed under: GAMBY,Miscelaneous Projects,New project! — Stokes @ 5:57 pm
Screenshot of my CharEdit tool.

As the W&B soda machine has been unplugged for the winter, I am putting the soda machine hack project on hold for a couple of months. In the meantime, I’m returning to some past projects, several of which I never wrote up in the blog. One such project is a system for handling and displaying an ultra-tiny bitmap font on a little graphic LCD, the sort that were on nearly every 90s cell phone and are currently popular with hobbyists.



Materialization: successful! October 7, 2009

Filed under: Miscelaneous Projects — Stokes @ 10:23 am
The revised servo motor mounts, assembled.

After some modifications to the design and some tweaking to the print settings, pan/tilt rig version 2.0 is a success. At a marginally lower extrusion rate and temperature, the accuracy was greatly improved — this version was much less “lumpy.” This improvement turned out to be somewhat of a mixed blessing, however. The first draft ended up being slightly too small to fit the servos, so this version was scaled up by 10% prior to printing. Combined with the improved precision engendered by the print setting tweaks, the final result ended up being a bit too loose to grip the servos with friction alone. A small rubber band around each holder keeps the motor nicely in place, however.



Blatant Fabrication October 2, 2009

Filed under: Miscelaneous Projects,New project! — Stokes @ 2:50 pm
Servo motor holders in SketchUp.

I made my first tentative steps into the world of desktop manufacturing last night. Having a couple of small servo motors, I thought it would be cool to make a tiny pan/tilt rig with them. I also thought this would be a good first 3D printing project. A couple months ago, several of us at W&B got together and built a Makerbot*, a small hobbyist’s 3D printer based on the RepRap project. Like RepRap, the Makerbot fabricates objects out of extruded ABS plastic, the same stuff of which LEGO blocks are made.

The Makerbot fabricates things by laying down a thin bead of molten plastic onto a small platform. The platform moves in two dimensions beneath the extruder, creating a cross-section of the model being built. After one cross-section is complete, the extruder rises and the next cross-section begins. It is a little like creating something from cake icing — I wonder if that’s the origin of the Cupcake name.



Random idea: unique IDs on the Arduino September 23, 2009

Filed under: Miscelaneous Projects,New project! — Stokes @ 4:08 pm

I was thinking about ways to create multiplayer games/toys using the Arduino platform and realized a key difficulty: telling different Arduinos apart when there are more than two. Optimally, the system should not depend on one Arduino being the ‘boss’ and should be as simple as possible for the programmer. I think I have a solution.

This is the idea: modify the pre-compiler (or, more specifically, the IDE code that calls the precompiler) to automatically include a #define statement, defining MY_UNIQUE_ID as the last sixteen bits of the build time in milliseconds. The chances of two Arduino builds being done in the same thousandth of a second are extraordinarily low, effectively making the ID unique for all practical reasons. In the code, all the programmer needs to do is use MY_UNIQUE_ID as a variable.

I’ll have to take a look at the Arduino IDE source.

Update (9/24): A couple of people have commented on this on Facebook (where this appears via RSS), suggesting some dynamic, real-time solutions. These are good ideas, but the situation I was imagining isn’t one in which all the points would have access to each other simultaneously; instead, temporary connections are being made between units, probably by physical contact.


Wroughtbench September 11, 2009

Filed under: Miscelaneous Projects — Stokes @ 1:07 pm
The first of several workbenches I built.

Since I’m trying to update my project blog to reflect what I’m actually doing, I thought it worth mentioning the workbenches (and now shelves) I’ve been building for Willoughby & Baltic, previously posted only to Facebook.


A non-apropos video game graphics/UI idea August 1, 2009

Filed under: Miscelaneous Projects — Stokes @ 7:11 pm

A random train of thought lead me to considering the way some first-person video games represent wearing a gas mask or a space suit with a goofy drawing of the mask or helmet’s eye holes, the same way images through binoculars used to be shown on old TV shows. Limiting the player’s field of view may have a practical purpose (e.g building suspense), but the depiction is so unrealistic that it breaks the suspension of disbelief. To see the individual eyeholes in a helmet, they’d have to be several inches in front of your face.

An alternative: border the sides and/or bottom of the screen with a translucent white gradient, representing the wearer’s breath condensing on the glass surface inside of the mask. Wearing a gas mask/space suit in a video game is usually accompanied by the requisite 2001-style breathing sounds; the gradient could contract with each breath and slowly dilate afterward. For added realism, the rate at which the fog clears could remain constant while the rate of breathing (and thus fogging) is based on the character’s exertion, so panicked running around could leave the player momentarily blind. That would work well in a game of the “survival/horror” genre.


Cardboard Spider-Bot Mockup April 7, 2009

Filed under: Miscelaneous Projects — Stokes @ 7:55 pm
Some mediocre pictures of a mechanical spider leg, mocked-up with cardboard on a bulletin board.

Just to see if it would actually work, I decided to build a mock-up of a mechanical spider leg. I simply drew all the components in a graphics package, printed it out, glued it to a piece of paperboard and cut it out with a pair of scissors. I then stuck all the parts to a bulletin board, using backwards thumbtacks for the moving joints and forward ones for the fixed pivot points.

To my amazement, it actually worked. Maybe I’ll actually build the real Spider-Bot.