Category Archives: Cool Projects

Our New Laser Cutter!

The new laser cutter station in our classroom.

We are very happy to share that Hive76 is now home to a 45W H-Series laser cutter from Full Spectrum Laser! Members now have the capability to cut complex 2D shapes in wood and plastic in thicknesses up to 0.25 inch. If you can draw it on a computer, the laser can cut it. It’s great for engraving too:

Our New Laser Cutter!

Hive76 rocks!

We’ve just begun making test cuts and machine break in. Our next step is to develop a class for members to become laser cutter certified. I can’t wait to see what kind of cool projects our members will use this tool for. In the mean time, stop by our open house Wednesday nights 7-10pm to see it in action and find out how to become a member!




Our New Laser Cutter!

Laser guts.



Hydroponic Gardening

Hydroponic Gardening Hydroponic Gardening


On Tuesday April 28th Chris Anderson will be instructing a lecture and demo on Hydroponic and Aquaponic gardening. If you are interested in learning alternative farming and gardening techniques this class will introduce a more environmentally friendly process for growing your own produce. Generally, the hydroponics approach is beneficial because although the initial costs are higher, on a long term outlook the process is exponentially less expensive. Hydroponics also takes up to 50% less land use, therefore is much less intrusive to the environment, minimizing clearing of woodlands and soil degradation. The soil-less process of hydroponics also uses up to 90% less water and up to 60 % less fertilizer and pesticide use.

Join Hive76 members to learn more about how you can build your own sustainable farming/ gardening hydroponic or aquaponic system. The instructor will be providing the Basic items for the wicking system being built but please bring any supplies you have that may enhance the design. Chris Anderson will help guide the class in how they can optimize their gardening system with their suggested materials, exploring the creative possibilities in using recycled products. That class will cost $8, CASH ONLY. For more information check out the class in the Hive76 Calendar. Please comment below if you are interested and will be attending. Can’t wait to see you there!

Take a tour of Chris Anderson’s classroom design.

The materials for the class are as follows:

Basic items:
2L or 3L soda bottle(s)
Old white t-shirts/towels (washed)
Encouraged items:
Aquarium/fish-tank air-pump, tubing, air-stone
Gravel (any size)
Geolite, Vermiculite, hydrocorals
plastic planter cups
empty plastic squeezable condiment bottles
plant seeds
caulk, silicon, caulk-gun
pipe cleaners
construction paper
aquarium lid with florescent light
power-strip; plug in timers
straws, tubing (any sizes)

The Hivelord at UArts Design Charette 2014: Cyborgs

I heard there were smoothies here?

Salutations, flatlanders! Your electron based mail message reached my hyper-dimensional lair, I was lured out of the 67th dimension by word of snacks, refreshments, and of course, your attempts to augment your meaty forms with your so called ‘technology.’ The idea: to design artifacts made 50 years in your future. How will they affect the fragile social human construct? More specifically, are these items you’re designing to simplify and enhance your lives creating one step forward in the inevitable march toward a dystopian hellscape? I’d answer these questions, but I’m technically not allowed to break causality.

But I digress, I’m really here to show you all the souls I stole pictures I took with my face. It only took a few years off your lifespan, and there’s a 50/50 chance they were bad years anyway. Thanks for being such good sports!

Click here -> The Hivelord at UArts Design Charette 2014 <-

The Hivelord at UArts Design Charette 2014: Cyborgs

And here’s a soul-theft in action. Looks painful!

Pics from the Hivelord at Maker Faire 2014

Yours truly.

Hello, mortals! Perhaps you saw me at Maker Faire NY over the weekend; I was the orange dude with the screen head taking your picture with my face. Well not only did your souls add a few thousand years to my already infinitely long lifespan, they got uploaded to the internet, where myself and others can browse them at our leisure from the comfort of our own time traveling spaceships. Have a look yourselves, and I’ll see you all in the past (or in the future, from your puny human perspectives).

Hivelord at Maker Faire NY 2014

Pics from the Hivelord at Maker Faire 2014

My ride is here, time to jet.

Pics from the Hivelord at Maker Faire 2014

Bow before me, mortals!

Pics from the Hivelord at Maker Faire 2014

A selfie in the hall of mirrors.

Apply Now: AMRI Summer 2014 Fellowships

We have an open call for Summer 2014 Fellowships at Advanced Manufacturing Research Institute (AMRI), hosted at Rice University in the department of Bioengineering.

We are soliciting applications for the following projects:

Project 1: e-NABLE 3D Printed Prosthetic Devices

In collaboration with the worldwide e-NABLE group, and Gloria Gogola, M.D. at Shriners Hospital for Children, Fellows will aid in the design, 3D printing, testing, and refinement of open-source prosthetic hand and finger designs. This unique fellowship will bring 3D printing into the clinical setting, working closely with Dr. Gogola and her patients in need.

Project 2: Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

Fellows will augment and refine the open SLS design pioneered by Andreas Bastian last year. SLS machines typically cost $50k or more, we built ours for under $15k. This year we will focus on powder manufacturing and powder handling, as well as characterization of SLS parts via scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and mechanical testing.

Project 3: OLED 3D Photolithography of Living Tissues

Related to Anderson Ta’s exciting digital light projection (DLP) photolithography last year, Fellows will investigate and program organic light emitting diode (OLED) screens as a light source for 3D photolithographic printing of living tissues. Chemical functionalization of glass surfaces will also be investigated to passivate the screen surface and aid in detachment and 3D printing from the light source surface.

Project 4: Open Source Ink Jet Printing of Bacteria

A continuation of Steve Kelly’s inkshield augmentation of RepRap motherboards to print living bacteria, Fellows will investigate fluid mechanics, python scripting, and multicolor printing to create interacting bacterial colonies on top of and within agar gels. Fellows will also learn how to insert genes of interest into bacterial colonies for protein production. Steve’s 2013 AMRI Presentation is available here.

Check out all the details, and be sure to apply by May 15th:

Questions can be directed to

Hack the sky, man! Hive76 helps sky write a message over Eraserhood

When I saw  this poster on the right in the lobby of our studio building I thought it looked neat, but it wasn’t until the mastermind Dave Kyu visited that Hive76 was convinced to participate in WriteSky. Well, he mostly convinced me, as I ended up as the only contributor, but I am glad that Hive76 was able to host the collaboration meeting with our fellow group, artists that work in 319 N 11th St, members of Grizzly Grizzly and Tiger Strikes Asteroid.

We met on one Wednesday open house to figure out exactly what message we would write over our neighborhood. I don’t have a lot of history collaborating with other artists, but after the experience I had using Dave’s process and the smart 319 Artists Mary Smull, Jacque Liu, Sarah Kate Burgess, and Jaime Alvarez, I am looking forward to my next collaboration. It was a pleasure brainstorming, discussing, and compromising to come up with what we think is the perfect sentiment to be written in the sky for a few minutes. What message is that?Ah, but ours and the two other collaborative groups’ messages are secret up until the actual writing. We want it to be a surprise.

If you can make it this Saturday, please come to The Eraserhood at 11:30am and look up. Weather permitting, you’ll see three wonderful messages written in vaporized canola oil over the Philadelphia skyline. It will be visible for about 15 miles, but the best view will be directly underneath. If you see the writing in the sky, tag it with #WriteSky and it will appear on the page:

Keep looking up!

T.E.R.A. Incognita at The Hacktory

Our friends over at The Hacktory (Repurposing Technology, Making Art) are running a Kickstarter to raise matching funds for an excellent project to unite artists with the latest technology to empower new designs. From their Kickstarter page:

Electronics and digital technology can infuse works of art with an element of magic. At The Hacktory we have literally put this magic in people’s hands, through classes and large public events. We want to do more though. We want to make our classes available to artists. We’ve found that they are usually the most excited to take our classes and play with technology, but usually the least able to pay for our classes.

The Hacktory is creating a program called T.E.R.A. Incognita: Tech Education and Residency for Artists. Our goal is to support artists who want to create new work and experiment with technology such as cameras, projectors, sensors, robots, software and circuits. The name “T.E.R.A Incognita” is part acronym, part vision for the program. We want to give these artists an opportunity to learn and explore at the edges of technology and art, literally in unchartered territory, to create new experiences and new possibilities with code, hardware and creative expression.

The Kickstarter ends on Monday, so go check it out and consider making a pledge! Some great rewards are being offered too.

Civic infrastructure hacking: laser-controlled streetlight.

Three more things in my house require a remote control now, and one of them is the streetlight in front of my house. Ever since I heard about a hacked streetlight at the Guerrilla Drive in for Back to the Future in 2009, I have been turning off the streetlight on Darien Street by carefully aiming a laser dot at the light sensor on top of the streetlight. The light sensors on most streetlights face west to catch the last photons from the fading sunset before illuminating for the night—and this one faces right into the third floor of my house. It is very important to me to be able to choose to sit in the cozy dark, save my city some money, and not contribute to light pollution for a minute.
Just recently I revamped the process with a new, permanent laser and remote control system. Here it is in action:
I’ll show you how …

Laser assembly

Laser assembly

First, I pawed through Hive76′s supply of laser diodes. On my third pick, I found a working diode from a laser pointer that was pretty bright at 5V and 20mA. Then I 3D printed a holder for the diode, soldered on a power supply, and attached it to an alignment bracket.

I then added this Wireless Remote Control with 3 outlets to control the power supply.

Power relay

Power relay

Now with the touch of a button, I can make the street dark and enjoy sitting out on the sidewalk. I need it dark because some asshole from Asplundh came over here, climbed my tree, butchered it, and cursed at my dear old neighbor. I am missing half of a tree, so we need dark these days on Darien. It feels like I’m taking back a little bit of control bacuse I can’t get my tree back.

This is a low impact, temporary, non-destructive project. We are merely using the red light of the laser to trick the light sensor into thinking it’s daytime. It takes almost 2 minutes for a built in buffer on the sensor to fill before the light is extinguished. When the laser is removed, the light reignites in 30 seconds and is at full brightness again in under a minute. I used the other two remote relays on the fans in our windows. This is as far as I’ll get into home automation for a while.

Funny epilogue: when I first posted about this hack on Vine, I used the work “hacked” in my description, and then the post was deleted. Huh. Funny that. Here’s the video that was removed:

A Quick DIY Hydrophone

“Hey let’s take the boat out.”
“Hold on, I wanna build a hydrophone first.”

All three major construction methods represented: tape, glue, zip ties.

All three major construction methods represented: tape, glue, zip ties.

And so, using the parts left over from the day’s Piezo Transducer Class, some wire, a spraypaint cap, red solo cup, and two sticks, the Hive76 Aquaphone was born. With a battery powered amplifer and some groovy headphones, we had ourselves a mobile underwater listening apparatus. Globs and globs of hot glue waterproofed all connections.

Ready to hunt for submarines.

Ready to hunt for submarines.

We went on down to the marina and took the boat out. There was no traffic on the Delaware river to listen to, so we found a tanker in port and pulled along side, hoping to hear her engine room. Initially all that came through was flow noise, so we killed our engine and came to a stop. In calm water and with sufficient depth, we were able to get a low-fidelity audio peek at her running generators and machinery. Video (apologies for my drooping drawers):

Sure it sounds like just a bunch of random noise, but it matched the observed airborne signature (what we heard with our own ears). As a check, we performed the same test further up the river in the absence of a ship and heard nothing.

Fight, Robots, Fight! – “Such and Such”


Such and Such vs. Uberclocker Advance (credit: Charles Guan)

This past weekend I had the great pleasure of competing at NERC‘s Motorama Robot Conflict with my fighting robot Such and Such – built 100% at Hive76.

Though it might have looked a little boring, that was the most exciting match of the competition for me. After 2 years of on-and-off work, Such and Such, the most ambitious robot I’ll ever build, worked like a charm.

Some rough CAD layout of the bot.

Some rough CAD layout of the bot.

And still it only barely managed to eek out a win. To put it simply, Such and Such was not designed to beat other robots. At least, not on its own; it’s actually meant to fight alongside a partner hammer-bot, but weight limits prevented our tag team strategy. Rather, the point of Such and Such was to come up with the most overtly weird fighting robot possible, and then design it and build it.

The two main features of the robot that make it kind of unique are the walking and clamping mechanisms. A great deal of time was spent in the design phase figuring out how best, and in fact how easiest to implement these ideas.


There were a few reasons I chose to make Such and Such a walking robot. First, there aren’t enough walking robots and this was a way to make the whole thing wackier. Secondly, I wanted  to increase the bot’s traction (I was previously using omniwheels to accommodate the sideways motion of the clamping action – unfortunately, omniwheels tend to have poor traction, so omni-legs seemed like an acceptably ridiculous alternative). Additionally, walking robots are allowed a 50% weight bonus, and I hoped to have a little left over to afford all this additional complicated mechanical nonsense.

The walking mechanism is basically a set of three crankshafts with a series of cam profiles that ride in slots on three legs. The legs have a phase difference of 120 degrees, so each rotation of the shaft provides about three “shuffles”.

Prototype Leg

Prototype leg; UHMW cams and spacers sandwich onto a 1/2″ Al keyed shaft.

Many walkers of this type rely on eccentric circles for cam profiles, resulting in sinusoidal x-and-y movement of the legs. That is to say, the up-and-down (y) and back-and-forth (x) position of the legs is never the same instant-to-instant. This means that the robot’s frame will constantly be oscillating up and down above the floor as it walks forward. Since both halves of Such and Such are so far apart, I thought this might result in some weird binding forces on the clamping mechanism.

I wondered if there was a way for the robot to stay at a constant height off the ground as it walked. It would require the y-motion of the legs to switch and hold between “up” and “down” positions. That would prevent any binding of the clamping mechanism, plus it sounded like a pretty cool challenge. Conversely, the sinusoidal motion from a regular eccentric circle would have a leg continuously in motion between “up” and “down”, instantly reversing its travel once it reached those extreme points. After a bit of research and some time sketching on graph paper, I arrived at the following cam profile.

Y-Cam profile.

Y-Cam profile.

As it rotates in the leg slot, it holds the leg in the “down” position (in contact with the ground) for 120 degrees, then transitions and pushes the leg up for 60 degrees in to the “up” position. It stays there for another 120 degrees. Then the next 60 degrees of the leg return it back to the “down” position. With a series of 3 legs and cams 120 degrees out of phase with eachother, there would always be a leg being held in the “down” position, and the chassis would – in theory – stay at a constant height above the floor.

Click for animation.

Walking animation.

All of this up-and-down motion happens in conjunction with some back-and-forth motion to create a walking cam. Looking at the picture of the cams in the slots, it’s visible that the outer two cams are the binary y-motion (up and down) cams, while the center is an eccentric disk providing sinusoidal x-motion (back and forth). So as you can imagine, there’s quite a lot of sliding motion going on inside of these things.

Leg and cams

First test batch of waterjetted parts.

A big part of good design, or good anything, is to know your limits. Knowing that I could not make these cams and legs with the necessary precision, nor in the quantity required, I had the nice folks at Big Blue Saw low-taper waterjet them out of 1/2″ UHMW for me. Once they arrived I buffed all the sliding surfaces to get them to a smooth, low friction finish. After a quick test to verify the cam worked as expected, I ordered the rest of the batch.


The last version of Such and Such had a really cool pantograph-type clamping mechanism much like a scissor lift on its side. It was fun, but a pain to deal with the linear motion at either end of the linkages. Sliding joints are a little harder to pull off than a bunch of pinned joints, so I thought I’d like to avoid it altogether. I also wanted this version to have fewer links for the same amount of horizontal travel as it’s a slightly more efficient use of weight. I settled on the following mechanism:

Diagram of clamping mechanism.

Diagram of clamping mechanism with rear link driven by linear actuator.

Looked pretty cool to me. Only 4 links and a great deal of horizontal travel. But little did I realize at the time that there was a fatal flaw in the design… but more on that later. I kept the the linear actuator external to the bot so that each half can be as small as possible, only about as wide as the walking bits. Conveniently, there was a nice little space for the actuator betwen the links in both open and closed positions. I did a little bit of math to find an optimal-ish offset angle (α) for the actuator to drive the rear link at so that the clamping force is mostly constant throughout the mechanism’s whole travel.

Mechanism parameters, after a few iterations.

Mechanism parameters, after a few iterations.

Clamping force as a fraction of actuator force over the course of the mechanism's travel.

Clamping force as a fraction of actuator force over the course of the mechanism’s travel.


Construction commenced on December 1st 2012, just as I finished up my 8mm Projector Tremolo project. I made simple drawings of all the frame members and got to cutting all the lengths of 3/4″ angle and 2″x1″ U-channel that comprise the frame halves.

Angle brackets after the first day's work.

Angle brackets after the first day’s work.

Next, all the frame members were drilled out to accomodate brackets and bearings.

Frame members cut and drilled, ready for assembly.

Frame members cut and drilled, ready for assembly.

After testing on a prototype leg and cam set, I ordered a full batch. One of the most time consuming parts of the project was cutting, drilling, and mounting the 48 little roller brackets onto the legs.

Leg with brackets for rollers.

Leg with brackets for rollers.

Next came the delicate task of stacking the three sets of UHMW cams, legs and spacers on three shafts, and then repeating the process for the other half of the bot. I decided not to lubricate the cams since most references indicated that polished UHMW is sufficiently self-lubricating, and grease may only trap dirt and debris. I drilled some well-oversized holes to allow some play in mounting the self-aligning bearings for the camshafts – since the phase of the cams was of utmost importance to the mechanism, I let the timing belts locate the bearings’ exact position.

Frame and walking bits assembled.

Frame and walking bits assembled.

After another order of waterjetted parts (this time aluminum), I assembled the linear actuator and attached linkage pivot points to the frames.

Linear actuator.

Linear actuator.

Two halves assembled and linear actuator installed.

Two halves assembled and linear actuator installed.

With the frame halves and walking mechanism mostly taken care of and smoothed out, I switched my focus to the clamping mechanism.

Links cut and drilled.

Links cut and drilled.

However, as soon as I laid out the links in front of me, I realized I’d made a grevious mistake. What I failed to realize in the design phase is that the linkage has way too many degrees of freedom. What that means is, I could move that one link back and forth all I want with the linear actuator, but the rest of the mechanism is gonna flop around however it likes and not clamp at all! As a mechanical engineer, this is quite the oversight and really really embarassing. In my mind, I just had assumed for so long that the two halves of the bot stayed parallel to eachother as the mechanism opened and closed. In reality, there was nothing constraining them to this kind of motion. 3 weeks out from the competition I had to come up with a quick fix in the form of some secondary links and a sliding pivot in the center of the whole thing. If these parts look like an afterthought, they were!

Linkage in place, with secondary links.

Linkage in place, with secondary links.

After such an embarassing mistake I found it helpful to walk away from the build for a little and let my mental faculties simmer down a bit. Thankfully all the major hurdles in the build had been crossed by this point and before I even realized it I was ready to install drive motors and wire it up.

Actuator installed, wires run and ready for electronics.

Actuator installed, wires run and ready for electronics.


Done and ready for Motorama!

Done and ready for Motorama!

I even had time to add a neat hinged battery compartment to make charging way easier. Before I even got to the competition, I had considered the build a success: it walked and it clamped. I came up with just about the wackiest idea I could, I built it, and it worked. So now it’s back to cheap, simple robots. Maybe.

Here’s another video – this time with Charles Guan‘s incredible Uberclocker Advance, during which Such and Such spends alot of time off the ground.

(Check out Mike Jeffries’ YouTube channel for basically all the fights from the competition!)

Huge thanks to NERC for putting on great events, Alan Young for his generous help with blown up motors, Josh Frisch for being a patient teammate, my Dad, Michael Jeffries for the video, Hive76, and the entire robotics community for being such a righteous bunch of folks.