Author Archives: Jeffrey

Maker Interview: EMS Near Space Balloon Team

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I am excited to present the third and final “Meet the Makers” interview! Please read it and get pumped-up for the fast-approaching Eugene Mini Maker Faire on June 11th.  It’s on the horizon!

The Eugene Maker Space has conceived of, and succeeded in, a whole host of amazing projects since its inception in 2010. The focus of this interview is no exception.  Today I am interviewing Rick Osgood who is a member of the recently formed Near Space Ballon Team at EMS.

Jeffrey: Who started the near space balloon team and what were their reasons for doing so?

Rick: I started the team. I was looking for a way to get people working together at Eugene Maker Space. I also wanted to find a project that was interesting enough to hopefully draw in new potential maker space members. I had launched two of these balloons in the past, but not since I moved to Oregon almost six years ago. What I love about this type of project is that you can divide it up into separate components and then assign each of those components to a different team member. This makes it a naturally good team project and I figured it would be a perfect fit. Another great thing about the nearspace balloon project is that the payload can be modified and launched over and over again, meaning that the team can evolve over time and eventually be run by an entirely different group of people.

Jeffrey: Can anyone join the team?

Rick: Yes! Anyone can join the nearspace team. It doesn’t matter what skills you already possess. We are all learning new things by participating in this project. The whole point is to get more people involved in making cool things at the Eugene Maker Space. If anyone is interested, they can feel free to contact me at Rick@RichardOsgood.com.

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J: What is the goal of the project?

R: We have several goals. First of all, we want to reach an altitude high enough to be considered near space. Second, we want to take high definition photographs of the curvature of the Earth. Third, we want to take high quality video from near space. Finally, we need to be able to track and recover the payload once it lands back on Earth.

J: How high will the balloon go?

R: Ideally, we would send this thing into space. Unfortunately, that’s just not possible. The next best thing is what is referred to as “near space”. Near space is considered to start at about 65,000 feet above sea level. It’s the point at which the air pressure gets so low that your blood would begin to boil. You would need a space suit to survive above this altitude. It is also the point where the sky becomes black and you can begin to see the curvature of the Earth. So that’s our minimum goal. We want to reach as high as possible, but I’ll consider the project a success if we reach at least 65,000 feet. Based on my past experience, I expect to reach somewhere between 80,000 and 90,000 feet.

J: How will you keep track of the balloon when it’s in the air?

R: The simple version of the answer is with a GPS tracker and a radio. The balloon will have a small GPS module so it will know its own location at all times. It will then use a radio modem to convert the GPS data into an audio signal, which will then be transmitted over the radio. We will have a radio receiver on the ground hooked up to a computer running special GPS tracking software. This will allow us to keep track of the balloon’s location and altitude in real time. Our current plan is to use amateur radio and APRS to track the balloon. APRS is an old standard for sending digital data using a ham radio. It’s primarily used for GPS tracking, so it perfectly suits our needs.

Once the balloon is launched, it will begin to rise upward, but it will also move horizontally. The chase team will have to load up the caravan immediately after launch in order to chase the balloon to ensure a safe recovery. If the payload lands in a canyon or forest, we may lose radio signal. Therefore, it’s important that we try to have visual contact with the payload as it falls.

J: What are some of the engineering challenges that come along with a project like this.

R: There are many challenges with designing a near space balloon. We are basically designing a satellite. 

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Maker Interview: Erol Chandler of A-Lamp

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Hello again, my name is Jeffrey Garman and this is my second year on the Eugene mini Maker Faire Steering Committee.  I am excited to present here the second in a series of “Meet the Makers” interviews with Erol of A-Lamp Design as a lead up to the Faire on June 11th.

Jeffrey:  Hello Erol.  While preparing for our interview I was struck by how closely your last name resembles “chandelier” and how fitting that is for your work as a designer/artisan lamp builder.  I find your lamps provide a stage upon which the filament of the classically fabricated incandescent light bulb illuminates its subjects.  Just the thought of the word “filament” (one of my favorite words mind you) – has suddenly reminded me of a passage from Walt Whitmans’s “Leaves of Grass.”

“I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more than a helpless vapor…  Mad filament, ungovernable shoots play out of it, the response likewise ungovernable…”

    Erol Chandler    Switched

Jeffrey:  Needless to say I think your work is very inspiring in its simplicity and form.  An A-Lamp would be a thoughtful addition to the desk of anyone who cares about the feng-shui of their work spaces.  Look at me — I am taking up all of our interview time! Let’s get this party started.  How did you begin with your craft?

Erol: I started out just tinkering around in a friend’s garage. I’m the type of person who always likes to be doing/learning something new. I didn’t mean for it to become my full-time job, but it took on a life of its own and now I have a little shop in downtown Springfield and I get to enjoy it every day.

Jeffrey:  You’re very lucky.  I don’t see many bulbs like these anymore.  I mean, I guess I see them in bars and restaurants on occasion but they are not readily available at your common hardware store.  I am very curious where you get them.

Erol: The bulbs are blown glass and skillfully hand-wound tungsten filaments made in Texas.

Jeffrey:  Perhaps you are aware that many governments around the world have passed measures to phase out incandescent light bulbs because of their inefficiency in comparison to LEDs and CFLs.  In Germany some importers have gotten around this by selling them as heating bulbs. What are your thoughts about this?  Does it affect your ability to sell internationally?

Erol: My lamps are more for aesthetic appeal. People buy our lamps because they are a perfect accent lighting or decorative touch that really brings a room together. The Edison-style LED lights have absolutely improved in appearance lately, but they still don’t create the same effect as the incandescent bulbs. Those little details are what it’s all about and incandescent bulbs serve our purpose perfectly.  Every handcrafted lamp has its own story and by selling them in person and meeting the customers, we get to see that story through until the end. We are there until the very last chapter and there’s something really fun about that. That being said, we have decided to only sell our lamps in person at shows.  So if we do an international show I don’t think we will run into any import problems.  While having our lamps available online is a quick and easy way to make a sale, that’s not really what we’re about. We’re a small company, and we’d like to keep it that way. It doesn’t make sense for us to have mass production online sales.

Jeffrey:  Speaking of sustainability and efficiency, tell me about the Shower Commander.

Erol:  The Shower Commander is something I invented about 8 months ago and has been my ongoing side project. It’s the world’s first foot-operated shower switch that controls the flow of water during your shower. It is an easy way to save both water and money and because it sits on the floor of your tub instead of behind the shower head. It’s the first water conservation device that children can access during the shower, making it a great teaching tool early on.

Jeffrey:  That really is a great idea!  I look forward to seeing you at the Faire.

Get your advance tickets to see Erol Chandler and more than 30 maker exhibits at the Eugene Mini Maker Faire on June 11! Tickets are $1 off until June 1.

Maker Interview: Shawn Nelson of One Drop Yo-Yos

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Hello, I am Jeffrey Garman and this is my second year on the Eugene mini Maker Faire Steering Committee. I am excited to present to you the first in a series of “Meet the Makers” interviews with Shawn and David, co-owners of One Drop Design. The whole committee is happy to welcome them to the Faire on June 11th.

Let’s get started!

Jeffrey: It is not common knowledge that there exists an international high-end YoYo market, and it is even lesser-known that Eugene is home to a leading designer and manufacturer of premium/luxury YoYos like the ones you produce in the One Drop Design factory. My first question is, obviously, who the fusiform-gyrus are you guys, where did you come from, and what is your superhero genesis story? (Is that three questions?)

Shawn: Yeah, David and I met in 1991 as random roommates in an apartment that was full of people coming and going. We didn’t actually meet face to face until I’d moved into the room next door to his. We were the only two guys who would get up each morning and actually go to real adult jobs, sometimes stepping over piles of sleeping strangers to make our way out of our own apartment – it was a bonding experience. We quickly realized, as you do in your twenties, that working for other people kinda sucks. We committed to starting a business together although we had no idea what it would be, or when we’d actually get around to starting.

Our first idea was to rebuild and sell vintage VW Beetles. Our business was going to be called Future Bug Paradise, named after a song. Honestly though, more time went into the clever name than the business. One day Dave saw a trinket I’d made for myself at a machine shop I worked at; he thought it was cool and that maybe we could base a business on the idea that we just make cool stuff and a few weirdos would think it cool enough to buy. Life happened and we put it all on hold for 10 years, finally setting up shop in Eugene on 01/01/01.

Jeffrey: With precision ground bearings, side mount ‘spinner’ accoutrement and psychedelic vibrant anodized aluminum hemispheres that bring the thought of Jackson Pollock to my right hemisphere, it is clear that the modern day YoYo is not the simple toy of the past. I have to say these look more like navigational gyroscopes than toys. Can you bring me up to date on what the YoYo of 2016 looks like and how it is made?

David: There are 3 things that have revolutionized YoYo performance. The first is the ball bearing. When it first debuted as a marketing item for a bearing company in the late 80s, it immediately took spin times from 20 seconds up to a couple of minutes. Things have never been the same since, and the current world record spin time is about 31 minutes.

The second is making YoYos out of precision machined aluminum. The density of this material and the precision of manufacturing is ideal for this.

The third is known as “unresponsive”. Traditional YoYos can be returned to the hand by simply tugging the string. Unresponsive means that the YoYo doesn’t return to the hand on a tug. This allows for any complexity of trick without worrying that the YoYo will accidentally “trigger” and try to come back. In order to get it to come back, you need to learn a trick called “the bind”.

These are the three main innovations, but there have been lots of other small improvements in shape, weight, weight distribution, and lately using multi-materials. We machine our YoYos on CNC lathes out of various aluminum alloys, Delrin, and titanium. The aluminum YoYos are tumbled to put a matte finish on them, and then we send them out for anodizing which puts the protective layer on as well as the color schemes. We then assemble, test and ship.

Jeffrey: I for one am very excited about having you at the Faire. Can you reveal anything about what you will have at the event? (spoiler alert) Will you be selling specially priced Faire themed YoYos and schwag, doing trick demonstrations, or perhaps having a raffle? I love raffles!

Shawn:  We will have a booth at the Faire doing demonstrations and lessons (we will have YoYos for people to try). We will also be selling YoYos at a discounted price. David and I will also be doing a talk expanding on the topics of this interview and taking questions.

Jeffrey: This is going to be the best Faire ever.

Maker Interview: Cliff Dax of LumiDax Electronics LLC

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Cliff Dax has been a maker since before the maker movement began and that gives him a sort of hipster cred within the local community. We’re pleased to bring you the following interview with Cliff Dax of LumiDax Electronics LLC, who will be at the Eugene Mini Maker Faire on June 13.

Question: When and how did you become a maker?

Cliff: I have been “making” gadgets since junior high school in 1968. I was very popular.  I made a radio in a bandaid box, fun “shock boxes”, an FM transmitter (with a vacuum tube) and other amazing things. In college, I built a light show for my friend’s rock band and an Alien from the movie set for the dorm’s Halloween weekend bash (complete with a metal jaw that the dorm RA wore). I have been making laser light shows and other various items continually since. I also enjoy restoring old radios and TVs.

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Q: Given that you received your electrical engineering degree and began work at Rockwell Engineering 20 years before the first MAKE Magazine was published, what do you think of this current DIY maker movement?

Cliff:  I think it is wonderful. There has been a growing innovation deficit nationally and I feel the Maker movement is a strong force in filling this void. People have created a grassroots movement that is rekindling the love of innovation in America. As an instructor at the University of Oregon, I have noticed an increase in students who are excited about hands-on experiential learning which is useful for approaching many engineering challenges.”

Q: Did you show something at any of our past Eugene Maker Faires?

Cliff: We showed our prototype Bakerboard last year.  Kids loved the ability to play with the waveforms on the function generator and how they changed on the built-in oscilloscope.

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Q: Do you mentor or work with newbie DIY’ers in the Eugene/Springfield area? What wisdom could you condense into a few principles to follow for someone who wants to become a maker?

Cliff: Well, being a maker comes naturally to those who are in engineering and the sciences. We create things that don’t exist, and solve problems that haven’t been answered yet. I have been involved in the past with assisting people with their projects, both inside and outside the university system. As for principles – just be curious about the world around you. Take a closer look at the way nature works. There is also a wealth of information online that can boost your maker experience. Finally, don’t exist in a bubble – get out and meet people. You’d be surprised at how quickly you can create when you pool your resources.

Q: What are you planning for Eugene Maker Faire 2015?

Cliff: Lasers above the indoor floor [and] a color range projection display next to our Lumidax display table. We’ll also have a set of computer speakers so kids can hear what the output of the function generator sounds like.

Q: What projects have you made recently? What do you consider your Magnum Opus?

Cliff: High power ‘Air Effects’ lasers for outdoor projection at a rock festival in Creswell. I am working on a 6C33 Russian tube amplifier with no output transformer which is considered the perfect audiophile amplifier. The Bakerboard concept is the most popular of the ideas that I have done.

Q: How do you get your project ideas?

Cliff: Just look around and find holes in what is available to do specific tasks, then find a solution and most importantly, check to see if it will be affordable for those who might need it, If so, then go for it.

Q: You are a senior development engineer by day, repairing and building custom scientific equipment on the University of Oregon campus.  What drives you on your own time to make your laser light-show gear as well as invent educational hardware such as the baker board?

Cliff: The desire to create business here in Eugene. My vision is to get people interested in making things, to provide jobs, jobs that are fulfilling and create something with tangible value. Oh, and it is fun for engineers like me.

Come check out the LumiDax Electronics LLC table at the Eugene Mini Maker Faire! We will have lots of fun activities for kids and adults alike! Get your advance tickets online or purchase them at the door.