The Ultimate Altimeter

Last day of Butthouse!

OK. I signed up for an online Secret Santa thing with redditgifts, and my giftee was into RC planes and such. I made this Altimeter for him, and published how I made it. Check out the Instructable:

Also, you can vote for my post (top right corner of the post) if you think it is worthy. If I win we get free stuff!



The magpi is here!

Hello people!

The magpi is here! The Micro Arduino Gaming Platform Interface (magpi) has been released to Instructables, and the rest of the internet! My dad and I have been working on it for a while now – coding games, printing cases, designing hardware, etc. – and we wanted to get it out there!

You can see the instructable here:

If you’d like to take the time, you can vote for us in the Arduino contest (“Vote” button in the upper right hand corner). You will have to make an account. If we win we get free stuff!


On the Internet, No One Knows You’re a Teenager

The internet is a very powerful tool. Weighing in at around as much as a large strawberry (seriously) this mind-bogglingly giant “network of networks” is a hugely important part of many people’s lives, and can be a great tool for good. People can dislike it for its creepy, strange, and NSFW content, but this is only one of the internet’s many glittering facets. The internet provides a global means of communication and can be used for amazing things.

Recently, I joined Reddit (watch this if you don’t know what Reddit is), and that gave me a very wide and thorough view of the way people and the internet work, and how it can be used to make the world a better place. Since then, I’ve been helping other people who don’t have 3D printers make use of 3D printing technology by printing things for people. This also lets me use the money from this to keep the 3D printer running and supplied with filament.

I found that while doing this and other things on the internet, I become a slightly different person. When I am allowed to intentionally select what I am a part of, and I have time to edit what I say and do (because it’s mostly in text) I am able to choose what people see of me. This has advantages and disadvantages. People that I interact with solely online will never know who I am in full, but they will also see a side of me that is more informative and polite than I could ever be in the flesh, simply because I have more time to think online. This brings us to the title of this post. Just like in the famous cartoon (except I’m not a dog), on the internet, no one knows you’re a teenager. The people I am 3D printing things for have no idea who I am. I have been told I write well for my age, and I would not be surprised if they thought I was an adult. And for all I know, I am taking 3D printing requests from extremely literate pandas with Reddit accounts. On the internet, no one knows that I am 15, and it doesn’t really matter. People think I am an adult, I act like an adult. I can’t see any disappointments there.

Space Invaders on the Ceiling, and the Rise of Arcade Games

As soon as Geva, Timo, and Douglas came to Cloudhouse from MFS for a week, the spirit of making cool stuff was activated and a flurry of creation begun. The place was buzzing with activity and that made it seem so alive and happy that it got everyone making. Douglas started on his elaborate Rube Goldberg Machine, Timo coded games in BASIC, and Geva and I poured our  hours into an almost-bottomless pit of a project. We intended to cover the ceiling in a grid of RGB LEDs (LEDs that can light up almost any color).

3 days, 240 soldering joints, 320 wires stripped, 40 wires cut, 170 staples, 2 trips to the hardware store, 1 taken-apart PC, and 282 lines of code later, we had this:

This is a game of Space Invaders, played on a 4×10 pixel, 8×24 foot, full color screen, on the ceiling. More programs are to come, in the making is one that fades between different colors and shades, creating an ambient glow in the whole space.

Another interesting thing about the screen is how each pixel is really 3 LEDs in a row, so that the pixel your ship is in is actually 2 different colors.

On the topic of old video games, I recently enlisted Geva’s help to get MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) running on my computer, started dabbling in some classic games that my dad played when he was a kid like Marble Madness and Qix. Here’s a video of me playing Defender:

Post Script: I will now be posting a post every Thursday, starting after Christmas Break (I hope).

First Successful 3D Print! and My Challenges and Frustrations

Today, my 3D Printer (which we named Magritte after the painter) printed its first successful 3D Print! Yay! Here’s a video of that:

You might say: “Wow the process you went through to get to this point looks really quick and easy! Cool!” Sadly, no. Not including the issue of unfolding the printer, there were several things that stopped me from being able to print. First, the thing wouldn’t print at all because the bed was not calibrated. This was easy to fix, once I figured out that I had to fix it. So at this point I thought that the printer would print. I was severely mistaken.

Whenever we started a print, it would go for a couple of minutes and then just freeze. This would happen over and over again. We changed software settings, temperature, and all sorts of stuff, but it wouldn’t complete a print. Finally, after hours and hours of prowling the Printrbot forums, and many experimental prints, we figured out that you couldn’t print from a Mac. Dang. So we hooked up the only non-Mac computer that we could continue to use reliably–an ancient Toshiba laptop.

After downloading the correct software, we discovered that the newest version of one of the pieces of software didn’t work and we had to use a different one. Then, we couldn’t connect to the printer at all. It turned out that we needed to install a special USB Serial driver. That required like finding the way through a maze of files and settings of a operating system that no one in the family was familiar with.

And, even now that we’re printing, there is still a continuing challenge that I face: Keeping myself from punching a hole in that old dinosaur of a laptop. It is super slow and only has a track-point style mouse control that malfunctions every few minutes by sending the cursor flying in one direction or another.

This whole process was really frustrating for me. I spent quite a long time doing research on the printer, waiting for it to come, etc., and then once it was here, I had to wait days until I could even have a semi-working machine. I think this has taught me some more patience.

But here we are, with a growing pile of successful prints, and an even bigger pile of failed ones and scrap plastic. Time to buy more spools of filament!

Banana Piano

At Manhattan Free School, I made a banana piano with the MaKey MaKey, a small device that lets you operate a computer using everyday objects. I plugged it in to the computer and then attached it to the bananas using pipe cleaners in place of wires. Then I held on to the MaKey MaKey’s ground output, and by touching a banana I complete a circuit and the computer thought I was pressing a key. After pulling up an online piano, I could play the bananas.
photoIt was a cool thing to do, and it was fun to teach the other kids how to use it and how it worked.