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  • 05/11/2024 5:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Makersmiths High School Solar team called La Wai won the Solar High School Division on May 8, 2024 at the KidWind Worlds Challenge in Minneapolis, MN! Coached by Justin McMillen and Maria Busuioceanu, the team wowed the judges with their solar operated Distillation Project! Not only did they do well presenting to the judges, they performed well on a knowledge quiz and several instant challenges. When visiting the Convention Center vendors, they met many Green Energy industry leaders. The other fun part of the experience was meeting other KidWind teams from the USA, Mexico and Taiwan!

  • 03/16/2024 12:55 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The three 2024 KidWind teams sponsored by Makersmiths competed in the Northern Virginia Challenge at Shenandoah University on March 14. The high school solar team (La Wai) won first place in their division, the middle school solar team (Solar Flares) won third place in their division, and the middle school wind turbine team (Vivacious Voltages) won second place in their division. All first and second place wind turbine winners automatically qualify to compete in the Virginia State KidWind Challenge on April 6, 2024 at James Madison University. First through third place solar teams qualify for the state challenge. This means all three Makersmiths KidWind teams qualify for the state challenge!

    Above, La Wai, the High School Solar Team coached by Makersmiths members Justin McMillen and Maria Busuioceanu, won first place in their division. They also were awarded the Dream Big Award for their ambitious, forward-thinking water distillation solar project.

    Above, Vivacious Voltages, the Middle School Wind Turbine Team coached by Makersmiths member Diane Painter, won second place in their division.

    Below, Solar Flares, the Middle School Solar Team coached by Makersmiths member Andrew Taylor assisted by team parents Nick Richard and Oliver Arend. The team came in third place in their division for their rocket launch pad run by solar project and won the Solar Guru Award for a perfect quiz score. Pictured right is Remy Pangle from JMU who heads KidWind-Virginia.

  • 04/10/2023 10:20 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sixteen youth on three KidWind teams sponsored by Loudoun County’s community-based nonprofit Makersmiths, Inc. competed in the KidWind Virginia State Challenge on April 8 at James Madison University. The solar team named Operation Cheap and Clean coached by Adam Pricer came in second place in the middle school solar division. The solar team named The Neighborhood WATTs coached by Justin McMillen came in first place in the high school solar division. Both those teams qualify to advance to the KidWind National Solar Challenge that will be held May 14-17 at the University of Colorado in Boulder. 

  • 03/18/2023 12:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Makersmiths' KidWind middle school teams competed in the Northern VA Regional Kidwind Challenge on March 15, 2023 at Shenandoah University and came home as winning teams. The middle school solar team (called Operation Cheap and Clean) won first place in the solar challenge and they also won the knowledge award (meaning they aced the knowledge quiz on renewable energies!) The middle school wind turbine team (called The Hot HAWTs) came in second place in the wind challenge. Both these teams and the high school KidWind solar team (called The Neighborhood WATTS) will go on to compete in the Virginia State KidWind Challenge on April 8 at James Madison University.

  • 05/01/2022 10:13 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This year Makersmiths coached three KidWind middle school teams. All three teams competed in Virginia's Western Regional (March 9, 2022) and the Virginia State (April 23, 2022) Renewable Energy Challenges. The 8th grade solar team (Pictured above) won first place in the Western Regional and the Virginia State Renewable Energy Challenges! Their solar smart house used recyclable shopping bags melted into bricks for the house steps and foundation, vacuum-formed PET for sides and roof and an Arduino Mini Pro that controls sensors to make the ceiling fan and lights automatically operate when it gets warm and hot. The solar panels keep the battery charged that is needed to operate the Arduino and its sensors.

    The Silver Blades wind turbine tied for first place in the Western Regional Renewable Energy Challenge and came in 3rd place at the Virginia State Renewable Energy Challenge. 

    Silver Blades Middle School Wind Turbine Team

    The Golden Wind Blades Middle School Team won second place in the Western Regional Renewable Challenge. 

    Golden Wind Blades Middle School Team

    To learn more about KidWind at Makersmiths, visit Makersmiths Renewable Energy Teams 2022. This website explains the process our youth go through when designing, constructing and testing out solar and wind projects. 

  • 05/21/2021 11:12 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Makersmiths' KidWind STEM group won national KidWind recognitions today. Two of our wind turbine projects are now published on the KidWind.org website! Team Caleb can be viewed at https://www.kidwind.org/online-challenge/wind-turbine/projects/recOnbcjYlYrx0yJy. Team Connor and Soren can be viewed at https://www.kidwind.org/online-challenge/wind-turbine/projects/recd9qMprhqJTKYkw

  • 05/20/2021 8:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    During this school year, five middle school students participating in Makersmiths' KidWind STEM group completed three solar powered KidWind Projects that were entered into the KidWind-VA 2021 Challenge. Winners will be announced on May 25 at 4PM at James Madison University.

    Seventh graders Connor, Caleb and Soren created a prototype kiosk that contains a sound box. The sound box detects movement and plays a train sound whenever someone walks by it.  The purpose of the sound is to catch the attention of that person and draw them back to the kiosk to read what information is displayed. The sound box needs three AA batteries to operate. In order for the batteries to remain charged, the boys used three rechargeable batteries in a storage device that is wired to two solar panels on a platform at the top of the kiosk that can be rotated to follow the sun and is tilted at an optimal angle to capture the direct sunlight during spring-summer. Why did they want to make a kiosk as their solar powered structure? Makersmiths is making a large kiosk for the Town of Purcellville to put by the former train station located downtown. The boys thought the town might be interested in their KidWind Kiosk structure and incorporate their design into the town's kiosk. To learn more and see pictures and a movie of their project's development, visit Kiosk Solar Panel Project.

    Seventh grade student Katie was interested in finding a way to clean pond or stream water that can be used to water plants. She created a system that uses a fish tank filter box with a charcoal filter, two water pumps and three solar panels on a platform that can be adjusted to obtain the optimum angle to capture direct sunlight at different times of the year. The solar panels operate the two water pumps. To see her movies and images of her project's development, visit Vegetable Garden Watering System.

    Eighth grader Sofi initially wanted to create a way to use solar panels to run a system that filters out salt from seawater to make the water drinkable. However, she found that obtaining suitable filter material to use was not easy to find. She then decided to figure out a way to use solar power to run a system that captures hydrogen from water that would fuel vehicles instead of vehicles using fossil fuels. Her Google Slideshow and movie documents the steps she took, first using batteries to produce power to run her electrolysis system, then switching to solar power. To see her project's development, visit Solar Powered Electrolysis.

    Makersmiths wants to thank Makersmiths members Diane Painter, Jennifer Chu, Ralph Pugh and Dave Painter for their time and expertise in helping the students learn about solar power, help the students build their projects, and work through the steps they needed to collect and document the effectiveness of their projects using solar power.

  • 05/01/2021 3:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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?

  • 04/25/2021 12:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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.

  • 04/18/2021 12:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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. 

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Makersmiths Leesburg: 106 Royal St SW, Leesburg, VA 20175
Makersmiths Purcellville: 785 S. 20th St, Purcellville, VA 20132

You can also watch Virtual Tours on our YouTube Channel!                                 

Join us

Normally the best way to get to know us better is to just come on by during one of our Open Houses:

  • Leesburg Open House: Thursdays 6-8pm
  • Purcellville Open House: Tuesdays 6-8pm

You can email info@makersmiths.org to request a tour if those days don't work for you. We're here to help get you making the best way we can!  


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