I’ve heard this question in chorus ever since I started hanging out at Metrix, and I’m sure I’ll hear it even more when I start working down there next week. There really isn’t an answer to this question, or rather, the answers are legion: what can’t you make with a robot that prints plastic in three dimensions, a laser cutter, myriad computer parts, some solder, and a variable amount of ingenuity? (Hell, the present technological revolution started with only the parts, the solder and the ingenuity)
But, again, since I’m going to be working there soon, I thought I ought to make an attempt to catalog some of the more interesting projects that have originated in or found their way down to the Capitol Hill’s shiniest new Maker Basement. Because, to be honest, “Anything” really isn’t the most useful answer to “So, what can you make down here?”
- Robo-Etch-A-Sketch – A keyboard, a screen, some stepper motors, a handful of microprocessors and your childhood Etch-A-Sketch. I could really only get to happy face level on that thing…I wish I could have made one of these when I was a kid.
- Straight from the Vending Machine Slot C1: Bliplace 1.0 – Nothing says awesome like a sound-sensitive LED light pin that you can make yourself. Don’t be intimidated by the need to solder – I’ve seen first-time solderers get through this project with a pretty piece of jewelry and no scars to show for it :)
- Kiki the Robot- My friend MJ is using Metrix’s soldering facilities to make an actual-factual automaton. Her name is Kiki, and she’s a three-wheeled maze robot. When she’s complete, Kiki will be able to navigate mazes using just her light sensors and her wee little ATMega16 Microcontroller.
- DNA cloner (PCR) – Seriously. You can make that here. And it’s legal.
- Laser-cut fractal quilt – Metrix isn’t only all about electronics and programming. The fractal quilt project started when the ever inventive MJ realized she had the room and equipment to make a quilt at Metrix…the laser-cut part happened when, after experimentation, it turned out that you can cut fabric with a laser without catching it on fire. Besides being full of win, using the laser is a very fast and very accurate way to cut over 700 squares of fabric.
- Others things that can be made with the laser cutter- MakerBot cases, hobo tokens, tiny little Christmas trees… If it can fit onto an 11″x17″ rectangle, Metrix can probably cut it on the laser.
- Things that can be made with the MakerBot – I won’t even get started with this. Anything you want, made out of normal or corn-based plastic, 10cm x 10cm x 12cm. One of the shop projects is to make a larger version of the MakerBot out parts printed from the MakerBot. If these things ever gain sentience, I think we might be screwed.
- I swear, almost anything you can find on Thingiverse - Maker-types like Thingiverse because you can get ready-made plans for amazing projects. Metrix Create: Space likes it because at Thingiverse, people share, and there’s nothing like open source plans to encourage more making of cool things at Metrix. They even offers a 20% discount on the MakerBot and the laser cutter for Thingiverse projects.
Now that you’re done with this list, just remember, these are only the most intriguing things that we could recall that have been made at Metrix so far. We have not yet begun to plumb the depths of crafty awesomeness.