On the Move

Bring making to the people

The Maker Mobile from Maker13 in New Albany IN at Maker Faire Louisville in 2019

Table of Contents

A Marvelous Walking Machine

Here’s a quite wonderful walking machine made from inexpensive parts created by Sittichoke Muktier from Bangkok, Thailand. (Muktier was at Maker Faire Shenzhen in 2017). A prompt to create two-legged and four-legged walking machines is a nice idea for projects at summer camps.

A Mammoth Cave

Along with my family, I visited Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky this week. We took the “Domes and Dripstones” guided tour that starts at the New Entrance and ends at Frozen Niagara. It has over 700 steps going down and up through the two-hour tour, which is described as difficult and seems longer than ¾ of a mile.

This new entrance of Mammoth Cave was “discovered” in 1921 by cave entrepreneur George Morrison when he found a sinkhole and blasted an opening that eventually led him into new sections of Mammoth Cave. To lead tourists down through the cave, he had to build an elaborate staircase of four hundred steps or so. Originally, tourists had to climb down the stairs and return the same way to the entrance, before a separate exit was built.

The ranger said that the original staircase was wooden and rotting away so the National Park brought in a company that works on building stairs in submarines to do the work — they know tight spaces! The work was started at the top of the cave and at the bottom and the crews met in the middle. The ranger said that each step was estimated to cost about $3,000. The zigzag staircase is quite an engineering feat.

The Frozen Niagara feature of Mammoth Cave

The story of George Morrison and the Kentucky Cave Wars of the 1920’s can be found here. In short, the air went out of the boom in cave tourism when the Depression hit and Morrison reluctantly sold off his property to the group that wanted to turn Mammoth Cave into a National Park and wanted Frozen Niagara to be one of its attractions.

Lightfish Mission Reaches Hawaii and Welcomes Maker Payloads

Last week, I wrote about the voyage of Lightfish USV. Earlier this week, it successfully reached Hawaii as expected.

The Lightfish carried two payloads. One was a defense-related, electronic warfare payload for L3Harris Technologies. The other was an AWS payload to support networked communciations for humanitarian coastal disater response missions.

In my conversations with Mike Flanigan, CEO of Seasats, he put out a call to makers, saying that if you can design an experiment in a shoebox, and mail it to him, he’ll carry it on a future ocean mission. Here are the basic requirements.

  • Fits in a shoebox or two including remote sensors that are on cables.

  • Five to 28 volts on the input wires.

  • Less than say 20 Watts.

“If it's high power, then we just won't run it for very long. But if it's a lower power, then we'll run it for longer,” said Mike. “If it spits out serial strings, that's super easy and we can get the data right out of it.”

“We've got REST APIs on the boat,” added Mike. “So basically, if you want to have a sensor such as a water temperature sensor, or a light sensor, or something that's looking for seagulls, whatever it is, if you can fit it inside a shoebox, we'll bring it on our next ocean mission, put it for a couple months out at sea and tie you into the data.”

Mike said that most experiments are doing weather measurements. “There's a lot of interesting science going on for the sea/air surface interaction,” he said.

Mike also explained that USV’s are great for scientific experiments in that they are a much lower cost option. To hire a boat to take you out for several days on the ocean can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars plus crew. Another advantage is that the USV can stay out for long periods of time without need for refueling.

Let me know if you decide to take up Mike on his offer to carry a payload of your design.

Do Mobile Makerspaces Work?

Ethan Coulter of Maker Faire Orange County wrote me to ask my opinion on mobile makerspaces. Do they work?

I have an opinion but I don’t have any experience building or managing mobile makerspaces. I have seen a lot of mobile makerspaces and mobile fab labs for education over the years but I wonder how effective they are. How many are still up and running after Covid?

There are three types of mobile makerspaces:

  • A tool showcase.

  • A workspace with tools.

  • A delivery van for tools and equipment.

A tool showcase is usually used to demonstrate the kinds of equipment that one might find in a makerspace. It’s good for events and outreach but obviously has limited value in providing actual hands-on experience for kids.

A workspace is a compact makerspace where students can do activities or projects. Its biggest advantage is mobility in that it can go where ever youth can be found. It’s biggest disadvantage is that the compact layout requires a fairly large vehicle and even then it’s tight to fit more than a dozen kids at a time. Sometimes these limitations can be overcome by using tents or canopies to create work areas outside.

A delivery van might bring tools and supplies to a school or community makerspace. I think this is like the library book mobile that visits school or parks in the summer. It’s not a workspace itself but it could bring equipment to different sites in a rotation that allows a limited equipment list to serve most people. With a capable maker, the van can also be used to support workshops and training.

If you have experience building or operating a mobile makerspace, please let me know what you’ve learned. Perhaps we can organize a group discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of mobile makerspaces. If you have an opinion, leave a comment below.

In the Makerspace Directory at makerspace.com, we are adding a category for mobile makerspaces.

Bill Hammack on “The Things We Make”

Join me on Tuesday June 18 for a conversation with Bill Hammack, who teaches engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He is also well-known for his EngineerGuy videos on YouTube.  Bill is the author of "The Things We Make: The Unknown History of Invention from Catherdrals to Soda Cans," which was published in 2023.

To register, visit this Zoom events link.

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I’d love to hear from you if you have ideas, projects or news items about the maker community. Email me - [email protected].