A Pinball Table for Two

A report on City of STEM + LA Maker Faire

Welcome to Make Things, a weekly newsletter for the Maker community, and written by Dale Dougherty. This newsletter lives on the web at makethings.make.co

Table of Contents

The two-player pinball table

At the Maker Nexus open house (see below), one project that caught my eye was the two-for-one wooden pinball machine built by Zane Codel.

A high school student, Zane wrote on a placard: “I love marble runs, and this is a project that takes that interest to the extreme; it's also the most difficult project I've ever worked on.” He added that his pinball machine is a work-in-progress:

This is an entirely mechanical pinball machine that plays like air hockey-it uses only levers, springs, and ramps. There are no electronics involved. The most challenging part of this build was creating the flipper mechanisms, because they all need to feel and perform identically.

On the placard, Zane credited Ben Tardiff for the inspiration and his two-player pinball machine on Youtube. It’s nice to see how one person sharing their work inspires another person to make and it’s also nice to see makers who acknowledge another person who they learned from.

Maker Nexus FAOH

Maker Nexus in Sunnyvale, California celebrated its Five-year Anniversary and its first Open House, what it called FAOH. The celebration said a lot about how crazy the past five years has been for makerspaces — I mean, doing a ribbon cutting after you’ve been open for five years!

Jenny Higgins of Maker Nexus does the ribbon cutting (photo by Dale Dougherty)

Started by a group of TechShop orphans as a non-profit, community-oriented makerspace, Maker Nexus opened in April 2019 and moved to its current location in the summer of 2021. In between those dates was the pandemic, during which the makerspace was closed to the public but was open to produce PPE. They never got around to having an open house or an anniversary celebration until last week.

Maker Nexus is located in a fairly typical single-story Silicon Valley office building. (Google is their landlord.). The 28,000 sq.ft. facility has separate areas for working with wood, cold and hot metal, textiles, electronics, 3D printers, laser cutters, and more. Today, Maker Nexus has 454 members.

One outstanding feature I noticed was a display rack that showcased the many classes and workshops coming up at Maker Nexus. There was make an LED Neon sign, an easy toolbox build, learn bowl turning, and electroplating among others. It shows the variety of interests that a makerspace can accommodate.

Other Makerspace News

Nebraska Community College breaks ground on makerspace and innovation center

“We need to be a nation that makes things again,” U.S. Rep. Mike Flood, representing Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District, said at the groundbreaking ceremony on April 4 for the $7 million iHub building that will house a makerspace at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska, as reported in Norfolk Daily News. Funding came in part from public sources as well as private donors.

NCC President Leah Barret said: "(iHub) is a place where we can celebrate, full of windows, full of life, full of children, full of people that want to make a difference and want to figure out what those jobs of the future are," NECC president Leah Barret said. The iHub building is expected to be open by summer of 2025.

Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning comments reflect the economic challenges of rural communities. “Norfolk has to work twice as hard to attract the opportunities it gets. We don’t have an interstate, we’re not close to a metro, so that’s unfortunate, but it’s also beneficial because it’s engendered in us, in our community over the years, an entrepreneurial spirit that I wouldn’t trade for anything. … This project is a very definition of that. It’s an example of innovation.”

Superintendent of Battle Creek Public Schools, Jake Luhr, said: “This is going to hit all ages of kids, the experiences, the creativity, the collaborative nature of it is really exciting for public schools.”

AI Makerspace Opens at Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech University in Atlanta has opened an AI Makerspace in its College of Engineering in partnership with NVIDIA. Arijit Raychowhury, a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, called it a “sandbox for students and educators to use AI in the classroom.”

The AI Makerspace is a supercomputer hub that gives students access to computing resources typically available only to researchers or tech companies. It means hands-on experience for our students, deepening their skills and preparing them to be the new generation of AI professionals.

With the resources in the AI Makerspace, the College can redesign courses to incorporate practical AI tools and develop new ones that impart the essential principles of AI to all students.

The initiative is in collaboration with NVIDIA, one of the country’s largest suppliers of AI hardware and software — and a substantial investment. Students and faculty receive support through NVIDIA Deep Learning Institute resources, including faculty-run NVIDIA workshops, certifications, a university ambassador program, curriculum-aided teaching kits, and a developer community network.

City of STEM and LA Maker Faire

With over 205 exhibitors representing organizations and individuals, City of STEM + LA Maker Faire welcomed an estimated 25,000 attendees on Saturday, April 6 to the LA State Historic Park downtown. The weather was just perfect, clearing after a week of rain, wind and hail.

The event featured:

  • 197 organizations with a booth

  • 5 panels with 4-6 panelists each

  • 14 hands-on workshops

  • 9 demonstration presentations

  • 6 mainstage performances (music, magic, book reading, talks)

  • 18,000 solar eclipse glasses given away

Dale Dougherty at podium (photo LAPL)

I appreciated the opportunity to speak at the opening ceremony for the City of STEM + Los Angeles Maker Faire last Saturday. I enjoyed meeting Garner Holt of Garner Holt Productions, the leading producer of animatronics for theme parks. As an example of STEM business in Los Angeles, Holt was given an award by Ben Dickow, Executive Director of the Columbia Science Center in Downey, CA and anorganizer for the City of STEM initiative.

Garner Holt (photo by LAPL)

Holt said that his career has been “a dream come true.” His parents had wanted him to become a veterinarian. “I still remember the day my parents took me to Disneyland when I was about 14. On the way home, I told Mom and Dad that I want to build the things at Disneyland.” He focused on that goal. “I’ve been able to build theme park projects in 36 countries and a lot of the things that you see here in LA at Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios.”

He has established the Garner Holt Education through Imagination organization to engage more students in technology and creativity and specifically animatronics. Their “Animakerspace” program offers tools, materials and project curriculum for primary, middle and high schools. Their website says: “We can help create your very own, one-of-a-kind imagination factory!”

There were lots of hands-on activities. Theodore Donnell, a Chemistry professor at Pasadena Community College, did a demonstration showing that you can power a light bulb with Gatorade as well as lime soda. It was based on the Build a Battery Workshop - Exploring Electrolytes from American Chemical Society. The instructions say: “to test different drinks, those that taste sour and/or say that they contain electrolytes tend to work best.”

Gatorade batteries (photo by Dale Dougherty)

A new addition this year was the Invention Convention, a program that encourages young people to become inventors.

A group of students in the Invention Convention tent (photo by LAPL)

A special highlight was the amazing collection of lowrider cars. “They are the ultimate Makers, with strong ties to LA,” said Eva Resnick of LA Public Library and a co-organizing lead.

Low ider (photo by Dale Doughery

Low Rider truck Iphoto by Dale Dougherty)

I talked to Art and Michael of the LA Lowrider Alliance, which is a new group that formed to advocate for changes in law that would be friendlier to cruising. I especially liked that they had model versions of the lowriders.

Model lowrider (photo by Dale Dougherty)

The Civil Air Patrol brought a flight simulator.

Civil Air Patrol flight simulator (photo by LAPL)

Ethan Coulter, one of the organizers of the Orange County Maker Faire, which is in September this year, was there with a team and his own animatronic character.

Justin Coulter (photo by Dale Dougherty)

Of course, the event is really about the countless interactions that happen over the course of the day.

Exhibitor sharing (photo LAPL)

Eva Mitnick of LA Public Library said: “I spent a lot of time at the Robot Battle arena, where kids and adults of all ages cheered on their favorite robots and then peppered their creators with dozens of questions after each match.” She also recalled another interaction. “I overheard was a teenage girl talking to Jeff Nee from JPL.  She asked him how he got to work there and he replied simply ‘I applied.’  The conversation went on a bit more but his emphasis was on attainability and removing the mystique of working at somewhere like JPL.”

Robogames Coming Up

Robogames is coming up April 19-21 at the San Jose Convention Center. Contestants from around the world are competing in 54 different events. The main event is the 250-pound robots smashing the wheels off of each other.  Next weekend, April 19-21st in downtown San Jose.  Contestants are flying in from 16 countries and around the US to vie for gold, silver, and bronze medals. I went last year with my grandson and we had a great time.

The Mortician by Ray Billings (photo from Ray Billings)

Use discount code "Maker" for $10 off/ticket at https://robogames.net/buy-tix-RG.php

Last year, I wrote about The Return of Robogames and interviewed the Robogames organizer David Calkins along with legendary robot builder/fighter Ray Billings on Make:cast.

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

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