Kathleen Kirklin (FLC’s Interim President) took the robot for a spin in the library other day.

Kathleen Kirklin Drives Robot

I also had the chance to share with Kathleen and Gary Hartely (Dean) progress on the aquaponics project. The plan is to have the screen display some rolling information about the biological and chemical processes in play, interspersed with footage from the live fishcam that will be inside the tank. Pressing the big green arcade button will bring up charts and graphs of the in-tank (temp, pH, electroconductivity) and out-of-tank (temp, humidity, and perhaps one or two others) sensor data.

Robot Observation

Lots to do, but within the next couple of weeks there should be some serious development work on all parts of the project…

Photos courtesy of Tony Humphreys.

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!

Fantastic progress this week on the aquaponics project.  The Theater Arts department finished the display, and FLC Maintenance drilled the holes in the raised floor under the unit, pulled the power and Ethernet, and bolted the whole thing to the floor to make it topple-proof.  FLC’s Data Science club, spearheaded by Nathaniel Adams (student) and Rebekah Keeley (student) have taken responsibility for the technical implementation, including visual and interaction design, front- and back-end Web development, database work, and getting the Raspberry Pi configured and working with the Arduino, which is doing the data gathering.

Meanwhile Taylor Zenobia (student) and Katie Stackhouse (student) have taken charge of the biological systems, selecting the fish species, and arranging the in-tank decor.

Adding Water

They washed and added the sand, rocks, and plants, then carried the water quite a distance from the Innovation Center to the Library. We’ve got inoculated filter media from the Science Fish (they’re currently living in the IC), which should speed up the tank start-up process. Taylor has been regularly monitoring the water, and once the water chemistry is stable, we’ll look at adding the fish, a few at a time.


We got a telepresence robot. So far so good. Simple to operate, relatively stable, although I have flipped it on its back a few times, but in any case it’s certainly rugged.

Planning some spring prototypes, including orientation, tours, Library instruction, telemedicine, guest speakers, and general silliness.


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

Spent the better part of today building – or starting, anyway – the Rostock Max v3.  There’s tremendous cultural and social value in having folks take ownership of their tools.  We ordered this 3d printer in DIY kit form specifically so that we could build it together, following our successful building/bonding experience putting together the X-Carve (part 1, part 2, part 3).  Champion maker educators Diane Carlson (Sociology), Jennifer Kraemer (Early Childhood Education), and Max Mahoney (Chemistry) were were joined by students Nathaniel Adams, CJ Costa, and Alex Hartigan.

It sometimes takes a while to get rolling on a complicated build.  I’ve learned that one of the best ways to kick things off is to get all the participants doing something communal and simple, so we started by collectively picking out all the little bits left over from the laser cutting process.  A low risk/high reward opportunity for the group to gel, visit, socialize, and quickly develop a common purpose.

Rostock Max v3 Build Day

This kind of social busywork seems to scratch some shared primate itch, and reminded me of my favorite moment from last summer’s Making Across the Curriculum workshop, during which folks gathered around to chat and pick the protective paper off of Diane’s Wheel of Voting Rights project.

Collective Grooming - Picking the Sticker Residue off a Laser Cut Piece of Acrylic

That finished, we loosely divided up the work and got to building.  With this particular build, there are a lot of steps that can be completed independently and in no particular order – in other words, not a lot of serial dependencies – so folks were able to dive in and work in pairs and trios without (usually) having to wait for others to finish.  Despite a few missing parts (which turned out not to be missing after all), we made a good start, and will continue building later in the week.

Build day album on Flickr…

Some significant failures recently in the 3D printing department. Inspired by Steve Holzberg’s (Biology) cancer prints, Linda Abraham (Biology) found a model of a rhinovirus for printing. Given the complexity of the model, and the intricately folded surface detail, we decided the Form 2 was the printer to use. Loaded up the clear resin and let it print.  The result:

Rhinovirus in Clear Resin

Mostly it worked fine, but the top of the model had problems. A strange rupture appeared in the sphere:

Failed Print

The anomaly coincided with, was caused by – or maybe left? – this cloudy residue in the tray:

Form 2 Fail

The tray was fresh out of the wrapper, and it was the very first run of clear, so I’m not sure exactly what caused the failure. In any case, the model is still perfectly usable, after a little filing to smooth out the jagged edges of the rip.

Meanwhile Max Mahoney (Chemistry) and Alex Hartigan (Student) continue to work on their 3D printed free energy surfaces project.  After something like 84 hours, the intricate nested conical structure, our largest print to date, began failing, and we pulled the plug on it to regroup (with 105 hours left on the print).

Ultimaker Fail

The center part of the model printed beautifully, and after some careful calculations to determine where things went wrong, Max set out to print the remainder of the model – in pink, since we ran out of white filament – with the idea of gluing them together somehow.


This one too is failing out on the margins. Support material configured as a tower seems to be the common failure point. Stay tuned…

With the fall show winding down, Cameron and the Theater Arts crew are trying to get the aquaponics system wrapped up, and brought the near-finished display up to the library for a dry-fitting.


I’m told they’ll have it buttoned up within a week, after which all the other work – getting the tank established, setting up and calibrating all the sensors, connecting all that to the network, figuring out the display and the giant “get tank vitals” arcade button – can continue in earnest.

We’re also close to getting the nine tiles for the first pane of the Carvey project finished, inspired by Jeff Solin’s Mosaic Tile project. Nathaniel and Rebekah of FLC’s Data Science Club carved up a version of their club logo to add to the other faculty and student tiles we’ve got so far.

Removing the carved tile.

The plan then is to mill (on the big ShopBot down in Theater Arts) a 3×3 tile “waffle” frame, with recessed wells for each of nine tiles. That will comprise the first of hopefully many such 9-tile collections, as additional faculty, staff and students create their own tiles, and all that work will be on display, either outside or inside of the Innovation Center.

Carvey Totoro


Carving Done