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.
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 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.
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.
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 hackerspaces.org. 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
On Saturday December 15 from 10AM – 6PM, FCW will be having an Open House. There will be food, tours, displays, demos, and activities for all. All main areas – Electronics, Machining, Model Railroad, Woodworking, Lounge and Classroom are now functional.
As a special treat, FCW is building a sleigh. Santa will be paying several visits during the open house for kids to have FREE pictures sitting with Santa in the sleigh.
All the activities will be FREE and OPEN to the PUBLIC.
Ham Radio VE exams will be given at FCW at 12 noon on Saturday, November 17. Anyone interested in obtaining or upgrading an Amateur Radio (Ham) license is welcome to attend. Study materials may be found at http://www.qrz.com/ht/
A question and answer session for any topic of the VE exams will be on Saturday, November 10, at 12 noon.
This event is open to anyone wishing to obtain or upgrade an Amateur Radio license. The fee is $10 per attempt.
UPDATE: The exams resulted in two new Technicians and two upgrades to General. It was decided that FCW will host VE exams every four months.
FCW held our own version of a Haunted House. The “Fright Night” was Friday, Saturday and Wednesday, October 26, 27, and 31 from 6-9PM. There will be candy, slushies, popcorn, a tour through the space and our “Trail of Horror”.
The trail was set up in the “pole” area behind our space which was loaned to us by our landlord (One Putt, Inc.) for the event. Ross — the “master of the macabre” designed a tour which included a graveyard, mad scientist’s lab, dark forest, and executioners row. There were much larger events around, but, this was our first year and ours was FREE. We had around 100 persons attend the event and everyone had a good time.
Now we have new ideas for next year to make the Fright Night bigger and better. Many thanks to Ross and the crew for a fantastic job.
FCW is working with Tony and Mike (the building owner) to create a “Haunted House” on Oct. 26, 27, and 31. We are planning for 9 sets in the “pole area” behind our space. The event will be free for the public. Any help will be appreciated in the setup or operation of this event. Spread the word, especially to those who may not be able to afford such events for their kids. Contact Ross if you would like to help.
FCW has been donated a 4×4 foot CNC wood router. It is currently in the process of being re-assembled and calibrated.
The large dust collector has been tested and works well on a 220V 20A circuit. We will be pulling a new 220V circuit to the woodworking area to handle it. Rick and Ross need some suction duct for it.
Work on the 3D printer has been suspended for now until some of the other projects have been completed.
We are waiting for cooler weather to put the Butternut antenna on the roof.
We got a letter from the IRS concerning the status of the 501(c)(3). It was sent to the next level for additional checking, so we wait again.
We are planning an open house on December 15, with photo sessions for kids and Santa (ie. Warren).
We are negotiating for some additional space.
If anyone knows of any public relations opportunities, or ideas, be sure to tell Colin.
On June 23-24, FCW operated a Field Day Station for the ARRL Field Day. The purpose of Field Day is to allow Amateur (HAM) Radio operators:
-To test equipment
-Gain experience in operating under non-optimal, or emergency conditions
-Introduce the public to Ham radio
Field Day is in the form of a contest in which Hams contact stations all over the country. This was the first serious use of the FCW station – call sign K4FCW, and so, was essentially, an experiment. Despite our main antenna not being available, things worked out ok as two HF transmitters were active. Even with temporary antennas the station made contacts with 29 states and 2 provinces. Thanks to Buck for the loan of some gear and Ross for the loan of a slushie machine. We now know what to improve for next year.
FCW is nearing the end of Phase II of construction at the site. This will mark the opening of new areas.
The classroom – will be able to handle 16-20 students in a seated environment. The room can also be used for computer training, demos, and movies.
The model shop– will eventually house the model railroad which is to be moved in this Summer. It will also house model making equipment and tools for making scenery, props, and models for railroad, airplanes and others. There is a large viewing window in the railroad area.
The ham radio station – K4FCW. This will start off with HF and VHF equipment.
These will join the Machine Shop, Electronics Shop, and Wood Shop to support FCW activities.
The opening of these areas will be celebrated with an Open House and Cookout on Saturday, June 2 from 10AM to 6PM. The day will be filled with:
Demonstrations of various science and technical topics