New Ace Monster Toys Board Elected!

On Thursday, June 16, 2011, AMT held its second board of directors election. The first one was done at this time in June, 2010, before AMT had a space, incorporated, or many members. It was just a hope and a dream.
Since then, we rented a 1,600 sq ft space in north Oakland, incorporated as a California nonprofit, gained a bunch of members, and have run many classes and workshops, as well as building out our space.
The new board, as elected by the general membership, is as follows:

  1. Al Billings (member of previous board)
  2. David Rorex
  3. Stefan Hristu
  4. Christian Fernandez (member of previous board)
  5. Cliff Biffle

As you can see, two of the board members were on last year's board and three are members who have joined since that time, which is a pretty good mix of old and new.
All Hail the Board. Bow before them!
 - Al

AMT has Kinect finally

Ace Monster Toys THREE DEE

AMT has finally caught up with all the other kids at the cool hackerspaces and bought a Kinect for hacking upon. The above image was taken by Cliff using his cool "Kinect Viewer" software that he wrote. He has a true 3D version as well for people with funny glasses.

Aaron's RC Plane Talk on June 9, 2011

Aaron shows one of the planes he built

Aaron did a talk on the basics of remote control planes at AMT after the weekly meeting yesterday, June 9. A number of us have been talking about building an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone using some of the materials from DIY Drones for the electronics portion (they use arduino based autopilots). The main barrier is not doing the electronics but actually knowing how to fly an RC plane well. Electronics we are good at! Building a plane with a couple of hundred dollars of electronics plus cameras and parts is no good if you crash it the first time you fly.

Aaron has a lot of experience as a hobbyist doing RC planes and offered to do a talk explaining a bunch of the basics to people. He went over the basic ideas in RC planes, showed how he had built his own planes out of foam, as well as showing one of the ready to fly planes that he had bought and modified.

Following the talk, we got to play with Aaron's RC plane flight simulator and find out just how horrible we all really are at flying anything in real time. After crashing repeatedly, I was convinced that a lot of practice in the simulator will be necessary before much flight.

Aaron coaches Costa on RC flight simulator

- Al

DIY Algaculture Workshop on June 12 at AMT

Grow your own superfoods and biofuels at home...

Sunday, June 12th, 11-5 pm
Ace Monster Toys (maker's co-op), 6050 Lowell St, Oakland CA 94608
Sign up now, space is limited! See below for details.

Grow plentiful food and fuel in a small space.

Algae can make impressive amounts of food or fuel but do not require land, soil, or fresh water. They can be harvested every day, producing many times more output than land crops, and some of them (e.g. Spirulina) have amazing health benefits as food.

You can grow algae too — in your own home — and I would love to show you how.

Come to the Hands-On Home-Grow Algae workshop series. Go home with your own Personal Photo-BioReactor and everything you need to grow your own Spirulina superfood algae in your own home!

One personal algae photo-bioreactor in one sunny window can provide enough spirulina to significantly supplement the diet of one person every day. Larger installations can provide biofuel and organic fertilizer, and perform important services, such as cleaning up water, and eliminating greenhouse gases from exhaust.

In addition to an introduction to an overview of algae farming, and a discussion of the practicalities of setting up your own farm, we will have an extended hands-on section of the workshop where I will show you how to set up and run your personal photo-bioreactor kit — it’s easy!

Special offer: along with the workshop, all participants will be able to take home a one liter bottle of live spirulina culture to start your own tank or pond — this alone is worth far more than the course fee…

Course Fees:

$299 for workshop plus PPBR kit (shown in upper right image), including tank, heater, air pump, air diffuser, air tubing, valves, starter and make-up nutrient powder mix, pH testing, harvesting tube, harvesting cloth, clips, plug timer, and 1 liter live spirulina.  This is a $50 savings from the online kit price!

$99 for workshop only

Send payment via PayPal (, or by mailing a check to:
420 Fairmount Ave
Oakland, CA 94611

DIY Home-Grow Algae for Biofuels and Superfoods

Ace Monster Toys Post-Maker Faire Report

Ace Monster Toys had its first booth at a Maker Faire last weekend. Technically, we were at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire this last Fall but that was a purely local event.

For those not familiar with it, Maker Faire is an annual event in the Bay Area sponsored by O'Reilly Media and associated with Make Magazine. More than 10,000 people come to see various projects, vendors, and exhibitions of maker and hacking culture. Think of it as a souped of science fair for people who make things and the community around it combined with a little bit of a trade show for vendors associated with it.

Personally, I could do with a few less professional vendors and more projects but it works out pretty well.

Willow from Jigsaw Renaissance in Seattle organized a room for hackerspaces this year. In previous years, hackerspaces who had booths were spread over the main expo building so this got everyone together in one area together. This turned out to work fairly well and we got to interact with other spaces, both local and from much further afield. I met the founder of the Tokyo Hackerspace, as well as Arizona's Heatsync Labs and Crash Space of Los Angeles.

AMT was demonstrating the prototype of our DIY Book Scanner. We had just made beta kits of the laser cut portions of it, along with commodity parts from Home Depot or the like. We got asked an awful lot, "How does it turn pages?", and had to demonstrate that you turned the pages yourself after pivoting the glass top, which was quicker (and tens of thousands of dollars cheaper) than building a page turning scanner. We even sold a few kits.

We probably handed out one or two thousand flyers, met some local teachers and other educational folks, and got the word out that there is a hackerspace in the East Bay.

At this last Thursday's post-Maker Faire weekly meeting, we had three new people show up and at least two of them admitted to seeing us at the Maker Faire, so I think that it has worked out well.

Getting the word out about us into the local East Bay community, especially amongst all of the makers in the Burning Man crowd, is one of our next big projects.

- Al

Nortd Labs visits AMT to discuss Lasersaur

Nortd Labs is in the Bay Area for the Maker Faire this weekend. They are the creators of the Lasersaur, which is an open source laser cutter. They've been working on this design for the last year and have kits out to their initial builders now. They'll be incorporating feedback as they publish all of their designs. They came by Ace Monster Toys to talk about the project last night.

One of the dirty secrets of the hackerspace/maker movement is our laser cutters. They are all pretty much from China because the nice, American made, laser cutters like Epilog's, all cost at least five times as much as the cheapest, so-so, Chinese cutters. Since most hackerspaces are pretty poor, everyone winds up buying the Chinese ones. The problem with these is that, well, they're pretty much crap. I mean, if you get really lucky, it will all be working with no boards hanging loose, wires dangling, etc. when you get it off of the container ship. Even then, people wind up using crap programs to control the laser cutter that require you to run under Windows with really cheesy software or drivers without a full range of control. Nice things cost money and this is what you get for cheap.

Enter the Lasersaur. It is built with an extruded aluminum t-slot frame, arduino based electronics, and the specs are completely open. You can see the current build of materials of what you'll need for it. Nortd is still working on a lot of the control software but people will be able to easily write customer software and add custom hardware to the design.

For hackerspaces that are happy to hack on things, this has a lot of potential. If the design had been further along, we would have probably gone this way at Ace Monster Toys. (As it is, our 80 watt 800 lb. Chinese laser cutter will be here in a week.)

I took video with a higher end webcam of the talk last night. It is an hour and eight minutes long and is a pretty casual conversation with a lot of off-camera questions from members of Ace Monster Toys. If you're interested in the Lasersaur, you may find it worth watching. I took it mainly so members of AMT that couldn't make it could see the presentation!

- Al

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Ace Monster Toys is a non-profit hackerspace based in Oakland, CA, dedicated towards education, hacking, and maker culture.

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