Gulf Coast Makers offers a broad based creative community for Gulf Coast area entrepreneurial and creative DIYers. This is a place where everyone can join together to share resources, information, events and more! Gulf Coast Makers hosts an annual DIY Celebration of the Inventive Spirit each spring, to showcase Makers, Shakers and Innovators across Tampa Bay. Collaboration is always invited and everyone is always welcome!
This week, we're live from Gulf Coast MakerCon 2015 in Tampa, FL.
We were fortunate to have our good friend Laird Popkin on the show once again. Laird works with the organization E-nabling The Future, which provides 3D printed prosthetic hands and arms to people in need. This is accomplished through a system which pairs those who need the prosthetic with those with 3D printers who are capable of producing it.
Currently the organization has provided over 5,000 printed prosthetics that they know of. All of the technology used, including the 3D models, instructions for assembly, etc. are provided for free to the world, which means there very well could be thousands of these limbs in the world.
The group focuses their efforts on children, as the price of a child's prosthetic can be more than a standard car, but will be grown out of within months. This makes helping these kids difficult through regular medical devices. With the use of this technology, however, the prosthetic costs only about a tank of gas, which is far more manageable.
First introduced at Gulf Coast MakerCon 2014, our friend Jason Rawley of Fireblade Comics came by to show off some of the really cool prop replicas and inspired works he has produced in the past year. Many of his props are focused on the Ghostbusters universe, as he is part of a group of people who travel around and visit children, etc. as the Ghostbusters.
However, Jason creates props from other universes as well. He often will start with an existing base, such as a Nerf weapon, and make adjustments and modifications, and then paint to transform the piece into something completely different. One of the interesting things we learned this year is that after MakerCon last year, he took home printers that the battle robots had destroyed and showed us a piece he made using elements from one of the printers.
One of the great things about Gulf Coast MakerCon is the wide variety of makers showing off their passions. Starting off our show this year was Bethany (Anakhet) Blascoe from Gyspy's Weavings, who makes chainmail items. She wore several of her jewelry designs on-air with us, showing off the complexity and beauty of this work.
Beginning her work in the Renaissance Fair community as a child, she has moved on from making actual armor to focusing on making more modern-usable items. She has improved her craft by attending workshops on other types of weaving, including crochet, which turns out to have a lot in common with chainmail.
On the isle next to our studio, robots (including FIRST teams) were battling their way to dominance, while outside another competition was taking place: Electrathon of Tampa Bay. As Fredi Beck explained, this competition, like FIRST, is designed to encourage kids and adults to learn the skills required for building electronics. Unlike FIRST, however, the competition is not game-based. Instead, this competition is based on the efficiency of the machine built.
The Electrathon is a battery-powered car "race," but not focused on the vehicle that makes it around the track the fastest. Instead, it is about the vehicle that runs the longest on the track. This requires a lot of consideration on the design of the machine. Light-weight is definitely better than heavy, and less pressure on the motors can also provide extended battery performance.
As our electronics become more powerful, making them power-efficient is becoming even more important. Large companies like Samsung are incapable of making their flagship smartphone last longer on a charge than some of their far smaller competitors. This competition might just help us fix that issue.
Jon Adair, a member of the board of Tampa Hackerspace, came to speak with us about the improvements they have made in the year since we last spoke. The group has grown in numbers as well as in complexity. Recently receiving a gift of several large, expensive tools, the group is always looking for people who know how to use them that can help teach others.
Membership in the group is reasonable for those who are really interested in building things but don't want to own their own large tools, or have the space to store them. For $50 per month you get unlimited, 24-hour access to the facility and tools (after certification, of course), as well as the ability to collaborate with other members.
Collaboration is one of the best parts of these makerspaces. You might have an idea, but are not sure how to implement it, and a fellow member can lend guidance. Or, you might have a very clear idea, but another member might have experience on the path you are on and can help prevent wasted time.
Our newest host, Daniele Mendez, joined the PLuGHTz Live broadcast team because of her participation in the FIRST Tech Challenge, a middle and high school robotics competition. Joshua Francis, a fellow member of her team, Team Duct Tape, joined us to discuss his experiences with the program.
Having spent several years on the team, he has found a focused passion in engineering which he plans to pursue in college. Daniele also discovered through her time on the team that she has a passion for software engineering, which she will be pursuing in college. The two discuss their favorite parts of the program, as well as their various roles on their team, and which they enjoy best.
Music is a big part of all of our lives - you can't do almost anything without being exposed to some sort of music. From movies and television to elevator rides, music is used to improve the experience. How much do we know about our music, though? For many of us the answer is very little.
The New Music Conflagration know this fact and is here to help teach the how and, maybe more importantly, the why of music. As a concert pianist Elizabeth Baker works with the non-profit to help expose people to music of all kinds. As a demonstration of this, she brought with her a Theremin, which may have a Sci-Fi sound, but is becoming a popular instrument.
A popular expression around our studio is "innovation comes from things that suck." As an example of this theory in practice we have John Hobbs of Athletes Performance Gear, who has created a dual-purpose water bottle for runners and walkers called iHydroRun. The bottle holds enough water for a normal run, but is shaped to double as a runner's weight.
This double usage gives you the ability to run with weights without the need to carry an extra bottle or pouch of water. Holding the water in your hands as you run helps improve balance and strength, the same as any other weight, but also has the added benefit of getting a little lighter as your workout progresses.
Worried about the bottles being too light? John has thought of that, too, and will offer add-on weights that snap onto the bottom to add more resistance when you need it. The weights are even stackable, meaning you can add multiple together to get just the weight you want. The bottles will be available soon through direct sales channels.
Our theory of "innovation comes from things that suck" was proven once again with the StoreHitch by Terry Nehring. This product is designed to help you store the pieces of a hitch for a camper. The pieces are large, difficult to manage and often dirty from being outside and attached to moving vehicles. Because of this, storage can be difficult. This device gives you a secure mount for the vehicle which holds the pieces and locks them into place, guaranteeing they don't fall off or get stolen.
The idea for the product, which seems simple in hindsight, came about because Terry tore up the floor of his brand new camper while trying to store the hitch elements. After that, he set out to solve that problem forever, which he did. Recently, due to a change in his life, he decided it was finally time to bring it to market. After searching for other similar products and finding none, he patented the design and is working to bring it to stores soon.
"Innovation comes from things that suck" brought us another product: the Pami Pocket. Created by Pam French, this product is designed to give women the ability to carry their phones and essentials without needing a full purse. This can come in handy especially at the beach, theme parks, etc.
Designed with a smartphone in mind first, these pockets give small, simple portable storage. Coming complete with either blank or designed front pockets, these pockets are currently available directly or through several retailers in the Tampa Bay area, including some Walgreens. Pam says her ultimate goal for the product is to license Disney character designs.
A common trend in libraries is adding makerspaces. In the Tampa Bay Area, the best-known is likely The Hive at John F. Germany Library, but many other libraries are involved in the community. One such space is Innovation Lab (Makerspace @ SPC), located at the Seminole campus of Saint Petersburg College. Chad Mairn came to speak to us about this space, which is used in conjunction with classes, but also holds non-class events as well.
Although the space may not be as large as some of their neighbors, they pack a lot of activity into the space. They have 3D printers, electronics tools and more. They focus on workshops and collaborative learning, which makes sense for a library at a college. There are activities happening all the time, keeping the maker community in Pinellas County engaged.
At a maker event, you never know what you might get to see. One of the surprising products we were introduced to is the Flap Top Comforter. Created by Minda Cameron, this product is designed to help make the process of making the bed easier and less cumbersome.
A full bed set has a comforter with decorative pillows, sheets and sleeping pillows. The problem is always what to do with the pillows and comforter, which you don't want in the bed while sleeping. The Flap Top Comforter solves this problem by turning your regular pillows into a more decorative pillow during the day.
While this might not immediately seem like a problem that modern adults have, consider your last stay in a hotel. Chances are there were a number of pieces on the bed that you had to find new homes for - usually the floor. This product eliminates the need to search for that at home.
Electronic waste is a huge problem. With computers, phones and tablets replaced at a fairly rapid rate, lots of electronics end up needing to be disposed of. Unfortunately, lots of people simply throw this stuff away. Electronics have all kinds of toxins in them which, when disposed of improperly, can end up in drinking water.
Tony Selvaggio from Scrap On Spot came by to talk to us about their Destruction Zone at Gulf Coast MakerCon, as well as the company's recycling program. The company takes in old electronics and, working with partners, breaks them down for their hazardous and reusable pieces. Many precious metals, such as gold, are common on circuit boards, and some rare elements, such as neodymium magnets, can be reused in other products.
In addition to their display at MakerCon, the company also help raise money for organizations, such as churches, youth groups and robotics clubs, through their recycling drives. It is definitely a pleasure to see a company help protect the environment and give back to their community.
When tablet makers design their next generation, it often involves making them thinner and lighter. While that design process might make things better me, who travels with at least 3 in my computer bag, it doesn't necessarily make it more usable for others.
For example, as people age, holding a thinner tablet might actually become less convenient. Because of this issue, Roseanne Clementi has created the Pad Go Round. This product serves as a tablet case, while also providing handles on the sides to make holding it far easier. It also allows for wearing the device around your neck, both providing an easy carrying option, but also serving as an extra level of protection in case it falls.
The Pad Go Round is currently in a prototype phase, but is working on a release to the world through a crowdfunding campaign
As the maker movement continues to grow, places for these new makers to bring their visions to life is increasingly important. We have seen libraries take on this challenge at a quick rate, but not every library has the foresight or budget to bring their own visions to fruition.
Located in Sarasota, the Suncoast Science / Faulhaber FAB LAB is a makerspace with the benefit of being part of a science center. Jennifer Holt came by to talk about the facility, which features many tools that are common to makerspaces, such as 3D printers, soldering irons, etc. In addition, this facility offers lesser-known or less available tools, such as laser etchers and CNC machines.
The facility event offers open house events to allow the outside world experience the wonders of the space and learn about the tools and learning opportunities available.
With the proliferation of makerspaces, such as Tampa Hackerspace, Makerspace @ SPC and Faulhaber FAB LAB, one of the items that is in high demand is 3D printers. Sometimes these things can cost thousands of dollars in entry, with extra cost in printing supplies and part maintenance.
That is where FreeFab 3D comes in. Joel Porter came by to talk about the company's existing and upcoming models, which are far less expensive than many other models on the market. In addition, much of the machine is built with 3D printing techniques itself, meaning that you could theoretically print your own replacement parts if something goes wrong.
One of the great things about buying a FreeFab 3D printer is that included with the purchase comes 2 hours of training. This allows the company to pass on its communal knowledge, such as do not use the printer in front of an open window or under an air-conditioning vent.
A great maker community deserves a great advocate in the wider community. In the Tampa Bay Area, we have the Eureka! Factory. This organization is responsible for events like Gulf Coast MakerCon, Roboticon Tampa Bay and others. They are also responsible for helping libraries create their makerspaces - sometimes by taking surveys and group chats, sometimes by designing the actual space.
Terri Willingham, a Creative Partner, came by near the end of the event to talk about the success of the event. We talked about the diversity of the event, the responses from the early attendees and what we can look forward to in the future.