Author Archives: nova labs

Wood milling demo at Belle Grey Farm

51HP of diesel powered, hydraulically controlled, wood milling goodness!

On January 16, 2016, Nova Labs members were treated to a wood milling demonstration at Belle Grey Farm in Upperville, VA. The 51HP diesel powered, hydraulically controlled portable saw mill ran through the wood with ease.

Members were shown how entire trees were rough cut down to boards. The boards were then put into a solar kiln to dry for at least several months and sometimes as much as several years. Once dried the boards make it to the shop where they are used to make equestrian jumps.

Check out our Facebook page to see a video of it in action!

Wood milling demo at Belle Grey FarmPosted by Nova Labs on Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wood milling demo at Belle Grey Farm Wood milling demo at Belle Grey Farm Wood milling demo at Belle Grey Farm Wood milling demo at Belle Grey Farm Wood milling demo at Belle Grey Farm Wood milling demo at Belle Grey Farm Wood milling demo at Belle Grey Farm Wood milling demo at Belle Grey Farm Wood milling demo at Belle Grey Farm Wood milling demo at Belle Grey Farm Wood milling demo at Belle Grey Farm Wood milling demo at Belle Grey Farm Wood milling demo at Belle Grey Farm Wood milling demo at Belle Grey Farm Wood milling demo at Belle Grey Farm Wood milling demo at Belle Grey Farm Wood milling demo at Belle Grey Farm

Nova Labs FTC Robotics team moves on to State competition!

We won! Team captain of winning alliance!

Congratulations to Nova Labs FTC Team 8072, The Grey Jedis, for winning a nail-biting final at the Annapolis FTC Qualifier on Sunday, January 10th, 2016.

Nova Labs FTC Robotics team moves on to State competition!

The final tie-breaker hang!

The Grey Jedis consist of 9 teens (over half of whom are FTC rookies) and various mentors, working together since August. Members of the team have learned programming skills, and after designing and assembling the core robot, have crafted and tested various attachments for the robot to help complete the mission. A tape measure with a carbon fiber hook was a key element to pulling up their robot and scoring them big points in this weekend’s victory.

More than 20 teams participated in the competition held at the US Naval Academy, vying for 6 slots advancing to the State Championship in February.
Nova Labs FTC Robotics team moves on to State competition!

Ouch. Ran out of time… Only half way up the mountain. Thankfully still won the match!

After a frustrating first match with a stalled robot, Team 8072 rebounded and climbed steadily through the ranks to achieve 4th out of 24 before the end of regular play. This was enough to put them in position to be an alliance captain, picking team mates for the 2 playoff rounds. They subsequently won 4 out of 6 playoff matches over 2 rounds, defeating 2 other alliances, and emerged the captain of the winning alliance for the tournament!

Many thanks to all those who supported their efforts and continue to cheer them on. Follow their progress by liking the Nova Labs Robotics Facebook page!
Nova Labs FTC Robotics team moves on to State competition! Nova Labs FTC Robotics team moves on to State competition! Nova Labs FTC Robotics team moves on to State competition! Nova Labs FTC Robotics team moves on to State competition! Nova Labs FTC Robotics team moves on to State competition! Nova Labs FTC Robotics team moves on to State competition! Nova Labs FTC Robotics team moves on to State competition!

Nova Maker Faire – Call for Makers!

Are you a maker?

If you don’t know, would you call yourself a tinkerer, hobbyist, entrepreneur?  Or even artist, sculptor, crafter?  Did you get one of those Arduinos or Raspberry PI‘s over the holidays and have no idea what to do with it?

The Nova Mini Maker Faire is approaching fast, and we would like you to be involved.

Projects range from the very old to cutting-edge new, and if you’re not actually done with something, bring it anyway!  You may find people willing to help or start up an interest group.  Some makers treat this as a way to get a project completed, because there is an actual scheduled date to get ready.

Nova Maker Faire – Call for Makers!

Bob (2nd left) with 1950-60’s era Teletype upgraded with Raspberry Pi interface, and Brian (far right) learning about bamboo and carbon fiber composites at a Maker Faire.

If you dream of Rube Goldberg, this is the place to show off what you’ve been working on.  Just go to to register (direct link is here).  We can’t wait to see the great projects that you are working on.

Nova Maker Faire – Call for Makers!

Fred (left) and Mike (right) with their flying wing.

Nova Maker Faire – Call for Makers!

Craig’s epic marble machine

Google’s Vint Cerf visits Nova Labs

Brian Jacoby, Vint Cerf, Fred Briggs IV, Marybeth Haneline, Fred Briggs III, December 7th, 2015

Thanks to a very generous donation from Google in 2014, Nova Labs was able to secure our new 10,500 sq. ft. facility and begin build out. Now that build out is winding down and most of our equipment is online, Google wanted to see what our community has accomplished.

On December 7th, Internet legend Vint Cerf stopped by Nova Labs to see the updated space! As Vint stepped inside, he swept off his fedora, spread out his arms, and took in the view. The Orange Bay was filled with his larger-than-life presence as he exclaimed “Wow!!!”.

Nova Labs members in attendance were proud to show what can be achieved by a dedicated group of volunteers.

Vint admired a flight controller that teen Bryce Peterson developed out of a tele-course led by a partnership of Nova Labs and James Madison University. He was impressed by a flying wing, built by ten-year old Laura in a RhinoHawk Meetup, and remarked that he’ll have to change his story of what 13 year-olds can do. Vint’s eyes lit up like the LEDs on the wearable bracelet developed for summer workshops by Angela DeHart.

Google’s Vint Cerf visits Nova Labs

Brian Jacoby with 3D printed prosthetic hand, Fred Briggs IV


Kids outgrow prosthetics like they outgrow clothes. Vint was intrigued by 3D printed prosthetics hands for kids developed by Open Source Prosthetics Meetup, led by Jim Sheedfar and Steve Bloom, to work on this problem.

Nova Labs has provided the facilities and its members the support and encouragement to help bring innovative ideas to fruition. A driving program that teaches young drivers how to cope with skidding cars was developed by Chris Ihara at Nova Labs. Vint said these type of great stories need to get out. He said he appreciated the personal tour.

Google’s Vint Cerf visits Nova Labs

Google cookies by Amy Shaw

To help expand on the great work that we have been doing, Vint committed Google’s continued support.

Fred Briggs IV remarked it was a great morning – “I always love hearing his stories and he is hands down the most interesting person I have ever met.”

Google’s Vint Cerf visits Nova Labs

Vint Cerf about to head out with a goodie bag of Google-stamped cookies.

Hackaday visits Nova Labs!

This post was originally written by  for used with permission.

Hackaday’s DC Meetup and Workshops

Washington DC has a vibrant hardware hacking community and it was out in force on Saturday night, September 12. We had over one hundred people through the door at Nova Labs in Reston, Virginia (DC metro area). This sleek and spacious hackerspace opened their doors for a Hackaday Meetup as part of a weekend packed full of activities.

Hackaday visits Nova Labs! Hackaday visits Nova Labs! Hackaday visits Nova Labs! Hackaday visits Nova Labs!

The building that Nova Labs moved into not too long ago is a really well-suited area for a Hackerspace. The front half of the building includes a huge open space which has plenty of room for people to set up the hardware they wanted to show off. The back has a full woodshop, machine shop, and more, with classrooms and conference rooms in between.

Above are a set of hats with addressible LED strings wrapped around them which [ArsenioDev] brought along with him. Several members of the Wyolum team are involved with Nova Labs and they were showing off some LED matrix-based projects like the marquee cube and a 3-player reaction time game. And clacking away all night long is a vintage teletype machine that [Bob Coggeshall] fixed and connected to a Raspberry Pi.

Hackaday visits Nova Labs! Hackaday visits Nova Labs! Hackaday visits Nova Labs!

There was pizza and beer for all to enjoy. This kegerator was just outfitted with an ESP8266 module which used Amazon SNS to report each time the tap was pulled. The tablet behind is displaying real-time data on these events.

Last month when we were in Boston someone brought on an InMoov robot and there was a different one here. I haven’t run into these very often but two in a row makes me want to take a second look at the project.

And there was a freestanding photo booth but in kiosk format. It included LED panels that lit up different colors to snap a collection of [Andy Warhol]-esque colored portraits.

Hackaday visits Nova Labs! Hackaday visits Nova Labs!

I’m fortunate enough to run across some of my favorite hackers in the world thanks to travels with Hackaday. It was a pleasant surprise to meet [Charles Lohr] whom you may know by the alias [cnlohr]. He’s the one who built a Minecraft server on a glass-slide PCB he fabbed himself. Recently he’s been killing it with the ESP8266, including a bare-metal programming guide he wrote for Hackaday. Above you can see him demonstrating the features he’s added to his ColorChord project. In this case it’s an ESP8266 performing DSP on an electret mic input. It drives a WS2812 strip for great visualizations while plotting the waveform on his phone via WiFi. You know… just the easy stuff.

Also on hand is celeb [ArsenioDev] who was mentioned above for his blinky hat. He was showing off something much more serious though, an active control system for rockets. He’s coming along quite well with his feedback loop that pairs IMU with four servos for rocket fins. His next test will be driving a car down the runway at the local airport (with permission) while mounting the rocket on a stick for testing. Unfortunately some of this work is ITAR restricted so he’s limited on how much he can publish about the project.

There were a ton of other interesting and notable hackers on hand, like [Alex Rich] of Stickvise fame. You’ve got to make it to one of these events to understand how awesome the Hackaday community is when we’re able to get together for an evening of fun!

The Workshops

Hackaday visits Nova Labs! Hackaday visits Nova Labs!

This weekend was highlighted by a 3-day KiCAD workshop which [Anool Mahidharia] presented. I was fortunate enough to sit in and it was spectacular. I’ve used KiCAD for years and have spun boards from my design, but [Anool] is master at both PCB design and KiCAD itself.

On Friday afternoon and Saturday morning he walked everyone through a demonstration circuit based around a pair of linear regulators. He’s a remarkable teacher and included several gotchas to illustrate all aspects of KiCAD. For instance, he used a barrel jack in the design which has an oblong through-hole footprint that isn’t supported by OSH Park’s fab process. This way he was able to talk about how to change out the footprint and it was immediately applicable.

The rest of the weekend each participant worked on their own circuit and layout. I’m happy to say that everyone managed to get a design sent of for fabrication by the end day on Sunday! A render of my hastily-conceived design (I didn’t plan ahead on what I wanted to make) is seen above.

If you missed the post on Saturday, you’ll want to click through to read about the surface mount soldering workshops which [Bob] conducted several times on Friday and Saturday.

Many People to Thank

Thank you to [Bob Coggeshall] and all the Nova Labs members. They opened their door to us and made sure the place was packed and help make the event run smoothly.

[Anool] had this workshop planned long before the rest of the Hackaday ever thought of being there. Thanks for letting us join in on the fun and for making Open Hardware such a big part of what you and Wyolum do!

A big thanks to [Andrew Albosta] for taking all the photos of the meetup. He has a ton of cool builds written up on his blog, including several really cool carbon-fiber items like the wine bottle holder which were part of a composites class at Nova Labs.

And of course, thank you Hackaday Prize sponsors Atmel, Freescale, Microchip, Mouser, and Texas Instruments and to Hackaday’s parent company Supplyframe for making Hackaday live events and educational opportunities possible.

Ed. note:

Be sure to check out Hackaday’s writeup of the Surface Mount Soldering class that Bob Coggeshall conducted the same weekend.

Hackaday is coming to Nova Labs!

Saturday evening, September 12, 2015 Nova Labs and Hackaday co-host a Bring A Hack meetup.

Doors open 6pm.

Drinks and Snacks provided !

Bring a hack or give a lightning talk!

Hackaday is coming to Nova Labs!There will also be PCB Design and Surface-Mount Soldering classes the same weekend.

Read all about it here:

This is a free event but we’d like you to RSVP so we know how much food and drink to get.


Projects@NL – Bee Hive Monitoring

ASHBURN, VA — It’s been a while since the last time we posted about the effort at Nova Labs to collect data about local bee hives. Since then, the Arduino-based bee hive monitoring rig has been updated to record temperatures from 20 different locations in a single hive. With this new system, we collected over 1.8 million data points over the course of a year.

Nova Labs members Konrad and Ted teamed up to create the initial test rig, simulating temperature changes with a heat gun, and watching the data rendered in real-time using Processing:

Konrad then worked with a local Bee Keeping Club to deploy the rig to a new bee hive, and collected temperatures for nearly a year. Since the logger is solar powered and weatherproofed, it was able to withstand the harsh NOVA winter.

Analyzing the huge amount of data that we collected has been challenging, but we finally have what may be the world’s first 3d temperature gradient visualization for an active bee hive. In the following video you can watch as the bees maintain a constant temperature near the queen while the rest of the hive follows a day/night cycle.

To create this visualization, the 3d temperature lattice was expanded into a voxel space using 2nd order spline interpolation, and then rendered using VTK’s volume ray casting technique.

You can read more about this project on Konrad’s blog. In future improvements, we hope to include remote telemetry for real-time hive monitoring.

Nova Labs introduces new Crafters Cove

Introducing the latest development at NOVA Labs, an area located in Orange Bay (the front work room) we are now calling Crafters Cove.

Crafters Cove features an impressive 12-color CNC Embroidery Machine (courtesy of the Chanesman family) as well as the Creative Tools Cabinet and two sewing machines.

The Chanesman’s Embroidery machine is a 70’s era Ultramatic. It has two heads, with 6 needles on each machine head. That means it can support 6 colors on each head. We’re told that it is really great for making your own badges.

FYI – anyone looking to design for the Ultramatic needs to know that it uses tajima dst digitized files. Designing for the machine may take some time, so here is your chance to get a head start while waiting for access to the machine.

Look for more information about learning how to use that CNC Embroidery Machine coming soon. Jeff will be working on calibrating the machine.  Once he’s had a chance to give it a shakedown run he will announce that the machine is up and functional.  If you are interested in helping to maintain the machine or help set up a class please contact Jeff Chanesman.

Nova Labs introduces new Crafters Cove

The Creative Tools Cabinet holds a variety of crafting and art tools. This tool cabinet is an example of re-purposed  / re-claimed furniture that was a project of the Makers Circle & Art Lab (MC & AL) group. The MC & AL group sponsors and maintains the cabinet located in Crafters Cove.

MC & AL Tools are available for all Member and Associate use. A list of available tools and a wishlist is in a binder and will be on the wiki soon. Manuals for the sewing machines are available. However if you are not used to using a sewing machine please ask for assistance from the friday night MC & AL sewing gurus.

NOVA Labs encourages ideas and fosters cross crafting of skill sets across a wide variety of disciplines.


Nova Labs introduces new Crafters Cove

Brainstorming and planning is an essential part of the process. A whiteboard surface has been added to the back to help with sketching out ideas or task lists. The cabinet can also act as a portable divider; providing form, function and fun.

Crafters Cove includes a Fodder & Supply Center. It houses expendable or single use (used and gone) items. Offering a usable variety of supplies for general / class use. Rules of use are posted.

So come check out Crafters Cove next time you swing by NOVA Labs!

Nova Labs Kickstarter rewards pickup

For the supporters local to Nova Labs’ world headquarters here in Reston, we’re going to have a night for you to stop by to both see the great space you’re supporting AND pickup your backer rewards/perks.

More event details here!

It’ll be great – you could bask in that warm feeling of helping grow one of the best makerspaces around and get something tangible to show that support.

We’ll have limited extras of some of the backer gifts if you want to be a late supporter.

See you there!

Kickstarter campaign success!

“It’s hard to overstate our satisfaction.”

THANKS TO YOU and 213 other backers, the Nova Labs campaign was a huge success! We surpassed the goal, raising over $23,000, and will be outfitting the classrooms with new furniture and A/V equipment. These completed classrooms will allow more people to rediscover the joy of making things!

If you backed our campaign:

We’ve updated the Kickstarter campaign with a more detailed version of this post, including some ‘next steps’ for us, and what you can expect. You can find that update here.

We still need your help!

In the coming weeks we’ll be working to fulfill our backer gifts: there are keychains and airplane kits to laser cut, Blinkyduino boards to assemble, and lots of packing and shipping. Keep an eye out on the Nova Labs Meetup group for a fulfillment “party” soon!

Thanks again, and we look forward to seeing you around Nova Labs with our fresh furniture and equipment!


– Nova Labs Marketing team