Bay Area Maker Faire 2015 #makelangelo contest

April 22nd, 2015

Manager Bug.  5000 points, 1000 generations

We’re fast approaching the Bay Area Maker Faire, and Makelangelo number 1000. This morning I got an email from BAMF with all my Maker info, including FREE ENTRY PASSES.

So here’s the deal: Instagram or tweet your favorite Makelangelo pictures and tag them #makelangelo. I’ll choose my favorites Monday, May 11, 2015. First place gets two all-weekend passes, and second place gets one all-day pass.

All winners will be declared on this blog on Monday, May 11, 2015.  You can enter as many times as you like before Sunday May 10 at midnight PST. There will be a short skill-testing question as required by our local laws – about as hard as an “are you human?” test.  Tickets will be available at the gate.

How to recover when you make an expensive mistake

April 20th, 2015

Not all mistakes are created equal.  If you can roll with it and recover quickly you’ll do better than someone living with regret.  Here’s how I do it. Read the rest of this entry »

Maker business update, April 2015

April 7th, 2015

I’ve got 99 maker business problems and they’re all the good kind.

Say “Hi” in person

The 10th annual Bay Area Maker Faire is coming up and we want to kick ass!  It’s May 14-17, 2015, in San Mateo, CA.  Bring your favorite drawing from your machine, or a URL to a picture you want drawn.  We’ve requested to be at the booth next to PancakeBot, so just follow the smell of syrup.  We plan to be ready to same-day drop ship kits from our warehouse in Canada.  If you buy online when you see our booth, you can expect a tracking number in your email before you leave the event.

I’ve also received an offer to attend GEEK PICNIC in St. Petersburg and Moscow.  I’ve never been to Russia, and it sounds really exciting.  More news on that one as it develops.

1000 Makelangelos!

We’re up to 926 Makelangelos as of 2015-04-07 1:15 PM PST.  How long until we hit 4 digits?  I’m tempted to graph the rate at which new Makelangelos come online.  I’ve also assured the robot army that they can have the Earth – Just give me the moon and I’ll be happy.

Bill of Materials Update

Around here word-of-mouth knowledge is taboo.  One of the worst is “what is a [SKU-NUMBER]?”  To eliminate this problem, the bill of material in every kit going forward will look more like this:

april 2014 bomA picture for every part is easier for working in the warehouse and for you at home.  The QR code and the URL at the top of the page point back to the web page with all the information.

Now if only I had a lightbox big enough to take a beautiful picture of the entire Arduino Starter Kit.

Makelangelo Hardware Update

ROBO-0034 controller mount

I’m updating the Makelangelo 2.5 controller mount to stick on windows and whiteboards.  It still attaches just fine to a board with a nail or a piece of double sided tape.  I tried putting a vinyl sticker behind the suction cups.  The suction force was so strong it peeled the stickers off the wood board!  I plan to do the same thing for the Makelangelo 3 and I’m thinking really hard about a clear plastic cover that protects the electronics.


ROBO-0032 motor mount

The motor mounts for the Makelangelo 3 and Makelangelo 2.5 are being updated.  A limited number of kits have been trialled locally and I’m testing the assembly documentation tonight.  The new model can be used to make either the left version (for glass/whiteboard) or right version (for an easle/wood board). The new version is lighter, quieter, has less different parts, and doesn’t require any glue.  I can put each together in 6 minutes.  Each can be completely disassembled so they can be done in a class room time and time again.

I still recommend a 3’x4′ (A0) drawing area which can draw up to 2’x3′ (A1), maybe more.  See paper ‘A’ sizes for help planning your drawings.


I find the number of dots to connect grows longer and longer.  I’m glad my private wiki has step-by-steps for everything or I would be in biiiig trouble.  For example, those two Makelangelo changes I just mentioned?  I have to assemble at least two kits just to be sure the updated Bill of Materials is correct.  On the plus side, I get my how-to photos for free and I find everything that could go wrong.  “Is there a better way to do this?  Do you see any mistake in my plan?” are the two questions I ask most these days.

It would be a huge help to me if you would join our forums and help each other out.  As the number of users goes up my time-per-user goes down and that’s … an opportunity to make new friends!  All my closest friends are makers.

Right now with the product update the Makelangelos are low in stock and I’m looking for every possible method to make the same kits faster to keep up with demand and anticipated demand.  I’m more than a little envious of Miguel’s PancakeBot: he’s got a 3rd party to make all the machines so he can spend the last three days of the PancakeBot Kickstarter celebrating >800% goal reached.


I love your pull requests!  Thanks to Peter C over at MakeHartford we are now running our Eclipse project on Apache Maven.  That means you can download from github and click “update project” in Eclipse to automatically get everything you need to compile and run.  It’s never been easier to hack on the code.

I’ve also updated the graphics engine to run on OpenGL hardware accelerated graphics through the Jogamp library.  That means the software should react faster to your commands.  It also brings me closer to having one ring app for all my robots.

If your Eclipse doesn’t have Maven, download the latest!  My 2 year old copy didn’t have it and help > check for updates didn’t install it automatically.

This Blog

I pledged to myself at the start of the year to post every work day.  That’s completely fallen apart because I’ve been so busy.  I’ve been running Marginally Clever as a single person business for a couple of years and now Marginally Clever is moving up to the next level.  It’s a completely different way of thinking and growing into it is really challenging.  I wonder if it will ever stop being a challenge, or if “off balance from acceleration” is the new normal?

Thank you

Please keep sending in those pull requests and feedback.  I thrive on any idea that helps me do my job better and your contributions are the highlight of my day.  I have never received useless feedback.  Challenge accepted?  Ruh roh.

Also to those of you who are telling your friends about MC?  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  Your happiness is making us all successful.  Together we are going to keep doing amazing things.

Arduino Starter Kit Tutorials

March 31st, 2015

This is index of existing and future MarginallyClever Arduino Starter Kit tutorials.

A moment of clarity

  • Arduino
  • Serial 1: Texting from an Arduino to a computer
  • Serial 2: Texting from a computer to an Arduino

Creating a Grammar and Vocabulary

  • Building and Drawing Circuits
  • Breadboards
  • Resistors
  • Capacitors
  • Transistors
  • LED
  • Button
  • Seven Segment Display 1 2
  • 2×16 LCD
  • Passive and Active Speakers
  • 8×8 LED
  • Potentiometer
  • Joystick
  • Stepper Motor
  • Servo
  • Integrated Circuits
  • Shift registers
  • Making PCBs
  • Turing machines, CPU, and Arduino
  • Methods
  • Variables
  • Loops
  • Branches

Forming sentences

  • Speaker 101: How to Blink (or Beep) Morse Code with Arduino
  • Speaker 201: How to make a Piezoelectric speaker play music
  • Decoding Morse Code with an Arduino and a Microphone
  • Little Big Planet Sackboy faces – 8×8 LED, Joystick, Arduino.
  • Maze game – 8×8 LED, Joystick, Arduino
  • Tetris 1 2 3 4 – 8×8 LED, Joystick, Arduino.
  • Eclipse and Java
  • Java texting to and from Arduino with JSSC
  • DIY Arcade Game Controller
  • Drive by wire
  • Record and Playback

From there we can get into lots and lots of other stuff, not in the scope of this kit:

Having a conversation

  • How to make a linear actuator – pi and circle math
  • CNC machines – linear actuators, bresenham’s algorithm, kinematics, algebra
  • 3D printers – CNC machines, thermistors
  • Robot simulation – 2D & 3D graphics with OpenGL
  • Robot vision

Follow along and comment your questions. I’ll answer them and improve the tutorial based on your ideas.

April and May 2015

March 30th, 2015
Michelangelo's David on Mikelangelo #551.  2h9m3s 18"x24"

Michelangelo’s David on Mikelangelo #551. 2h9m3s 18″x24″ (A2)

I’m just back from vacation. I thought I’d have lots of time and energy to write blog posts. Ha! Haha. Hahahaha. Open bar. This is a post about the amazing couple of months we’ve had this year and the plans for the immediate future. Read the rest of this entry »

Building your own solenoid engine

March 20th, 2015

I’m leaving for a week in Mexico starting tomorrow morning, so I don’t have a lot of time to write a blog post today.
Instead, here’s a random Internet Find of the Week: How to build your own solenoid engine.

Stewart Platform Progress, 2015-03-18

March 18th, 2015

Stewart Platform 2015-03-18 13.37.57

I only had an hour today to work on software, so I started adding the menu items on the right hand side. It’s worth looking at how programs develop to see how other coders think. Read the rest of this entry »

PancakeBot used GcodeCNCDemo

March 17th, 2015


Miguel Valenzuela started building a pancake robot four years ago and now (right now!) his PancakeBot Kickstarter is a huge success. As of now it looks like they’ll hit 400% funded in a few hours. I asked Mr. Valenzuela a few questions about his creative process. Read the rest of this entry »

Makelangelo Timelapse Video

March 13th, 2015

Jenelle sent in a timelapse video of her Makelangelo drawing the Makelab logo. Nice!

Makelab at DX3 Toronto

March 12th, 2015

Jenelle at Makelab made this timelapse of her Makelangelo drawing a DXF of the Makelab logo while at the DX3 conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in March of 2015.