Lisbon Mini Maker Faire – part I

Amazing! This is the word that best describes the Lisbon Mini Maker Faire: amazing! 🙂 During three days more than 100 Portuguese Makers were together at Pavilhão do Conhecimento, in Lisbon, sharing their knowledge and showing their amazing projects to over 12000 visitors, a number that surpassed all expectations.

Lisbon Mini Maker Faire logo neopixels

Before the Maker Faire: the beginning

The idea of organizing a Mini Maker Faire in Portugal had already emerged in several conversations at eLab Hackerspace  but for a lot of different reasons, it never left the conversation stage. Fortunately, we weren’t the only ones who thought about it and there was another group of people who turned that idea into reality. And I repeat, fortunately, not only because they did it but also because I think that nobody would do it better. Celso Martinho, who had already organized the Portuguese Makers Hangouts, together with his team from SAPO and in collaboration with the team from Pavilhão do Conhecimento took the step forward and applied to get authorization from Maker Media to organize the first Mini Maker Faire in Portugal. Maker Media is the organization that holds the rights for the “Maker Faire” events. The approval came a few months later and the event was first announced to the public at the end of the Portuguese Makers session, where I was one of the speakers, in the main stage of Codebits 2014, the biggest tech event in Portugal, organized by SAPO. The “starting whistle” was blown 🙂

Countdown for Maker Faire: tic tac tic tac

The next 5 months were full of work, work and more work, both for the organizers and the Makers who wanted to show their projects. During these months I had the pleasure and honor of being a part of the Lisbon Mini Maker Faire curators team and analyze and evaluate each one of more than 100 project submissions by the Portuguese Makers. In the curators team there were also André Almeida, co-founder of Artica, Celso Martinho, co-founder of SAPO, Eduardo Pinto, head of innovation and R&D departments at SAPO, Filipe Valpereiro, founder of Inmotion.pt, Francisco Mendes, co-founder of BeeVeryCreative, Gonçalo Lopes, PhD student at Champalilmaud Foundation, Hugo silva, one of the minds behind Bitalino, Leonel Alegre, project manager at Ciência Viva and Maurício Martins, founder of Leds&Chips. It was with great pleasure that I saw the number of submitted projects surpassing two digits and see that the Maker culture is alive and well in Portugal, not only due to the number of submitted projects but also by their quality. As one of the curators, I also felt that it was my responsibility to spread the word about the event and make sure that all the makers in my contact list would go to Lisbon Mini Maker Faire to show their projects 🙂 . Simultaneously, I was doing everything I could to finish my pending projects in order to take them to Lisbon Mini Maker Faire: the third version of my homemade CNC, TheMaker3; HacKeyboard, a mechanical keyboard that is more than meets the eye and MiRo, a mobile robot with 10Kg. The only project that was already complete was the Infante robots project, that I already shared in this blog. As the number of days to the event was decreasing, all the last minute unexpected problems that we all know that are going to appear started to show up (after all, they’re not that unexpected):

– The H-Bridge of MiRo’s controller Board mysteriously burned. I had to go with plan B and take the previous version of the controller board which was still lacking firmware since I abandoned it’s development before reaching that step. I thought that I would be able to write some simple code, but I couldn’t be more wrong… with the amount of visitors at the faire I couldn’t stop for a second.

– The second version of the PCB for HacKeyboard had a small problem that affected every single switch of the keyboard… I brilliantly made a mistake and the footprint for the ALPS switches that I designed was mirrored, which made it impossible to solder the switches in place. I had to redesign the whole PCB and remake the PCB. -.-‘ However I didn’t had time to solder all the components on the PCB and I took the keyboard just like it was… disassembled but with the working PCB from the second version.

– The TheMaker3 CNC was still behind on schedule and I needed a BeagleBone Black to control it. I was just crushed when I found out that it was out of stock all around the world! I contacted Filipe Valpereiro from Inmotion,pt and he sent me one as soon as he got some from the supplier (Thanks, Filipe!), which happened 1 week before Lisbon Mini Maker Faire. As soon as the board arrived, I verified that I still needed a BeagleBone Cape to increase the output current of the GPIOs of the BeagleBone so that they could drive the optocouplers from the motor drivers. Daniel Costa from the blog Lógica da Mecatrónica had talked to me about a BeagleBone CNC Cape that he had bought from Xylotex. Since the time was running out, the fastest thing would be to reverse engineer his Xylotex CNC Cape so that I could design a similar one with the same pinout, so that I could also use the Machine Kit SD card image used by Xylotex. After a short conversation on Facebook I was looking at some photos of the Xylotex Cape and asking Daniel about some IC references that I couldn’t read from the photos (Daniel, thanks a lot for the photos and for your patience 🙂 ) . A few minutes later I had a general idea of the circuit and started looking for alternative components: ordered some samples from Texas Instruments, which arrive sooner than if you buy them anywhere else. Ordering samples from Texas Instruments right before big events is starting to look like a weird tradition, since on Codebits 2014 the samples were directly delivered at the event location 🙂 (Thanks to Texas Instruments for breaking records in delivering samples). Then I designed the PCB, etched the PCB, soldered the components and did some continuity tests. After the tests I connected it to the BeagleBone Black using the micro SD card that Nelson Neves (Thanks Nelson) had already prepared to save some time and realize that for some unknown reason LinuxCNC was not running as it should. Great!… Another problem needing to be solved… And yes, this all happened during one week and there wasn’t time for anything else. The TheMaker3 CNC went to Lisbon Mini Maker Faire without ever being in a working state and with two motor drivers still needing to be wired, something that I was hoping to do during the first day of Lisbon Mini Maker Faire 😛 .

TheMaker3 CNC - wiring .JPG

eLab Hackerspace: Road Trip!

In parallel with all that I mentioned, there were also the logistic problems at eLab Hackerspace: who was going, when each one would go, how many cars would be necessary, where would we sleep, who would return earlier, etc. If we were a small group, everything would be simple… but we were 16 and for some reason none of the hotels near the event location had rooms enough for everyone at acceptable prices. The solution was the ibis hotel in Alfragide, which wasn’t anywhere near but was the only hotel with enough rooms and acceptable prices. As usual, there were also some last minute problems, but everything was worked out. In total, members from eLab Hackerspace took 16 projects to Lisbon Mini Maker Faire:

Besides the members responsible for the projects, eLab Hackerspace members Fred Zabel, Dinis Miguel, Jorge Sacadura, David Lobato and Micael Viegas also went to help exhibiting (and finishing) the projects. Although he didn’t submit the project, David Lobato also took his awesome Nixie Tube Clock.

Nixie tube clock

Nixie Tube Clock made by David Lobato

Click here to read Lisbon Mini Maker Faire – part II


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