Tips for 3D printing clean up!

IMG_4352I think we’ve all been there. A print finishes, the delighted patron/maker scampers away with a project, fresh off the print plate. You go to start the next print and low and behold, the raft is still stuck to the plate. The plate is no spring chicken, it has divots and chunks out of it, maybe a little scratched up from some intense gouging. Anyway, each one of those gouges is a great little foothold for your raft. Every print or so I like to wipe down the plate with some surface cleaning wipes and dry the whole thing off with a lint free cloth. I generally leave the little pieces of plastic that fills in the gouges because trying to dig them out makes the holes bigger. I always recommend using a raft when printing because that way the bottom of the print is saved from the irregularities of the plate.


Parallax ActivityBot in the Library Classroom

I finally feel like I have a handle on the robots I use for the “Intro to Robots” Class I have once a month. They are feisty little buggers and I had issues with several of them spinning in circles when they should have gone straight. Turns out, there were some serious issues with the placement of the encoders on the chassis, the servo connectors and the i/o pin configuration, which is just a fancy way of saying that the wires were all messed up and I had to trace the pins and the plugs to make sure left was going left and right was going right. Here is a PSA I made for the next round of classes!

Adventures in teaching when you have no idea how to teach

photoThings I have learned from my students.

Last night’s “Newbie’s Guide to HTML and CSS” class went much better than the first one, which is to say, I didn’t feel like apologizing profusely to the students as they walked, bleary eyed and slack jawed to the door. That was last time, when I fell prey to Librarian Information Expansion Syndrome and kept piling detail upon detail on them. This time, I glossed over details but tried to give a big picture overview of what these 2 languages do. This is a 90 minute class and that is just not enough to make experts out of beginners. So, I tried to impart concepts and then a few important examples, a little time for them to try it on their own and then I gave them resources to help get them started, like my fave, codeacademy.

They seemed to take pretty well when, at the climax of the class, I showed them how to link their CSS stylesheet to their HTML page and VIOLA! The future!…*nothing happens* cough, cough…THE FUTURE!…*still, nothing*. So painful. So, I know to test little things like that even though I’ve made that link a thousand times….

Teaching Beats to New Producers Using FL Studio

Something I’ve noticed since the opening of the library’s audio recording booth is that many people who are very talented rappers have very rudimentary audio production skills. This is a shame because many times I see people recycling the instrumental beds of other, more established recording artists like Drake or Lil Wayne. This is unfortunate because it is limiting to  musical artists who want to claim their songs as their own and post them to social media sites that prohibit posting copyrighted material. Freestyling over mainstream beats is also the sign of amateurism in some circles and it is hard enough to stand out in the music world as an individual with a unique sound without a unique instrument bed.

This is my opinion and I decided to try some programs to address that situation. I have planned a twice monthly program utilizing an inexpensive Digital Audio Workstation that is installed onto 6 of the computers in the library. I have access to an overhead projector that allows me to walk students through the various windows and interfaces that aid in the creation of some phat beats.

At first glance the tool bar is pretty confusing, but I use a Powerpoint that only I can see to guide my students through the step sequencer, playlist and effects windows. (Dj Cafe). I use the Pharell Song “Happy” as an example of the different parts of songs. This song contains easily identifiable Verses, Choruses and Breaks and it is pretty tame content wise.

Robot Class!

photo by:
This little fella and six of his jerk friends made my life very hard yesterday.

I had my first robot class yesterday. It was a nerve wracking run up to the very end. I had to fight my way through panic and flop sweats when I realized 3 hours into prep that I was using the wrong damn robot! I was using the robot with the groovy Arduino Shield as my test when I should have been using the ActivityBot. Different Software, different interface different chassis UGH!

After skipping lunch and talking myself off the ledge, I realized that I was a damn fool for waiting so long. I’m glad the class wasn’t full because I didn’t get a chance to calibrate all the robots and some of them had motor issues. I also was not as familiar with all the handout material as I should have been. Many of the handouts were from the Parallax site and were very detailed and helpful, but a hair too in depth for my needs.

I want to make up some sheets that hit the Breadboard schematics for the LED, Piezo and servo configurations with big, brightly colored images. I then want to figure out a way that the robots can run still hooked into the computer. I need to compile the code sketches for each exercise into one folder and save that onto the shared drive (hear that, future self?). Tonight is the DJ workshop. I hope I’m better prepared for this one.