Category Archives: Outreach

Outreach and advertisting! Friday 5/15 at Reston Station

Start the weekend right at Reston Station!

On Friday, May 15, 2015, from 4-8pm, Nova Labs has been invited to participate in a ‘happy hour’ at Reston Station. The weekly summer-time event is organized by Comstock, the developer of Reston Station (and a past generous supporter of Nova Labs).

There will be live music, food, and beer/wine at the Reston Station plaza so people can grab a bite on the way home, linger for a while, and start the weekend on the right foot.

Nova Labs will be the first non-profit to be showcased at the event, but we need several volunteers!

Our job will be to provide the labor (4-6 volunteers) and for anyone who wants to show a project you’re working on or talk about what Nova Labs is to join in. And of course, to eat food and drink beer or wine if you’re old enough. (There will be other alternatives so this is very kid friendly).

For this first event, instead of food trucks, there will be BBQ sold by Yummy Pig, a new place in Leesburg.

Here’s what we need:

  • Volunteers (prefer over 21 just because of the beer/wine thing)
  • Anyone who wants to come over to set anything up/show off their projects. Some ideas:
    • Talk up the Kickstarter campaign to get the last of our stretch goals?
    • Set up a quadcopter flying area?
    • Set up a membership table?
    • Anyone who wants to eat fantastic BBQ and enjoy the evening.

Set up time is at 3, and we’ll be out of there by 8:30. Even if you can’t volunteer, grab some BBQ on the way to Nova Labs for the Meetups that evening.

If you’re interested and available, please contact Kelley Westenhoff ASAP at kbikeva at

Nova Labs Members 3D Print Prosthetic Hands for Kids in Support of E-NABLE Initiative

Photo: Courtesy of E-nabling the Future

BALTIMORE — Over the course of several weeks, Nova Labs volunteers Jason Kohles, Keith McGerald, Paul Chase, Erica Kane, Jeff Balderson, and Thomas Johnston 3D printed hundreds of small parts that were assembled into 17 prosthetic hands for kids at last weekend’s E-NABLE Conference at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

In all, over 200 prosthetic hands were printed and assembled at the conference!

Nova Labs Members 3D Print Prosthetic Hands for Kids in Support of E-NABLE Initiative

The E-nabling the Future initiative aims to harness the potential of open source designs and distributed, low-cost manufacturing to make the frequent refitting of prosthetic hands during kids’ growth years cost effective for families.

Nova Labs Members 3D Print Prosthetic Hands for Kids in Support of E-NABLE Initiative

Photo: Iron Man Edition. Courtesy of E-nabling the Future

Support our efforts through a tax-deductible donation or get involved by signing up for our prosthetics group mailing list! To subscribe, register for a Nova Labs account, then visit your Nova Labs listserv management page to subscribe to the prosthetics listserv.

Girl Makers Visit Home Depot

RESTON — Last week the Reston Home Depot rolled out the red carpet and orange aprons for a “Girls Build” field trip of the GEMS-Girl Makers, a collaborative partnership between Nova Labs and Girls Excelling in Math and Science.

Home Depot Supervisor Angela Covington-Tyler organized the 2-hour program, which included hands-on demonstrations, an equipment tour, and a DIY wood build project for 10 excited girls.

“Who wants to try the drill?” she asked.

A stampede ensued.

Girl Makers Visit Home Depot

Girl Makers Visit Home Depot

Smiling customers stopped and watched.

“I had a lot of fun at the Home Depot,” said one 8 year old GEMS third grader. “I saw where all the wood was and where things are to make walls. A man showed us how to drill a hole in wood and we all got a turn. Another showed us how to wire a lamp!”

Girl Makers Visit Home Depot

“Learning to use a hammer, drill and saw are life skills,” said Elizabeth Vandenburg, Founder of GEMS-Girl Makers of Nova Labs. “Girls are champing at the bit to get their hands on tools.”

Girl Makers Visit Home Depot

The girls completed wood projects they were able to take home and show their friends.

“Reston Home Depot staff put so much thought and effort into teaching and showing the girls tools and how to use them safely,” said Nova Labs President Brian Jacoby. “And then the girls built things. How cool is that?”

Workshop on Polymers Kicks Off Nova Labs’ STEM4Makers Program

Makers LOVE polymers. Actually, makers have a lot of polymers in them and on them. DNA, protein, snot, clothing fibers, string cheese, DVDs, and 3D plastic filament are all fibrous polymers.

Workshop on Polymers Kicks Off Nova Labs’ STEM4Makers Program

Our STEM4Makers program launched May 31st with a maker workshop on polymers and plastics to spotlight these beefy molecules. The STEM4Makers workshops will focus on connecting the maker mindset of exploration and inspiration to the science classroom.

Workshop on Polymers Kicks Off Nova Labs’ STEM4Makers Program

The workshop first started with biology, moved on to the periodic table, and then tied in technology, application and use.

Workshop on Polymers Kicks Off Nova Labs’ STEM4Makers Program

The team of mini makers made a slushy loose polymer using sodium polyacrylate, which they extracted from baby diapers. This material is used commercially by a company called Mr. Thirsty to suck up water in homes that are flooded. The kids also made a less viscous polymer using polyvinyl acetate (PVA), which is found in school glue.

Workshop on Polymers Kicks Off Nova Labs’ STEM4Makers Program

The class then made milk bioplastic. Pictures were displayed showing how the resulting bioplastic could be used to create useful items, such as belt buckles and plates. Their final activity was to make a molecular model of their own polymer or plastic. This was intended to solidify the classroom science concepts: mer-to-poly-to-cross-linking.

Workshop on Polymers Kicks Off Nova Labs’ STEM4Makers Program

Science requires good note taking!

Who knows, with a little making these kids could grow up to be the  polymer engineer who uses 3D printing to make bionic ears, exoskeletons, or great art!

Organizers hope to lead a follow-on class focusing on how polymers can be used to solve problems encountered in common projects at Nova Labs.

Thank You to Our Mentors!

Nova Labs would like to thanks our mentors, Sudhita, Dominick, and Jennyfer for making the polymer workshop a success. Next, Dominick will mentor a class on Javascript and Mindcraft, a popular online game that requires a lot of player imagination. Workshops in basic electronics, woodworking, and an afterschool maker meetup are also being planned.

Mentors Wanted

As an all-volunteer program, STEM4Makers relies on volunteer mentors like YOU! Helpers are needed during the 2 hour workshops and for planned after school programs. Please subscribe to our kids listserv or email to volunteer.

Nova Labs Represents Makerspaces at The U.S. Science and Engineering Festival

WASHINGTON — This past weekend, Nova Labs joined Unallocated Space and HacDC in helping to represent area makerspaces. Among the exhibits were robots from Nova Labs FIRST Robotics teams, led by Tom Welsh, a 3D printer of the same design used by our current 3D printer build group, as well as drones!

Member Bob Coggeshall was on hand to represent Nova Labs’ incubator program and to spread the word about how Small Batch Assembly is lowering the cost for hardware innovators.

Nova Labs Represents Makerspaces at The U.S. Science and Engineering Festival

Nova Labs’ booth was graciously provided by Gary Mauler, organizer of RobotFestan annual event for anyone interested in the creative use of technology.

Nova Labs Represents Makerspaces at The U.S. Science and Engineering Festival

Capital One Labs Sponsors Nova Labs’ Arduino Class

VIENNA, VA — Nova Labs’ popular Arduino 101 class traveled to Capital One Labs’ office at 8020 Towers Crescent Dr in Vienna, VA last night. In addition to hosting the class, Capital One Labs provided free Arduinos for attendees!

Capital One Labs Sponsors Nova Labs’ Arduino Class

Capital One Labs Sponsors Nova Labs’ Arduino Class

The goal of the class, which is led by Nova Labs Director Jim Sweeney, is to provide students with the Arduino, a prototyping kit, and the instruction needed to make a dozen or more starter projects using Arduino after the class. Sweeney’s irreverent and self-deprecating humor kept students laughing while they worked to get their LEDs blinking!

Capital One Labs Sponsors Nova Labs’ Arduino Class

Some of the questions the class answers include:

1.  What is Arduino?  How did it get started?  Who invented it?  Why?

2.  What are some of the interesting things that people are already doing with Arduino?

3.  Which Arduino is right for me? How can I tell?  Where can I get one?

4.  How do I get started with sample projects?

5. Is there a good tutorial that I can follow?

6.  What’s the first project I can do?

At the first class, each student wires up blinking lights on a prototyping board and runs the software on an Arduino to make the lights blink! To sign up for the next Arduino class join Nova Labs’ Meetup Group.

Gaithersburg Hobby Store Reinvents Itself as a Makerspace

GAITHERSBURG — Serge and Viat are father and son team running a small hobby store called Hobby Place in Gaithersburg, MD. Half of the store is a workshop full of vehicle and aircraft models in different stages of completion, a terrain race course mounted on a trailer, and small machine tools on workbenches. Clearly it’s not just a business for them.

I know them from my kids’ Saturday Russian school where they teach engineering and competition math classes. Naturally, I mentioned Nova Labs during one of our conversations, and made a few laser-cut parts (all hail Mongo!) for model cars they were building with the kids. Later, I gave them a tour of Nova Labs and explained what we are and how we operate.

There was an immediate understanding and interest:
“- Wow, a laser cutter!”
“- Hmm, we could have used that CNC router…”
“- Do you plan another class for vacuum forming?”
“- Maybe we should join as members…”

However, it quickly became clear that between day jobs, running the hobby store and teaching, combined with lengthy commute between their place and Nova Labs, membership wouldn’t be very practical for them. Makerspaces are pretty local entities, as we learned.

“- Is there something like Nova Labs near us?”

Unfortunately, no. Not yet, anyway.

“- Then let’s make one!”

The two decided to explore creating a makerspace in Gaithersburg. They have the shop space as the base, skills to share and interest in making. Now they face a classic bootstrap problem: to grow community and membership, you need events and activities, but to organize these, you better know what your members are interested in.

Many questions were asked about what worked for Nova Labs and why. Nova Labs is very open and enthusiastic about sharing what we learned, and one of these things is that kids’ events are always popular, have universal appeal, and make waves. Take-Apart Day probably takes the crown in that area. So they decided to try and run a similar event or two locally to gauge the response. If you are in Gaithersburg area and interested in helping to establish a local makerspace, give these folks some of your attention. The first Take-Apart event is planned on April 19th.

Obviously, they have their own Meetup.

GE Garages Partners with Nova Labs for RaspberryPi and Prototyping Expertise

WASHINGTON — GE Garages, the national program by General Electric that features a traveling Fab Lab, is partnering with Nova Labs to support programming at its Washington, DC exhibit. GE Garages seeks to “reinvigorate America’s interest in invention, innovation, and manufacturing.”

GE Garages in DC will wrap up Wednesday April 9th with a panel discussion from 6-8PM on Smart Device Prototyping featuring Nova Labs Co-Founder Ted Markson. Tickets are free.

GE Garages Partners with Nova Labs for RaspberryPi and Prototyping Expertise

On Friday April 4th, independent data visualization designer Cesar Picco represented Nova Labs with a class on Raspberry Pi that he designed entitled Building a Streaming Audio Player With a Raspberry Pi. We will publish the full how-to in a follow up post!


Thousands Attend Northern Virginia’s First Maker Faire

RESTON, VA — Showing a child what’s possible could be all it takes to awaken a passion for creation and lifelong learning. That possibility was very much in the minds of the more than 300 volunteers on hand to welcome the nearly four thousand attendees for Northern Virginia’s first ever Maker Faire.

Held Sunday March 16th at South Lakes High and Langston Hughes Middle Schools, the Faire featured drones, rockets, spy gadgets, 3D printers, 3D scanners, robots, costuming, jewelry, crafts, antique bicycles, unique projects, and one of the largest selections of hands-on making activities of any Maker Faire to date.

All this week we’ll be taking a closer look at the many exhibits and activities featured at the Faire but here’s a preview. First, a special thanks to the sponsors who helped make NoVa Maker Faire possible: Innovation Fund of The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, WyoLumIdeaventions, Girls Excelling in Math and Science (GEMS) Club,  Holland and Knight,   Amazing Race TimingActivity RocketFairfax County Public SchoolsSmall Batch AssemblyThe International Spy Museum, FairFax Connector, and Future Makers.

Thousands Attend Northern Virginia’s First Maker Faire

Children of all ages had the chance to solder their first electronics project.

Thousands Attend Northern Virginia’s First Maker Faire


Thousands Attend Northern Virginia’s First Maker Faire

This was the first opportunity for many to see a 3D Printer in action!

Thousands Attend Northern Virginia’s First Maker Faire

The robots took to the skies in a special caged in area for drone flying.

Thousands Attend Northern Virginia’s First Maker Faire

Thousands Attend Northern Virginia’s First Maker Faire

Crafts and arts play a major role in creativity and it had a major presence at the Faire.

Thousands Attend Northern Virginia’s First Maker Faire

Thousands Attend Northern Virginia’s First Maker Faire

RESton Founder Robert E. Simon enjoys Nova Labs’ tweetable light sign with member Eric Mitchell.

Thousands Attend Northern Virginia’s First Maker Faire

“Squishy Circuits” uses conductive play dough to make it easier for children of all ages to make electronic circuits.

Thousands Attend Northern Virginia’s First Maker Faire

Girls Excelling in Math and Science (GEMS) Club host Take Apart Zone.

Thousands Attend Northern Virginia’s First Maker Faire

Craig Trader’s Chaos Machine!

Thousands Attend Northern Virginia’s First Maker Faire

Future careers in STEM are ready for liftoff !

Hands-on Creation, Invention, and Fun at
 Northern Virginia’s Inaugural Mini Maker Faire, Sunday, March 16th 11am-4pm


RESTON, VA — Robots, rockets, radio broadcasts, and repurposed trash: So much to do and see at Nova Labs’ inaugural NoVa Mini Maker Faire on Sunday, March 16th from 11am to 4pm, at South Lakes High and Hughes Middle School campuses.

Inventors, hackers, crafters, artists, and DIY’ers from across the region will demonstrate and collaborate with Faire-goers to make things, new inventions, tools, and gadgets, which can often be completed with reusable materials or household items.

The Mini Maker Faire celebrates working with raw materials, engaging kids’ minds, and helping them to become critical thinkers. All kids — and adults — need more encouragement to follow their curiosity and be innovative problem solvers.

                     — Brian Jacoby, President of Nova Labs


Early bird discounts are available until February 28, 2014. Students are free; adults $10.

At the door, tickets will cost $8 for children and $20 for adults.

What to Expect

Along with hands-on projects for adults and kids of all ages, Faire-goers will enjoy food, performances, and a series of short talks. More than 85 booths will feature “Makers” aged 12 to 92. A few of the unusual mix of projects and activities include:

  • Aluminum Aerogami (a combination of origami and model airplane building from aluminum cans)
  • 3D scanning and printing of YOU!
  • Musical instrument maker
  • Snoopy Robot
  • Solar- Powered Car
  • Light-up sewing
  • Hand-spinning yarn
  • Kinetic, wearable, and electronic art
  • Science experiments you can do at home by Gravity is Optional
  • Spy gadgets by the SpyMuseum
  • Open-source hardware projects

For a list of all scheduled Makers, visit


The NoVa Mini Maker Faire is presented by Nova Labs,  a non-profit makerspace in Reston, Virginia. Sponsors include, Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, WyoLum, Ideaventions, the Girls Excelling in Math and Science (GEMS) Clubs, Holland & Knight, the International Spy Museum, Activity Rocket, and Small Batch Assembly.