ARTspiration Last Saturday

ARTspiration2013.1If you didn’t make it out to ARTspiration at the Fleisher last Saturday, well… you blew it. But seriously, it was another great festival; the rain held off for us as we staffed a table with a couple new volunteers (yay! Thanks David and Kim!) and it turned out to be a really beautiful day. We had the usual oohs and aahs for our table full of old electronics to make jewelry and sculpture with. This was our 3rd time coming to ARTspiration, and it’s been nice to see the same faces that are excited to come to our table and get their hands on our electronics. Of course there are lots more chances for all ages to play with these components, it’s become kind of a staple activity for us. We’re looking forward to stocking up on supplies at the upcoming Ham Fests in the area (that’s for Ham Radio enthusiasts – their swap meets are a great place to stock up on old supplies). If you’re interested in going, let us know, you need to get there early so carpooling may be a good idea!

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Project Night 6.6.13 Recap

ProjectNight6.6.13We had a great project night last week, nothing fancy, just some standard electronics hacking, some networking, and a little app trouble-shooting.

Tim continued working on his circuit-laden blanket (seen in the background here). Colin, a high school Comp Sci teacher came and got started learning how to program the Arduino since he missed the first session of our Arduino class series last Tuesday. As you can see he was still able to get this potentiometer working, which controlled three LEDs by twisting a knob.

I helped out a member of Quorum who stopped by looking for some advice about an app he is building. Though I can’t say I was sold on using the app myself (it was a way to chat with people in your geographic vicinity), we thought through some steps he would need to get the programming capabilities he needed.

We also had an intrepid entrepreneur interested in hacking the Apple dock connector to charge an iPad with a normally-non-charging connection.

Next week: we may have coffee, or maybe even popcorn!

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Meet The Multimeter, June 23

Photo by Andrew Mason.

Photo by Andrew Mason.

The multimeter is the Swiss Army knife of electricity – with it, you can troubleshoot household appliances, car batteries, and electronics. Join us at The Hacktory for a hands-on workshop on how to get the most out of your multimeter, Sunday June 23, 10am-noon. We’ll talk about measuring voltage, current, resistance, and capacitance; identifying common circuit components; the difference between alternating (AC) and direct current (DC); and basic safety when working around electricity.

This event is suitable for ages 13+. We will have multimeters for use during the workshop; if you would like to purchase one for yourself, please select “Workshop + Multimeter” when registering or bring $15 to the event.

Sunday, June 23, 10am-noon

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Hacking the Gender Gap: Please Help!

If you’re a regular on our blog, you are probably familiar with a workshop we created to talk about the gender gap in the tech world, called Hacking the Gender Gap. We did the first workshop over a year ago, with a great reception at the Women in Tech Summit, and have presented in many more venues, including IgnitePhilly11. You can watch a video of our Ignite Presentation above for a quick summary.

We have an opportunity now to apply for a grant that recognizes innovative programs in nonprofits that are simple, focused, and start small. We think we can make a good case for the Hacking the Gender Gap workshop as an innovative program. The application also asks for a description of how the program makes a demonstrable impact in the lives of the people it’s aiming for, which is where we could use some help. We’ve collected some surveys from workshops, but not all. If you’ve been to one of our workshops, or have followed our progress, maybe by looking at the photo sets of the stories, please consider helping us now by filling in this quick form with a sentence or two of how the workshop had an impact for you. This grant could help us match our Knight project grant, and provide funds for regularly paid staff, which we could really use to help us plan classes on a more regular basis.

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Tickets Going Fast for Our Intro to Arduino Class!


Do you have an idea for a cool new tech tool and want to learn how to begin prototyping?

Do you love robots like Wall-E, Johnny5 and the Curiosity rover and wish you could make your own?

Want to take part in the rise of the Philadelphia maker community but not sure where to start?

Sign up for our 3-day Intro to Arduino class on June 4, 11, 18.  In 6 hours you will learn to build and program your own Arduino-based project. We’ll be working with knobs, buttons, LEDs, piezo-buzzers, light sensors, and more!

Past participants have gone on to make handheld games, music instruments, wearable electronics, and even a controller for wireless robotics. Bring your ideas and we can look into how to develop these advanced projects from what is learned your first day. Our aim for this course is to send you home with a cool project to show your friends, a whole bunch of new ideas and the knowledge and resources to produce some Arduino magic!

Tickets here:

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Intro to Interactive Art Recap


Well, we’d like to report back that our inaugural Intro to Interactive Art class was a modest success. A good group of folks showed up, and the presenters did an awesome job talking about the pros and cons of using various software platforms to create interactive art, including Processing, OpenFrameworks, and Max/MSP/Jitter. The presenters included Matt Miller, an interactive designer and educator; Ben Farahmand, another designer, entrepreneur and artist; Paul Christian, a programmer and musician (link to his github here); and Kim Brickley and Sarah Zimmer, who form the team behind Create in Situ. (Thanks again to all of you, you really made the event a success). It was clear that the presenters had chops in their technology of choice, have spent significant time on their work, and have deep knowledge that they apply to it.

The point we wanted to get across, though, was that they way people make programs and learn in these mediums is by messing around on their own and seeing what works. To help get over some initial unknown vocabulary and learn more about communities making this work, we also made a pirate pad with helpful vocabulary and a ton of links. If you find it useful, please add your name and write a comment, or fill in more terms or links we missed (there’s bound to be quite a few).  Read More »

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Intro to Interactive Art on Wednesday

There are some amazing things being done with technology in the art world. The above work is by an artist called Prince Mio, who writes, “This choreography is about the duet of dance and interactive media. My inspiration is to investigate different possibilities to melt organic hiphop dance with projected light — searching for new shapes, transisition, identities and meanings. It is a portray of urban artists giving a computer the acces to their very private natural flow.”
The piece uses a kinect, a computer, and a few different bits of software built in OpenFrameworks. But if you’re new to this world of art you may have no idea where to begin. What’s a kinect? What’s OpenFrameworks? How can I possibly make art this way if I don’t know how to code? If you have any of these questions you should definitely check out our Intro to Interactive Art class this coming Wednesday, from 6-8 pm. It’s a quick intro to the terms and tools available to start making works of art in this new field, and it’s not as complicated as it may seem right now. We’ve also invited several local artists who have made and exhibited interactive works using Open Frameworks or other similar software. Ben Farahmand, a designer and interactive artist, and Sarah Zimmer and Kim Brickley, the team behind Create in Situ, are just 3 of the artists who will be speaking about their work. I’ll add a few more blog posts this week discussing these artist’s work in more detail, but be sure to get a ticket now, they are only $10!

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Intro to Audio Synthesis


Come learn the fundamentals of sound generation with Free Libre Open Source Software! This two hour course will cover a brief history of early electronic music, some physics about sound, subtractive synthesis, and will end with the class designing some sounds of our own. Learn the basics of electronic music with free, open source software that you can take home. Bring a laptop!

Wednesday, May 29, 7-9 pm

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Project night recap: servos, soft circuits, software-defined radios

Got a neat project occupying your time and/or mind? Want to tinker in the company of some like-minded maker-types? Every Thursday night is an open project night at The Hacktory. Here’s a recap of what’s been going down:



An ongoing area of interest with few of our regulars has been software-defined radio (SDR), specifically the surprisingly useful radio chipsets found in some uber-cheap TV-tuner dongles. We looked at an upconverter circuit designed to extend the tuning range of the SDR, and in the woodshop, progress was made on a wooden enclosure to house both radio boards.

An enterprising engineer brought in an Arduino-based project designed to operate the signs and lights around his steam-powered model train sets. We discussed the pros and cons of servo motors vs. stepper motors, and open-loop and closed-loop control. Because strong steppers were available and easy to work with, we brainstormed ways of sensing the stepper’s position (optical sensor, mechanical switch, magnetic switch…) and prototyped some code to automatically return the stepper to its “home” position.


Twinkle, twinkle little hoodie…

With the Program Your Hoodie class taking place this month, several students brought their projects in to snip, stitch, code, and discuss the finer points thereof. We saw some beautiful sewn designs and clever LED arrangements. Participants from our class and other hoodie classes held around the city will show off their work this Friday at the Philadelphia Science Festival Astronomy Night at Franklin Square.

We also saw some of our Philly maker friends work on a computer game in Java, talk about shape-memory alloy muscle wire linear actuators, and a few Hacktory organizers brainstormed ways to make our coin-and-paper money donation jar more fun. (Are you excited? I know I am…)

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Women In Tech Summit, Saturday 4/20

WITSlogosmIs everyone ready for Philly Tech Week? It kicks off this weekend with a slew of events, including the second annual Philadelphia Women In Tech Summit, Saturday April 20 at Philadelphia University! This year’s program features an exciting lineup of panels and workshops on UX, Big Data, mobile apps, and more. Hacktory organizers Steph, Sarah, and Georgia debuted Hacking the Gender Gap at last year’s WITS, and we’re impressed by the talented speakers and presenters participating this year. Tickets are $50 for students, $80 for general admission; proceeds from this year’s event go to TechGirlz.

There’s a long list of cool stuff going on this weekend, but a couple of highlights:

See you around town!

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