Category Archives: Events

Upcoming Classes

FCW has several classes/workshops scheduled for the next few weeks. Unless otherwise specified, all classes/workshops are free and open to the public.

Friday, February 21 5-9PM – Intro. To Electricity: Fundamental Concepts

Summary: Intended for beginners, this session introduces fundamental concepts of electricity and electronics. Included topics: voltage, current, resistance, and power; units; measuring; sources and loads; DC and AC; Series and parallel; Ground; and schematic symbols.

Pre-req material: basic math

Instructor(s): Dave Propst

Duration: 4hrs

Saturday, March 1, 12 noon – 3PM, Introduction To Blender 3D

Summary: This is an introduction to Blender 3D, an open source 3D modeling package. Topics include: 3D visualization; Views; Menus and keyboard shortcuts; 3D primatives; Modeling and object creation and editing; Boolean operations; Materials and Textures; Overview of advanced features.

Students need to furnish their own laptop computers with Blender 3D loaded ( and an external mouse. Blender is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Pre-req material: None

Instructor(s): Dave Propst

Duration: 3 hrs

Fridays, March 7,14,21  6-8PM, Ham Radio: Technician License Prep

Summary: These sessions provide the material to take the Ham Radio entry level (Technician) license exams. Topics include Rules and Regulations; Station Setup; Basic Electronics; Operation; Radio theory; and safety.

Pre-req material: None

Instructor(s): Michelle Suddreth

Duration: 3 sessions, 2 hrs each

Saturday, March 15, 12 noon-3PM, Intro. To Electricity: Component Identification

Summary: This session includes the construction, purpose, identification, and testing of basic circuit components including: resistors, inductors, capacitors, transformers, switches, lamps/leds, batteries and connectors.

Pre-req material: Fundamental Concepts

Instructor(s): Dave Propst

Duration: 3hrs

Saturday, March 22, 12 noon – 2PM, Ham Radio VE exams

These are the exams to obtain or upgrade an Amateur Radio (Ham) license.  These are given by WCARS VEC and the cost is $10 per attempt.  All levels will be available and you do not have to have taken FCW’s prep class prior to taking the exams. Study materials for all levels may be found at

Scouts Learn Woodworking

bsa maiden 2014 -1
BSA Troop 303 Maiden – Hawk Patrol

On Saturday, Feb 1, Boy Scouts from Maiden, troop 303, Hawk patrol, came to FCW for instruction in a basic woodworking technique.

Rick, one of FCW’s woodworkers showed four of the scouts how to create overlapping joints in wood strips.  Starting off with safety, instruction followed with the basics of the table saw, then how to create lap joints (without using a dado). The eventual project is to create picture frames.

bse 2014-2
Scout using table saw

The workshop lasted three hours and terminated with pizza and snacks.  Additional instruction will be on Feb. 8, then another group will be later.  This is FCW’s first direct workshop with Scouts.  This troop came by the December Open House and were interested in numerous activities at FCW.  In addition to woodworking, we hope to help Scout troops in the region with Ham Radio, Electronics, Robotics and other activities of interest.

GFMS Students at FCW

gfms 20140117 rich teaching
Rich Teaching

On January 17, 2014, ten 6th graders from Granite Falls Middle School and their teacher were treated to a technical workshop at FCW.  In November 2012, the teacher, Randy, toured FCW and talked to us about classes/workshops that could be used to help stimulate interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) for students in his class.  He was particularly interested in a hands-on project and something that could be taken back to the school.

Several possibilities were discussed and Randy decided on trying to build several of the Eggbots – the open source art robot kit from  The kit as available was too expensive so, it was decided to try to re-design it as a less-expensive version.  With Rich taking the lead, the  mechanical portion was re-designed with three goals in mind: 1) make as many parts at FCW as possible, 2) make it easier to assemble, and 3) make it more robust.  By simplifying some of the mechanical portions, all of the mechanical parts could be fabricated at FCW using the laser cutter and the machine shop.  These modifications cut the price nearly in half.  A donation of the stepper motors, cut the price again so that the final version was nearly 1/4 the cost of the original kit.

Randy assisting a group

GFMS raised the money to build five units with 25 students.  It was decided to split the class into a group of 10 students for the first workshop, building two of the bots, with the remaining 15 students building three units at a later workshop.  The assembly of each unit was organized into separate sections so that each student contributed to the assembly.

The ten students arrived at 8AM on Jan. 17.  Rich, Michelle and Randy assisted the students in the assembly, which took approximately two hours.  The students were then given a quick introduction to Inkscape, an open-sourcce vector drawing package with extensions to drive the bot.  The assembly was optimized for drawing on ping-pong balls using fine point Sharpie markers.  After assembly, the students were given ping-pong balls and assisted in creating examples for testing.  There were a few minor glitches, but each student got experience in creating and drawing text, logos, or smiley faces.  After watching the bot draw, one of the students exclaimed, “Wow! We built that.”

gfms 20140117 group 1
Rich assists a group

Afterward, the students were allowed to watch the laser cutter cut out a set of mechanical parts for one of the bots.  They ate lunch and left by 11:45.  It was a fun day for those of us at FCW and an educational day for the students, since they got an introduction to CNC, fabrication, robotics and embedded control.  All of the students want to come back for another project.  We are looking forward to the second group sometime this Spring.

gfms 20140117 - it works
Wow! We built that!!


FCW has worked with schools previously, assisting both the robotics and drama clubs at South Caldwell High School but this has been the first actual class to use the facilities and the youngest group.  We are hoping to work with several schools in Caldwell, Catawba, and Burke counties on projects and events.

This event was covered by both the Granite Falls Journal and the Lenoir News-Topic.

Open House – Dec 13 &14

2011-12-17-12.09.401-1024x764 Even though visitors are always welcome at FCW, twice a year we have an open house to encourage people to drop by and see what is happening.

This year, the December Open House will be on Friday, December 13, from 5-9PM and Saturday December 14, from 10AM-6PM.  There will be food, tours, demonstrations, and activities for all.

Demonstrations will include items made on the laser cutter, 3D printer and the CNC routers.  The railroad will be operating, numerous electronics gadgets will be on display and games will be available. Once again, this year, we will have a sleigh (made at FCW) set up with a blue screen for pictures. Backgrounds can then put the sleigh and passengers in various locations including winter scenes, the desert, and the moon.  Kids can have their picture taken with Santa, or family pictures can be taken.  Anyone bringing a flash drive can have an electronic copy as well as a printed picture and all rights to the picture.  All activities and the pictures are free.

We will also have special deals for anyone wishing to start off the new year by joining FCW.  Invite your friends.

Santa visits FCW

Blender 3D Class, Sat. Aug. 10

FCW is will hold an introductory Blender 3D ( ) class on Saturday, August 10th from noon until 4:00 PM in the FCW classroom and which is open to all interested parties.

The class will cover:
– an overview of 3D computer graphics
– the Blender 3D interface
– object modeling and adding materials and textures
– an overview of the other Blender features (animation, game engine, physics engine)

The class will alternate between lecture and hands-on. Students should bring a computer (PC, Linux or Mac) with version 2.66a (or higher) of Blender 3D installed on it.

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Blender 3D can be difficult to operate on a laptop unless you have a mouse and have (or can emulate) a number pad. Students should bring a 3-button (or wheel) mouse and may want to use a full-size keyboard or view these videos:
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This will be a repeat of a previous introductory class with the possibility of other classes, if there is enough interest. These classes may be on more advanced topics or repeats of the intro class.

Ham Radio Class and Exams

FD-2012-cropped FCW will be conducting an entry level (Technician) Ham Radio workshop on two consecutive Saturdays, July 20,27 from noon until 2PM.  Study materials and example tests can be found at under the “resources” tab.  This workshop is open to anyone interested in obtaining an Amateur (Ham) radio license.

Also, the VE exams for Ham Radio will be given at FCW on Saturday, August 3 at noon.  All levels will be available and the exams are open to the public.  A photo ID is required.

FCW now has seven members who are also hams.  The station K4FCW is available to members at any time using the permissions of their license.  In addition, group contests and events are conducted often to help familiarize members and guests with operating procedures.

Open House, Friday 7/12 and Sat. 7/13

Everyone is invited to an FCW open house on Friday, July 12 from 6PM to 9PM and Saturday, July 13, from 10AM to 6PM.

All of the areas will be open for tours. Items include:

In the Tile room:

      The electric chair set from the FCW Fright Night.


      The Cinderella carriage designed and mostly built at FCW for a play at South Caldwell HS.

Kids can have a FREE picture taken of themselves with Cinderella in the carriage.

In the General Area:

      The K4FCW Ham station will be set up for digital modes showing some of the current ways to communicate.

The Electronics area:

        The Eggbot will be drawing on ping-pong balls


        The Stingray robot will be wandering around.


        Various microprocessors and programmers will be on display.

The Mame Arcade machine will be available for gaming.

Classic console games will be available.

A set of Halloween Masks designed and made by Ross will be on display.

Be sure not to step on an iRobot Rooma sweeper that operates in the area

In the Classroom:

      The 3D Printer will be on display. This is a mendlemax device that can produce items out of ABS plastic.

The Network rack will be on display. This is to be used for classes in networking and Cisco training.

FOOD will be available.

In the model shop:

      The railroad will be operating, complete with a Thomas the Train for the kids.


      Scenery making techniques will be on display.


    A demo will be operating showing electro-static buildup.

In the Cave:

      The CNC mill and the lathe will be on display, but shut down due to safety considerations.

The CNC router will be operating creating info cards for visitors.

The remainder of the Woodworking area will be on display.

Tours, Activities, Information, and Food will be available for the duration. A special membership drive will be available — Join and pre-pay for 3 months, get a 4th month free.

The Open House is a FREE event. Invite your friends.

Field Day 2013

Field Day 2013
Mycheal works 40m at Field Day

On June 22-23, FCW via the Ham Station K4FCW participated in the ARRL Field Day.  Field Day is the premier Ham Radio event of the year with two main purposes — test equipment and antennas that may be needed in an emergency situation; and promote Amateur Radio.  This is the second field day for FCW and things were smoother this year, though there were still some glitches.  The goal was to contact as many stations as possible during the 24 hours.  The station worked many of the states, along with Canada and Spain.  We were able to demonstrate Ham radio and spark interest in a non-ham who may be taking our Technician license class later in July.  As usual from such events, we learned much and should be able to do better next year.

December Open House

The Open House at FCW on Dec 17 was a success.  The doors opened at 10AM and there was a steady group of visitors until after 5PM.   We had food, from doughnuts and sausage biscuits to beans a franks, and, of course …… candy.

The tours started off in the office/lounge area, showing the ham station, and the electronics area, which had various microcomputers (ARM, AVR, Propeller, STM) on display as well as an Eggbot printing on ping-pong balls.  On the back wall were several masks that Ross had made.  The FCW Christmas tree had the usual decorations, but also was decorated with gears, chips, circuit boards, Eggbot ping-pong balls, and 3D printed parts.  The big hit in this area was the MAME machine.  Though still needing painting and the second set of controls, the various classic arcade games entertained the young and young-at-heart for most of the day.

The MAME machine is a big hit

The tour then went into the cave, with the first stop being the classroom, where the food was available.  Then came the model shop.  The railroad was another big hit with Gene running it for most of the day.  Also on display there was model making tools and materials used to make scenery.  In addition, Gene had a High voltage demonstration, with a Wimshurst machine, an electrometer, and a demonstration of static electricity.

Continuing down the cave was the machining area.  Due partially to safety reasons, the lathe and mill were not demonstrated live.  After that was the woodworking area and the CNC router was demonstrated making small engraved cards.

One hit was the sleigh that FCW made which was set up with a blue screen for pictures.  Kids could sit with Santa in the sleigh and have free pictures made with various backgrounds.  Ed did a fantastic job with the photography and had backgrounds for snowy mountains, snowy forest, clouds, the desert, a beach, and the moon.  Many kids and a few adults took the opportunity to have pictures made.

Santa visits FCW

One new member signed up and several other persons expressed interest in joining.  All in all, it was a fun day and a great PR opportunity.

A Look Back

The “Cave” at the beginning

Next week FCW will have the December 2012 Open House. Since our first Open House was one year ago, I thought a look back over the past year would be useful, especially for new members.

In the beginning:

Dan first contacted me (Michelle) about trying to form a local hackerspace in April of 2011. We talked a little but nothing really came of it. In late July, Dan found Rich through Rich lived in Granite Falls and was also looking for a hackerspace in the area. They organized a meeting in August and six persons came. Rich wanted to do things “backwards” — get a location first, then push for members. Four of us: Rich, Dan, Colin, and Michelle put up some initial money to get started. Rich beat the bushes and found a location in an old cotton mill that we could use.

The “office” at the beginning

It was somewhat sad looking, divided into two parts. The “cave” was an open space with no lights or power, and the “office” was a storage area. But, we liked it and in September, it became home for FCW. Over the next several months, all time and resources were spent installing wiring and lights, and cleaning up. We picked up two more members during that time (Warren and Gene) and decided to have an open house in December 2011. It pushed us as we barely got the lights in and some of the machinery moved before the open house.

One Year Ago, December 2011:
FCW started with four members, Dan, Rich, Colin and Michelle. Warren and Gene joined us just before the open house so we had 6 to greet everyone.

Since then were the following – though several stayed for a while then left for various reasons.

Dec. – Joe and Buck joined at or just after the open house.
Jan – Ross, Shawn, Seth and Craig
Feb – Clarence
Mar. Vic
June – Mike, Andy, Jared and Nick
Aug. – Rick
Sept. – JD, Ben, Chris
Oct. – Marlyn, Brandon
Nov. – Ed, Dave, Kaleb

With this open house, we are going in with 17 members. We had a surge after the December and August open houses, so hopefully there will be one this January as well.

The first FCW open house Dec. 2011

Work areas:
At the open house one year ago, we had just got the machine shop equipment moved, but not ready. There was a radial arm saw (inoperable), planer (inoperable) and a circular saw in the wood working area. There was one 120V line on the West wall (office side) of the cave but no power on the machinery side. Outlets had just been installed in the office area. None of the rooms were built so there were signs saying where the classroom and railroad/modelshop would be. The electronics area was operational, but barely as most of the equipment was brought in by Rich and Michelle just for the open house. We had just bought the large tables from a WPCC auction so we had most of the tables, but some of the chairs were bad.

Rich and Warren with Mill
Warren and Rich with the CNC mill

The first area to actually become fully useful was the machine shop. In January, we got some power on the cave East Wall so that the mill and lathe could be used. It took several more weeks before they were leveled and set up to go. The major equipment in it are a lathe, CNC mill, bandsaw, and drill press. Between Rich and Warren, there are numerous small tools as well. Vic donated a good amount of material (steel, aluminum, and brass) to the shop.

Work on the rooms seemed to drag on forever, but finally, with Joe and Gene leading, the walls started up. Rich did most of the wiring for the room walls and some serious head scratching as an outlet box was completely covered up by drywall. Seth arranged for us to get some flooring from Habitat (many thanks to them) so that we could have decent wood floors in the rooms. We did expect any day to find that a forklift had crashed through our ceiling into one of the rooms, but that was finally reinforced and the rooms started to take shape. They were ready early in the Summer.

Warren checks out the model shop wall

The railroad was brought in by Gene. It was at his house and had to be dis-assembled, moved and re-assembled. Gene and a crew were able to do so early in the Summer, then Gene recruited Warren to help put it back together. There is a lot of detailed work on the railroad and the tracks needed to be aligned so it took quite a while. it is operational and impressive now, but Gene, in the true Hacker spirit, will be constantly adding on and tweaking it.

The electronics area is also operational. There is a reasonable set of equipment that stays at the space, including a Pace surface mount re-work station. We have several trainers and can work with numerous microprocessors and digital devices. Some RF equipment and fabrication equipment is still being scrounged.

Somewhere along the line, Dan (I think) brought in some books to start a library. Then Dan, Michelle, Rich, and later JD populated the library so that it now contains books, on computers, operating systems, programming languages, micro-controller, analog and digital electronics, physic/chemistry/math, networking, and machining. The library has outgrown its location so it will be moved to the classroom after the first of the year.

Michelle and Colin are Amateur Radio operators. After Buck joined and Dan got his Ham license, we started a Ham station. Michelle and Colin furnished most of the equipment so that we have HF and VHF capability. We hope to add some digital modes this coming year. We got a station call of K4FCW and we now have additional Hams with JD, Ben, and Ross.

The woodworking area was possibly the last to become useful. We had only a few items at the December open house. Joe brought in a few more, but it was only after Ross and Rick became active that it really became useful. Besides the circular saw, radial arm saw and planer (now all operational), we have a sander, bandsaw, scroll saw, and jointer. A dust system is being installed and with the recent addition of a CNC wood router, the only major item missing is a wood lathe. The shop was used to make much of the Fright night props.

Since last year, we had another open house in August, operated the Ham Radio Field Day in June, and the ARRL November Sweepstakes. However, our biggest project for the year was Fright Night, a three night event for Halloween. Ross coordinated the event with he and Rick building many of the props. The building owner allowed us to use a large area behind our space to make a series of fright venues which included a Mad Scientist lab, a Haunted

Fright Night 2012- electric Chair
The electric chair — a shocking experience for Fright Night

Graveyard, the Dark Forest (complete with werewolf), an Electric Chair, a Guillotine, and an Asylum. Considering that we were pressed for time and had little PR, it went surprisingly well and everyone is looking forward to next year.

We started some classes this year. Rich and Warren taught a safety class on machining early in the Summer. Rich later followed that up with a multi-week machining class in which a small air/steam engine was fabricated. After a donation from the local Radio Shack (again many thanks), Rich also taught a simple Introduction to electricity/electronics class. Michelle did an overview of C/C++ and later, an Introduction to Digital Electronics – Gates. Recently, Rich did another safety class with a small project included.


A 501(c)(3) application was filed so that donations to FCW can be tax-deductable. It is still being processed by the IRS. At the latest WPCC auction, we obtained several good chairs.

For the Open House:
We have a Santa’s Sleigh that was designed by Eric Hurley at WPCC (many thanks) and built by Ross and Rick. With Santa-Warren, we plan to take free pictures of kids sitting in the sleigh. The MAME machine is built. It will play thousands of the classic arcade games. At the moment, it is only one player, but the joystick and buttons for a second player are on order. After the open house, it will be painted and fancied up a bit.

This coming year:
Several FCW members are planning personal and group projects. At the space, we are already planning an event for Easter, another Fright Night next Halloween, Field Day and several other Ham related events. Planned classes include, various microcontrollers, Python, Networking, Ham Radio, Machining, Basic Woodworking, CAD, Digital Electronics, models, mask making, and another Intro to Electronics. We are hoping to have an FCW presence at several hamfests, the Southeast Linuxfest and possibly the NC Makerfaire. At the space, we will be installing more circuits to handle the additional machine load and working to obtain a heat pump. We can always use more members and PR. The fun continues, who knows what ideas someone will come up with.