Assembled a team of faculty and students to continue work on the Rostock Max v3 (part 1, part 2). As before, the project is nicely modular, so while Max (Chemistry) and CJ (student) worked on the electronics…

Max and CJ Back At It

…Diane (Sociology), Alex Hartigan (student), and Thomas Schmitt (student) focused on the main assembly.


As it turns out, instead of three each of the inner and outer bits that hold the bearings for the carriage, the kit included four and two.  We talked about some options, and the crew decided to mod one of the errant parts to make it work, which involved sawing off a bit of it…

Thomas Monifying a Rostock Max v3 Part

…and drilling a couple of holes…

Thomas and Alex Modifying a 3D Printer Part

…while I contacted the vendor about sending a replacement. We think our modified part will work, but I’m working on getting the right part sent, just in case.

Meanwhile, Taylor (student) dropped by to test the water chemistry of the in-progress aquaponics installation.

Diane and Taylor Talk About Ammonia

We’ve probably got at least another day of work before the printer is finished, and as folks began drifting away, Levi (receiving) delivered 12 new lab stools.  CJ, Alex and Thomas hung around and helped assemble them.

The Crew Gets to Work Assembling the Lab Stools

Still waiting on the workbenches, which should be here in the next couple of weeks.  Lots of energy, and lots of making!

Hosted the second Rostock Max build day today. The crew – mostly the same folks from the first build day – put in a good day of work, and we got much of the hot end done, finished up the base, and made good progress on the top assembly.  We decided to adapt the topping out tradition, aka “signing the beam,” though we aren’t actually finished with the build.


More photos from today’s build…

Max Working on the Hot End

Nathaniel and Rebekah Building

Nathaniel Heat Shrinking

Alex Soldering

Max Mahoney (Professor of Chemistry) had an idea about using the Innovation Center’s 3D printer to create some manipulatives to help demonstrate to chemistry students concepts of atomic bonding.  Something like this:

Here’s what Max has to say about it:

The nature of chemical bonds is rooted in complex physical forces. These forces result in atoms being both attracted and held apart at a specific distance. We hope to develop a hands-on model for students, which conveys this important chemical information. Currently available designs of molecular model kits allow the construction of complex molecules in 3 dimensions, but do a poor job of representing the exact nature of each chemical bond. Our goal is to create a model that will allow students to feel the chemical bond and see the bond lengths. The recently discovered ‘inverter magnets’ have the property of both repelling and attracting each other, so that the atoms seem to hold each other in a ‘tractor beam.’ The distance they are separated represents the bond length.

Initial designs will focus on demonstrating the principle of bond length and bond vibration between two atoms. Enclosures for the inverter magnets are currently being 3D printed and their shapes optimized. These models use strong neodymium magnets so that students can feel the significant push and pull of the two ‘atoms.’ Magnets of different strengths will result in varying degrees of bond strengths (and vibrational rates), which can be measured by the student using force gauges.

Subsequent designs of these models will demonstrate each atom’s unique bonding pattern. Specialized cases for the inverter magnets will be 3D printed to mimic an atom’s ability to form multiple bonds.

The key aspect of these models is that the magnets do not touch and can be made to vibrate at a specific frequency so that the model is dynamic. Currently, students are taught these concepts with either static models, or with video animation. The strength of our model lies in the ability for students see and feel tangible objects displaying atomic principles on a macro scale.

We did some design talking/drawing:

Magnet Thought Process 1

Magnet Thought Process 2

Max went home, bought some magnets, taught himself SketchUp, and has printed a few different prototypes.

Magnets - How do they work?

Stay tuned…

Way back in 2008, the Innovation Center got its first 3D printer, a Z Corporation Z450.  At the time, it was very difficult to explain to most people what “3D printing” even meant, as it hadn’t yet entirely entered the public consciousness.  Professor Dan Ross (Engineering and Computer Information Science) was an early adopter, and was in fact the first FLC faculty member to incorporate 3D printing into his courses.

Fast forward to 2017.  The Z450 has long since given up the ghost, and we’ve got a few 3D printers sprinkled around the college, including a LulzBot Taz down in the Theater Arts shop, a few Makerbot Replicators in the Engineering classroom, and the U2E+s, U3s, Rostock Max, and Form 2 in the Innovation Center.

This semester, students in Dan’s Engineering 312 : Engineering Graphics course worked on designing and printing gear boxes.


I had the chance to talk to some of the students in the lab toward the end of the semester (which is winding down), and saw some of the parts-in-progress on the printers, but until Dan sent these photos, I hadn’t seen the completed student work.  I have to say I’m pretty impressed, and it’s great students using digital fabrication to solve real-world challenges.


Max Mahoney (Chemistry) and I worked on a mechanical automata project this morning. Our long-term goal is to create laser cut wooden versions of the various mechanical mechanism building blocks in the beautiful book Karakuri: How to Make Mechanical Paper Models that Move by Keisuke Saka. To get a sense of what the design and development considerations might be, we decided to start with a Thingiverse search, and found Simple Machines – Geneva Stop (CC BY-NC-SA) by Zombie Cat. A few minor adjustments to the layout, and we cut the parts out of 1/4″(ish) hobby plywood. We ended up having to tweak a few of the parts to fit the dowels we had on hand, and we made a few slight modifications to the design based on the differences between the vector files and the thickness of our plywood, but overall it’s a great design and turned out pretty well for our first automata.

Geneva Drive

The rest of the afternoon was spent working with Nicole (student and Innovation Center staffer) on a stencil for organic chemistry.  Max hung around finishing the automata, and answered a few technical questions as Nicole and I worked through the layout in Illustrator.  We tested the first prototype, and decided that the various cut-outs representing the bonds needed to be scaled up a bit.  Below is version 2, including Nicole’s beloved chicken in the lower left hand corner, and a fancy star on the right.

Ochem Stencil

Test stenciling…

Nicole Testing the Stencil

The design finished and tested, we cut the final version out of acrylic.  Success!

Final Version Leaves the Laser

The file is up on Thingiverse, or you can just grab the PDF if you’d like to cut your own.

FLC’s Science Center runs a series of hands-on Friday science activities, and we decided to support their efforts by creating a collectible sticker for each activity. We based the sizing on the hexbin hexagonal sticker specification, and Rebekah (student) designed and cut a sheet of prototypes…

Rough Draft Hands-on Science Center Friday Stickers

…which were refined to create version 2.0 (Neuroscience: Brainwaves, Polygraphs, Action potentials, and Remote-Control your Classmates, UCD: College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences recruiting session, Cadaver Viewing, Cyanotyping, Essential Oil Extraction Using Steam Distillation, Infectious Diseases, Fun Science Activities Suitable for Home, The Innovation Center Makerspace, GIS and Geography)


We’ve moved into production, using our vinyl cutter to create the first batch (for Max Mahoney’s cyanotype activity).  Gotta catch ’em all!

Cyanotype Stickers

The last couple of Fridays we’ve had children from the Folsom Lake College Youth Art Academy in the makerspace.  In week 1, two of the three groups worked on building pneumatic monsters


and paper circuits…


…while Max Mahoney had the third group in the Chemistry lab doing cyanotype photography


A number of the children were attending both weeks of the camp, so we wanted to mix it up a bit for week two.  After researching various engineering challenges, we developed and prototyped a building system of laser cut connectors that could be used with standard popsicle sticks.


We were able to cut 578 per sheet, ~41 minutes per sheet.


The children worked in pairs on engineering challenges, beginning with heaviest weight with minimum sticks


…and moving on to tallest freestanding structure:


…after which they connected their towers using living hinge bridges laser cut from cardstock, and decorated with LEDs, giving us a chance to talk a little bit about circuits and electricity.


The building system worked surprisingly well for a version 1, and we learned some things – specifically, that the pieces were a little small and the tolerances a little tight for some 8 year olds – that we’ll incorporate into version 2.  More photos from the YAA makerspace visit.