Maker Saturday: littleBits DIY Electronics

Today was a terrific Maker Saturday at 757 Makerspace with over 20 kids attending the littleBits Electronics workshop – all ready to learn, tinker and have some fun!

littleBits are an easy and fun way for tinkerers of all ages to learn and invent with electronics.  With modular pieces that connect with magnets (hard to make a mistake!) you can connect power to inputs and outputs.  At a minimum you will have some fun bringing to life some blinking, buzzing, spinning creations.  From there … your imagination is the limit on how to uses these capabilities to create!

There’s a great little intro to the company and their kits on their website here:  http://littlebits.cc/intro

They have made it easy to experiment and hard to make a mistake – basically a color coded scheme where blue connectors are power, pink are inputs (like remote control, sound, light, or touch), green connectors are outputs (like buzzers, scoreboards, light, motors to drive a servo, and orange are wires that help you branch out your circuit so that you can take several actions.

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The kids such a blast – they were inquisitive, hands on, and oh so creative.  Here are some pics from the session.

Today was the first littleBits session and was mostly an ‘open build’ where the kids worked in small teams to experiment and create, then shared their creations and what they learned with the other teams at the end of the class.  Excited to see what next week’s littleBits projects hold.

Great Makerspace Saturday! And, as always, I can’t say enough about 757 Makerspace here in Norfolk.  Visit, join, make!!

Members have access to the space and the Saturday classes are included in your membership. We got the value of our membership from the great classes alone – and have started our first project (stay tuned for a future post.)

Here’s their page and a link to some prior blog posts on their space.

757 Makerspace Website

https://www.facebook.com/757Makerspace

Photography Escape to Cape Hatteras

This year life got in the way of a planned girls weekend getaway, but we were determined to find even a day to get away, laugh a lot, reconnect and enjoy nature.  So my dear friend Suzi and I got our awesome hubbies to hold down the family forts so that we could escape to the North Carolina coast for a little photography getaway

We had a great visit at Cape Hatteras Bed & Breakfast in Buxton, and terrific meals – including a terrific dinner and the most amazing original craft cocktail mixed up at Cafe Pamlico (delicious blend of grapefruit, blood oranges and rum – so good!   But back to the photographs!

 

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Autism Awareness: Sensory Issues with Touch

April is Autism Awareness Month – so thought I would sprinkle a few slices of life throughout the month to give a little lens into a family with a child on the autism spectrum. There are so many different experiences – ours is just one, and much milder than many.

Our journey with autism has had plenty of Sensory Integration issues – basically challenges with sensory processing that can take many forms. One of the big ones for Justin when he was younger was the sense of touch.

THEN: for years, our little guy could not stand the feeling of fabric on his limbs. He walked around with his pant legs rolled up and his sleeves push up above his elbows. May sound like a minor issue, but when your child is always uncomfortable its a problem.  And while thats easier to work around in the summer with shorts and t-shirts, what about those cold weather months where no sleeves and pant legs are just not an option?

NOW: Over time, we found fabrics that were less irritating (lots and lots of fleece), never had any clothes with tags, and gradually over a couple of years he could tolerate the pant legs and sleeves.  Now its a distant memory … though he still has a wardrobe that is about as close to pajamas as you can get (still lots of fleece, PJs when he gets home, etc.)

But between THEN and NOW was a couple years of occupational therapy and lots of patience, support and flexibility as we worked to keep him comfortable.

Here’s a link below if you want to know a little more about Sensory Processing issues.

Sensory Processing Disorder Explained

Maker Saturday: Arduinos & Beginner Robot Fun

Our Makerspace Saturday class this week was an intro to robots – and a great time!  I will definitely not due justice to all of the parts and step by step procedures followed, but with the excellent guidance of Linda Nichols and Brandon Flade of Norfolk Java Script we made SumoBots that ACTUALLY moved!

Using a Sumo Bot Kit, an Arduino One, servos, something called a ‘breadboard’ (for those of us that bake and are new to electronics … its NOTHING like a breadbox) :-), and a battery pack … we created these guys.

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We started out building the chassis,

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then mounted the breadboard

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and Arduino

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installed the battery pack

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and ran the (dreaded) wires

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(then fixed them … then fixed them again.)

The robots were running on Node software with the Johnny-Five library.  Brandon shows us the code that contained the commands to control the robot.

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We fired them up  and – voila – moving, honking, working robots!    Brandon did a fantastic job guiding us newbies through the build process – showing us how then guiding us on how to troubleshoot and fix our own mistakes.  It was a great class and we will definitely be making more robots in the future!

I know I have not done justice to the step by step … but if you want to learn more check out the next Pop-Up Robot Night at 757 Makerspace in April, or the Norfolk JavaScript meet ups around town in Hampton Roads.

Revelation of the Day: I have a mental block about electrical wiring!    My finished bot had wires flying arounds like a mad scientists hair …

 

My wild wiring job!
My wild wiring job!

while Josh’s were neat, bundled and orderly

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Josh showing up his Mom with an orderly wiring job

 

Great Makerspace Saturday!

And, as always, I can’t say enough about 757 Makerspace here in Norfolk.  Visit, join, make!!  Members have access to the space and the Saturday classes are included in your membership. We got the value of our membership from the great classes alone – and have started our first project (stay tuned for a future post.)

Here’s their page and a link to some prior blog posts on their space.

757 Makerspace Website

757 Makerspace – Prior Blogs

Maker Saturday: Felting Soaps

This week at 757 Makerspace, Hilarie from Little Stitch Studios did a lesson on felting soaps.  Having never even heard of felted soaps, I didn’t know what to expect … but I loved it!  It was a sudsy and unexpectedly soothing little exercise – and the resulting felted soap bars were kind of adorable.  They will make great gifts for friends, and lots of room to tinker around creatively with colors and patterns, too.

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So here’s what we learned:

  • Apparently wool once removed from sheep and brushed out is called wool roving and comes in long, soft ropes that you can buy in certain craft stores or online.
  • Wool can be turned into felt in two ways – through ‘wet felting’ with water and some manipulations with your hands, or with felting needles (we tried both).  Either way, you can turn shapeless wool fibers into fabric and shapes.
  • Who knew – its pretty darn relaxing to massage the wool into the soap … a little zen, really :-)
  • You can get pretty creative with the felt when decorating the felted soap.   I have to admit I was drawing blanks yesterday on design, so I stuck to the basics yesterday.  But browsing the internet today, there were so many fun and creative ideas, like these

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Here’s the step by step:

Materials: some bars of soap you want to try to felt, just some wool roving in a few colors, some tulle or a nylon stocking, warm water, and some patience :-)

  • piece apart some of the wool roving into thin wispy pieces that you can almost seen through.  (Too thick and it will not felt well, too thin and the soap will show through.)  IMG_3505
  • wrap the think wool sections around the bar of soap in both directions – one piece horizontal and one vertical, so that the entire bar is covered.  (play with color here – you can use a single color and add designs later, or use several colors to form any pattern you like.)  IMG_3508

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  • wrap the soap with wool covering in tulle or a nylon stocking (we used tulle, some online tutorials use a nylon stocking – main point is a thin covering it seems.)

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  • Have a small basin of warm water in front of you, and dip the bar of soap in the warm water, then begin to massage the wool into the soap.  It will be a clean, sudsy and relaxing little mess as the soap lathers and the wool begins to contract and felt around the bar of soap.  Then … lather, rinse, repeat.  Literally.  For about 10 minutes or so …

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  • You can test to see if the wool has felted by peeling back the nylon or tulle to see if the wool is adhering to the soap yet.  If it is still loose, keep massaging.  Once felted, set it aside to dry for a few minutes.
  • Then we got to use felting needles to add decorations to our soap (this is optional.)  basically we used the needles to work pieces of wool roving into a shape (I did simple stripes) and then use the needles to work the little embellishment into my felted soap bar.

For the monsters, all of the decorations were added with needle felting.  Your imagination is the limit …

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Oh, and in case you were wondering why in the world you would felt soap (aside from it just being sort of fun and crafty) … well apparently the felt serves as an gentle exfoliator, and also absorbs the moisture from the soap so that it lasts a lot longer.  Who knew?

I see some handmade gifts in our future.  Great thing to do when I want to get out of my head, and fun sensory project with kids (think wool texture, suds, water, friction.)

If you are in the Hampton Roads area and looking for sewing lessons for yourself or your kids,  check out Hilarie’s Little Stitch Studios at the link below.

Little Stitch Studio Facebook Page

And, as always, I can’t say enough about 757 Makerspace here in Norfolk.  Visit, join, make!!  Here’s their page and a link to some prior blog posts on their space.

757 Makerspace Website

757 Makerspace – Prior Blogs

Music & Memories of the Civil Rights Movement

Last night I took my in-laws out for to dinner and a concert.  It was a nice evening – full of great food and music, but also steeped in memories and reflections on the Civil Rights movement and the old Norfolk.

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Our evening started out in Ghent at a great little restaurant in Norfolk’s Ghent called Supper Southern Morsels.

I knew my in-laws would love the southern fare – and they didn’t let us down.  From the southern fried chicken with an amazing crust to the melt in your mouth cornbread and savory carrot casserole – it was all delicious!

Supper Southern Morsels website

Highly recommend you check out the place if you are local.  I was the designated driver, so I didn’t try out the great list of craft cocktails – but see a date night in my future with Bryce to check them out.

 

 

But beyond the food, it was great to hear about the history of this re-energized section of Norfolk.  About what the area was like while still segregated, about the old stores that dominated this section of the city before its decline, about their favorite memories of this section of the city.  And it was terrific for them to see it renewed and vibrant.

From there we headed to the Crispus Attucks theater – a  renovated gem of a theater from an earlier era.  I have always loved how intimate every concert feels in that venue.

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But I had never really thought about the history of the place, so it was great to hear about that bygone era, the heyday of the Attucks.  It added a whole other dimension to the evening.   And it has a great history!  They intrigued me enough during our evening out that I had to do a little more research this morning – which led to more great stories!

The Attucks was built back in 1919 by African-American entrepreneurs, including African-American architect Harvey Johnson.   During the height of his popularity, it was known as the ‘Apollo Theater of the South’ with African-American acts touring the south.  You could see a movie followed by a show, with acts like Nipsy Russell, Cab Calloway and Redd Foxx.   It’s the oldest remaining theater in the country financed, owned and operated by African-Americans.  Since it was my in-laws first time back at the Attucks in many years, they were so pleased to see the the diversity of the audience, since their memories of the place were from a  segregated time.

Then, to build onto the great history and memories, we had Mavis Staples (of Staples Singers fame) from the 60s and 70s.

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She has this powerful voice full of passion and soul!  At the age of 75nd on a day when she was feeling under the weather, her voice and presence and sound commanded the room.  With a perfect blend of soul and gospel, she sang songs of determination and perseverance, of hope and passion and faith.  She had the audience on their feet and rooting for her as she took breaks during the performance (performing after two knee surgeries that didn’t prevent her from shuffling across the floor when the spirit moved her!)

In keeping perfectly with the rest of the evening, she sang songs created during the Civil Rights movement (Freedom Highway, Wade in the Water) and told stories of the songs they sang on the march from Selma.  She sang about identity and coming to accept and love those parts of herself that she once wrestled with (from I Like The Things About Me.)  She had the crowd on our feet and singing along for an energetic version of I’ll Take You There to close the show!  We were all cheering for Mavis by the end of the evening, and thankful that she was sharing her gift with us all.

All in all, it was a wonderful evening of music and memories.  I got much more than I bargained for and so grateful for the experience!

 

 

 

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