On Saturday, May 1, 2021, Makersmiths hosted the Northern Virginia KidWind wind turbine testing for youth participating in the 2021 KidWind Turbine Challenge. Two teams from Makersmiths (Team 1: Caleb Nicholson and Team 2: Connor Ellis and Soren Ogelman) and one team from Cardinal Ridge ES brought the wind turbines they created this past year to test them in a wind tunnel that James Madison University set up in our Makersmiths-Purcellville location.
Makersmiths members, Diane Painter and Jennifer Chu, served as coaches for our Makersmiths KidWind teams. During the work sessions (November 2020-Feb 2021 before COVID caused us to go online), the team members learned about the function of gears from Makersmiths member, Ralph Pugh who is an electrical engineer. They learned to design gears using a program found online at http://geargenerator.com. They then designed their blades in a CAD program called Tinkercad. Pictured is Caleb's wind turbine blades that he 3D printed. Caleb used a direct drive, meaning he did not make a gear box for it.
KidWind team members, Soren and Connor, used their Tinkercad designs to laser print the blades (shown below). Soren built a wooden 3:1 gear ratio generator with help from Makersmiths member, Dave Painter.
How did the wind tunnel testing go? The wind turbines with a gear box out powered the wind turbine using direct drive. However, Team 2: Connor and Soren's wind turbine spun so quickly that one of the blades broke off! In the end, the team from Cardinal Ridge ES out performed both our Makersmiths teams. They used cardboard to create their blades but used a 8:1 gear ratio gearbox. What can we say about our KidWind wind turbine experience? Our teams learned a lot about solar power, wind turbines, designing blades in a CAD program, and how to create things on 3D printers and a laser cutter. They also discovered the value of adding a gear box to a wind turbine since the wind turbines with gear boxes produced the most power. Team members also learned about pitch (angle of the blades) and how to collect performance data. So in the end, they learned a lot of making skills, and after all, isn't that what Makersmiths is all about?
Member Profile - Erin Werling
Erin has been a Makersmiths member from the beginning of Makersmiths, and she currently serves on the Board of Directors. She loves to sew, quilt, and use her Cricut machine to create all kinds of things such as cutouts to make paper flowers. She even learned basic blacksmithing skills at Makersmiths-Purcellville! As a Makersmiths community outreach volunteer, Erin participated in a Maker Faire hosted by Loudoun County’s Rust Library to teach families how to make sidewalk chalk! Erin and fellow Makersmiths member, Jessee Maloney, like to host Crafts Nights at Makersmiths in Leesburg twice a month, and hopes to resume this family-friendly event at Makersmiths once COVID-19 restrictions end.
Makersmiths Gets Down in the Weeds!
By: Shereef Sayed
Because Makersmiths is a non-profit, community-based organization, we do work with youth groups in a variety of ways. One of our partnerships is with Loudoun County Public Schools. This academic year, two students from Woodgrove High School taking an independent science research course contacted us for mentorship help.
For two Woodgrove High School students (Go Badgers!) and their Independent Research class, they needed to submit a research proposal that would address a problem. While visiting family in Italy, one of the students noticed that her Mom could eat foods containing gluten, unlike eating similar foods back home. “Why is that?”, she wondered. With help from her research partner, they came across a research paper that showed a strong correlation between Celiac disease and certain herbicides that are applied to wheat fields to hold weeds in check. They also learned that countries in Europe have banned the use of herbicides, but we are still using herbicides in the USA. “Hmm, how can we fix this?” they wondered. They determined that they should build a robot that can only spray herbicides on weeds, but not crops.
It turns out that their idea is one of a growing industry (pun intended) called Precision Agriculture. From academia to start-ups to corporations, the agriculture industry is developing innovative solutions to make better use of farm resources, including herbicides.
My background is as a systems engineer and I volunteered to mentor the students. When they described their initial research plan, it seemed like an awful lot of ground to cover in one academic year (pun intended). In order for a robot to spray only weeds, it seemed that we should first focus on solving the problem of distinguishing crops from non- crops. All you need is a neural network, right? They’re everywhere, right?
Siri? Alexa? How do you build a neural network?
To build a neural network you need to first train it with pictures of the objects you want to find. All we had to do was search the Internet for a bunch of pictures of weeds in a field, but we needed to find a lot of pictures...like, hundreds of pictures. Despite our best efforts to search the Internet, the only comprehensive image database of weeds that we found currently comes from Australia. Just to be sure that our Internet search was complete, we contacted a Professor at Virginia Tech in their Weed Sciences department, and asked what database his students use for their research. Turns out they use a database from Denmark! Well, I explained to the students, if the Internet is a sum of all human knowledge, and your search leads you back where you started, then you’ve just found a hole in the Internet; a place of incomplete knowledge. So, the research project was beginning to become more focused. The students decided that their research for this year's research class is to fill that gap and create the first North American Weed image database for training neural networks to find weeds in a field.
Right now, the team is focused on finding a camera that can take pictures in both the visible light and infrared spectrums. They are also learning how to annotate images to help train a neural network.
With the help from a conservation specialist with Loudoun Soil and Water Conservation District, the students now have two farms that they can visit that are growing winter wheat. Once the weather warms up, they will be busy taking lots of pictures, changing the world, one weed at a time.
The monthly (socially distanced!) work days in Purcellville are returning!
As we did in pre-COVID times, we are inviting members at 9:00 AM until at least noon on the first Saturday of each month to our Purcellville location to drink coffee, eat
donuts, and maintain and improve the space. This is also a great opportunity for prospective members who want to see the space to drop by and know that a member will be at Purcellville to show you around.
For members, this is al
so one of the easiest ways for you to fulfill the volunteer hours that are a requirement of your membership. It’s not all work, though, this a great way to meet other members, forge new friendships and sometimes learn new skills.
Group Build Project
Makersmiths will be doing a group build of an information kiosk for the town of Purcellville that will be located at the old train station. It will be built of steel and powder coated. The design calls for a modular build approach. Each piece must be small enough to fit in our powder coat oven that also means that each piece must be easily transported to the location, assembled on site, and then bolted together. This is a great opportunity to dust off some old skills or learn some new ones. We will be laying out patterns on sheet metal, cutting them out, using the box and pan brake to bend them, and MIG welders to weld them together.
Leesburg Tour Video
Purcellville Tour Video
Jessee Maloney, owner and operator of the brand Art School Dropout for the last 18 years (https://www.artschooldropout.net), is a professional quilter and freelance artist. She joined Makersmiths in 2017 to learn how to use the laser cutter. Since then she has learned to use the 3D printers, vinyl cutter, t-shirt press, welding equipment, woodshop, and CNC machines to make the art work and products that she sells online and at various craft shows and conventions. Jessee also assists our Cosplay members in helping them design and sew costumes. During our COVD-19 initiatives, she made many face masks and has helped been instrumental in developing the new member orientation classes.
Welcome to Spring! Makersmiths gardeners are busy and now have a volunteer horticulturist to advise them. Both Leesburg and Purcellville have garden space, and Makersmiths has a plot at the community gardens at Ida Lee.
The Board has approved a UV flatbed printer for Makersmiths. Print samples are available at Makersmiths Leesburg to get a good look at what a UV printer can do, including monogrammed golf balls, printed acrylics, boxes, trophies, control boards, gauges, puzzles, and much more.
While the pandemic is hopefully waning, we still need to remain vigilant and follow the CDC and Virginia guidance on group gatherings. Members must wear a face mask at all times while inside our buildings and adhere to social distancing guidelines. Each site has hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes for use in the facilities. We have begun to offer limited in-person classes with one instructor and up to three students per class. All classes can be found on the Makersmiths website: https://makersmiths.org/events
While the pandemic continues, we are providing Associate Members full access to both the Leesburg and Purcellville spaces after they have taken New Member Orientation and at least one Red Tool Class. A Red Tool is a machine or tool with the potential for personal injury or damage if misused. Red Tool classes are available through the tool/room steward or the events link above. Red Tool training is required for woodshops, metal shops, welding areas, CNC machines, and laser cutters.
When giving tours at Makersmiths we are often asked, "What do you offer for kids?" There are a number of educational initiatives Makersmiths members offer to families. This is one. It is called the KidWind Challenge. We have five middle school students that Makersmiths members volunteer to mentor. Jennifer Chu is pictured here working with students to learn to measure the pitch of the wind turbine blades the student on the right designed and created using woodworking skills. The five Middle School KidWind team members are preparing for the Northern Virginia Challenge on April 14, 2020 at the 4H Center in Front Royal, VA. They will enter the basic challenge event using a Vernier generator and a gearbox that another Makersmiths member, Ralph Pugh, is helping the students design and create. Prior to this KidWind Challenge event, the students will display their work at the Loudoun County Public Schools Student Maker Showcase on March 26, 2020 from 5:30-7:30 PM at the Academies of Loudoun. Won't you join us that night to meet our KidWind team and to also see the Shoo-B Robot research team, also mentored by Makersmiths members Dave Painter and Mark Millsap? For more information about these events, please visit:
LCPS Student Maker Showcase
Northern Virginia KidWind Challenge
On October 5, 2019, Makersmiths-Purcellville lit up its forge! We held an Open House from 1-4pm to share with the community of makers our newest making addition! If you missed the Forge Open House, please come visit us any Tuesday evening from 6-8 PM for a tour of our space. Address is 785 S. 20th Street, Purcellville, VA 20132.
On Sept. 28 and 29, 2019, three Makersmiths members held "how-to" workshops at Rust Library in Leesburg during the library's weekend How-to Festival. On Saturday, Diane Painter taught adults and children how to make glycerin-based soaps. Dave Painter set up his laptop and a desktop CNC machine to show library visitors how he uses his computer and the CNC to create plagues. On Sunday, Erin Werling had a huge crowd at her sidewalk chalk-making station! This was a great example of how community-based maker spaces and libraries can work together to help the public understand the function and fun of maker spaces!
Makersmiths Leesburg: 106 Royal St SW, Leesburg, VA 20175
Makersmiths Purcellville: 785 S. 20th St, Purcellville, VA 20132
Normally the best way to join in is to just come on by, but due to Covid19 we are now by appointment only.
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a tour.
We're here to help the best way we can! :-)
Makersmiths is a 501(c) non-profit organization. 106 Royal St SW, Leesburg, VA 20175