Sunday, April 5, 2015

How PancakeBot Inspires Kids

I got a great letter for a young man in high school about how PancakeBot inspired him to build a chocolate printer.
This is one of the reasons why we kept moving forward with this project.
Here's the letter.
I've just kept the young man's initials for privacy sake.

Hi Miguel,
I just wanted to let you know how much you have inspired me. I saw (online) your original PancakeBot a couple years ago and I thought it was amazing that you were using the same technology (NXT) as I was playing around with. Fast forward to this past summer when I happened to come across the incredible stop motion video you did with breakfast food. That again inspired me as I have enjoyed making a few stop motions.
Then this year (my senior year in high school) I had to come up with a full year engineering project to design and build. Since last year I have been very into 3D printing so I decided to go for some twist on that. I wanted to make a self-flipping PancakeBot but my teacher said he did not want me "cooking" in the robotics lab. Instead, I am creating a chocolate 3D printer. (I can't find my original drawings for the pancake machine but one idea had two heated conveyer belts with a flipper in the middle, similar to a donut machine).
Again, as I am finishing my chocolate printer I saw that you have a third version and a Kickstarter!
While I am going into college next year and a PancakeBot would be amazing to have in a dorm, I do not think I can afford it at the moment (you know, because of paying for college) but I am doing mechanical engineering and hope to make/own one one day.
Again though, thank you for making such a cool machine and sharing the iterations of the device. You have certainly inspired me that I can someday take an idea I have (like a chocolate 3D printer), create it and bring it to the market.
P.S. If you want to check out my chocolate 3D printer, here it is:

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Card in the Making

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year (or at least going to have one as of this posting).
This years Christmas card took us on a wild adventure into the skies as the girls hijacked Santa's Sleigh in an effort to get their presents first.  It was a wild ride all captured from an aerial drone a few thousand feet in the air.  Thankfully, Santa Claus was able to hitch a ride back on Rudolph and recover his sleigh after discussing the dangers of sleigh robbing with the girls.  They were apologetic and just overwhelmed with excitement.
So here's how we did it this year!

First, as usual, I started off with a real bad sketch on a yellow sticky pad.  Unfortunately, my sketching abilities have not improved much.
The idea was to be able to get the whole family in on the gag, pretty much, girls taking over the sleigh and us hanging on for dear life.  It all seemed pretty simple except where were we going to find a sleigh?
Although living in Norway, you would think that there are lots of sleighs just lying around, well, unfortunately, I couldn't find that sleigh I was looking for.  So, I decided to build one.
A smaller scale of course.
Started off with a sketch...

Bottom and front of the sleigh with grooves cut into the front to allow for bending.

A little bandsaw action.

Soak the bottom in water to warp the wood.

Some pieces of aluminum sculpting rod for the rails.

Hand made custom foam cushions and a quick paint job.

Once the sleigh was made, I mounted it on a tube that was cut at an angle that I wanted to photograph the sleigh in.
Miniature sleigh with miniature sack of presents.

Now the trick was to get the girls involved.  With a limited attention span, this can be difficult.  Both the girls were photographed separately on a propped up couch, with a fan blowing their hair back.
A string to pull back the hat.

A bel and and the perfect expression captured at just the right time.
Once all the images were compiled, I found a couple more images from the web of a city background, a falling santa, presents and some 3D rendered reindeer.  

To add suspense to the card, we added the following front to it.

A little bit of photoshop magic and some titles, and we were on our way.

So our apologies if your presents were late this year.  We are doing our best to better teach the girls about hijacking sleighs and such so we hope it won't happen again next year.

Thanks to the photographers who put out their images to use.

Till then, Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Well folks.  It has been a long two months preparing for Halloween.   I wanted to continue with a some info on how we completed the costume and show you the results below.

The body was one of the more difficult part of the costumes as it needed to incorporate fleece, spandex and foam along with a tail.
We started off with the tail by sewing together pieces of fleece and stuffing it with foam.
Pieces of foam were cut into the fins and the tail fin was made up of plastic rods and fabric with a painted logo on it.

The fins were painted black and a leather strap was added for the control surface.
The forearms of the character were thick and were made by gluing two pieces of foam together along the edges.  A hole at the end allowed my daughter to put her hands through them so she could hold candy etc.
The forearms were then inserted into the spandex body and glued with hot glue.  Foam fingers were glued on to the tips and texture was painted on to the surface to emulate scales.

The feet were made out of pieces of foam glued together and were also inserted into the calves of the suit, covered with spandex, and then texturized with paint.  Foam claws were added at the base.  The feet fit around my daughters snow boots.
Blue LED's were soldered in parallel to a strip of fabric and velcro was attached to the body suit so they strip would stick.  LED's were also added to the nose and mouth to make it glow.

Here is the result of the final dragon suit.  

The turtle suit took less time but this was because my wife is a sewing genius.

Here Mama and maia are hard at work prepping the turtle suit.

Leather flippers added!
She opted to have a batman logo on her face rather than a painted face.  The turtle shell had LED's on it too for visibility but it's hard to see here.
And finally, the girls trick or treating!

Well, thanks again for reading!


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Making Toothless and a Turtle

Halloween is coming up and this year, I decided to start early with the costumes for the kids.  I wanted to do something that the kids wanted.  Little did I know, my oldest was still in love with How to Train your Dragon.

She said she wanted to be Toothless.  And my younger daughter wanted to be a turtle.
There are different levels of costumes for Toothless out there and turtles.  I wanted to do something that they would be excited about and also learn a little bit about making.
So Toothless and the Turtle it was.
The first thing I thought I would work on was the wings.  But the wings, for me, needed to be able to expand and contract, articulate a bit.  So, I looked up some ideas and found an articulating wing design on Instructables.  I found this one  by a user named Rachel and proceeded to hack away at it.
The main issue I had was that I did not have a frame for a backpack for a seven year old.  The other issue was, Toothless has legs and arms so the costume couldn't attach the arms to the wings or else I'd have to make fake legs for Toothless.

So first, I sketched out some dimensions and played with some LEGO's to get the articulation going.  Then, instead of a frame, I used a pice of 4mm plywood as the back.  This of course doesn't allow the wings to flap but we wanted them to just open and close.
So I got out the bandsaw and a marker and started drawing shapes and measuring hole spacings.
Soon, I came up with these.
My daughter with her dragon wings at different extensions.
Toothless however, had ribs going down the middle.  So I needed to figure out how to do that.
It took pieces of plastic rod and hot glued wire connectors on the ends of them, and then just bolted them on to the top bolt of the wing rib.

On this picture, you will notice that I have placed bicycle brake wires in the center to pull down and actuate the wings.  See the video below for them opening and closing.

The only issue is that the wings are rather heavy and difficult for my 7 year old to squeeze the brake handle.  I hope to fix this with a linear actuator if I get it in time.

So I continued with covering the wings with a spandex like fabric.
They definitely look like bat wings here.  I covered the front side and mounted backpack straps with a piece of contoured foam I cut on my bandsaw so it would fit my daughters back.

It loses a bit of the coolness when you cover the structure so I may just paint the frame black and not cover it.  We'll see what my daughter says.

The Head
When I started to think about the head I had the plan to sculpt it out of clay, cast it in some kind of resin, and then paint it up.  that would give some great details but then, it became clear that wasn't going to happen just because of the timing and the lack of materials I had on hand.
So I decided to just sculpt the thing from foam. So again with the bandsaw, I cut away pieces that didn't look like the dragon and made the head.
The process was done with scissors, razor blades, and hot glue and it turned out okay I think.
I of course, wanted my daughter to see through the eyes so I cut through the foam and came up with the idea to create some eyes using vacuum forming.
I took a styrofoam egg, cut it in half and saw that that fit okay.  So I proceeded to make a vacuum forming machine with some extra wood I had lying around.
Unfortunately, I was so excited to get the vacuum forming done I forgot to cover the  pieces of styrofoam with aluminum foil so the styrofoam fused to the plastic.  :(
Next time, I make them out of plaster and cast them.
A second round of work and the first set of eyes came out.  I got some testers paint and tried to match the colors of the eyes as much as possible.

For the mouth I got a piece of cardboard, attached it to another piece of foam and covered it with fabric.  The teeth were cut out of foam and hot glued on to the colored cardboard.  
The ears were two pieces of fabric sewn together by my wife then pulled over the top, nice and snug.  
Something was missing though and I realized it was the scales of toothless.  So my daughter and I proceeded to paint on the scales with some latex paint to give it some texture.
So the final step for the head will be to add two blue LED's inside with an activation switch in a glove that my daughter will hold.  Some more stuff coming up too.

The mouth is attached on the bottom with a fabric hinge and articulates with the chin of of the user.
The Turtle Shell
My youngest daughter wanted something simpler, to be a turtle.  So I proceeded to make her a turtle shell out of foam.  Using a razor blade and some scissors, I cut out different shapes on the foam.

This was then covered with a sparkly green fabric my daughter had chosen, and glued down.

I put hot glue in the grooves and pressed the fabric into it.

So far, so good.  We'll see if I get all my parts before Halloween so I can finish this thing.  :)

Thanks for reading!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Stepper Motor Music

I recently came upon a small project by accident.  I was working with a bipolar stepper motor and an Arduino, trying to program the steps individually without using the stepper motor class.  I finally succeeded, wasn't too hard but noticed I was getting some interesting beat sounds coming from the clicking of the stepper motor as it resonated on my table top.
So I wanted to amplify this sound but could not find my piezo amplifier so I decided to use the guitar pickups on my daughters pink mini strat.
By placing the stepper motor on the strings and running different sets of intervals between the steps on the stepper motor, I produced some crazy sounds.
You can listen to them here on my Sound Cloud account.

The basic setup is an H-Bridge with an arduino.
You can find the example here.

Rather then using the code in the stepper class, I just started sending values to the pins at different intervals.

Here's a video of it working.

Here's the code for the arduino.
int mo1 = 8;  //These are the different pins connected to the H-Bridge
int mo2 = 9;
int mo3 = 10;
int mo4 = 11;
int BeatDelay=20;

void setup() {              
  // initialize the digital pin as an output.
  pinMode(mo1, OUTPUT);
 pinMode(mo2, OUTPUT);
 pinMode(mo3, OUTPUT);
 pinMode(mo4, OUTPUT);

void loop() {



//This is a function that takes in different intervals.
void stepMyMotor(int mySpeed){
  digitalWrite(mo1, HIGH);   // turn the Motor on (HIGH is the voltage level)
  delay(mySpeed);               // wait for a delay
  digitalWrite(mo1, LOW);   // turn the Motor off (HIGH is the voltage level)
    digitalWrite(mo4, HIGH);
  digitalWrite(mo4, LOW);
    digitalWrite(mo2, HIGH);
  digitalWrite(mo2, LOW);
      digitalWrite(mo3, HIGH);
  digitalWrite(mo3, LOW);

//These are the different beats
void myBeat1(){

  void myBeat2(){


  void myBeat3(){


    void myBeat4(){


//To keep the beats within the same intervals, the delays are divisors of each other 80, 160.
      void myBeat6(){


      void myBeat5(){


  void rev(){
   int i=0;
   while (i<50 p="">     stepMyMotor(i);
          void myBeat7(){


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

April Fools Make Cover

I took an old picture that I had and made it into a fake cover for Make Magazines April Fools Cover Contest.
I went with a Star Wars theme and added some wordings to the cover and viola, there you have it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

LEGO Peristaltic Syrup Pump

As part of Project PancakeBot, I created a peristaltic pump that dispenses syrup onto the pancakes.
The pump is made up of round pieces of LEGO, some electric tape and some surgical tubing.  A bottle sits in the back and the syrup is sucked up and dispensed onto the plate below.
It's quiet a simple contraption but it takes a bit of effort to get the tube to sit in the right place while the rollers squeeze it through.
Instructions will be available as part of the PancakeBot instruction set through