Forged in Fire: Blacksmith, Bladesmith, and Grand Champion Theo Nazz Shares His Story, 19 March 2018

Theo Nazz won the Forged in Fire competition twice and lived to tell about it. Come hear the behind the scenes tales. Learn about the competition, the publicity, and how his win affected him as an entrepreneur. Theo is a maker’s maker. He dives deep into the technical side of bladesmithing and combines that with innovative new techniques like laser cutting and 3D printing to create work that rises to the level of beautiful artwork.

Former journalist Bill Steinhardt will get the discussion rolling by interviewing Theo to get some juicy details from behind the scenes in Forged in Fire, and find out how Theo was able to use his success to start a blade smithing workshop in the heart of New York City. Then we will open it up to you to ask questions and get Theo talking about his knife making techniques, his business, and life as an entrepreneur in the cutthroat world of blade smithing. Sign up here:

This event is designed to foster up close interaction with Theo, however Bill, our awesome blacksmithing steward, has also helped arrange 2 other events to benefit our  community of once and future bladesmiths.  Theo will be have a booth at the upcoming Nova Makerfaire and he’ll also conduct a bladesmithing class at Nova Labs. The class is for experienced smiths, however, makers are welcome to observe him at work at both venues.

See some of his work:

Check out this video of his shop:

Quote from the video by Theo Nazz about his own shop. “This is a shared space..Seeing other people working kinda gets the juices flowing for me. So it’s always nice to see other people working on their own projects and doing neat things. Help me with my own projects.”

We agree with Theo wholeheartedly! This is a key value in the Nova Labs community. This is why we have open shared session such as our Blacksmithing Meetups, Metalshop Monday, and Woodshop Open Office days. Take advantage of these sessions. These are practice sessions, inpriration session, push your game higher sessions, go deeper/learn more/collaborate/mentorship session. We’d really like to see more of you guys coming back after taking Blacksmithing 101. By design, these open sessions are either free or low cost because they are all about makers making their own individual projects while building a stronger community of makers making together. Don’t just come to classes folks, come back to make stuff.

Come to Blacksmithing Meetup Sessions on Saturdays. Signup first to share the cost of the propane.

Valentine Make and Dine Makesperience (for Couples)

Join us Sunday, Feb 11th. Spend time with your sweetheart – Make/Dine/Relax. It’s all about making time to share together.

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love and friendship. Let’s face it, you probably didn’t think of Nova Labs while thinking up your romantic plans. Well, paradigm shift. What if Valentine’s Day was more about an unusual sense of togetherness? The idea of forging something with a significant other.

Wouldn’t that open things up a bit of a new experience this year? Maybe even a MAKERSPERIENCE!

OK, if you are with me. Let’s do this thing. 

Here’s the plan.

You still have the chocolates, the roses, and the romantic dinner! Except, you forego the crowded restaurants with tough-to-get reservations. This year, you and that significant other will share and experience; you’ll make something together.

Let’s face it, when it comes to the maker experience, Nova Labs has got ALL the tools in AAALL the right places.

Making is our thing, but now, we are adding RrrrOMANCE! Tools AND romance? Awesome.

Here are a few simple steps to help you get a personalized experience:

Step 1. Sign up for your class. Space is limited. Each class has its own meetup.


Classes include

  • Intro to woodworking with handtools – Learn to make a frame
  • Paper roses – Learn to make realistic paper roses that last forever
  • Wine rack – Blacksmith wine bottle rack
  • Patrick – Design and laser cut your own love birds heart light
  • Woodshopcowboy –  Woodworking for the Kitchen

Step 2. Sign up for the dinner at 4pm.

The dinner features a romantic setting, candle light, wine, food, music, back ground visual. Dine alone or combine tables with friends. Relax on the couches and talk about your makesperience during you classes and what you made.

Additionally, for those of you still looking for unique gifts from our local artisans. Mark your calendars for this last minute gift idea market later in the week.

Maker Market (Valentines Edition) – February 13th, Nova Labs

  • Need a special Valentine ’s Day gift? We’ll have handmade items from our artisans and makers for sale. Beautiful, personalized vases. Paper flowers. Just drop by and pick them up

** If you wish to be an artisan/vendor contact us at Tables are just $5

** If you wish to order a personalized vase with a floral arrangement, contact us at

Crafting Custom Floral Valentines, Forging Press Arrival, Maker Faire NoVA Coming Soon!



Nova Labs is off and running with a variety of activities as diverse as our membership. In the shops, makers craft custom Valentine’s vases with expertly arranged roses thanks to a collaboration between longtime member and CNC laser engraver/cutter steward Patrick Thompson and florist Melanie Cameron of Mystical Rose Flowers, who recently discovered Nova Labs when Tech Shop unexpectedly shuttered their doors. Makers explore the capabilities of the recently arrived forging press. Girl Scouts discovered making in the second annual Pinewood Derby Workshop made possible by a generous grant from the Northern Virginia Community Foundation. Out and about, Nova Labs volunteers enjoyed productions at the CenterStage made possible by the Reston Community Center including Tamika Mallorydelivering the Keynote Address for the Reston Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration, and performances of The Color Orange, and Peter and the Starcatcher.

This month we are pleased to welcome new key members, including family members (a key member benefit) and a number of longtime volunteers with cybersecurity for youth. We are thrilled to host a monthly Startups Social where ideas for new ventures are shared. The Maker Faire NoVA committee is hard at work preparing for our upcoming signature event hosted at George Mason University.

Happy Valentine’s Day and Enjoy Making!

Marybeth Haneline Signature

Click below for the rest of the newsletter! Continue reading

Nova Labs Maker Market and Artisan Fair, Dec. 2

Join us at Nova Labs for a special showcase of our Artisans just in time for the holidays!

Mark your calendars for a beautiful day at the Nova Labs Maker Market and Artisan Fair on Saturday, Dec 2nd. The fair goes from 10am to 4pm. Get there early because many of the items are one of a kind. If you are a holiday shopper looking for that special handcrafted gift. The fair is FREE and open to the public.

More information:









Browse, meet, and be inspired by our talented artisans and entrepreneurs. Crafting at Nova Labs includes 3d printed designs, metalworking, woodworking, jewelry, handmade wool items, scarves, painted glassware, stained glass, canvas paintings, cards, personalized items, key chains, and much more!

Bring your family and friends. Meet our robots, see our drones, and play in our new augmented reality sandbox. Buy products or order a custom design.


Saturday, December 2, 2017. 10am to 4pm. See you at Nova Labs!

Robots: Speech Recognition

Ed. Note: Blog post contributed by [E.S. Dempsey]. Nova Labs Machine Learning instructor. Sharon was inspired to write this after reading the recent Marvo the Magnificent post.

Sharon made a 5 minute compilation of youtube video excerpts of robots that respond to and recognize human speech.

  1. Wall-E. Arduino Wall-E robot.
WALL-E Robot Arduino (

WALL-E Robot Arduino (

  1. Leonardo Robot (stuffed animal) at time 00:42

Dr Cynthia Breazeal of MIT’s Personal Robotics Group talks about training a robot to watch facial expressions of humans to gauge response.

Leonardo Robot - isn't this the cutest robot ever?

Leonardo Robot – isn’t this the cutest robot ever?

  1. Personal Assistant Home Robot by at 01:40
Personal Robot - a personal assistant, telepresence device & the smartest home automation system.

Personal Robot – a personal assistant, telepresence device & the smartest home automation system.

Published on Jan 22, 2015

SHE’S THE WHOLE PACKAGE: a personal assistant, photographer, storyteller, telepresence device & the smartest home automation system SHE CAN SEE.- She sees the world the same way we human do. Facial recognition
Emotion recognition
Object recognition
3D depth camera
Deep learning algorithms.

  1. Holly the (female) robot from the British comedy series “Red Dwarf” at 02:52[Can’t find the original video]VR4
  1. The Babelfish from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at 3:25.

  1. Jules the humanoid robot by Dave Hanson at 3:55
Creepily realistic robot can hold conversations and answer questions

Creepily realistic robot can hold conversations and answer questions


Hanson Robotics:


Science fiction has predicted the androids for many years and scientists are working hard to create artificial humans for decades. See some of the most realistic and bizarre machines with oddly human characteristics. 

1. Robotic baby looks realistic.

2. Robot boy,created in Dubai.
3. Robotic head with features very realistic
4. Real Humanoid Female Robot, created in Japan
5. The scary girl robot that appears to be in extreme agony was created for a movie.
6. Alice, created in Switzerland several mimics human facial expressions.
7. Jules, a chatty robot created by David Hanson.
8. Big baby robot that “learns ” facial expressions, speech and movements with their experiences and humans.
9. Albert Einstein Humanoid Robot
Video Edited by Gil Carosio
Music by Kraftwerk( Computer love, The Robots )


Marvo the Magnificent

Ed. Note: Blog post contributed by [Nick Carter], Maker, retired electrical engineer, who is active in the Robotics Meetup, DIYBio Meetup, Artificial Intelligence Meetup, and pitches in with STEM programs whenever needed.

I had wanted to play with voice recognition for a long time, ever since the group I was in at ITT Research Center, many years ago, did some telephony voice related applications – a dial by voice system and an automatic switchboard attendant (U.S. patent 4608460 – I may be partly to blame for the ”Press 1 for..” menus  J). I have also held a long interest in robots and have an interest in making machines act somewhat human-like in responses, so when I saw the EasyVR VR-3 speech recognition shield for the Arduino I decided this was my chance.

The shield was around $50 (sadly, now out of stock?), and provides a reasonable functionality and a very nice graphical programming interface for the Arduino.  The VR-3 needed some soldering assembly but it was not too tough, basically soldering headers and recognition board to shield board. 

Initially to teMarvo1st it I made a “magic 8 ball” toy with only speaker dependent trained commands including some holiday season fortunes and I decided it would be a wizard looking into his crystal ball, hence Marvo was born.  One time I showed it at Nova Labs, one small girl tried it and asked it if she was going to get a puppy for Christmas, and Marvo told her yes – and I think she believed him. I am probably in big trouble. With the voice operated electronics these days, it is going to be difficult getting kids who grow up with them to distinguish real responses from toy responses (and true from untrue) – especially the more they act humanlike.

Later I refined Marvo, for a maker fair in Haymarket giving him some LEDs and an actual ball (bouncy superball with embedded stars), backlit with LED. I also added a second set of commands using the “robot” speaker inMarvo2dependent set. And added responses to try to get kids engaged and try the various commands.  You can see a video here which also shows the robot training the user (me).

You can see the difficulty in recognition sometimes and how it has to train the user to speak properly for good response.  It did not really like my English accent. I also found that it is very sensitive to external noise and in the Haymarket fair environment it really had a tough time although once I moved to a quieter spot and tweaked some recognition parameters it did a bit better.

For a practical application, this would work fine in a quiet home environment and for controlling things for people with disabilities who could still talk well.

 To start, you create a speaker dependent trigger word that starts it into the program. I put “Hey, Marvo”. The speaker independent trigger is “Robot”. Each speaker dependent word/phrase has to be trained 2 times and can be tested for recognition accuracy within groups of words.Marvo3

To make the speaker dependent recognition more robust you can add additional entries in the word lists what are the same phrase spoken by different voices. The program may flag them as duplicates if the recognition template is the same.


It has a built in speaker independent Robot oriented set of command groups and you can make your own groups of speaker dependent commands that you can train to your own or multiple voices.  The key here is to only include in command groups words or phrases that are readily distinguishable.  There is 1 trigger word to get its attention and then you can use the Arduino program to choose which group of words to listen for and what actions to take.

The additional “robot” command groups are movement directions, “up”, “down” etc. and the numbers zero through nine.

It will store up to 32 voice response messages that you can record but unfortunately not save off, once you have recorded them. The program itself and the recognition templates can be stored off for reuse.

You can make quite a sophisticated system with this; it has 16 word groups that you can train. There is also a tool that you can buy for ~ $200 that will convert the speaker dependent into speaker independent. If one was using this commercially it could be worthwhile but too much for me.

Once you have trained the commands you want, the EasyVR Commander program will generate an Arduino program template file with all the setup commands and the voice recognition menus you made set up as switch/case statements so that you can add the programmed actions to them. This saves a lot of work and figuring out. If you really want, the detail level commands are provided to talk to the board.

You can also  have it store sounds from wav files. It comes with a “beep”, and there is also a feature for generating “lipsync” parameters from the recordings as they play, for animatronic mouth animation.

All in all, this is fairly easy to use and works well enough to be entertaining – well, I had fun with it.

Nova Labs Cupid’s Arts and Crafts Fair, Saturday Feb 11, Free


Come and bring your family, friends, and kids to the first annual Nova Labs Maker Arts and Crafts air. Join our artisans, an amazingly creative group of entrepreneurs. Inspirational!  See what YOU could be doing here with our tools. Buy products or order a custom design from our artisans. Crafting at Nova Labs is done either with hand tools or with our industrial machines, Including 3d printed, metalworking, woodworking, jewelry, handmade wool items, soaps and bath products, scarves, painted glassware, door decor, stained glass, canvas paintings, masks, dolls, cards, personalized items, key chains, and much more!  (

Metalwork piece

Metalwork piece


 While you are here, get a tour of our amazing maker space and try your own making in our craft making room. Play with Mandy the robot and our BB8 robots. 


This event will encourage and support our Nova Labs artisans inventors in general. Our community now includes an awesome traditional crafters, artists, and industrial craftsmen. Metalworking, woodworking, electronics. 










We still have some tables available for makers and crafters to sell. Contact us at

Contact events with your request for vendor information. Demonstrations welcome. Tables are $10 each. Multiple tables are allowed. 


LOTS of free parking close to the door. While here you can connect and network with our growing community of crafting fine art entrepreneurs.


DIYBio: Control a shark with your mind

Ed. Note: Blog post contributed by [Nick Carter], Maker, retired electrical engineer, who is active in the Robotics Meetup, DIYBio Meetup, Artificial Intelligence Meetup, and pitches in with STEM programs whenever needed.

Blog Contributed by Nick Carter, Maker, retired electrical engineer, who is active in the Robotics Meetup, DIYBio Meetup, Artificial Intelligence Meetup, and pitches in with STEM programs whenever needed.

The mind-controlled shark in action – view a video of it ‘swimming’ by clicking here.


While participating in the Nova Labs DIYBio meetings, I became interested in brainwave sensors and how brain activity can be applied. After some research the cheapest way to get into this seemed to be to buy a MindFlex game online. I got the MindFlex Dual because it has 2 headset/pickups. The EEG part is developed by Neurosky, who also sell their EEG amplifier/processing board for researchers. Initially I was just interested in looking at the game and the brainwaves and implemented a Bluetooth headset interface and could use an online program for Processing on the PC to display the filtered energy levels while playing the game.

After more research I came across a video of Open BCI developers controlling an air swimming shark – I decided to try that myself using the MindFlex game sensor instead. One major difference is that they used 5 players to control up/down/right/left and forward controls. I could only muster one or 2 inputs for control using the MindFlex.

After I got the game I found it was a great hit with both the DIYBio group and also the Saturday morning Maker Fun Project club (where I was volunteering) who asked me to make it control the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robots.

I used that project as the proof of concept for the Arduino/remote control hacking before actually getting the shark. I implemented the hack into the remote controller and made a chatty Arduino game that let players interact with the EV3 from Putty on the PC using W, A, S, D keys. I have not yet integrated this with the MindFlex but the same ideas apply.

Breadboard interface between arduino and game device

Breadboard interface between Arduino and game device

Then I got a shark and hacked the controller; I used a small relay board I developed after taking the Nova Labs Eagle CAD course to control the remote’s switches, electrically isolating the Arduino and the Remote control.

Rather than taking the MindFlex headset signals and interfacing them with cable or Bluetooth directly to an Arduino to do my own signal processing, I decided to use the MindFlex game base processing and use the Brain signal intensity signals driving the colored LEDs on the game. I found these signals were Pulse Width modulated to vary the LED intensity so I had to smooth them to make an analog level for the Arduino to monitor and set thresholds in my program to decide if the LED was on or off.

Although I wired out the 2 sets of LEDs for both player headsets, I only implemented the drive, leaving the climb/dive manual control for later. There are Red, Orange and Green LEDs lit for 3 levels of detected Brainwave intensity. To get the ability to turn as well as go forwards I used the Green to go forwards and the Orange to turn, alternating left and right when returning to Orange after Green.

Testing the shark tail

Testing the shark tail

I tested this with the shark tail wagging and interface electronics off the shark leaving the shark assembly and inflation for later. Inflation requires a fair amount of helium, I was quoted around $15 so I did not want to do this until really ready, plus an anchored tail was easier to handle.

Finally I inflated and assembled the shark, using helium from a “Party Balloon Kit”, and brought it to Nova Labs’ July 10 DIYBio meeting.

It is not as controllable as the Open BCI version but still fun to drive (although as you will see in the video, some manual intervention is needed) and I had a lot of fun implementing it.

For more details, there’s a slide deck on the Nova Labs Meetup “file” area, or by clicking here.

STEM4Makers: LEGO Build Day


On Saturday January 24th, Nova Labs STEM4Makers threw a huge LEGO party! The event attracted more than 30 kids ages 5 to 14.

There were lots of LEGO-related activities, each with their own dedicated zone. There was a LEGO Construction Zone with over 2,000 LEGOs donated for temporary use by Keane and Bryce Peterson. Thanks guys!

We covered the floor with a bib plastic tarp and the kids had a fantastic time building and socializing on the floor or the surrounding tables. The tables served as a way of keeping the kids in the LEGO zone, a very good thing for Kids activities in a working Makerspace.

There was a LEGO Racetrack zone where the kids could race their LEGO cars. There was a LEGO Arena where one could drive your robots. The tables were filled with various LEGO-related crafts such as Make Your Own mini-fig or Lego Kirigami. Since you can’t have a LEGO party without LEGO-themed food, there was the LEGO food zone. The Yoda Soda caused much comment and I resisted giving the chemistry of Yoda Soda lesson. While there was NO candy, there were lots of yummy alternatives that were healthy and gluten-free.