Let’s Detonate!

Dan Loves Fire!

Dan loves fire! It’s a fact! For Maker Faire Milwaukee we made a fire poofer which was triggered by pressing a button. Tons of kids (and adults) pressed that button over the course of the weekend.

While Dan the Blacksmith (and John McGeen from BBCM) were the primary builders of the fire poofer, I did the trigger electronics and enclosure.

The Detonator

I’ve written up a blog post with lots of images explaining the (somewhat rushed) build of the device. It’s Arduino powered, has some relays and a beeper, and looks semi-nefarious. Read more about The Detonator.

The Detonator Insides

WISN 12 – Doors Open Milwaukee 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 9.30.54 AM


Thank you again to Van McNeil and WISN 12 for their interest in Doors Open Milwaukee 2015!  Historic Milwaukee has done a phenomenal job promoting and organizing this event for the last five years.  If you haven’t had a chance to visit any of the 175+ buildings available this weekend, there’s still time Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM.  Be sure to check the full list of participants at the official Doors Open website:


Ben will be “Looping the Lake” electrically!

Ben Nelson

Ben Nelson may be just a little bit obsessed with electric vehicles. Over the years he’s built an electric car and electric motorcycle, and he’s even got an electric riding lawnmower. He wanted to show the power of electric vehicles, so he decided to have his own “DIY Road Rally” and ride his Vetrix all the way around Lake Michigan.


All way way around the lake!? That’s 1,000 miles with no gasoline. He’ll be charging up a lot, but he knows where, when, and how to charge up.


People often say that electric vehicles are only good for short trips around the city, but Ben aims to prove them wrong. He’s also planning a full-length documentary film about his adventure…


Ben will also be appearing at Maker Faire Milwaukee in a few weeks, and he’ll be sharing what he learned on his trip. If you want to keep up-to-date while he’s out there, check out his blog or follow the journey on Facebook.

Loop the Lake

Here’s a short video of Ben driving away from Milwaukee Makerspace, on his way around Lake Michigan. Good Luck, and see you soon, Ben!

Singing Pumpkin Commercial


The Singing Pumpkin controller continues along. This new spin of the board corrects the previous flub-up of the reversed amplifier pin-out as well as adds USB and RS-485 to the mix. There are some minor errors on the board, but nothing that has prevented 90% of the board function from being validated. I need to check the recv direction on the USB, the Arduino-style reset pulse, and the RS-485 transceiver. With that I’ll be able to work on generalized firmware and PC software.

6th Annual Doors Open MKE!

This is your invitation to get out and explore Milwaukee!  We’re just one of +150 buildings that will be open to the public on Saturday, September 19th and Sunday, September 20th between 10 a.m.-5 p.m.  It’s free to attend and members will be present to answer questions and give tours.

If you visit, please enter at the north side of our building which is on Otjen Street.  While you’re in the area, be sure to check out the rest of our neighborhood.  There’s plenty of restaurants and shops within walking distance from the ‘Space.

See all the events and buildings this year on the Doors Open website:

Project MagneTag


MagneTag is a project I started about four years ago, when I first joined Milwaukee Makerspace.  My goal was to create an electronic scoring system for physical tag games.  As a paintball enthusiast I really enjoy the action and tactical nature of the sport.  I was looking for a method that wasn’t messy or painful and 100% reliable .

In order to accomplish this goal, I employed the mystical power of magnets. It’s a scientific fact that magnets are awesome.  I knew that the invisible forces created by magnets could be used to create electrical signals, the technology has been around since Maxwell wrote down his famous equations of electromagnetism.  So I set  out to build a wearable system that could electronically detect magnets, be they in some projectile, or embedded in an a foam gladiator weapon, or whatever.

To an experienced engineer, this might not seem like a huge challenge, but when I embarked on this project I could barely operate an Arduino. I didn’t really understand what I was getting myself into.  Now, I have an above average understanding of the principles of electromagnetism because I have a two degrees in physics, but in trying to make my idea a reality, I now understand that theory does not get you very far on its own.   Making things is freakin’ hard, and you have fail many times before you begin to really understand how much you don’t know.  When it comes to making, there is no substitute for experience.  And I learned this the hard way, over and over again.  Persistence removes resistance.  In the end I succeeded and created something even better than I had imagined.

Milwaukee Makerspace is an awesome place. I’ve had so much help from some brilliant members, and the tools we have access to are invaluable.  I even met my business partner Jason at MMS.  Without this place, MagneTag would have just been a cool idea I had one time.  It never would have become a real thing.

This week marks a significant milestone in the history of our project: we are launching MagneTag on Kickstarter!  We are going to put our game out there into the world and see if people really like it.  Check out the launch video below, as well as a behind the scenes video, most of which takes place at Milwaukee Makerspace!

Also come check us out at Maker Faire Milwaukee! It’s gonna be a blast!


Chocolate Cooling System Almost Ready For Testing

Chocolate printer progress continues.  This week was devoted to the print cooling system.  The chocolate will come out the extruder nozzle in a semi-molten state.  It needs to solidify by the time the next layer of chocolate gets deposited on it, and I’d prefer it doesn’t drip or sag, so it needs to be chilled right after extrusion.  The current plan is to blow chilled air over the chocolate just after it leaves the extruder.   The chilled air will come from a foam insulated box containing a block of dry ice.  There will be a blower pushing air into the box and a hose delivering the chilled air/CO2 to the print.

A couple weeks ago I got a blower from American Science and Surplus and this week I got it running by using a model airplane ESC and servo tester to drive its brushless DC motor.  It appears to be capable of blowing much more air than I’ll need.  There are many unknowns yet to test.  How much chilled air/CO2 will it take to solidify the chocolate after it leaves the extruder?  How long will a block of dry ice last when used this way?  Will ice build-up inside the chiller box adversely affect its performance?

I designed and printed three parts for this system- a mount to attach the blower to a foam box up to 1.5″ thick, a hose coupler to allow delivery of the chilled air/CO2 to the print, and a hole saw to cut holes to fit the other two parts.   The printed parts fit as if they were designed for the job!

3D printed hole saw

3D printed hole saw

Hose connected to hose coupler

Hose connected to hose coupler

Hose coupler parts

Hose coupler parts

Blower mount for air chiller box

Blower mount for air chiller box

Noah Way!

Noah Way!

A few of us worked on a car for The Power Racing Series and somehow we got it done at 3:15am on Thursday night after about a week of intensive nights cutting wood, and trying to weld metal, and scrounging for batteries. We then took it to Maker Faire Detroit and raced it.

The car is modeled after Noah’s Ark, supposedly dimensionally accurate, scaled down, of course. It runs at 24 volts and uses one 250 watt hub motor meant for a bicycle. It was not fast. It drives like a boat, maybe because it is one.

We didn’t break down until the last few minutes of the Endurance Race when we popped a tire, so we just kept going on the rim. (Our qualifying lap was 40.40 seconds. Also our car is #40. Amazing!)

We built this in about a week, and made a lot of compromises to get it done on time. Originally we were going to use two 250 watt hub motors for the rear wheels, but… compromises.

The good news is you can spin around in a super-tight radius by turning the wheel 90 degrees and then going full throttle. The bad news is, you might puke afterwards.

Anyway, we’d love to see more people build cars for The Power Racing Series event that will be happening at Maker Faire Milwaukee. If you start now, you’ve got 60 days, and since we built this in about 6 days (and rested on the 7th) it should be totally doable.

Remember, you don’t have to be fast if you’re awesome. You do need to go, and stop, and not take it too seriously. If you can do those things, we’ll see you at the races!