Items tagged with Maker

Teen Maker Space Special: Demonstration from the Staples Robotics Team

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robotWreckers Robotics Team

See a demonstration from the Wreckers Robotics team and hear them speak about the process of building a robot. 

The Wrecker Robotics team from Westport’s Staples High School took top honors in the Connecticut FIRST Tech Challenge. The team also won the Inspire Award, the highest in the competition, as well as the Rockwell Collins Innovate Award. It now moves on to the world championships in St. Louis in April. Pictured (l-r) are Will Moeller, 16, Troy Fantini 17, co-captain, Alec Solder, 16, co-captain, Ian Blanchard, 15, Max Liben, 16, and Eric Pan, 16. All are juniors except Ian who is a sophomore.The Wrecker Robotics team won the world championship in 2011. (photo caption from WestportNow)

Photo credit: Helen Klisser During

Teen, Maker Movement
Maker, Teen

Teen Explains 3D Printing

February 26, 2013
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Alec Foege, author of The Tinkerers, interviews Westport Library staff member Jun-Lucas Pritsker on Tuesday, February 26, 2013, via skype about the 3D printer he is building from a kit in the Library Maker Space. Pritsker and two other teens were shown making the printer on a live feed during Foege's talk to an audience about his book. Foege's talk was filmed by a crew from CSPAN.

NY Times on the Power of 3D Printing

February 21, 2013


The New York Times

February 20, 2013

A Factory on Your Kitchen Counter

Link to Photos included in this article

In his State of the Union address last week, along with the standard calls for education reform and energy independence, President Obama gave a shout-out to a growing technology. In a lab in Youngstown, Ohio, the president said, “Workers are mastering the 3-D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost anything.”

When Brook Drumm saw clips from the speech at his home outside Sacramento, Calif., he wanted to reach through his TV and give the president a fist bump. Mr. Drumm, a bald, goateed father of three, designed the Printrbot, a desktop 3-D printer kit. Like a number of other 3-D printers, it uses heated plastic — applied layer by layer to a heated bed by a glue-gun-like extruder — to turn designs created on a computer into real objects.

As Mr. Drumm illustrated in the Kickstarter campaign he used to raise more than $830,000 to start his business in late 2011, the Printrbot is small enough to fit on a kitchen counter, next to the Mr. Coffee. “The goal for the company,” Mr. Drumm said in world-beating tones, “is a printer in every home and every school.”

The technology for 3-D printing has existed for years, and President Obama was referring to its applications in manufacturing. But there is a growing sense that 3-D printers may be the home appliance of the future, much as personal computers were 30 years ago, when Dick Cavett referred to the Apple II in a TV commercial as “the appliance of the ’80s for all those pesky household chores.”

Like computers, 3-D printers originally proved their worth in the business sector, cost a fortune and were bulkier than a Kelvinator. But in the last few years, less expensive desktop models have emerged, and futurists and 3-D printing hobbyists are now envisioning a world in which someone has an idea for a work-saving tool — or breaks the hour hand on their kitchen clock or loses the cap to the shampoo bottle — and simply prints the invention or the replacement part.

Bre Pettis, the chief executive officer of MakerBot, the Brooklyn-based company leading the charge in making 3-D printers for the consumer market, has seen how the technology is already being applied. “We have stories of people who have fixed their blenders, fixed their espresso machine,” he said.

A file-sharing database MakerBot oversees, called Thingiverse, currently holds more than 36,000 downloadable designs. “One of my favorite stories from Thingiverse is a dad who has a daughter who is 41 inches tall,” Mr. Pettis said. “They were going to an amusement park, and she wasn’t going to be able to go on any of the rides because the minimum height was 42 inches. The dad made orthopedic inserts for her shoes.”

Last fall, MakerBot opened what may be the first retail store devoted to 3-D printers, in Lower Manhattan. Inside, demonstration models of the company’s Replicator 2, a slick, steel-framed machine with the boxy dimensions of a microwave that sells for about $2,200, are constantly printing, turning files created on Trimble SketchUp and other computer-aided design (CAD) software into things like architecture models or smartphone cases.

Emmanuel Plat, director of merchandising for the Museum of Modern Art’s retail division, said that in his experience, watching a 3-D printer work can induce future shock. “When people see the machine function, they’re mesmerized,” said Mr. Plat, who counts himself among those impressed.

As part of its “Destination: NYC” collection in May, the MoMA Design Store will feature a Replicator 2 printing New York-themed items for sale, like a miniature skyscraper or taxi; people can also buy the printer, Mr. Plat said.

In an age when shooting video with a phone and sending it to a friend across the world is old hat, it’s not easy to wow anyone with technology. Still, everywhere he goes lately, Mr. Plat said he hears people gushing about 3-D printing. “The word is out in the design community and creative community,” he said. “The applications are limitless.”

BUT FOR ALL THE EXCITEMENT surrounding 3-D printing, there is still a significant gap between its potential and the current reality. The 15,000 or so early adopters who have bought a MakerBot printer are mostly design professionals or hobbyists from the maker community, not homeowners who still have trouble programming the remote. And the things being printed still tend to be trinkets like toys, key chains or just colorful pieces of plastic in amusing shapes.

Mr. Drumm bought a kit a couple of years ago because he wanted to be “the first family on our block to have a 3-D printer,” he said. After assembling the machine, a complicated task that required a knowledge of soldering, he and his 6-year-old son managed to print a bottle opener. “It took 45 minutes and it was kind of crappy, but I was encouraged,” Mr. Drumm said. “O.K., we’re doing this at our kitchen table.”

It’s a sentiment Mr. Pettis hopes other parents will share. He is betting they will buy 3-D printers for their children, despite the current limitations, in the same way his family purchased a Commodore 64 home computer back in the early 1980s. The machines represent the future, he said, and “for the cost of a laptop” they offer “an education in manufacturing.”

Still, at $2,200, a Replicator 2 costs more than most laptops, and in this sluggish economy, one imagines families could find more essential uses for that money.

When he was designing the Printrbot, that was one of the things Mr. Drumm had in mind. He wanted the kit to be easy to assemble and to require no soldering, he said, but most of all he wanted it to be cheap. “It became obvious to me that it can’t be $1,200 or even $800,” he said. He settled on a price of about $550.

“People don’t know what they’re going to do with it,” he added. “I just say, ‘This is such a new technology. Get your feet wet.’ ”

Hearing Mr. Drumm recount his initial forays into 3-D printing, or watching the Replicator 2 print a brightly colored doodad, one is reminded of another Apple commercial, one that ran a few years before the Dick Cavett spot. In the ad, a synthesized voice touted all the things families could do with a home computer, like “create dazzling color displays” on their TV and “invent their own Pong games.” Given the myriad uses we’ve since found for home computers, and how indispensable they have become, the ad is almost absurdly quaint.

Max Lobovsky, one of the creators of the Form 1, a desktop 3-D printer that is stunning in both its design and printing quality, said the home 3-D printer is at a similarly protozoan evolutionary stage. “It’s not just about technology or reducing costs,” Mr. Lobovsky said. “The machines need to be easier to use, more capable and offer more applications in the home. I think all of those things are missing today.”

He and his partner, Natan Linder, envisioned the Form 1, which sells for around $3,300, as an affordable 3-D printer for professionals. Last September, they raised more than $2.9 million on Kickstarter, proof of the enthusiasm in the marketplace. They see 3-D printing technology working its way down from corporations to smaller companies to the engineers, architects and crafters at whom the Form 1 is aimed.

“There are a few more levels,” Mr. Lobovsky said, “before we get to every single household.”  

IT MAY ONLY BE A MATTER OF TIME until a 3-D printer shares shelf space in the home with the laptop or TV, and of course Mr. Pettis already has a Replicator 2 on his coffee table in Brooklyn. But at the moment, the most common place to find a desktop 3-D printer may be at a hacker space, where hobbyists gather to share tips and troubleshoot what can be glitchy machines to operate.

Consider 2-D printers with their paper jams and low-toner warnings, then remember that most 3-D printers use hot plastic and don’t come with an office repairman.

Hack Manhattan holds a weekly event called 3-D Thursday in its narrow second-floor workroom on 14th Street. One evening last month David Reeves and Justin Levinson, two club members, sat huddled around a printer Mr. Reeves had built using plans available free online. Its exposed wires and bare rod frame gave the machine the look of a homely science fair entry, but the bit-like extruder circled with the quick, precise movements of a hummingbird, printing layer by plastic layer.

In a mind-bending technology feedback loop, Mr. Reeves, a research scientist who likes to tinker, was using his 3-D printer to make parts to build another 3-D printer.

Nearby, Matthew Duepner was hoping to get tips on modifying the Printrbot Jr. kit he had bought for $400 at a fair and has been testing in his bedroom. A 15-year-old high school sophomore at the Professional Children’s School, Mr. Duepner learned about 3-D printing at a workshop at M.I.T., he said, and “just fell in love with it.”

He was excited because he had recently found a Long Island source for cheap plastic, the 3-D equivalent of printer ink. “You should see the spool,” he said. “It’s like as big as me. Dude, it’s crazy.”

Mr. Levinson, an editor at Makeshift, a magazine that spotlights creativity, said he can think of at least one practical use for a 3-D printer: the burner on his mother’s oven is broken and she can no longer get a replacement part. “Entire objects are rendered useless because a stupid piece of plastic broke,” he said. Being able to print a new one, he added, “makes the life cycle of objects a lot longer.”

But Mr. Levinson doesn’t have a 3-D printer at home, and perhaps he’s wise to hold off for now.

Another visitor, Jim Galvin, a lighting programmer for film and television, said he spent around $1,100 for a Cupcake, an early MakerBot model. It came in handy when he printed an iPhone holder for his car. Even so, he complained, “anything I’ve printed I’ve printed at least eight times to get right,” and the Cupcake malfunctioned often. “I became a 3-D printer mechanic, and that’s not what I wanted to be.” (A Replicator 2 sitting on a shelf at Hack Manhattan, with a sign taped to it reading “Not Working! Do Not Use,” suggests MakerBot’s latest model isn’t glitch-proof either.)

Still, the iPhone holder Mr. Galvin made seemed to demonstrate 3-D printing’s potential. Because he uses two protective cases, his phone is too wide to fit inside a standard holder — a problem that may be unique to Mr. Galvin, and one he was able to solve with his 3-D printer. “That’s what I think is so exciting about 3-D printing,” he said. “Whatever you need, all that stuff you want to make, you can make.”

It was clear that despite the technical challenges and costs, everyone in the room was as enthusiastic about the technology as Mr. Galvin. Throughout the evening, they debated the various types of plastic, shared operating tips and new developments they had seen or heard (Mr. Duepner described one model that printed pancake batter), and speculated on how 3-D printing will bring about the revolution President Obama foreshadowed in his speech.

If you closed your eyes, you could almost imagine yourself standing in a room in Silicon Valley in the 1970s, listening to the early programmers sing the praises of the personal computer. We all know how that turned out.


Like computers before them, 3-D printers are moving from the business and manufacturing sector into retail stores and homes. There are dozens of printers for hobbyists to choose from these days. We asked David Reeves, a member of Hack Manhattan who has experimented with several 3-D printers and built one, to offer his thoughts on a few.

MODEL Replicator 2 by MakerBot

COST About $2,200

THE BASICS The optimal printer is one that can print quickly without sacrificing quality. The print quality of the Replicator 2, Mr. Reeves said, is better than that of any other machine he has used. While this model is advertised as being ready to print out of the box, Mr. Reeves said the one he used did require user-end software tweaking. Also, the price is a little steep.

MODEL Prusa Mendel

COST About $750

THE BASICS The Mendel grew out of the RepRap project, an open-source initiative with the goal of creating an inexpensive, self-replicating printer. Mr. Reeves built his Mendel with parts he found online, and said it has been “very durable.” Perhaps the best thing about it is that updates are often made to the design; owners can download the files free and print new parts.

MODEL Form 1

COST About $3,300

THE BASICS The Form 1 was a wildly successful Kickstarter project, and it is perhaps the coolest looking 3-D printer on the market. It uses a different technology from the rest of the printers (called stereolithography, it produces higher resolution prints with lasers, the company says), and that accounts for its high price tag. Mr. Reeves said he didn’t know enough about the Form 1 to offer an opinion, though he noted that it’s an out-of-the-box printer, not a kit. “They’re complex machines with complex software and hardware,” Mr. Reeves said, adding that assembling a printer yourself “can get frustrating even for the tinkerers.”

MODEL Printrbot Jr. by Printrbot

COST About $400

THE BASICS One of the members of Hack Manhattan owns a Printrbot Jr., and Mr. Reeves said he has been “really impressed with the print quality.” The price is also attractive for beginners, as is the small size (it can be easily transported). One downside for nontinkerers is that the Printrbot Jr. is a kit; another is that the size of the bed limits the size of the objects you can print.




On Location | Midtown East: One Size (Small) Fits All

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Boston Public the Latest Library to Seek Advice From Westport

January 16, 2013

Maker Space-BettyMore and more libraries are looking to Westport for guidance on a national library trend that is catching on like a hot new book title—Maker Spaces and innovative programs that go with them.

The latest library to visit? Boston Public Library.

Michael Colford, BPL's Director of Library Services, visited recently with BPL Director of Branches Christine Schonhart. He said he first heard about the Westport Library Maker Space last October, when it was featured on the cover of the preeminent national publication for libraries, Library Journal. He also tuned into an ALA (American Library Association) webinar later that month that was hosted by Library Director Maxine Bleiweis and Asst. Director Bill Derry, who spoke to over 800 attendees nationwide about the new structure inside the library’s main level designed as a place where people can connect, create and experiment.

The BPL visit to Westport follows trips by a string of other libraries—Larchmont, NY; Port Washington, NY; Trumbull, Darien and the CT state library. The Scarsdale, NY, school district sent representatives as well for a tour. 

“It’s catching on. We believe in the Maker Space and its potential as a vital service and learning environment for library users,” said Asst. Director for Innovation and User Experience Bill Derry, who was recently interviewed on a NPR show called The Wonderful World of Tinkering. “The Maker Space merges industrial, creative and technology arts to offer something for almost everyone to participate as an observer or maker.”

Since its inauguration last summer with a press conference for members of the media as well as local and state elected officials, the Maker Space has been the venue for workshops, collaborative creating and a lab for learning about computer assisted design and 3D printing. Over 100 parents and children turned out for a recent session called “Making and Learning.” A local entrepreneur has produced a device to prevent teens from texting in their cars. Teen volunteers print out pieces for chess boards and name tags. A grandmother learned how to use a power drill. Passers-by can view 3D images in a photo gallery with 3D glasses, and learn how to view 3D photos in the nearby Annual Report. A solar panel on the roof of the Maker Space demonstrates how energy can be channeled to power a fan. And, plans are underway to install more 3D printers, with computers to go with them. Two state-of- the-art printers by Stratasys, currently on loan, quietly demonstrate the newest capabilities of 3D printing.

“The bigger picture of the Maker Space is about doing things differently,” said Bleiweis. “It’s an example of how we are evolving into a community think tank, answering a need for more democratic, participatory learning and creating.”

On April 27, the Westport Library will host the 2nd Mini Maker Faire, following Connecticut’s first Mini Maker Faire at the Library last year. Later in the spring, Library officials will speak at the Connecticut Library Association annual convention on the Maker movement, and innovative library services.


Westport Mini Maker Faire

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mini maker faire

The Mini Maker Faire in Westport showcases invention, creativity, and resourcefulness in a celebration of the maker mindset in a hands-on environment. It is produced by the Library and Remarkable STEAM, Inc. Throughout the Library and on Jesup Green. 

Click here for where to park (scroll down on site for map)

Click here to register for tickets

Click here to volunteer at the Faire

To make your entry into the Faire quicker, print off the wavier, fill it out, and bring it with you.  Waiver

This year’s Mini Maker Faire will feature the latest in 3D printing, Arduino board and Raspberry Pi applications, ham radios, DIY biology, computer-assisted drawing (CAD) demonstrations, woodworking, vintage electronics, robotics, remote-controlled aircraft, student projects, unusual tools and machines, composting, and rocketry. A $1,000 prize will be awarded by the Awesome Foundation CT to one exhibitor whose work best exemplifies the Maker Faire principles of innovation, experimentation, and craftsmanship (for more information, see


This year’s exhibitors include:

     * Balam Soto, of Open Wire Labs in Hartford, is a visual artist who integrates technology into interactive art. The winner of many Maker Faire awards, he will demonstrate the Exp.Ins.X, an interactive experimental instrument; and BodysoundSuit V3, a dancer’s suit that captures movement and translates it into sound and graphics.

     * Jeff Burchard, of Advanced Educational Technologies, will demonstrate printing on a commercial-grade Stratasys 3D Printer and provide some limited hands-on activities for attendees that bring a .stl file on a flash drive. He will also bring an Epilog Laser Engraving System.

     * Student robotics teams from Westport and other Connecticut communities.

     * David Heim, a Brookfield Arts Center instructor and editor of two books, including Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers, will demonstrate how to create a 3D model of a piece of period furniture in SketchUp, a computer program for designing objects for 3D printing.

     * Alec Foege, author of The Tinkerers, will speak about the history of tinkering and how tinkering is making a comeback.

     * Tim Walker, a Westport resident and member of the Greater Norwalk Amateur Radio Club, will provide samples of projects built by radio amateurs. There will be a display of antique and modern equipment.

* Dalton Ghetti, a Bridgeport artist, will display amazing objects carved into the exposed lead at the end of a pencil.

     * Hands-on presentations by Wakeman Town Farm's junior apprentices about homesteading and sustainability. Younger children will be able to participate in a question-and-answer session about how to raise backyard chickens and how to make compost.

     * Scott Rownin, a Westport resident, will demonstrate his recent invention SafeRide, which blocks texting capabilities in cars.

Throughout Library
All ages

Making & Learning!

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maker spaceFor parents and their 5th-12th graders! Bill Derry, Library assistant director, along with other staff members and teens who have been working and volunteering at the library, and Mark Mathias, Board of Education member and Maker Faire co-chairman, will explain the MakerSpace and provide a demonstration of the 3D Printer. The presentation and tour will show how the MakerSpace and Westport Mini Maker Faire support learning. Co-sponsored by Westport PTA Council and the Westport Library.

Teen, Maker Movement
Grade 5, Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 8

Maker Event: Author Alec Foege on The Tinkerers

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The TinkerersOnce upon a time, the United States was a nation of tinkerers – amateurs and professionals alike who applied their ingenuity and talent to the challenges of their day. Alec FoegeGuided by the curiosity of an inquiring mind, a desire to know how things work, and a belief that anything can be improved, they came up with the inventions that laid the foundations for the American century. Today, it seems that that can-do spirit has been overtaken by a general hopelessness around intractable problems. But as Westporter Alec Foege shows in The Tinkerers: The Amateurs, DIYers, and Inventors Who Make America Great, reports of tinkering’s death have been greatly exaggerated. C-span's Book TV will be here filming the event.

Foege is also the author of Right of the Dial: The Rise of Clear Channel and the Fall of Commercial Radio; Confusion Is Next: The Sonic Youth Story; and The Empire God Built: Inside Pat Robertson’s Media Machine. He is a former Rolling Stone contributing editor and People magazine senior writer. 

“Once you acquire the tinkerer’s mindset, as described in Alec Foege’s engrossing book, the world becomes a gigantic spare parts bin, inviting you to become a creative participant, rather than a passive consumer, in your manufactured environment.”
—Mark Frauenfelder, Editor-in-Chief, MAKE

Maker Movement, Authors
Authors, Maker

Teen Maker Space Special: Nintendo Workshop

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NintendoTake apart a classic Nintendo and learn how to repair it to working condition. Plus, play classic Nintendo games and learn about Nintendo history. Register online. All ages. Free to attend, $15 to repair your own Nintendo. 

Teen, Maker Movement
Maker, Teen

Westport Library Makes Cover of Library Journal

October 2, 2012

New York-based Library Journal Art Director Kevin HeneganThe Library is featured on the cover of the October 1 issue of Library Journal, the largest library publication in the country. Two of the three pictures on the cover are of the Westport Library’s Maker Space. The cover article is about public libraries that are leading the trend in creating spaces where people can come together to design and create for either personal fulfillment or entrepreneurship.New York-based Library Journal Art Director Kevin Henegan Maker Spaces in libraries are the latest step in the evolving debate over what libraries are, and what they should be. On October 15, Westport Library Director Maxine Bleiweis and Asst. Director Bill Derry will be featured in an American Library Association free webinar about the creation and development of the Westport Library Maker Space.

Photos: New York-based Library Journal Art Director Kevin Henegan taking pictures of the Maker Space

Library Journal article

MakerSpace: The Build

August 17, 2012
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Between June 29 and July 2, 2012, Joseph Schott and a crew of volunteers constructed the new MakerSpace in the Westport Library. It officially opened with a press conference on July 2. Karen Bruce, Library staff member, setup a time-lapse HD video camera to capture the building process.