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Thank you to the Unsung Heroes of Gulf Coast MakerCon 2014!

3 Apr

GCMC logo There are a lot of amazing people who make an event like Gulf Coast MakerCon not only possible, but fun and rewarding to create. We want to take a moment here, before we head into the Maker Maelstrom this weekend, to thank some of them, starting with our friends at Studio 7 Communications,  who created our fantastic Maker Skull and Cross-Tools logo!

Studio 7, which typically likes to keep a low profile despite all the fantastic good they do, Studio-7-1024x212is also a big supporter of FIRST Tech Challenge Team Duct Tape, and helped craft their awesome logo, too.   We’re very grateful to Studio 7 Communications for the gift of their talent and expertise.

We also want to thank Maker of All Trades Chuck Stephens, for the gifts of his amazing

2012 Maker Fair poster, by Chuck Stephens

2012 Maker Fair poster, by Chuck Stephens

artwork.  Chuck, a local artist and a volunteer with sponsor Learning is for Everyone,  created our first Maker Faire poster in 2012, still one of our favorite pieces.

Future is brightHis custom designs for this year’s Gulf Coast MakerCon event are equally fantastic, capturing the playful and somewhat rebellious spirit of our next generation DIY Celebration of the Inventive Spirit.

maker con poster1

 

TBICWe also want to thank Wayne Rasanen of the Tampa Bay Inventors Council, for his energetic networking and nudging to help populate our Inventors Showcase with the amazing people who are joining us this weekend.

Many thanks, too, to Dominick Transcritti of  Suncoast Skirmishers, who has been coordinating our Tabletop Day event, which has  generated some of our most enthusiastic traffic and suncoast skirmishersinterest, with a lot of people looking forward to a day of tabletop game play on Saturday, and more opportunities to play on Sunday.

Sam McAmis, of the University of South Florida Robotics Interest Group (USF-RIG) has been busy organizing B.A.M. (Battles at MakerCon) just for Gulf Coast MakerCon. BAM With 30 students from area high schools competing with 15 lb. class fighting robots, MakerCon guests will be treated to high energy battlebots competition all day Saturday.  And on Sunday, look for some creative destruction of old electronics with larger robots.  It’s been no small task organizing the competition and exhibitions, especially while trying to get through Engineering studies, so Sam has our deepest appreciation for his creative multitasking in the service of Gulf Coast MakerCon and celebratory robotics!

fairgroundsAnd  we can’t end our Makers Hymn of Praise and Thanks without a great big shout out to the Florida State Fairgrounds Authority!

Your Gulf Coast MakerCon organizers have put together a lot of different events in Tampa Bay – TEDxYouth, ROBOCON Tampa Bay, previous Maker festivals – and we’ve never encountered such amazingly warm, patient, collaborative, cooperative, and helpful venue representatives.  The Florida Fairgrounds staff has gone out of their way to make event planning smooth, helped us through logistical bumps, and generally exuded Florida Sunshine and hospitality with abundant generosity.

So if you happen to see anyone from the Fairgrounds at Gulf Coast MakerCon this weekend, or a quiet lady with FTC Team Duct Tape at the FIRST exhibit area, or a fellow with a cap and coveralls and some funky electronic musical devices, or a pleasant looking gentleman with glasses at the Tabletop game tables, or a somewhat wild haired guy officiating over the battle bots, stop and tell them thanks!

They’re some of the signature Makers of Gulf Coast MakerCon, and at the heart of everything that makes our Maker Community so excellent!

T -1 to Gulf Coast MakerCon!

3 Apr

t-shirts-c We’re Excited! Are You?!

The t-shirts are here!

The program is ready!

The Makers are pumped and the Volunteers are prepped!

All that’s missing is YOU!

Just one more day to get your discounted tickets for a weekend of creative awesomeness!

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Meet the Maker: Pamela French, of Pami Pocket

3 Apr

Pami at Spark n Hustle

Pamela French is one of our great commercial makers,  bringing her creation, “Pami Pocket ” to Gulf Coast MakerCon.   She’s also Vice
President of the Tampa Bay Inventor’s Council, one of our event partners, heading up our Inventors Showcase.  We asked her to tell us about herself and her product.

GCMC: What do you Make?

PF: A handy little neoprene cell phone holder for women called the “Pami Pocket”

GCMC: What got you interested in your product?

PF: I constantly found myself without pockets to hold my cell phone, but I always needed to have it on mePamiPocket. I thought there had to be a better way, but after I couldn’t find anything after searching in stores everywhere I decided to create it myself. My husband and I are the owners of an automotive upholstery shop so he sewed up the first Pami Pocket prototype in our backyard garage.

GCMC: What do you think makes it different from other similar products?

PF: Pami Pocket is different because it has a long, thin strap that can be worn across the body or around the neck. It’s made of neoprene so it’s water-resistant and Pami Pocket is so lightweight and soft, you’ll forget you even have it on. Pami Pockets are not just functional, they’re fashionable! They come in a variety of colors and rhinestone designs to choose from or you can get your own company or team logo design on a Pami Pocket!

GCMC: What are you bringing to MakerCon?

I hope sharing my experience and the things that did and didn’t work for me will help others who want to become inventors or “makers”. Of course I’ll be bringing the entire Pami Pocket line and am looking forward to sharing my handy product!

GCMC: What do you hope to take from MakerCon?

I’m expecting to have a great time meeting new people, networking and getting exposure for my product. I can’t wait to see all the other maker’s creative ideas and maybe even sell a few Pami Pockets along the way!

GCMC: Why do you think an event like MakerCon is important?

PF: MakerCon is one of the best ways to put yourself out there and share what you love. This is the perfect opportunity to meet other creative people and get inspired.

GCMC: Anything else you’d like to add?

I was just a mom working in the backyard when I came up with the Pami Pocket idea. I had no idea what to do, but by joining my local inventor’s club, I was able to learn and move forward much faster. I now have my product in boutiques and beach shops, and even a few local Walgreens and now am the Vice President of my local inventor’s club, the Tampa Bay Inventor’s Council!

Come see Pam French and her great Pami Pocket creations at Gulf Coast MakerCon this weekend! Discount tickets, good for the whole weekend, are available through April 4th.

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Meet the Makerspace Makers and Attend our 3rd Annual Makerspace UnConference

1 Apr

It’s an exciting time in Tampa Bay!  When we held our first “Makerspace UnConference” at our first Maker festival in 2012, there were no full scale makerspaces in Tampa Bay.  The Faulhaber FabLab at the GWIZ Science Museum in Sarasota and Familab in Orlando were our two closest maker neighbors.  Learning is for Everyone was exploring the idea with potential collaborative partners, and a couple of other efforts were under consideration.

This year, we’re joined by four groups who have various programs underway and are excited to share their success and programs with Gulf Coast MakerCon attendees.  We’re happy to introduce them to you! They’ll be exhibiting at Gulf Coast MakerCon all weekend, and leading our 3rd Annual Makerspace UnConference on Sunday, April 6, at 4:30 pm, where you can learn more about these spaces, and how you can work to build more of them in your community.

Community Innovation Center at the John F. Germany Library 

new logoThe Community Innovation Center (CIC) at John F. Germany Library is a collaborative effort between 1939934_482287221897921_725617154_oLearning is for Everyone, Inc (LI4E.org)  and the John F. Germany Library,   the flagship library of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System.   At 10,000 square feet, the CIC is the largest such facility in Tampa Bay and in Florida, and will function as a public Makerspace, an Entrepreneurship Center, a proving ground for Invention and Exploration, and the ultimate Creative Space,  providing the tools and human capital for fostering active creation, as well as the necessary knowledge for that creation.  The CIC, scheduled to open at the end of April,  is arranged into eight distinct, but flexible sections:

  • TechMasters Center
  • Entrepreneurial Center
  • Robotics Centers
  • Hands-On Workshop
  • Machine Shop
  • Media Lab & Studio
  • Arts Center
  • Computer Lab

CIC staff will be sharing some fun activities for our Young Makers section, and showcasing a little of what will be available in the space when it opens.

Faulhaber Fab Lab

Fab Lab logo

The Faulhaber Fab Lab is the oldest space in the area, currently moving to a new location in Sarasota, it bring high level manufacturing capabilities to the Gulf Coast area.  “A fab lab, ” explains representative, Eric McGrath, ” is a non-profit entity that has collaborated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to assemble a diverse collection of state-of-the-art equipment and computers into one workspace as a community center for innovation, entrepreneurship, and STEM education.”

fablab WorkshopsDr. Fritz Faulhaber and his wife Ping and through the Faulhaber Family Foundation are collaborating with the community of Sarasota to open the fab lab and be a central resource for invention and fabrication by individuals, entrepreneurs, students, teachers, retirees and business. The staff and volunteers in the community workshop instill the confidence for members to learn, design and safely operate computer-controlled machinery.

“The aim of a fab lab,” says Eric, ” is to teach advanced skills in design, innovation and how to make “almost anything”. These skill sets learned through nurturing the inventor in all of us can be applied in many careers. Business collaboration, workforce development and community innovation is an integral part of the Faulhaber Fab Lab.”

Visit www.sarasotascience.org for updates and information

Tampa Hackerspace

tampa hackerspaceTampa Hackerspace is a local community workshop organized to enable learning of technology skills by providing tools, space, equipment and classes.

“We are a non-profit, membership based institution, ” explains Tampa Hackerspace president, Bill Shaw. ” A broad selection of classes and workshops are open to both members and non-members.

“Every week we open our doors to the public and get together to build some cool projects and meet some very cool people. Join us to work on your stuff, bounce ideas off of members, check out the 3D printers and other equipment and socialize. Occasionally, we’ll throw in a small workshop or class. This is our best attended event and is a great opportunity to see what we do and meet our community.”

Tampa Hackerspace also hosts a Kid’s Open Make on Sunday Afternoons for crafts, electronics and technology projects, Minecraft, programming activities and more! Every month, they have a new theme and a host of new activities geared towards elementary and middle school students. Space is limited so they ask that you RSVP on Meetup.com to reserve a spot.

You can connect with Tampa Hackerspace:
Web: http://tampahackerspace.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HackTampa
Classes & Events: http://www.meetup.com/Tampa-Hackerspace

Land O’ Lakes Library,  Pasco County Library System

The Lanedgar allan ohmsd O’Lakes Library in Pasco County has been exploring the idea of opening a makerspace in its library system for the past year, and made a name for itself this year, Pasco County Library Cooperativewhen it became the first library in the country to field a FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team – the Edgar Allan Ohms! – who competed at the Orlando FRC Regional in March.  The Library is a trend setter, home to
one of the largest battle of the bands in the state (Rockus Maximus) and a popular anime convention (Lamecon) . A makerspace isn’t far behind!

The Land O’Lakes Library will be demoing their FRC robot, and showcasing free services and opportunities for job seekers and entrepreneurs. And you can apply for a library card, too!

Makerspace UnConference

Our 3rd Annual Makerspace UnConference will be held on Sunday, April 6th, at 4:30 pm at the Gulf Coast MakerCon stage.   As an “un” conference, it’s a casual opportunity to join in open discussion with these four very different spaces, that share a common interest in providing public creative spaces to build, learn and develop skills for hobby, personal satisfaction, and academic and career enrichment.   Join us to get ideas, share insights and find ways to collaborate in bringing more of these great spaces to Tampa Bay and the Gulf Coast!

 

Meet the Communications Makers: Tampa Amateur Radio Club

29 Mar

TARCWe’re excited to have the Tampa Amateur Radio Club (TARC)  joining us at Gulf Coast MakerCon again this year.  We’ve always had “Hams” at our maker festival, and believe they bring a fun, interesting and important element to our DIY Celebration of the Inventive Spirit.

TARC member Jon Rubin shared with us a bit about the club and what it does.

“The Tampa Amateur Radio club (TARC) is a place where people from all different walks of life can come together to share and promote knowledge in radio technology. We do this by sharing ideas, teaching new people, and experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t. We’re also tasked with assisting Hillsborough County in providing backup emergency communication in the event of a hurricane or other such disaster.

“While we are all amateur radio operators, each of us has different things that we enjoy doing with our licenses. Some people enjoy

TARC at TBMMF 2012

TARC at our 2012 Maker Festival

contesting, some enjoy using voice or CW (Morse Code) to make contact with people in faraway places. Still others enjoy using various digital modes of communication.”

Jon acknowledged that a lot of people might question the value of Ham radio when we have cell phones and abundant social media.  He has an eye opening reply.

“Most people don’t realize that local cell networks will go down if as few as 10% of the cell phones in the area are used at the same time. This means that during an emergency situation, such as a hurricane and its aftermath, cell phones may be unusable. Amateur radio doesn’t have to rely on cell towers, or even the local power grid. It’s simple to connect our radios directly to any car battery. Because of this we can assist in getting messages to/from the outside world just minutes after the storm passes.”

TARC is bringing a couple of portable antennas and some different radios for display and will have a full setup working and on the air.  Visitors will be able to actually use some of the radio, and will be able to get information about upcoming licensing classes, and more.

So come out to Gulf Coast MakerCon 2014 and enjoy this great opportunity to TARC and give Ham radio a try!

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Meet the Maker: Jason Rawley, of Fireblade Comics

26 Mar

fireblade comics

We love the cosplay and gaming elements of our event this year, and are happy to welcome Jason Rawley of Fireblade Comics to our line up for Gulf Coast MakerCon 2014.  We asked him to tell us a bit about his work and what he’s bringing to our maker event.

GCMC: What do you do?

JR: Fireblade Comics began as my dream of producing online, live-action, interactive comics. As it’s developed over the years, I also incorporated my other works with custom action figures, props, and other collectibles.

GCMC: Why do you do it?

JR: I grew up in the 80’s as a huge fan of comics and movies and I was drawn to the realm of film making at an early age, especially special effects. Even as early as elementary school I Jasonwould create props and set pieces for the school plays. Art has always been in my veins so over the years I’ve done everything from graphic arts, website design, drawing, writing, and crafting. I’ve been building scale models for many years so that led to customizing action figures. Prop making became more of a demand as the cosplay community has grown, to the point where I get quite a few commissions throughout the year from people who come across my other works.

GCMC: Why do you think it’s important or valuable?

JR: I believe all art is important as self expression while is essential to us as humans. For those who get into cosplaying or collecting, this can be a great escape from the stress of normal life. So it’s always a privilege for me to be able to use my art to express myself while at the same time creating things people will use and appreciate for years.

GCMC: How long have you been doing it?

JR: I’ve been crafting, building, and customizing since early childhood so most people would say it was “all my life”.

GCMC: What do like best about it?

JR: As a form of self expression, being able to create things from my imagination is a wonderful release and a therapy. It’s taken me places and I’ve gotten to make many great friends over the years.

iron-man-unleashed-ver2-18GCMC: What are you bringing for folks to see or do at Gulf Coast MakerCon?

JR: I’ll be bringing a healthy selection of my customs including an array of props from sci-fi blasters to Ghostbuster gear as well as some action figure bases and displays. If possible I’ll bring some work-in-progress pieces so I can demonstrate how projects move through the construction phases.

GCMC: What do you hope to get out of your Makercon experience?

JR: I’m hoping to meet some good people with the same interests and fanboy fascinations as myself as well as get some feedback on my projects.

Come check out Jason’s awesome work at Gulf Coast MakerCon April 5 & 6!  Get your discounted tickets today!

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Meet the Maker: Todd Emmons and the Bait Dipper

26 Mar

Bait Dipper

We’ve got some great inventors showcasing some awesomely cool inventions at Gulf Coast MakerCon this year, and one of them is Todd Emmons, with his Bait Dipper, built just for the avid fisher person in your life!

We asked Todd about the Bait Dipper and his upcoming visit to Gulf Coast Maker Con.   As you can see, ToddJessica Harrelson 03-23-14 likes fishing, and also the opportunity to make a positive impact through what he loves to do – invent – and fish!

 

GCMC: What do you do?

TE:Invent new products.

GCMC: What inspired you do it?

TE: The love of fishing.

GMCM: What makes your invention different from other things that are already available?

TE: It solves a problem of retrieving live bait from a bait well or bucket.

GCMC: What will you be sharing at Gulf Coast MakerCon?

TE: The Bait Dipper. All-In-One, Aerator, Flashlight, Tackle Box & Flip Top Opening with Bait Window.

GCMC: Is this what you do full time?

TE: We are working our way there. We also are owners of an internet marking company and a construction firm.

GCMC: What do you love best about your work/product?

TE: Sharing our vision on helping out our community and being around something we love ( Fishing )

GCMC: Why do you think an event like Gulf Coast Maker Con is important?

TE: So we can inspire others, that they can do what ever they set their minds to do. Also It is part of our branding efforts as we try to attend all expos trade shows and festivals. Networking is another great source for information on advancing your product.

GCMC: What do you hope to get out of participating in Gulf Coast MakerCon?

TE: Brand awareness, helping others, and a great time meeting new people.

GCMC: Anything else you’d like to add?

TE: Yes!  Whatz Up Products Inc. with the manufacturing and assembly of the “Bait Dipper” is partnering with the Transformational Learning Center a division of Broken Beautiful Ministries, Inc. a Christ-based organization whose vision is to bring hope to a targeted area in West Pasco County, Florida by bringing together businesses to teach, train, equip and encourage individuals who are caught in a cycle of entitlement or who are re-entering into society from jail, prison time or the less fortunate. This transformation will be achieved through job training and discipleship which in turn creates self-esteem that comes from working and taking pride in their accomplishments.

You will feel a sense pride as well that you are helping make a difference in the lives of so many and that the product is “United States of America Made”.

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We hope you’re inspired by the Emmonses obvious pride in their work, and come see their BaitDipper and other great creations at Gulf Coast MakerCon!

Meet the Idea Makers: Tampa Bay Inventors Council

25 Mar

TBIC

The Tampa Bay Inventors Council (TBIC) is a long time friend and partner of LI4E, and we’re delighted to welcome them to Gulf Coast MakerCon 2014, where they’re hosting the Florida Inventors Showcase.  We talked to Wayne Rasanen, president of TBIC, to learn a bit more about his great organization and what they’re bringing to Gulf Coast MakerCon.

GCMC: What do you do?

WR:  I help coordinate the Tampa Bay Inventors Council meetings and activities plus, plus, plus…

GCMC: Why do you do it?

WR: Inventors need guidance to avoid getting ripped-off by bad actors so TBIC provides a forum where inventors can meet to share their experience.

GCMC: Why do you think it’s important or valuable?

WR: America is great because of the ideas we generate and the businesses we build. Helping that process is vital.

GCMC: How long have you been part of TBIC?

WR: Although I first attended in 1996, I have been active with the board since 2003 and president for the past eight years.

GCMC: What do like best about TBIC?

WR: I like helping people learn and connect with opportunities. When an inventor makes it on the market I’m thrilled to have helped.

in10did

Wayne showing a Tampa Bay Mini Maker Faire 2013 visitor his In10Did keyboard.

GCMC: What are you bringing for folks to see or do at Gulf Coast MakerCon?

WR: TBIC has been involved with Maker events for several years and know that it is a rewarding place to be. I will be bringing my keyboard innovation but several inventors will be showing what they are working on.

GCMC: What do you hope to get out of your Makercon experience?

WR: Feedback on product development is a big plus but it is great to see what others are doing to help fuel our creative minds.

GCMC: Anything else you’d like to add?

WR: Come hungry to learn and you will leave all filled up!

As you can see, Wayne’s a busy man of few words – but as you’ll be able to see at Gulf Coast MakerCon  2014, he’s definitely a man of action, leading a great group of not just thinkers but awesome doers!  Among the inventions that will be on display on behalf of TBIC:

So head out to Gulf Coast MakerCon April 5th and 6th,  come hungry to learn – we’ll fill your plate up!

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Meet the Maker: Cameron Eckelberry, The Digital Berrybot

24 Mar

Cameron Eckelberry

We’ve got some Music Makers this year, at Gulf Coast Maker Con, including eclectic electric musician Cameron Eckelberry, performing under the name The Digital Berrybot.  We asked him to tell us a bit about himself and his work.

GCMC: What do you do?
CE: I write Electronic Music, I self-produce it and self-distribute it.

GCMC: Why do you do it? Why do you think it’s important?
CE: It makes me happy. Being lost an entire day in a sonic, creative adventure is what I live for. Not to mention, the possibility of giving someone a boost with an aesthetic, aural Cameron Eckelberrywaveband. Sometimes life can push someone down so hard that the only way to reach and bring up the person is the arts.

GCMC: How long have you been doing it?
CE: I started playing in Punk/Alt. Rock bands about 10 years ago, I started making electronic music though, about 7 years ago.

GCMC: What do like best about it?
CE: The freedom, making electronic music has empowered me to do whatever I want. Working in a band, you can be a bit restricted in regard to full artistic control, as it is generally run as a democracy. Don’t get me wrong though, that can lead to some fantastic outcomes.

GCMC: What are you bringing for folks to see or do at Gulf Coast MakerCon?
CE: I’m going to performing a live mix of my latest album . Every performance is different and I look forward to everyone getting their funk on!

GCMC: What do you hope to get out of your Makercon experience?
Technology always interests me, so I am really stoked to see all the cool gadgets people are building! Maybe we can get some cool collabs going?

Come get your funk on at Gulf Coast MakerCon 2014!

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Guest Blog: Show & Tell Isn’t Just for MakerCon

24 Mar

chuck stephensLI4E Volunteer and Maker of all Trades, Chuck Stephens, shares his thoughts on the power of sharing.
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Have you ever heard of Luigi da Vinci? Luigi was a brilliant maker during the Italian Renaissance. He spent all day building models and perfecting his ideas. He was a happy man doing whatever he wanted and exploring his curiosity. One day he’d play with his model flying machines and the next day he’d imagine new buildings or study the nature of living things. He was content to pursue his passions and the world left him to it. He mostly kept to himself but once in a while he liked to share a wineskin with his neighbor Leonardo the artist, and they would spend a nice evening talking about Luigi’s toys while Leonardo sketched amusing pictures. “

“Ah , Leonardo,” Luigi would tease. “You live your life in pictures. Men are remembered for doing, not dreaming! I build machines that fly while you sit and doodle them on parchment. What legacy is that?”

At these times the artist would smile slyly and offer Luigi another drink and soon he was off on another wild demonstration while Leonardo scribbled away.

You’ve heard of Luigi da Vinci, right? He was a genius!

To do is to be- to document is to be heard

familab

Familab sharing at LI4Es 2013 maker festival.


How is a maker different from a hobbyist? I’ve had a few lively debates about this in various forums and I think it boils down to communication- makers love to share their work and knowledge. Makers don’t read Popular Mechanics and write letters to the editor- they read tech web sites and leave comments that other readers can comment on. Makers don’t just use gadgets- they hack and modify them and then go on their blogs and tell others how to do it. While a hobbyist can enjoy their craft in isolation, a maker has a need to share what they do and how they do it. Openness and sharing are at the core of the maker movement.

Much like academia, in the maker community it’s ‘Publish or perish‘. The growth of the maker movement was fertilized with millions of blog posts, Instructables, Youtube videos, comment threads and Tweets. The internet allows enthusiasts to become ambassadors. I’ve learned everything I know about electronics from Forrest Mims’s Basic Electronics book and the internet. No matter what problems I encountered or questions I had, the answers were just a few mouse clicks away. I was able to learn everything I wanted at my own pace.

Most important- I stayed interested. I got exactly what I wanted out of electronics when I wanted it thanks to thousands of other hobbyists who took the time to post a video or answer a question on a message board. Through this easy access to shared information makers become self replicating. User created resources inspire new users who create their own resources- rinse and repeat. By documenting our work we help others become makers.

OK I’ll confess- I’m the worst! I hate to break my work flow with camera work or blog posts. Stopping to set up a camera and tripod takes time that could be spent learning and building. Even as I’m writing this article I’m thinking that the four channel mixer I’ve been working on for my lunetta synthesizer isn’t building itself. When I finish a project I’m already thinking about my next one so I rarely stop to shoot a video. I rarely even get good photographs of my projects- I just play with them and then go build new stuff.

Even when the video or photos get shot the job’s not done. At the least it needs to be trimmed and edited. You may want to add graphics and titles, animations, music or voice-overs. It may need to be reformatted to load quickly on Vimeo or Youtube. You’ll also want to write a description and add the right tags so folks can find it. In the end picking up my soldering iron and starting the next project seems like a lot less hassle.

A New (Maker) Year’s resolution

In the last couple of years, Tampa Bay Mini Maker Faire, now Gulf Coast MakerCon, has become the focus of my year, project-wise. Everything falls into two categories- things to get done before MakerCon and things that I can’t start until after MakerCon. Since it has become the bookends of my year, maybe a New (Maker) Year’s resolution is in order. Mine is to better document my work.

This happens to coincide with the start of Hackaday’s new Projects page.  I signed up and started a page there but I really need to change my approach to documentation. I want to focus on video since my projects are mostly sound based. As usual I went to the internet to see what others were doing. People make instructional videos on how to make instructional videos- now that’s meta. After a few hours of good and bad advice, I found my game plan for documenting my work. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you set out to document your projects with video.

Plan your work and work your plan

overlap project notes 2Planning is the key. Figure out what you want to say and show before you start recording. It can be as simple as an outline that covers your key points or a full script- whatever works for you. Also plan the visual aspect of your video. Is there good lighting? Can the camera ‘see’ you? If you need to move or change positions can you do so without blocking the shot? If your dealing with lots of steps or movements in your video it may help to create a simple story board, a comic book-like set of sketches planning out key scenes, movements and actions. You can download story board templates from Incompetech here http://incompetech.com/graphpaper/storyboard/ Planning and visualizing your video project will help you see problems and solve them before your cameras are rolling. When I’ve made videos in the past I’ve found that hand written cue cards and a plan for the shot save me a lot of time and frustration. Planning your steps will also help you insure that you have all necessary materials handy when you need them.

Make it easy for yourself

After you have your video planned out it’s time to start filming. In my house this is always a daunting task. My workbench is in the living room so things need to be rearranged a little to make room for a tripod and lights. Since my bench is along a wall it’s hard to get a good camera angle. The best way to avoid these hassles is to plan your work space with video in mind. Avoid tripods and design camera mounts into your workbench. Action cameras like the GoPro with lots of mounting options are great for this. It can also be as simple as using squares of adhesive Velcro with a cheap webcam.

instructional video

Chuck’s instructional video on how he made a drumbot.

While it’s possible to shoot a simple video in one single take, it can get a little boring and it increases the chance of flubbed lines.. Using two cameras, or even one camera with two separate mounting spots, can make your video much better. Use a wide shot when you are talking and explaining things and a close up to show details. If you do moving shots look into making a DIY steadicam set up to make your camera movements smoother. Watch TV with an eye towards the technical details. Observe how the way something is shot makes it more interesting.

I’ve decided to use an old Manfrotto lighting clamp modified to accept a standard camera mount for my main camera. It mounts easily to my bookshelf and gives a nice long shot along the bench. I also have a small webcam with Velcro for closer angles and a custom mount for my tablet for overhead close ups of my workbench. These are all things I had laying around.

Use a similar approach to lighting. Good lighting will make a cheap camera look better. Flea markets and yard sales are a good source for lighting fixtures and lamps. The main thing to keep in mind is to provide even lighting. Avoid a single bright light as this will cause bright glare and dark shadows. Use several softer lights for better illumination from many angles. Keep your work area well lit and you will always be ready to shoot a video. I have two angle-poise desk lamps mounted on my workbench as well as a couple of small fluorescent tubes. I also use a rechargable LED flashlight with a diffuser for a detail spotlight.

The main thing to keep in mind is that the easier it is to shoot your video the more likely you will be to shoot a video. Having your camera mounts and lights in place all the time makes it much easier.

Don’t forget the audio

how to video

FTC Team Duct Tape students offer a nice little instructional video for FIRST teams.


Great video quality is no good if the audience can’t hear what you’re saying. Keep the audio in mind in your early planning stages. When you’re ready to shoot turn off the A/C or fans. If you live near traffic or playing children, close the windows. Most cameras have a built in microphone. This is fine, but if you are shooting in a noisy environment try using an external microphone or an inexpensive clip-on lavalier mic. If your demo is really loud you can always do a separate voice over later. I have a small collection of microphones and a couple of digital audio recorders but I usually just use the mics on my cameras. Think about adding some music or sound effects. Keep in mind that using music that you don’t have permission to use may get your video pulled by Youtube or Vimeo. Use royalty free music or create your own with Garage Band, Fruity Loops or similar software.

Putting it all together

video editing

Ryder, with FTC Team Duct Tape, prefers full featured editing software, but Movie Maker will do for basic needs.


The final step is editing. Editing allows you to combine video and audio clips to create your final video. You can also add titles, video and audio effects and transitions that add variety to the way one clip fades into another clip. There are plenty of free video editing programs out there, and new ones pop up all the time. Do a little research and find one that fits your needs. There are many video editing tutorials out there that will teach you the basics of your chosen program. Don’t go overboard with the effects and transitions- the information you are presenting should always be the focus. I use Windows Movie Maker and a shareware video format converter. I’ve used expensive, feature packed software in the past, but this does everything I need and it came installed on my laptop.

When you see a video you like, make a mental note about what made it interesting. Was it well written? Was the camera work smooth and clear? Were there interesting extras like graphics, titles or music? Was the presenter enthusiastic and engaging?

Don’t be afraid to learn from others and borrow from other peoples successes. That’s what being a maker is all about.

Keep it simple

The most important thing is to keep it simple. Relax- you’re just talking to some friends, not going out for an Academy Award. Just be yourself and have confidence. Don’t rely too heavily on fancy effects. A clearly presented video done in one shot without titles or effects is better than a video with so much music and graphics that it distracts from the subject. Keep your budget simple, too. A well planned, well lit video shot on a low end camera will be much better than a disorganized, shadowy mess shot in HD. If you don’t have space or decent lighting in your home, go outside. If you don’t own a camera check with your friends, local library or makerspace to see if they have equipment you can use. Work with what you have, but just do it. Learn by doing and experimenting- you can always shoot it again.

Sharing is an important part of making. Chances are you have learned a lot from others around you. Documenting your work is a great way to pay it forward and inspire someone else to try their hand at making something. Makers make makers!

Do your part or you’ll end up like Luigi da Vinci.

Remember him?

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