Category Archives: Groups

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 Demonstrates Aircraft Construction Techniques With a “Real Aircraft” Project

A member of the project team grinds surface rust off the fuselage ahead of priming.

Nova Labs has launched a group dedicated to building a single engine, 2-seat aircraft, using the same techniques taught in our Metal Shaping and Fastening classes.

Nova Labs Demonstrates Aircraft Construction Techniques With a “Real Aircraft” Project

The aircraft being built (entirely from plans) is a Smyth Sidewinder, a prize winning side-by-side 2-seater from the 1960s.  This aircraft is constructed of a welded steel tube fuselage skinned with aluminum and formed aluminum spars and ribs for flight surfaces. It is hoped that the aircraft will be completed, test flown, and finally made part of a group of aircraft flown by the very group that built it.

Nova Labs Demonstrates Aircraft Construction Techniques With a “Real Aircraft” Project

Sidewinder fuselage undergoing cleanup

The project is being led by Nova Labs member Samer Najia who also offers classes in aircraft construction methods using metal sheet, flat and angled stock.  His classes cover multiple levels of complexity:

Metal 101: A basic introduction to structures made from metal, including how to size, space and drill holes; and fundamental cutting, bending and forming techniques (including the use of wood dies), clamping and securing, blind/Avex riveting and rivet removal techniques.  This first level class builds a simple rectangular frame to illustrate that a small light structure can be built to hold a very large load with minimal effort.

Metal 102: This session extends what is learned in 101 and scales the metal frame up to illustrate the problems and their solutions with bigger components.  We typically choose a structure whose central form is a large rectangle and build something useful out of it.  In the past, students have built a table and a go kart.

Metal 103: In this class we introduce bucked/hammered/solid rivets and the use of air tools in the fastening process.  This class discusses and works on structures that must be kept flat but are not allowed to bend.  The class project includes is to creating a wing rib and introducing beads, tabs and stiffeners that turn a piece of sheet metal into a load bearing structure with minimal fabrication.  As part of the exercise, we rivet the ribs to a spar to make a small winglet or airfoil using air riveting tools and techniques.

Metals 104: This class introduces the use of hammering techniques to turn flat sheet metal into curved surfaces (concave or convex).  These specific sessions will begin to be offered once certain tools are appropriated for our metal shop (like an English Wheel and several mallets and shot bags).

Completion of these classes is excellent preparation for those who wish to participate in the Nova Labs Flying group. To sign up for these or any other Nova Labs classes, join our Meetup and keep an eye out for the next Metal Shaping and Fastening classes!

“Maker Circle and Art Lab” at Nova Labs Features Traditional Maker Arts

While many projects involve high tech, computer-based technology and know-how, Nova Labs also welcomes a number of makers who experiment with more traditional “maker arts.”

Everyone starts somewhere on the path to becoming a Maker with each journey varying by natural interests and skills acquired. At the very core are the following values:

  • Try something new
  • Be curious
  • Ask questions and seek help from others
  • Do research
  • Share what you learned

“Maker Circle and Art Lab” at Nova Labs Features Traditional Maker Arts

Since making is just plain fun, makers are enthusiastic and engaged in making things — especially when they are not experts! To that end, we launched the Maker Circle & Art Lab in January of this year. The group meets twice a month.

“Maker Circle and Art Lab” at Nova Labs Features Traditional Maker Arts

When we started Maker Circle it went along with the belief that multiple interests form the basis of friendships. Through those relationships and the discovery of common interests, people are enabled to more effectively explore their passion for making.

“Maker Circle and Art Lab” at Nova Labs Features Traditional Maker Arts

At recent Maker Circle & Art Lab events, participants worked in various media and techniques including:

  • quilting
  • woodburning
  • painting
  • jewelry
  • sewing
  • polymer clay
  • carving
  • crochet
  • knitting
  • cross-stitch
  • sketching
  • egg decorating
  • book binding
  • stained glass
  • tree ornaments

Brian brought his 100 year old hand crank sock knitter in an attempt to get it up and running. Others brought pieces of their technical project that are in the “crafted by hand” stage.

“Maker Circle and Art Lab” at Nova Labs Features Traditional Maker Arts

The skills and generosity of our community are truly amazing. The events are casual and the size of the group varies, but as many as 15 people have attended.

As a Maker, all skills have a value and we all seem to benefit from cross training in other areas. You just never know what will spark “The Coming Thing” as Brisco would say.

“Maker Circle and Art Lab” at Nova Labs Features Traditional Maker Arts

So come out to an event, take a class, maybe teach a skill, see what else might strike a spark.  If you want to join us at the next Maker Circle and Art Lab event rsvp here. To rsvp for any Nova Labs event, check out the NOVA Makers Meetup page.

“Maker Circle and Art Lab” at Nova Labs Features Traditional Maker Arts

We look forward to seeing you!

Girls Excelling in Math & Science (GEMS) Club host “Learn about Electronics” at Nova Labs

On Saturday June 30, 2014 the Girls Excelling in Math and Science (GEMS) Club hosted a “Learn About Electronics” workshop for six mom-daughter teams. They learned a lot—and had a blast!

Girls Excelling in Math & Science (GEMS) Club host “Learn about Electronics” at Nova Labs

Nova Lab members Jennyfer and Bryce Peterson used Snap Circuit kitsfunded with a grant from GEMSto teach the girls basic electronics after which they created wearable bracelets using a simple circuit, an LED, wire, and battery.

Girls Excelling in Math & Science (GEMS) Club host “Learn about Electronics” at Nova Labs

“The bracelet was not your usual cookie-cutter classroom project. To encourage thinking skills and curiosity, students need choices and an opportunity to learn from failure,” said Peterson. “Creating a bracelet gave the girls many engineering design choices; different materials, methods of closing/opening the circuits, battery sizes, conductive materials, and decorations.”

Later this month the Petersons take their show on the road to Haiti where they will teach students at the Village of Hope School. Nova Labs and GEMS are proud to support not only a girls-focused event, but to also support Peterson’s international mission.

Craft Night quilt at MakerFaire2013

Dublin Mini Maker Faire logo Dublin Mini Maker Faire 2013 has come and gone. We’ve been recapping a few of the projects displayed at the event, like the Bubble Bird House, and the Twitter Knitter. The Craft Nighters* got in on the action as well, and contributed squares towards a patchwork quilt. The type of squares is varied, including crochet, hand knit, machine knit, embroidery, blackwork, patchwork (meta), and decorative uses of beads, buttons, and googly eyes. Rather than losing some of the detail by making them conform to a strict patchwork quilt, we instead chose a looser arrangement to better showcase the talent and variety of our dedicated crafters.

Crafters quilt at Maker Faire, with Twitter Knitter
* Craft Night happens every second Tuesday from 7pm. It’s free, and open to all crafts. Simply, people show up and work on their projects. It’s great having others around who can help you out if you get stuck/confused, or just to chat with (and find out the best crafting suppliers). Get in touch and come along!

CNC, part one

Before going further, some background is probably necessary. CNC (Computer Numerical Control) is the use of a toolhead (sometimes rotating, sometimes not) under computer control. Although the X-Y-Z control of the toolhead is similar to that of 3d-printing, the 3d-printer extruder is substituted with a tool bit to remove material. This is usually referred to as subtractive technologies, as opposed to addititve for 3d-printing.

As a group, we’ve had a long fascination with CNC projects. There was a group build of the small, inexpensive Mantis CNC  early on, but most had problems doing the match drilling.  This was a step required to make the sliding components absolutely parallel.


Later, one of our members loaned us a Blacktoe CNC which is a 2′ X 4′ bed machine located in the front shop. We’ll be scheduling safety/usage classes as soon as we get more people familiar with it.


Moving ahead, we’ve been working with Jeff of the open-source LoboCNC project. He has plans and parts to put together a relatively-rigid small CNC machine.  Even a decent set of videos for extra help assembling it.


We got the box of parts the other day, and Leon took a few hours to assemble it. Most of the mechanical assembly is done, we just need to find or buy an appropriate router and a power supply. This is just an update about where we’re going with CNC technologies; expect a regular group to continue meeting to learn about it.

Checking off everything in the box against the packing list (and docs on the web) Tapping holes for mounting. Checking to make sure the support angle for Z mount is square. 8540595974_4f22959cec_b 8540595146_7dd8a6191f_c Sheet metal mounts as shipped.

3D printing road show visits Chantilly Library

It was great to see the high level of interest when for the last public demonstration we did at the Reston Regional Library. After it was over, the Chantilly Regional Library contacted us to see if we could do a similar program there. You would think that it would be a hard act to follow.  Well, it was, but Nova Labs members love a challenge!

Rik Karlsson sent us a video of the Chantilly event.  It is a great video, both capturing the interest shown by the public and also as a general overview of how these 3d-printers work to make objects. This is live and unscripted, and the video is used here by permission.

Featured at this event were Keith’s Prusa Air (build group #3), Eric’s Prusa (build group #3), Paul’s massive Rostock with 1-meter tall legs and his red Prusa, BrianB’s blue Mendel Max, Michael’s Nova Labs orange Mendel Max, Craig’s Thing-o-Matic, Steve’s Printrbot, BrianJ’s Ordbot and pile of example printed parts, Azi’s Mendel Max and the printer he is designing from scratch, and Newton’s projects, including the Antikythera mechanism (we’ll have an upcoming article about that) and 3d-printed robot. Whew! For more pictures of the event, see our Flickr feed.

Left, Eric's EL-wired Prusa and his rainbow collection of PLA plastic filament. Right, Keith's Prusa Air with red filament in a coil. It's almost invisible since the frame is made of clear acrylic cut on Nova Labs' laser cutter.

Left, Eric’s EL-wired Prusa and his rainbow collection of PLA plastic filament. Right, Keith’s Prusa Air with red filament in a coil. It’s almost invisible since the frame is made of clear acrylic cut on Nova Labs’ laser cutter.

If you’re interested in learning more about 3D printers, come spend some time with us. Visit during our regular meetings at Nova Labs, the schedule can be seen on our calendar. Also, if you can’t wait then register for this site and then sign-up to be on our 3D-printer email list. There’s great activity and interaction with other members.

Big thanks to Margaret Kositch, the Assistant Branch Manager at the Chantilly Library for reaching out to us about having an event at the library there, and paving a smooth way for all of the myriad of details involved.  Afterwards, she said, “We saw lots of people we have never seen before and that’s incredibly exciting.”.  She publicized the event and had people sign up in advance at the library.  She must have a black belt in organizing.

If you are interested in engaging the Fairfax County Library System about increasing the support for interactive Maker-type programs, and are a patron of the Chantilly branch in particular, Margaret or the Branch Manager, Daria Parnes would be interested in hearing your thoughts.  If you are a patron of the Reston Regional Library, Andrew Pendergrass would love to hear from you.

NOVARRG (3D-printing group) update

The rock-solid MendelMax 1.5 printer.

The rock-solid MendelMax 1.5 printer.

NOVARRG (Northern Virginia Reprap Group), the 3d-printing group hosted at Nova Labs, has been doing a lot of work recently.   Nova Labs is so much more than 3D-printers, but this is a special update because of the general interest outside the group.

NOVARRG would normally meet the first Saturday of the month at Nova Labs’ Reston location.  In March, though, we’ll gather at the Chantilly Regional Library (Meetup details here). This will be a public demonstration of 3D-printing technologies – basically showing off the various printers constructed and operated by members of the NOVARRG group.  This follows our earlier, extremely successful demonstration at the Reston Regional Library.  These printers range from commercially-available pre-assembled ones, to do-it-yourself kits, to custom ones built at Nova Labs with the digital fabrication equipment like our laser-cutter and other 3D-printers.  We think this will be the largest concentration of 3D-printers outside of a full-blown Maker Faire!

Second, we’re now up to 3D-printer build group four!  We have guided three previous build groups, where materials are purchased in bulk and 3D-printers constructed mostly from scratch.  Doing it as a group incorporates the economies of scale needed for price improvements through quantity purchases, and also provides a support system for people to ask questions about the process as they put one together. Build group four will construct a MendelMax 1.5 printer for a cost of $750.

These are currently sold as various kits from $1200-1700, so we are doing our part to make it affordable.  If you’re interested, we just need that money in advance so we can order the appropriate number of kits.  Contact brian to start the process.

Where Makers Gather

Liftoff for the Quadcopter drone flown indoors after our build planning session.

Liftoff for the Quadcopter drone flown indoors after our group build planning session.

Nova Labs is where members collaborate, learn and make things using the resources of our makerspace. However, we’re also available to other groups who share our vision of gaining an education while on a technology romp and making things. We want to serve the greater community in pursuit of our mission and recently new groups have huddled in the Labs around two fantastic themes: drones and robots.

The DC Area Drone User Group is all about flying robots which go under the various names of drones, quad copters, UAVs, etc. This group brings together enthusiasts who share their expertise, fly their crafts, and socialize around their hobby. It’s a relatively new group but it’s fairly active. Just last weekend we held an indoor fly at the University of Maryland where 11 UAVs of various types were flown in a large gymnasium.

Christopher prepares for telemetry from the drone which will receive real-time data while in-flight. Available data includes elevation, speed, pitch angle and much more.

Christopher prepares for telemetry from the drone which will send real-time data while in-flight. Available data includes elevation, speed, pitch angle and much more.

Last night we began a guided kit build because EVERYBODY wants to have their own drone! Much as in Nova Labs’ 3D printer build groups, a bill-of-materials will be defined so users can sign-up to be a part of a group buy. Those involved in the bulk purchase can benefit from volume discounts and reduced shipping costs. After the cut-off date, the order will be placed and when the materials arrive they get kitted in preparation for the build event. Christopher, the leader of the guided kit build, expects that based on his experience we’ll be able to construct our kits in one day in January. We can hardly wait!

A few days earlier, the DC/MD/VA Robotics Group met at Nova Labs for our December meeting. The theme here was more show-and-tell with a typical un-conference format  where everyone shares the responsibility of filling the agenda. It worked really well.

Bob demonstrates the articulation options of a robotic arm he brought, one of five robots discussed at our last meeting.

Bob demonstrates the articulation options of a robotic arm he brought, one of five robots discussed at our last meeting.

The meeting got started slowly but as people warmed to the format, it sped-up nicely. We discussed recent news, competitions, and watched videos of interesting robots. Then Bob arrived and the parade of robots got started with his robotic arm demo. This was followed by his son’s 3Pi robot, the robot platform recently won by Plant Sitter, Neil’s quad copter and eventually Keith’s blue-eyeball robot. Colorful variety and just scraping the surface. If you want to learn robotics then joining this meetup group is a good option.

A robot sure can benefit from having a personality and Keith's absolutely does!

A robot sure can benefit from having a personality and Keith’s absolutely does!

Tweaking your Printer

A stunningly crystalline Prusa Air frame.

It happens with every 3D printer build group … people can’t leave good enough alone.
And well they shouldn’t! Open hardware is all about tweaking, improving, ratcheting up.

In the first group some moved to linear bearings, to different extruders and a variety of heated beds. The second group improved on the electronics and Jim even went so far as to make many of his “plastics” out of metal! The third build group has a splinter group making a big change by moving to an acrylic frame and I’m sure more changes will come.

While it makes the build process a bit harder to manage, at it’s core it’s about innovating.

You have to wonder what cool things are coming next … 

Many parts traditionally made of plastic are seen here in metal (by Jim).

The Prusa Air frame is cut here from 1/4″ acrylic plexiglass; here it’s still covered with protective paper while being lasered. The etching shows clearly in the picture on the top of this post.