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Upcoming Workshop: Microcontrollers and the Internet of Things

We're very excited to announce the first edition of a brand new SparkCC workshop: Introduction to Microcontrollers and the Internet of Things.

This course provides an introduction to microcontroller hardware and software. Participants will have the opportunity to:

  • See, touch, feel and understand the Arduino and ESP8266 microcontrollers
  • Set up the Arduino Integrated Development Environment and an additional editor as a tool chain
  • Use analogue input to control LEDs
  • Use buttons as inputs to trigger activities (turn on/off LEDs)
  • Understand and use Arduino C libraries
  • Turn on and off LEDs wirelessly using the ESP8266 as a server
  • Use various web services as an interface to the Internet of Things

A kit containing all required materials will be supplied including an ESP8266 (Arduino compatible) microcomputer with integrated WiFi facilities, breadboards, USB cable, power supply and a collection of electronic components for various projects. After the workshop this kit is yours to take home!

Tickets are very limited and available here.

Bunnings Fundraising BBQ August 2016

Last weekend we once again swapped power tools for BBQ tools to put on a sausage sizzle for all of the Central Coast makers shopping at Bunnings West Gosford.

The recommended 60 loaves of bread, 20Kg of onions and 60Kg of sausages seemed like a lot. Little did me know it wouldn't be enough!

We started early with Sparker Matt firing up the grill at 7:30 in time for breakfast:

When the first hungry makers turned up - we were ready!

As the day went on we ramped up production with more Sparkers turning up to help out...

...and by the time things got into full swing we had a solid sausage-sanga production line underway!

We also brought along one of our Flashforge 3D printers which was printing all day and generated a lot of interest. Lots of people stopped by for lunch but stayed to learn more about their local makerspace!

As an added bonus we even raffled off two software packages kindly donated by Microsoft:

...our friendly Bunnings manager drew the winning tickets...

...and we're pleased to congratulate our lucky winners Richard and Jan!

At the end of the day we raised a staggering $1331 which will go towards some exciting new equipment which you'll hear more about shortly.

We'd like to thank Tyne and all the staff at Bunnings West Gosford for having us as well as all of the hungry Central Coast makers who came along, bought a sausage sandwich and supported their local makerspace!

Introduction to 3D Printing Workshop

Over the weekend SparkCC was very pleased to present our new Introduction to 3D Printing workshop for the first time!

We welcomed a diverse group which included (amongst others) a librarian tasked with starting a mini makerspace, a local high school student and a maker with a fine arts background who dabbles in playwriting! They all came together with a common purpose: to learn about 3D printing!

We spent some time discussing Additive Manufacturing and the advantages that it presents over traditional manufacturing techniques. Then we learned how a 3D printer works and got to grips with the mechanics of our shiny new Lulzbot TAZ5 (thanks again Aleph Objects!).

After seeing a print in action participants learned how to find models on Thingiverse and then slice them using Cura. Though the myriad slicing options and parameters are daunting at first, it's a great deal easier to learn when you have the help of makers who've spent countless hours playing with them!

But there's only one thing better than printing somebody else's models and that's printing your own! So to round things off students were given an introduction to 3D modelling using Autodesk Fusion 360.

The workshop was a lot of fun and best of all participants went home with all of the relevant software installed on their very own laptops. No need for the end of the workshop to mean the end of their journey into the magical world of 3D printing!

A big thankyou to all of the participants who came along and helped to make this first workshop such a success.

If you're interested in joining a future Introduction to 3D Printing workshop at SparkCC you should follow us on Facebook/Twitter or send us an email.

Unboxing the Lulzbot TAZ 5

Last week a surprise email landed in the SparkCC inbox. It was from the good people at Aleph Objects, makers of the award-winning LulzBot line of 3D printers. Aleph Objects recently opened a shiny new fulfillment centre in Sydney and were kindly offering to donate a LulzBot TAZ 5 to the 'space to see what wonderful creations the Sparkers might produce with it.

We deliberated long and hard... before replying with a hearty "HELL YES!".

Sure enough a few days later a promisingly-large box arrived on our doorstep:

SparkCC VP Hannes showed enormous restraint in not opening the box and assembling it right there on the spot. Instead we waited until our regular Tuesday evening meetup when the other Sparkers could bask in the glow of the unboxing and assembly.

Upon opening the box we were greeted with a helpful set of instructions. These would walk us through the entire process of unpacking and assembling the TAZ 5, installing CURA and running our very first print.

Gosh this was exciting...

The helpful instruction booklet was just one example of the attention to detail that made the TAZ 5 stand out from the crowd of other printers we've set up in the past.

Also included was a checklist run by Ryan at Lulzbot HQ indicating that the printer had been thoroughly checked, tested and calibrated before shipping (thanks Ryan!). We were also pleasantly surprised by a Lulzbot toolkit containing everything a 3D print engineer could ever need as well as an SD card full of gcode and of course the LulzBot Octopus test print Ryan had run to confirm our TAZ 5 was ready to roll:

One of the most impressive things about the TAZ 5 is the number of 3D printed parts that make up the printer. Aleph Objects are a company with a strong commitment to Open Source Hardware and Software and we were impressed that even fundamental parts such as the extruder were 3D printed to great effect:

Without further ado it was time to clear out the remnants of Ryan's test print and load up the length of yellow test filament that was included in the box:

After levelling the print bed, plugging in the included SD card and locating the LulzBot Octopus file we were ready to go. After an impromptu drum roll and a quick countdown we pulled the trigger and... BAM!

The TAZ 5 printed both quickly and beautifully. The quality of this printer's engineering was clearly evident as we watched it lay down the first few layers of our Octopus. The print head just danced...

Special mention has to go to the TAZ 5 print bed. Not only is it huge with a print volume of 298mm x 275mm x 250mm but it also boasts a PEI print surface that our print stuck to perfectly without painter's tape or a messy layer of glue stick.

The TAZ 5 doesn't just print cleanly, it also prints fast. We didn't have to wait long before our new yellow octopus took shape and was able to join his pale friend. Remember that this was our very first print with absolutely no calibration whatsoever. A refreshing change from our usual experience with new printers...

The TAZ 5 is a hugey welcone addition to the SparkCC print farm that will enable our makers to run bigger, faster and more ambitious prints than ever before.

A huge thanks to Chelsea and all at Aleph Objects for such a generous donation to our makerspace. We look forward to creating and sharing all of the awesome projects the Sparkers produce with this amazing printer!

EL Wire Workshop - April 2016

After the success of our first EL Wire Wearables Workshop we'd been looking for a good opportunity to hold another edition.

The perfect chance came along In April when we held the first of our monthly SparkCC Saturdays.

Once again a group of eager makers joined us at SparkCC with various items ready to be decorated with EL Wire.

Ty took the attendees through the basics of how EL Wire works and provided some design direction to get the ball rolling.

One attendee was kept busy illuminating an umbrella - a very ambitious project indeed!

Others got to work decorating clothing and bike helmets and by the end of the workshop everyone had a wonderful illuminated creation to take home.

This is going to look great on a dull, rainy day. Very Bladerunner-esque!

Thanks again to all of the attendees who came along and to Ty for putting together this fantastic workshop.

If you'd like to come along to the next edition of this or any of our other workshops follow us on Facebook to hear about what's coming up or drop us an email!

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