Mandy gets some street cred

The staff over at the Wolfram Community have recognized Mandy – the bright Periodic Table as one of their Staff Picks.  The forum post, which can be viewed here, highlights how Mathematica was used in various parts of the project.  In the design phase, Mathematica was used to create the layout of the periodic table, which then could be exported to Inkscape/Adobe Illustrator for final processing of an image that could be recognized by the laser cutter.  The curated data provided by the Wolfram platform is used to create the trends, and I used some notebook Manipulate commands to visualize the RGB-LED output for (rapid) rapid prototyping.  The actual operation of Mandy uses a Python-based speech recognition script that calls on Mathematica to communicate to the Arduino controlling all of the LEDs.  (Yes, this is an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ project.)

Thanks, WC Staff, for the recognition.

Amazon hurts consumerism in Western New York

I just recently completed my move from Chicago to Brockport, NY.  Happily, all of our belongings survived the move more-or-less undamaged, and we are close to having everything unpacked and in its new location.  One problem we had during the unpacking was the box spring for our bed; there was no way that a queen-size box spring was going to make it through the small space occupied by our stairway.  The box spring is ancient and we had intended to leave it in Chicago, so purchasing a new one was in the plans.  I didn’t realize what a pain it would be.

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Sankyu very much

This past weekend, I successfully tested for my brown belt (Sankyu) in Judo.  I had started Judo in college (last century) and for over 15 years couldn’t find the willpower to get back in to the sport.  Then Kayla Harrison won gold in the 2012 Olympics.  Something about an American finally winning Judo gold gave me the motivation I needed to find Sensai Barnett at the Jiu Jitsu Institute in downtown Chicago. Searching the internet for judo clubs in Chicago, you’ll find the current web page is optimized for the Mosaic browser — (note: a new website is in the works) — but perhaps the club’s web presence is an allegory for the style of training one will receive: traditional.

Roneye (left), James (Right) and me (the only guy who broke a sweat).

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Mandy: The periodic table (teaser)

About six months ago, I started working on a project I like to call my piece de resistance. It combines a number of maker skills that I’ve learned over the past few years.  I call her Mandy, and she’s a laser-cut periodic table that has a bunch of three-color LEDS, an Arduino that controls the individually addressable LEDs, and a Raspberry Pi that stores information about the elements.  To make it stand out from being “just another bright periodic table”, I added a voice activation component, so Mandy is able to display different periodic trends at your verbal command!

I’m getting ready to move to a different part of the country, so I do not have time to provide more information about Mandy.  In the meanwhile, I created a teaser-trailer for your (OK, my) personal enjoyment.

 

New adventures

It was a busy week for me, starting off with a birthday celebration, culminating with Star Wars Day, and it happened to be my last week of teaching at Chicago State.

I have a fake facebook account floating around on the interweb. My original intention was to use it to snoop into other people’s lives and maybe take advantage of a special offer or two. Since the birthday I entered on that account is false, the few real friends of mine who found the account typically wish me a happy birthday some time in the fall. Fortunately, my wife doesn’t do facebook either, so she isn’t fooled by the alternative facts found on-line and knows when to really celebrate my birthday, and she did so this year with a pyramid of lava cakes.

Full disclosure, this picture does not have enough calories in it, so coffee ice cream and freshly made maple-syrup flavored whipped cream were added post production.

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Making electronics projects more accessible

Increasing accessibility to electronics projects is a mission that resonates with me.  Personally, I find the autonomy and self-sufficiency that comes with “making” to be very rewarding.  With hobbyist sites such as Adafruit and Sparkfun, we have plenty of (inexpensive) resources at our disposal.  As the technology advances, these resources become cheaper – which is a good thing – and smaller – which is a mixed bag.

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OMIS remix

Here’s the first published remix of my Open Millifluidic Inquiry System (OMIS) made by Thingiverse member Steve Gordon.  There are a couple of nice tweaks, including the use of epoxy to keep the support rods in place (a semi-permanent solution, since many epoxies can dissolve in acetone, and since PLA was used in this build, OMIS won’t be permanently damaged by an acetone treatment).  Another nice tweak is the use of automatic pipette tips instead of syringe needles to connect the syringes to the millifluidic device.  I’ve got some projects that will involve acid in one of the channels, so I need to explore this hack further.

More information about OMIS, such as the bill of materials, build guide, and some ideas on how to use it can be found on my OMIS page.

Of lightsabers and laser cutters

I just saw Rogue One and so I’m in a Star Wars mood.  A long time ago (March) in a galaxy far, far away (downtown), I went to C2E2.  (Here are the photos to prove it.)  I had purchased some nice Star Wars art and have been looking for a frame to display it.  I gave up (read: had to put the project on the back burner because of the piles of grading).  Recently, I revisited the problem (read: finished grading) and decided that the only way I was going to get the frame style I wanted at a price I could afford was to, well, you know:

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