Archive for March, 2010

Here’s a short list of things I want to do in the month leading up to MakerFaire:NC:

  • Part out the two new Chaos Toy sets.
  • Rearrange how parts are grouped in the storage tubs.
  • Print out more labels for the parts bins maybe next time.
  • Create signs to explain the machine, and warn parents about small parts maybe next time.
  • Design and print Chaos Machine business cards maybe next time.
  • Dedicate a storage tub to just holding framework tubes.
  • Mock out how large a machine I can build in certain spaces.
  • Decide whether to use the Chaos Controller maybe next time.
  • Pre-build some stunts.

It’s important to work out in advance how much framework I’ll need for a given space, because I’ll want to make sure I have enough long and medium tubes available.  I have an abundant supply of the small tubes, and they are easy to store in the parts bins.  The medium tubes are harder to store, and the long tubes don’t fit into any of the parts bins.  “The Chaos Machine is a series of tubes …”  I need to build some custom-fit dividers that will split one of the storage tubs into sections that are correctly sized for long, medium, and short tubes.

The size of the framework will also dictate how interesting the machine will be.  When building with a single Chaos Toy set, there’s a single lift (be it a screw elevator or a chain lift), a couple of decision points, and then all of the tracks end up delivering to a single collection track, which feeds the lifter.  With 6 chain lifts and 7 elevators available, I can put together a lot more mayhem, but only if I have enough space to work with.  As it is, I’ve found the older screw elevators are unreliable for large vertical lifts, but I’d still like to include at least one small lift.

I also want to pre-build some stunts.  The trampoline stunts can be very impressive, but they require a lot of experimentation to get working reliably.  I’d like to spend some time working with combinations of trampolines, and documenting the correct drop heights and angles.  I’d like to do the same for the loop-de-loop and the double loop-de-loop.

Another stunt that requires a little pre-work is the spiral.  The spiral is made by taking a bunch of 180 curves, connecting them so that they form a spiral (either right-handed or left-handed), and then inserting pins into pre-existing holes so that the curves are vertically spaced enough so that the ball can move freely (by default the curves will nest).  I made one of these at TCEP 16 by hand-cutting pins out of wooden toothpicks, but they weren’t as uniform as I would have liked, and it took me a while to build.  I’d like to make metal pins by cutting up some old hangers, and then pre-assemble a spiral so that I can just install it, instead of having to build it on-site.  I’ve even given some thought to how to make a double-spiral…

Well, lots to do, and only a month to do it in.

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I’ve been asked to show the Chaos Machine at the North Carolina Maker Faire, in Durham, NC, on Sunday, April 25th.  Normally that would be a long way to go for a one-day show, but as it happens, Carrie and I will be attending the 2010 ShopBot Jamboree, which is being held at the same location, Friday and Saturday (April 23-24).

Given the space available, I’m only going to be able to take a fraction of the machine (maybe a third) but I hope to have enough to make it fun to play with for everyone.

After further discussion with Carrie, we’re renting a van for the trip, so I’m going to see about taking the full machine.  I’ve talked with the show organizers, and I should be able to get a larger than average place to set up, and will be able to do the setup Saturday evening, so that the machine is doing “interesting things” all day Sunday.

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