Maker Faire NoVa with Theo Nazz at GMU on March 18

March 2018 Newsletter

Global Leadership Reception at the Mexican Cultural Institute

Mónica Martínez Lopez (right), Educational Liaison with the Mexican Cultural Institute greets Maria (center) and Marybeth Haneline (left) of Nova Labs at the Global Leadership Reception, February 2, 2018. Photography by Ricky Bowden, Prime Media Solutions.

The Olympics are the inspiration for the FIRST Global robotics challenge for youth to be hosted this summer in Mexico City, following the inaugural competition this past summer in Washington D.C. at DAR Constitution Hall. Nova Labs volunteers provided critical support over the past year at the enormous undertaking for the new venture. This February, youth leadership from Nova Labs were special guests together with dignitaries from around the world welcoming Mexico as the host country for 2018. Introducing youth leadership to enriching experiences is one of the most rewarding aspects of my volunteer work.

Just as FIRST Global anticipates new possibilities with their move to Mexico City, Maker Faire NoVa welcomes a new host partnership this year. Nearly two years ago, the Maker Faire NoVa steering committee recognized the value of forging new host partnerships for the Maker Faire and began exploring options. This March, that vision is realized as Maker Faire NoVa is proudly hosted in partnership with George Mason University at the George Mason campus. We are indebted to the all-volunteer team led by co-producers Jeanne Loveland and Carl Hutzler for this significantly elevated production. Special thanks to the second lieutenants who lead major areas: Sara Bradley, Todd Snedden, Taylor Sweeney, Asma Chaudhary, Margaret Kositch, and Brian Jacoby.

Rediscover the Joy of Making at Maker Faire NoVa at George Mason University on Sunday, March 18! Maker Faire Nova Tickets are on sale now and are available at a discount before March 14th.

Marybeth Haneline Signature



This month, the board welcomes Doug Newton as our new Metal Shop Steward and we congratulate Mike Hogarty on his new role as Entrepreneur Team Lead. This new position gives focus to one of Nova Labs’ key missions – the support and promotion of entrepreneurship.

As we move toward improving Nova Labs’ infrastructure, the board is currently reviewing proposals for upgraded, business-class Internet service. Nova Labs currently utilizes consumer-class Internet which no longer meets the needs of our growing community. This upgrade will allow for a constant, stable Internet connection – a key component to our technology-heavy maker space.

The board is also working closely with our TechComm team lead, John Hoskins, to analyze current options for upgrading our website infrastructure to allow for a better user experience – and eventually, more robust billing options.

Additionally, we continue to develop and define roles and responsibilities for the key functional areas of our maker space. This process allows us to define areas where the maker space requires a leadership position from within the community. Current examples of this are the Steward Team Lead and the Entrepreneur Team Lead positions.

Provided by Jim Girardi


Nova Labs is honored to be among the nominees for the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Greater Washington Innovation Awards Showcase 2018 – Community Impact Innovator of the Year!!! Congratulations to our maker community!

More information can be found here.



“Bill Steinhart teaches the blacksmith open studio at NoVa Labs in Reston. He reminded his student blacksmiths that Theo Nazz – the Champion of Champions of ‘Forged in Fire Season 4’ would be at the upcoming Maker Faire NoVA.”

>Reprinted from “Maker Faire Gets Bigger & Better” by Merica Hobson in the Reston Connection, 14-20 February, 2018.




“During the Reston Camp Expo 2018 held at Reston Community Center on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018, Ryan Le, 5, of Wolf Trap tries out a “bot” created by makers at NOVA Labs. From left: NOVA Labs makers Sathvik Narayana, 14 of Centreville and Spencer Allain look on.”

>Reprinted from “Reston Camp Expo Draws Nearly 500 People” by Merica Hobson in the Reston Connection, 21 Jan – 6 Feb, 2018.


More information on Nova Labs Robotics Summer Camps found here.


You could be forgiven for not knowing about Maker Faire Nova. Perhaps you’re new to the area or to Nova Labs. This is the Nova Labs community’s signature event of the year celebrating the diversity of makers and interests at Nova Labs, throughout the extended NOVA area, and in the larger expanse where other makers and makerspaces are found in Virginia, DC, and Maryland. Nova Labs members organize Maker Faire NoVa, participate as makers or maker teams, and staff by volunteering. This culminates an almost-year-round planning cycle led by co-producers Carl Hutzler and Jeanne Loveland.

Maker Faire NoVa 2018 is at George Mason University, Fairfax this year as we have well and truly outgrown our previous location. There is ample onsite parking for makers, volunteers, and attendees.

The organizing team is now stepping into high gear with some of the logistics operations starting to pre-stage material at GMU, layout and mapping, and communication to makers and volunteers.

Now at approximately 130 makers (or maker teams), there is such an interesting range of interests represented this year. All the makers are listed at and are being featured on social networking as part of the outreach effort.

There will be a team of GMU scientists fielding questions from the public. You will know them by their “Ask a Scientist” t-shirts. If you know folks that are still unsure about Area 51, vaccinations, whether we actually went to the moon, or climate change, see them. Separately, NASA will have an exhibit which was located specifically for its advantage in proximity to a loading dock (must be big!).

We are ahead of schedule in terms of volunteer staffing, but there are still a few slots left. Go to to sign up for a slot or two. Volunteers get a free ticket and volunteer t-shirt, and our heartfelt thanks. If you have some time, we always seem to need help afterwards straightening up and packing away stuff.

If you have questions about Maker Faire NoVa or someone asks you about it, try looking at You could be a hero in your office, neighborhood, place of worship, or civic organization by introducing your friends to Maker Faire NoVa that first time. Just point them at to get tickets. If you still have questions, direct them to

Our sponsors list has grown ( and they really help make this event happen: Google, the Innovation Fund of the Community Foundation of Northern Virginia, Fairfax City EDA, Forcewave, Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, EAI Technologies, and Fairfax County Library Foundation, just to name a few.

As in previous years, there is a pre-Maker Faire NoVa gathering of makers on March 14th. This Maker Celebration is sponsored by Fairfax City Economic Development Authority and is for makers exhibiting at the Faire and Sponsors. Makers should have received a specific invitation based on their Call for Makers submission. Often they may not get a chance to mingle and discuss their projects because they’re busy showing, demonstrating, or answering questions on the day of the Faire. This is also a chance for makers to get their maker ID badges, parking information, T-shirts (if they arrange for them in advance), and location. Makers will also have an opportunity to talk with some of the Faire sponsors. The Faire committee thanks you for your cooperation for this event.

Provided by Brian Jacoby


We are very excited to have Theo Nazz back at Maker Faire NoVa this year! Theo is also raffling off a custom forged knife from his collection. Buy a raffle ticket online now (through March 18, 2018) or at the Faire and we will pull a random winner the day after. All proceeds donated to Nova Labs.


Nova Labs and Inventors Network of the Capitol Area (INCA) welcomed Mr. Richard Levy on February 13. With over 30 design & utility patents, and over 12 books, including “Toy & Game Inventors Handbook,” Richard is a world recognized expert. Through stories of his trials and tribulations as an inventor, he shared the key factors of his success, and how he has successfully licensed his products to companies including Hasbro, Mattel, General Mills, P&G. Nova Labs incubators, Callye Keen and Mike Hogarty of Red Blue Collective, had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Levy after his presentation.




Candles, fine wine, golden forks, romantic music, and… blacksmithing? That’s how we do Valentine’s Day at Nova Labs!

For the first time ever, Nova Labs hosted “Makesperience” to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Couples came to take a class of their choice to spend time together, learn something new, and enjoy a romantic dinner to top it off. During class and dinner, participants deepened their connection with their significant other as well as made new connections with other makers. After the couples took their chosen class, they entered the classroom for dinner. The atmosphere of the classroom was transformed to a romantic restaurant where people could celebrate their love for each other and for making. Décor was added to give a more romantic vibe, but all the tools remained. Married maker couple Joshua and Lauren Capehart attended the event. Joshua notes, “The space still felt like a makerspace, which is a good thing.” Members also gave Makesperience some finishing touches by providing real china and fine wine for the dinner.

Makesperience provided couples with a truly unique Valentine’s Day experience that did not compromise on romance and kitsch. Jennyfer Peterson came up with the idea for this event as an alternative to going to an over-crowded, expensive restaurant. This would give couples a chance to connect in a creative way and spend time making something together. Patrick Waters, better known as the “Woodshop Cowboy,” taught one of the Makesperience classes, Woodworking in the Kitchen. “I wanted them to have… time together [and] skills learned,” says Patrick, who is most proud of his corny power ballad soundtrack he played in his class.

Perhaps one of the best parts of Makesperience was that the participants were a mix of new attendees and long-time Associate and Key members. The new attendees were warmly welcomed by Nova Labs more seasoned makers. As always, everyone excitedly collaborated about their ideas and projects. While talking to other makers is a daily occurrence at Nova Labs, for the first time people could talk about making as a couple to other couples in a romantic setting. For some couples, making is at the forefront of their relationship for much of the time. This is not the case for every couple, however, and Makesperience gave couples a chance to connect through making, for both experienced and new makers.

Valentine’s Day 2018 was quite special at Nova Labs this year, thanks to Makesperience. Some couples got to make something together for the first time, while other couples added to their repertoire of projects. Time spent together is priceless, and spending that time at Nova Labs makes it that much better. Especially when the classroom is lit with nothing but candles and has slow, romantic music playing in the background.

See you and your significant other at Makesperience 2019!

>Provided by Yarden Cottrell



Nova Labs continues to grow and evolve. The many challenges are a daunting task for the volunteer core. The operational arm of Nova Labs handles the things members and associates interact with. We fondly refer to these people as our Stewards.

As Stewards, the responsibilities and roles abound. Everyone has their personal touch. On the other hand, Stewards need to know what is happening on a global scale. A forum was needed to get our Stewards to sit down and talk about all things Nova Labs.

From this, StewardCon 2018 was born. The Stewards discussed finances, resources, roles, and a few other topics while enjoying a nice home-cooked meal. The Nova Labs Stewards hope to keep the dialog going on a quarterly basis.

Provided by Shane Smith



March 13, 7 – 9PM, Build a Humanitarian Drone with Team RhinoHawk 
Team RhinoHawk will be developing and flying a huge drone to compete in the UAV Challenge Outback 2018 competition. They are looking for dedicated enthusiasts in the areas of structures, electronics, software, and media content to join them.

March 18, 11 – 5PM, 5th Annual Maker Faire NoVa at George Mason University Fairfax Campus
Maker Faire is a gathering of fascinating, curious people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they can do. From engineers to artists to scientists to crafters, Maker Faire is a venue for these “makers” to show hobbies, experiments, projects. We call it the Greatest Show (& Tell) on Earth – a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness. Glimpse the future and get inspired!

March 19, 7 – 8:30PM, Forged in FireTales from behind the scenes with Grand Champion Theo Nazz 
Theo Nazz won The History Channel’s Forged in Fire twice and lived to tell about it. Come hear what he learned about competition, publicity, and how his win affected him as an entrepreneur.

March 29, 7 – 10PM, Quantum Computing DC: Hudson Quantum Initiative (HQI): The Intersection of Policy and Quantum Technology
Speaker Idalia Friedson is a Research Associate and Project Manager at Hudson Institute, where she works on issues relating to national security, including cybersecurity and technology, defense strategy, and energy. She will discuss HQI’s recent work and broad policy goals as well as the plan for Hudson’s upcoming conference to set standards for quantum communication networks.



Nova Labs is seeking volunteer help for the following:

  • Electronic Steward
  • Helpdesk Software Evaluator
  • Wiki Information Maintainers

Contact if you’re interested!


Nova Labs is on Instagram! Follow @nova-labs for the latest photos of events and projects. Tag @nova-labs in photos of your Nova Labs made projects to be showcased on our account!

Maker Faire NoVa also has an account! Follow @makerfairenova for all the latest happenings on the upcoming Maker Faire NoVa.


Are you a ‘Young Entrepreneur’ under the age of 25? Do you know a Young Entrepreneur? Around Reston Magazine is establishing a new feature segment that will share the story of one Reston/Herndon ‘Young Entrepreneur’ per issue. Currently Around Reston is accepting stories for consideration. This is a great opportunity for some lucky entrepreneur to get maximum exposure in front of 60,000 local readers! Please send your short story about you and your product/services to Around Reston, Feel free to include why you feel you are a best candidate! Be sure to mention you read about it in the Nova Labs Newsletter!

Provided by Kat Toussaint, Around Reston Magazine


My name is Olivia Morgan. I operate my own industrial design and product fabrication business. My mission is to help inventors with cool ideas get their products to market. In addition to my clients’ projects, I develop my own designs. I am so grateful to be a new member of Nova Labs and be able to use this space to complete some of this work. One of my products currently in development is Mag.Net. It is a flexible, organically shaped net that uses earth-magnets to mount to any magnetic surface. You may have seen some prototype versions hanging around Nova Labs. Originally conceived for use in kitchen storage, it’s use has expanded to a variety of applications. More information is available at Please feel free to join my mailing-list to become eligible for free Mag.Net prototypes.

Before becoming a product designer, I was a model shop manager for ZGF Architects, one of the largest architectural firms in the US. With three years experience, I moved on in order to expand and diversify my fabrication and design skills.

I became involved with Nova Labs in September 2017 when I got the amazing opportunity to learn the concepts of metal milling with Mike Hogarty. Working here has been a significant source of inspiration for me. I am so happy to be a part of a community so enthusiastic about learning and teaching fabrication skills to others!

I will be showcasing Mag.Net at the Maker Faire NoVa 2018 on March 18 at George Mason University.

More of my own work can be found at

Fun with Appliqué and Embroidery – multi-tool projects at Nova Labs

Ed note: This article was provided by Jeff Chanesman, a Nova Labs key member and steward in the woodshop, laser lab, and instructor for our CNC embroidery machine. Look for sessions on our Meetup page.

Applique pillowThe embroidery machine isn’t just for embroidery. Suzanne and I made these fun pillows using appliqué. Appliqué is the sewing of fabric onto larger piece of fabric to create pictures. The only thread used in this example is black. All the colors you see are pieces of fleece cut on the laser cutter and then sewn into place. It’s like painting with cloth!!!

This was very easy to do with the embroidery software we have at Nova Labs; Hatch from Wilcom. Shapes are imported or created and the converted to appliqué. This not only automatically creates the stitches to hold it in place but also creates stitch outlines for placing your pieces of fabric. You can then print out a template for cutting out your fabric “parts” or print them to PDF so you can convert them to DXF for laser cutting. I was able to cut out the eye, iris, and mouth for twenty of these pillow guys in less than 15 minutes including setup.

A bunch of pillows

You could easily make all sorts of projects using this technique. From potholders to stuffed animal friends.

I will give you an overview of instructions for doing this below, but remember you need to be signed off on the embroidery machine (and laser cutter if you plan on using it to cut your fabric) in order to sew these at Nova Labs. Hatch software is installed on all the machine in the CAD lab and you are more than welcome to use it but I would strongly encourage you to take the class. It is easy to use but can be daunting at first, especially if you are a first timer, as there are many specialized tools and settings.

Digitize AppliqueSuzanne created the initial design in Adobe Illustrator but you can use anything including Inkscape or CorelDraw (in fact if you happen to have CorelDraw X6 it integrates directly into Hatch). I had her size it to the exact dimensions she wanted and then saved it as a PNG. You then import the PNG into Hatch for digitizing. Using the Appliqué toolbox from Hatch’s left side menu. Digitize your shapes and then use the Object Properties toolbox from the right side menu to select fabric type as well as the kind of stitches to be used. This is also where you can select whether or not you will be using pre-cut fabric, or if you intend to trim in place.

Objects menuFor my project I chose pre-cut. Once you are done with each piece, save and export to the desired embroidery file type. You can then print out the templates to PDF. The machines in the CAD lab have the “Microsoft Print to PDF” as one of the printer selections. Choose this and save the file to a known location.
Import this into Inkscape or similar and save/convert it as a DXF in millimeters for importing into the laser software. If you are using Fleece, 400 speed 70 power works pretty well.

Hoop your fabric and stabilizer on the embroidery machine.

Load and run your embroidery file. The first stitch will be your placement. It will outline the location of where to place your pre-cut fabric pieces and then stop. Spray the piece with temporary fabric adhesive and place onto your fabric. Start the next part of the file which will tack and stitch your cover. Move on to each piece until complete.
Let me know if you have questions or if you would like a class specific to this sort of project.

Applique pillow eyeball

Parts of the eye after the outline (for placement) and tack-stitch were finished. The next step will be a satin stitch to cover the edge and provide a solid outline around the parts.


We Are a Twisted Lot – Blacksmithing Group Takes Shape at Nova Labs

Bill S, Blacksmithing

Bill Steinhardt: Blacksmithing Steward, making sparks while working on a project after dark.

Artistic creation and physical exhaustion are great ways to cleanse the mind of stress.   Welcome to Blacksmithing!

Full forge, happy smiths

So many irons in the fire, so many people working well together and around each other.

Gary's Pineapple twist railroad spike

This technique as worked by Gary Walker is a pineapple twist worked into a railroad spike.

forge at night

Come out and see the forge lit up at night this summer!


  All are welcome to come watch our activities, satisfy their curiosity, and ask questions. 

Youth project

Youth working individually on a project.

ornamental smithing

Marnie works on an outdoor ornamental piece that is sheer inspiration










Father daughter teamwork

Keith and his young daughter working together on a project

See what happens, see how we work together and individually. What starts as an individual endeavor often transitions for a while into a team effort as we all work to support each other in our creative vision. Look on, as one person holds a large piece of metal with tongs, while a second person guides a chisel and yet a third person very precisely drops a large 12lb hammer to move metal without use of anything but brute force, heat, and gravity. 

Keith, Bill and Gary (left to right) work together to strike a chisel into a hot piece of metal with a 12lb. hammer.

Keith, Bill and Gary (left to right) work together to strike a chisel into a hot piece of metal with a 12lb. hammer.


Ready to jump in with both hands? Sign up for our hands-on intro class and get step-by-step instruction on creating your very own “S” hook. Classes are taught weekly at this point by either Curt Welch or Keith Meidling.

First S-Hook

My first S-hook as taught to me by Curt Welch

S-Hook Class

Keith’s first class instructing the beginners S-hook class



French Marquetry at Nova Labs

French Marquetry Course a first for Nova Labs

Marquetry is the art and craft of applying pieces of veneer to a structure to form decorative patterns, designs or pictures. [Dave Heller] taught a marquetry course at Nova Labs on April 29 and 30 which was attended by 16 Nova Labs and Washington Woodworkers Guild students. Dave is a professional woodworker with a shop in Charlottesville, Virginia. Dave has been doing marquetry using the French method for about 10 years, and you can see on his website the variety and beauty of his creations.

This course was the first time that Nova Labs and The Washington Woodworkers Guild have held a joint event. Members of both groups share similar interests in sharing expertise and promoting woodworking. The Washington Woodworkers Guild has about 120 members and meets monthly at The Goodwin House in Bailey’s Crossroads, VA, normally on the third Tuesday of the month. The WWG web site provides more details about their goals and programs. WWG meetings are open to the public and anyone interested in woodworking is invited to attend. WWG plans to hold their July 18th meeting at Nova Labs (Meetup link), so this would be a good chance for Nova Labs members to check out a meeting and meet some fellow makers.

Dave, Nova Labs, and the Washington Woodworkers Guild would like to do additional marquetry courses at Nova Labs covering both the same basic marquetry information and possibly more advanced marquetry topics if there is sufficient interest.

How it’s Done

The following photos taken during the class show the overall approach used in French marquetry.


Learn #Woodworking at Nova Labs

Learn #WoodworkingHave you ever wanted to make some wood chips or create something beautiful and didn’t know where to start? Always wanted to learn woodworking, but never could find the time or money for tools? Ever said, “I wish someone could show me the ropes and help me learn a craft”?

Then the Intro to Woodworking classes at Nova Labs are for you.

We offer six different classes this semester, geared to different levels of woodworker and maker.

Certification classes, held on Monday or Tuesday nights, are for woodworkers and makers with some experience using woodworking tools. Red certification covers the big milling and dimensioning operations: table saws, jointer, planer, and miter saw. Yellow certifications cover the smaller, shaper tools: band saws, scroll saws, drill press, and sanders. A few tools, such as the large band saws, routers, and mortising machines have their own classes.

Projects courses offer practice and certification while building a project. This quarter, we will build a step stool, bookshelf and cutting board. Next quarter, expect a class on boxes (starring the router), small end tables and a Japanese-style toolbox.

After your class, stop by for Woodshop Wednesday, Green Bay Thursday or Woodshop Office Hours on Sundays. This is open, free shop time for members and guests to ask for help, work on individual projects and develop skills in a community environment.

The GO! Green Orientation (a general shop safety orientation) is a prerequisite before you register for and join a woodworking class.

Pictures are from the February Cutting Board Project class.

Also, you can check out our instructor pages at

Molding and casting demo by Reynolds Advanced Materials

Cast items on display. Photo by Steven Strasburg.

Cast items on display. Photo by Steven Strasburg.

Jay Mazur, from Reynolds Advanced Materials, stopped by Nova Labs on January 25 to lead a demonstration on various types of mold making materials, applications, and techniques. Hailing from Macungie, PA, Reynolds Advanced Materials is a distributor for Smooth-on, a supplier of many different casting supplies to hobby and industrial markets.

Classrooms A and B at Nova Labs were full for the demonstration.

Classrooms A and B at Nova Labs were full for the demonstration.

Classrooms A and B were both full of people interested in learning more about what can be done with urethane, silicone, rubber, epoxy, and more. Some of the materials had pot-life (the time you can work with the material after mixing the various parts together) in the two or three minute range, while others remain workable for much longer. A cast of a large silicone dime in Smoothcast 300Q (Q for “quick” apparently!) even had a dramatic reaction going from clear to opaque in a few seconds, surprising everyone in the room. It was pulled from the mold and passed around the room hardly 30 minutes after being mixed and cast.

Pouring high in a thin stream to reduce bubbles. Product was Mold Star 16 Fast - it has a 6-minute pot life and 30-minute cure.

Pouring high in a thin stream to reduce bubbles. Product was Mold Star 16 Fast – it has a 6-minute pot life and 30-minute cure.

Jay offered tips for working with various products:

  • The ‘double pour and mix.’ – you start by mixing in one cup, then transfer to another cup to ensure that you can thoroughly stir all the hard-to-reach material at the bottom of the container.
  • For foams, mixing part B a LOT before you combine with part A will help – you can add a lot of air to part B without worrying about the pot life (one flexibile foam he demonstrated only had a pot life of 50 seconds, so pre-mixing really helps).
  • You should also keep some clay on hand, just in case the wall around the part you are casting begins to leak.

At the end of the multi-part demonstration, Jay mixed a product called Alja-Safe and had everyone do a life cast of their thumb. After the 8-minute cure time, the same fast-cure urethane used on the dime was used to create reproductions of each person’s casting. At least a few people said that these would be used to create literal USB thumb drives!

For more info, check out

Here are some more photos from the class. All photos by Andrew Albosta unless otherwise indicated.


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.

Thermoforming at Nova Labs

About a week ago, maker Eric K. demonstrated plastic thermoforming for an enthusiastic class at Nova Labs. He used the thermoformer he built himself and maintains at Nova Labs. You may have seen the video of Adam Savage’s vacuum forming machine, which works similarly, but Nova Labs’ machine is even bigger, with a total forming area of 2 feet by 4 feet!

Here’s some video of the Nova Labs thermoformer in action during the class:

A thermoforming machine has essentially four parts:

  1. A hard surface with many holes on it
  2. A vacuum pump underneath, which (when activated) sucks air below
  3. A movable platform onto which you attach a sheet of plastic
  4. A heating element

To make a part, you first place an object on the hard surface, and then clip the plastic onto movable frame. The frame is lifted so that it’s close to the heating element, where the plastic is then heated until it’s soft and droopy. You then lower the plastic and frame toward the platform and object, and flip a switch to activate the vacuum. The plastic is then sucked onto your object, wrapping around it.

ThermoformingThere’s a lot more to it than that, and Eric did a great job of explaining the ins and outs of using a machine like this. For example, you want the plastic to sag to about the height of the object you’re wrapping. The object itself should be solid, not hollow, or it could collapse and damage the machine.

Eric was also kind enough to bring a number of small wooden objects, and each student thermoformed their own object. He even showed off several parts that he was thermoforming for large drone work.

Removing a thermoformed objectThermoformer controls

This class — and many others like it — was provided at Nova Labs. Check out the NOVA Makers meetup for many more!

3D Sculpting and Modeling Class at Nova Labs

Imagine being able to sculpt complex, even organic-looking objects in 3D, using just your mouse and a few keyboard commands. Imagine creating characters or concept art for a project, all with free software.

3D Modelling class

3D Modelling class

Nova Labs’ own Sam W. guided an enthusiastic class through just that, using Sculptris, free software that works like “digital clay.” Any shapes made in Scupltris can be exported for use in video games or 3D printing, among other applications.

Sam began with a quick overview of Sculptris, then dove right in and demonstrated the most useful tools, like draw and smooth. As he did so, he did the most amazing thing: he actually created the head and torso of a fantastical creature, seemingly effortlessly, just as he showed the class to use different tools.

He then turned the class over to the students, who spent the rest of the time sculpting their own objects, with Sam always available to answer questions and suggest the right tool for the job. As the class ended, the students’ designs were judged and the best one was 3D printed. How awesome is that?

This class — and many others like it — is offered periodically at Nova Labs. Go to NOVA Makers on Meetup to sign up, or browse Nova Labs’ website for more information.

Biotech for Makers

Ed. note: Nova Labs member and frequent instructor for the STEM4Makers series of classes, Jennyfer Peterson writes:

Biotech for Makers

Sudhita K. leading a DIYBiotech session

Sudhita K. leading a DIYBiotech session.

We’ve had two Biotech for Makers classes in April and they have been extremely successful and well attended. Here’s why these classes are so valuable as supplements for making young makers.

As with all of our kid’s classes, I try to get the mentors to connect STEM and making. In this case the making is DIYbiotech. The sequence of connecting the class to a Meetup is also present since we have a very active DIYbio community developing all around us and at Nova Labs. I invited a student to give a presentation on his DIY marine biology in space project. The folks in that meetup gave him lots of feedback and asked lots of questions.

Our classes are not meant to duplicate school, but rather to support and supplement passions in biology and biotechnology. To add the hands-on to the book work. For example, in DNA class, we don’t just look for DNA and then go ooow, slimy (well, we do actually), but we also start with a question: What is the best of these substances (reagents) to extract the DNA? The students are then lead through the process to collect data for comparison.

It is astonishing that kids get so much practice with data collection, yet so little with study design and next to no practice with the logic of analysis and forming conclusions. It is good to have the parents present for the learning. This way they are active observers. Hopefully, this will show parents where they might need to supplement or help their kids. Science books are necessary but insufficient to producing great scientists. Memorization of facts is very important; I am a strong proponent of traditional science and math memorization of basic data in math and science. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, please.

We must be wise consumers to STEM supplements; Don’t just duplicate what the kids are getting at school anyway. If we assert they are not getting enough logic and analysis then choose where you spend your supplement time and money to add these missing bits in.

The mentor for this one is Sudhita Kasturi, a member with a degree in biology, who also developed the curriculum instead of using a canned kit. She develops her own material and is being advised by the great people at SciTech, Towson University in Baltimore.

Be sure to keep a lookout for DIYBiotech and other STEM4Makers classes at the Nova Labs Meetup page. There are even some summer programs hosted at Nova Labs – checkout for more info.

DNA Extraction in DIYBiotech meetup