Friday, July 27, 2012

Educate to Innovate

"...we can inspire kids..."  

The following is a short video from the White House's website on the Educate to Innovate initiative which is designed to promote STEM education.  Engineers / Dreamers / World Changers / Role Models.

Video 1: Educate to Innovate  

Get on board.

Monday, July 23, 2012


This is an inspirational short about Caine and his arcade.  If only the world's CEOs had Caine's imagination and creativity...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

DIY Metal Brake (continued 2)

STEP 4: Fini!
You are now finished and can start bending aluminum stock at will to create the worlds meanest brackets to hold your Arduino or whatever else you need to secure. Just don't use it for evil. Unless its only slightly evil, then it's probably OK.

To make a bend:
1) Loosen the wing-nuts and slide the metal between the flat plate and part D and then tighten down the wing-nuts (image 17).

Image 17: Aluminum inserted and wing-nuts tightened
2) Grab part A and rotate it towards part B (image 18).

Image 18:  Start the bend by rotating part A towards part B

3) Rotate it to the appropriate angle you are trying to achieve, in my case 90 degrees (image 19).

Image 19:  Stop bending when you achieve the desired angle

4) Return part A to its initial position once the bend is made (image 20).

Image 20: Bend completed

5) Loosen the wing-nuts and remove your newly bent metal (image 21).

Image 21: Newly bent metal removed from brake by loosening wing-nuts

That's it. Set forth and conquer.

DIY Metal Brake (continued 1)

STEP 3: Ahhhh, Screw it!
Let's assemble the parts now.

Using four #8-32 x 3/8" machine screws along with lock washers and hex nuts, attach the hinges to part C as shown in image 9.
Image 9: Hinges attached to part C

Again, note that the rounded part of the hinge should be flush with the L bend in part C. Now attach part D to the hinges using another four #8-32 x 3/8" machine screws, lock washers and hex nuts. You should now be able to bend the hinge with parts C and D attached. You can create an X configuration (image 10) or a T configuration (image 11, looking at the top of the T) based on how it is bent.

Image 10: X Configuration of parts C and D

Image 11:  T Configuration of parts C and D

Image 12 shows all of the parts left to be attached to one another in roughly the positions they will be attached. Attach part A to part C (upper right in image 12) using the one hole left in each part along with one #8-32 x 3/8" machine screw, lock washer and hex nut. Image 13 shows part A connected to part C (left side) as well as part B connected to part D (right side). When you connect part B to part D you will want to use one of your long #8-32 x 1" machine screws and do not put a lock washer or hex nut on it. I also inserted a hex nut between parts B and D to reduce the parts from rattling around when the tool is not in use, however, this is not necessary (image 14).

Image 12:  Rough positioning of parts left to be assembled

Image 13:  Parts A, B, C and D attached

Image 14: Hex nut inserted between parts B and D

Once you have everything looking like image 13, flip the tool over (image 15), and insert the other long #8-32 x 1" machine screw through the final hole in part D.

Image 15:  Tool awaiting second 1" machine screw

Then, place the flat steel plate on the two long machine screws and place two wing-nuts on the screws (images 16 and 17).

Image 16:  Flat steel plated placed on long screws, wing-nuts in place

Image 17:  Wing-nuts holding flat steel plate on part D

DIY Metal Brake

Here is the full build tutorial for the metal bending tool (aka: a metal brake). We hope this tutorial is helpful. Happy Making.


This project may not seem extremely exciting but it is very useful and satisfying to create other parts with once it is finished. It IS exciting, get EXCITED! If you are a true Maker, you are already teeming with excitement over the fact that you are reading another tutorial and expanding your mind's quiver.

Recently, I needed 90 degree bends in aluminum stock to create brackets for a project I have going. I grabbed $25, ran to Home Depot and after a few hours created my own metal bending tool. Quick, dirty, simple and cheap.

Movie 1: Using the brake to create a 90 degree bend in aluminum

A Few Quick Notes:
The symbol " denotes inches.
Quantities come before descriptions of materials and are followed by an "x".
I used button head machine screws but in retrospect, it would be better to use flat head screws and countersink them.
Everything you need can easily be purchased at Home Depot or similar.

1) 1x 2" width by 1/8" thick flat steel stock
(I bought 36" of this for $6.97)

2) 1x 6" lengths of 1" Steel L bracket
(I bought 36" of this for $6.47)

3) 9x #8-32 x 3/8" machine screws (preferably flat head)
(I bought a box of 100 button heads for $5.80)

4) 2x #8-32 x 1" machine screws
(I bought a 4 pack for $1.18)

5) 2x #8-32 wing-nuts
(I bought a 6 pack for $1.18)

6) 9x #8 lock washers
(I bought a 30 pack for $1.18)

7) 10x #8-32 hex nuts
(I bought a 100 pack for $3.92)

8) 2x 1/2" hinges
(I bought a 2 pack of 1.5" loose pin zinc hinges for $2.27)

This all adds up to just under $29 but if you skip the 100 and 30 packs of screws and washers and just get what you need, you should be able to get it down to $25.

1) Metal saw
(I got by with a hacksaw with a metal cutting blade)

2) Power Drill

3) 5/32" drill bit for metal
(just big enough diameter to get a #8 screw through with a little coaxing from a screwdriver)

4) 5/16" drill bit for metal
(not a must have but useful for cleaning up the edges on the smaller holes you drill)

5) Screwdriver
(whichever type that corresponds to the machine screws you buy)

6) Pliers
(For holding nuts while you tighten machine screws)

Cost: < $25 (not including tools)

Time: ~2 hours

Drink: Coffee.

STEP 1: Cut Metal to Length
First things first, take the steel L bracket and steel flat stock you have and cut it to length. You will need the following lengths:

1) 4x 6" lengths of steel L bracket (see image 1).
2) 1x 6" length of steel flat stock (see image 2).

Image 1:  Steel L bracket

Image 2:  Flat steel plate

I cut these lengths the hard way using my hacksaw with a metal cutting blade attached. If you do not have any way of cutting metal you can pick up a hacksaw for cheap and get by. If you have a chop saw or band saw you can get through this stuff with, even better.

Note: Disregard the holes in the metal on the images above. We will take care of those in the next step.

STEP 2: Drill a few holes!
Take your four lengths of L bracket and individually label them parts A, B, C and D. From here on we will take about each length in this way.

In retrospect I should have purchased flat head #8 machine screws and countersunk them as that would make the tool all that much sexier, as well as alleviate some of the issues I had with the screw heads interfering with the hinges fully closing. Thus, if you can, find a large drill bit you can use to drill countersinks after drilling the initial holes and use flat head machine screws.

Part A:
Take the length of L bracket you labeled part "A" and drill one hole on the center line of one flange 1/2 inch from the end of the part (see image 3).

Image 3: Part "A"
Part B:
Take the length of L bracket you labeled part "B" and drill one hole on the center line of one flange 1/2 inch from the end of the part (see image 4). Note the difference in location of the hole between part A and part B.

Image 4: Part "B"

Note: The hinges mount to parts C and D and thus, the hole placement is critical and will differ by what hinges you use. The critical elements are placing the holes appropriately so that the round part of the hinge is flush with the edge of the L bracket (see image 5) and mounting the hinges close to the ends of parts C and D.

Image 5: Note positioning of hinges on L bracket

Part C:
Take the length of L bracket you labeled part "C" and drill four holes on one flange to mount your hinges to (see image 6). These four holes are for your hinges and it is critical that they are placed appropriately. Make sure you line the rounded edge of the hinge up with the edge of the L bracket when defining your hole placement.

On the opposite flange of part C drill one hole along the center line of the flange 1/2 inch from the end (see image 6).

Image 6: Part "C"
Part D:
Create part D just as you did part C but this time place two holes (one at each end, 1/2 inch from the end) on the opposite flange from the flange the hinges will mount to (see image 7).

Image 7: Part "D"

Finally, take the 6 inch piece of flat steel stock and drill two holes as seen in image 8. The holes should be placed 1/2 inch from the end edges and 1/2 inch from the top edge.

Image 8: Flat steel stock with holes

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

PIR Sensor Wheelchair Cyclops!

Ever seen a wheelchair bound cyclops stuck in a reverse loop? Behold... PIR Cyclops!  The Cyclops detects motion using the PIR sensor (his eyeball) and once it is detected, he wheels backwards for a short time (using a continuous servo).

Video 1:  The PIR Cyclops in action.

This guy was built using an Arduino, PIR sensor and a continuous servo.  All readily available from  Full on instructions for creating this little guy will be posted to the blog and also the instructables website soon.  The Arduino code is posted below.  Also, here are a few pictures (no specific order) of the build:

Image 1: Wiring for the PIR sensor is routed through the Cyclops' neck.

Image 2: Arms and hands are painted and connected.

Image 3: Foam is spackled and sanded to create the pieces of the Cyclops' body.

Image 4: The rough shape of the Cyclops is cut from a foam block.  The PIR sensor is inserted into the Cyclops' head.

Image 5: Rubber bands hold shut the trap door in the bottom of the wheelchair where the Arduino connects to the PIR sensor, continuous servo and power source (9V battery).

Image 6:  The armless Cyclops waits for a few final parts.

Image 7: The continuous servo is attached to one of the wheels on the wheelchair.

Image 8: The finished product sits motionless waiting to detect movement.

Arduino CODE:

// Servo driven by PIR Sensor
// Whim of ImagineN4tion
// 5.21.2012

#include <Servo.h>
Servo myservo;  // create servo object to control a servo 
                // a maximum of eight servo objects can be created 

int PIR = 2;      //Define what pin the PIR sensor is on
int PIRval = 0;    //Define variable that will store the PIR reading, set to 0 for now
int servo = 9;    //Define what pin the servo is on

void setup(){
  //Serial.begin(9600);  //Start the serial port
  pinMode(PIR, INPUT);
  pinMode(servo, OUTPUT);
    myservo.attach(servo);  // attaches the servo on pin 9 to the servo object 

void loop(){
  PIRval = digitalRead(PIR);    //Read the PIR sensor on pin 2 and store the value to 'PIRval'
  //Serial.println("sensor reading =");
  //Serial.println(PIRval);    //Print the value stored in PIR to the serial port
  //Note the servo being used here is a continuous rotation servo calibrated so that
  //the servo is stopped at a write value of 90.  Forward = 180, reverse = 0. 
  if(PIRval == LOW){    //If there is no movement do nothing
  else{                  // Else if there is movement drive servo forward

Monday, July 2, 2012

Shapeways and Blender

Used Blender to create a simple water-tight 3d object and overlayed an image map to it.  Ship those files over to Shapeways and in 12 days you got yourself something tangible...  custom bobbleheads anyone!?