Category Archives: Maker Movement

Christmas Decorations – Maker Style

The boys and I headed down to 757 Makerspace today after a little bit of a hiatus.  Great to be back and such a fun afternoon!

We got to use silicone molds to cast some snowflake ornaments, the customize some glass ornaments with the laser cutter.  Creative, hands-on afternoon and some really original ornaments to bring home.  Justin said we should plan to make a custom ornament every year.  Great idea!!

Here are a few pics.

We worked with the liquid plastics last year when we were first introduced to mold-making.  Last year we made this cool storm trooper using the same technique.


This year Beau had snowflake molds already made up and ready to go.


Both times we used Smooth-Case liquid plastics, mixing two part solutions that you pour into the mold, wait for it to cure, and voila!  (provided your measurements were solid) 🙂

Most times we have tried it it worked great.  Today one of my my snowflakes flopped, but we quickly mixed up another one.



While the casts were curing, a small group of us headed over to the laser cutter.  We were able to design the images and text that we wanted on our ornament, then watch as the laser cutter did its magic.


Pretty amazing that the laser cutter can hold and laser cut so many different substances – even wood, stone, and in our case glass.


Always lots of great creative energy around Makerspace – and today was no exception.  🙂





Making Robots! Int’l NodeBots Day at 757 Makerspace

It was another terrific Maker Saturday at 757 Makerspace!  For the second year in a row they celebrated International NoteBots Day by opening up the site for free to the public to tinker with building, driving and battling bots.  I just can’t say enough good things about the wonderful camaraderie and the culture of coaching and assisting that ran through the event.

There were plenty of Sumobot kits, decorations to give our bots some personality, and plenty of laptops to test out our creations.  Justin loved playing with the copter bots that run on JavaScript, and was learning then teaching some younger kids how to organize he commands to guide the copters.  We had built bots at Makerspace once before, but this was our first time battling bots.  Hilarious!  Once our bot was done Josh decided to ‘enhance’ it with some bumpers – colorful ones made of neon pipe cleaners!  It was great … until they fell off just as the bot was placed into the ring to begin.  We laughed SO hard!

Everyone was laughing, cheering, just having a great time.  Thanks to 757 Makerspace and their sponsors – Grow, Emerging Technology Advisors, 80/20 Consulting, Balderdash,, Designology – for organizing the event and making it free to the public so that more could participate and also check out the great community at our local makerspace.

Here are a few pics from the first half of the day that we attended.  Our family is a member of Makerspace – to check out some of the other great programs, check out a few other blog posts here: Recent Blog Posts at 757 Makerspace.  Highly recommend you check them out and visit.  Its a great community to learn, tinker and have fun with family!

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:

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.


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

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.



We started out building the chassis,


then mounted the breadboard


and Arduino



installed the battery pack


and ran the (dreaded) wires


(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.


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

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.




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


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


  • 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.)


  • 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 …


  • 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 …



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

Maker Saturday: Molds, Mold Making and Casting Objects

On the heels of a great blacksmithing series at 757 Makerspace, this week we transitioned to classes on Making Molds and Casting Objects.  There’s a lot to learn so today was an introduction, with some basic hands on practice.   We primarily worked with one technique today – thermoforming, or vacuum forming.

My take on the basics from today’s intro:

  • a plastic sheet is heated to a temp that makes it pliable
  • that plastic sheet is then stretched over the object to be molded
  • its them cooled into the finished shape; thickness of the plastic sheet needed depends on the size and height of the object you are trying to mold
  • the original model is them removed from the mold and it can be filled with a range of materials to create copies.  bit of art and science in removing your objects from the model
  • we used a table top machine to help us do this
  • Can fill the molds with a range of substances – we used liquid plastic today, but many other possibilities like foam, resin, etc.





Our instructor, Scot Clark, did a terrific job getting us introduced to mold making with the basics while sharing some of his great work and giving us some ideas of more sophisticated techniques.   His creativity definitely came through and he did a great job teaching us newbies while enticing us with the possibilities once you master the basics and move onto more advanced molding techniques.  He shared some of his special effects and ghoulish Halloween creations (think zombies, skulls etc).  Josh and Santiago were definitely drawn to the zombie he brought in!





I love the way he described the work he does in special effects as ‘problem solving’ where someone wants to achieve something and he has to determine how to achieve that look or effect with materials!  Love that angle on the work – as a fellow professional ‘problem solver.’

Scot mentioned being part of the team that worked on the Year of the Dragon display for the Bellagio Hotel and described how they used molds to create the parts of the dragons.  Josh quickly googled the display and this is what we found – amazing!




For next week’s class we can bring a small item to mold – so need to decide what I might bring.  The younger kids will be working with Lego mini-figures to create molds … right up Justin’s alley 🙂


Looking forward to next week’s session!  And trying to decide on some family projects to work on at Makerspace in addition to the classes.  Some metalwork and pallet art ideas mulling around.   Thanks again to Beau for arranging a great series.


To check out 757 MakerSpace, visit their website or check them out on Facebook.

Maker Saturday: Blacksmithing

Today we tried our hand at blacksmithing for the second time – this time the teen/adult class at 757 Makerspace!   Great learning and really interesting too.   There’s something so rewarding about working with your hands to mold, shape and craft something.

My son Josh and nephew Santiago tried their hand at it today.  Our tools included: a bellows to add oxygen to the fire and increase its heat, hammers, tongs, an anvil, a vise, and some beeswax.  Under the guidance of their resident blacksmith, Nathan, we heated, curved and twisted our metal rods – learning the basics of how to work with metal.






And after learning how to heat and shape metal in the forge, so many ideas kicking around of what blacksmithing project we might want to make once the classes are done.  So many possibilities!!

The boys ideas: knives, swords, tools

My ideas: jewelry, metal sculpture









Thanks to David Demmin for sharing this picture from the class.


And our classmates were such a fun and diverse group.   A few memorable and funny out-takes:

  • “Honey: I’m going to make a set of knives.  It’s a 3-year project!”
  • “What do you get when you mix s’mores and an iron forge?  S’MORGE!”
  • “I can bend metal with my bare hands!  (and about 2600 degrees of heat)”


  • “My metal twist is better than your metal twist!” (OK … so my competitive streak came out for a moment 🙂 )
  • “Those tools look like medieval torture devices!”


Looking forward to next week’s class, and choosing a project of our own to create.

Get Up And Make! The Maker Movement

We got a peek into a great ‘maker’ community here in Hampton Roads today at 757 Makerspace, and I am SO excited!  It reminds me of the many years that I coached creative problem solving teams with Destination Imagination.  Artists, crafters, makers – learning and experimenting aLearning, imagining, creating, messy and imperfect – and FUN!   The idea that if you can imagine it, you can make it.  And have fun learning how and trying.

Check them out!


757 Makerspace website

And if you are not in Hampton Roads, see if you can find a similar community center in your town.

Today we checked out a blacksmithing class.  About 25 kids and their parents braved 30 degree temps to try their hand at learning the basics of blacksmithing.  Metal, fire – what else do you need, right???










And we are definitely lucky to have the guys and gals of 757 Makerspace who were fantastic with the kids and families.  A little teaching, some hands on practice, and some fun!  We are so excited to get back there next weekend for another class and see what other  things we can get into.

I think most of us love to try our hand at new things.  And exposing ourselves and our kids to the things we can do, create, make with our own hands and the help of others is a perfect antidote for too much screen time and standardized testing.  To get us all taking our ideas and trying them out, bringing them into reality.

Here’s a Parenting Idea for 2015:

FLIP THE SITUATION!  Instead of lamenting how much time kids spend in front of screens this year, plan an outing to do something hands on – whether that’s an outing in nature or a class where you can all create something with your hands and learn a new skill!  

Maybe find a way to create a little ‘maker box’ or ‘maker space’ of your own home for tinkering.  Try to get your school to get a ‘maker club’ going to get kids engaged with their minds and their hands.

And the same applies to all of us.  What kind of projects have we had in mind that we would love to see come to life?

Let’s find some new, fun and creative alternatives and get the creative juices flowing!