3D Printing!

As of a few weeks ago, we have entered the world of 3D printing! Thanks to a generous gift from my in-laws, I got a PrintrBot Play 3D printer. I also ordered the Y-axis extension bed for it. I haven’t upgraded it to a heated bed to print ABS and other filaments that require a heated bed yet, but I probably will at some point.

We’ve had fun printing parts for our drones (more on that soon!) and other things. The Boy has also gotten interested in designing his own things to print, so he’s been learning about 3D design. He started out using TinkerCAD, but has progressed to Autodesk’s 123D Design app, which is pretty much TinkerCAD Pro. I’ve been a little surprised at how quickly he’s learning it. He’s designed a cool spaceship that we’ll print once he finishes the design. He’s also printed out some desk nameplates for his teachers, which has really fascinated them. He’s also been printing out stuff for his friends, too. I told him the first one’s free. I think a number of them are saving up for 3D printers of their own now! The Play is a fantastic entry-level machine (it’s only $399), and it was highly rated in the most recent 3D printer roundup from MAKE: magazine.

Stay tuned for more 3D printing content! This weekend, we’re going to build an AstroPrint server for it out of the Raspberry Pi Zero I got Daniel for Christmas. That will allow us to print to it wirelessly from any computer in the house (and even across the Intertubes!) and monitor it wirelessly from any computer or smartphone or tablet (again, also from across the Intertubes).

VU Meter Guitar Strap Project

Our latest electronics project is our first wearable electronics project. The Boy plays bass in a band, and I wanted to make him something cool to wear on stage when they perform. Looking around the web for project ideas, I came across the LED Ampli Tie on the Adafruit Learning System, which is a fantastic resource for all sorts of technology information. The Boy isn’t a tie-wearer, though, so I thought I would adapt it to a strap for his bass. It’s going to require a few small changes, but should be pretty straightforward.

The project is based around Adafruit’s Flora micro controller, which is an Arduino-compatible board designed for use in wearable electronics projects. It takes the input of a small microphone and flashes a series of NeoPixels like a VU meter.

Though the plans call for using conductive thread, the hard nylon material the strap is made out of made it very difficult to tie tight knots in the conductive thread, and I ended up with a semi-working model. So, instead, I used flexible silicone coated hookup wire to make it. Of course, that meant about a bajillion soldered connections, but I eventually got it done.

Here’s the final product:

October 2015 Scouting Update

The Boy earned his Star rank in August, topping off a great Scouting summer.

The day after school let out for the summer, he left with a crew from his troop on a self-supported, 6-day canoe trip (just over 50 miles) on the Buffalo National River. They earned the 50-miler for that trip.

The troop attended summer camp at Kia Kima Scout Reservation in northern Arkansas. The Boy took all the natural science-related Merit Badge classes he could, earning Geology, Fish and Wildlife Management, Nature, Forestry, Mammal Study (and most of Reptile and Amphibian Study), and Soil and Water Conservation. He’s planning to finish up Environmental Science this fall, and that will be all the Merit Badges he needs to earn for the Hornaday Award (I think). He has only Eagle-required Merit Badges left to earn for Life and Eagle. In addition to all the science ones, he also earned Robotics, Photography, and Emergency Preparedness this Summer.

In September, he became our troop’s first Outdoor Ethics Guide. He’s already taken the Outdoor Ethics Orientation class and completed a few more requirements for the Outdoor Ethics Awareness Award, which most of our troop is also currently working on. He plans to take a Leave No Trace Trainer course as soon as he turns 14.

Scouting Update

The Boy has progressed quickly in his new troop. He quickly earned Tenderfoot and was elected Patrol Leader for the new boy patrol in our troop. He went to summer camp for a week in June in the Ozarks, along the beautiful Buffalo National River. Upon returning from camp, he said he didn’t take a shower the last few days, but he “was in the river for an hour or so each day, so that made up for it.” From the way he smelled, I would have to disagree. Perhaps needless to say, he had a blast at summer camp. I thought he might take a little break after summer camp, but he quickly earned Second Class in July, and he earned First Class in August.

He slowed down a bit after that as school started, and since he moved out of the new boy patrol to one of the troops more permanent patrols, he was suddenly without a position of responsibility. It wasn’t until December that he was elected Patrol Leader for his new patrol (the youngest Scout in his patrol, but not the lowest ranked). So, his 4-month tenure for Star rank began in December. He’s earned five of the six merit badges he needs for Star, and the sixth is almost complete. So far, he’s earned (in order): Canoeing, Swimming, Indian Lore, First Aid, and Citizenship in the Nation. He’s almost done with Emergency Preparedness and hopes to finish that over Winter Break.

He’s also started on the Environmental Science merit badge as his first step toward earning a Hornaday Award, which is something he’s been talking about since he first learned about the William T. Hornaday Awards. More on that as he progresses.