Friday, February 28, 2014

Testing the Waters

In the electronics world, we have been testing our infrared distance sensor (pictured above), which will be used to test how much resin is in the pool. We have confirmed it does perform as expected with translucent liquid, but questions remain about its accuracy. Too much or too little resin could cause problems (anywhere from mild to serious), and it is uncertain if our current devices could measure it precisely enough.
In addition, we have make progress in our ultimate goal: integrating our parts into the machine itself. Our stepper motor has been successfully mounted, and we will soon begin running and testing it with all our moving parts. We hope to have a working movable table by the end of the month.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


The software team has been up to a lot lately. From adding new features to the GUI to controlling the stepper motor the software team has been working on many essential features for Charlie. From the Graphical user interface standpoint a new print viewer has been constructed so that the user can see a nice organized print progress and data screen showing helpful info such as the resin levels and time until completion. After testing a few other styles we found that dynamic sizers work best for laying out all of the spacers and widgets found in the print viewer. Through the wx python library we were able to also use a progress bar that will eventually be programmed to give the user an actual visual representation of the progress of the printing. On the more electronic side with the stepper motor the software team has completely switched to using arduino to program the stepper motor and the microcontroller. Using arduino we hope to have the motor receive a certain number of steps and execute those steps. Another great accomplishment of the software team was the creation of 3D STL files that can be produced. By taking user entered input our program can create a 3D image for gears of the gear that the user wants to print. These past few weeks have led to the creation of many important features and we hope to continue this on to the future with more amazing features. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


A quick video put together of the EYES program. All the kids (and the volunteers) had a lot of fun and we can't wait to do it again! Thanks for everyone's support!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Forming a Plan

Recently, the CAD team had been trying to come up with a fresh and sleek design to set out printer apart from those that already exist in the market. After a few sketches and weeks of CAD design we finally settled on what we believe combines all of the best ideas we came up with. However, with the completion of this challenge, a new one arose. The design calls for essentially a rectangular prism, with two of the sides joining in a sloping curve instead of a simple edge. Because this would have to be made out of acrylic, we had to decide how we were going to tackle it. We looked up the cost of having our part custom-made, and upon seeing the price we decided that we would task ourselves making the piece on our own. We knew the process slightly: we would need to heat up a sheet of acrylic until it was at a point where it could be shaped without being completely melted, and then place it on a mold for it to form to. It didn’t sound very difficult, and we had watched a few videos demonstrating the process. However, we all knew that nothing is ever as easy as it looks, not to mention none of us had any experience with type of molding process, known as heat-forming. Luckily, we had just recently taken a tour of a GE facility, and met many engineers who did have experience heat-forming. So, we called one of these engineers up and he was able to give us a step-by-step process of what to do, complete with cautions about some common mistakes and potential errors that could occur during the forming. So after a little brainstorming, we decided we’d make the curve out of layers of laser-cut wooden parts stacked side by side. The engineer did warn that the acrylic would mold to whatever shape we pressed in against, though, so we decided to place a smooth piece of vinyl on the mold so there wouldn’t be any unwanted ridges or bumps. We have already made the curve to our desired dimensions, and once we attach the straight pieces to each end we will be ready to mold.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

EYES, Saratoga Reads, and STEM Expo

February has only just begun, but the Educating Young Engineers team has already accomplished so much! We started out the month with our primere Saturday Engineering Program on February 1! The event went amazingly well! We were extremely impressed with all of the young engineers solutions to our challenges. We are also extremely appreciative of all of the volunteers who made the day possible, together we raised $2,400 to excite many more young engineers! We have decided that we will be putting on a very similar program in April, for the children who were on our waiting list or were unable to attend. Then in June we are going to do a mega program, open to even more young engineers and with all new challenges! In addition to putting on our own engineering day, we also helped support local events. On Saturday February 8 we had a station at the Saratoga Reads event. At this event the children all came with LEGO creations that they showed off to other excited LEGO creators. We were there to show how LEGOs can come to life with the WeDo kits and programming software. Then on Monday February 10 we had a station at the STEM expo at Division Street Elementary school. We showcased the wind tunnel and had the children test out a variety of different flight mechanisms. They determined which could fly the best by watching how high the flight mechanism flew and how many little people it could carry! We are very happy with how rapidly our EYE organization is expanding and have been extremely grateful to play a role in such amazing events.
If you would like to read a news article about the Saturday Engineering Day you can click on the link that follows:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Step in the Right Direction

The electronics team has been working closely with Mike and Isaac from the programming team, and we hope to get the stepper motor fully working with their driver class soon. This whole process has hit a few delays, but it should be done within the next few days. We have also been working to integrate the stepper motor with the z-table, which will ultimately move the part. We attached on the motor to the z-table system today, and next class we will be able to calibrate the distances for the steps and fine tune the program and microstepping.  We think our project is going along quite nicely, and we look forward to seeing everything come together in the near future.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Who Wants to be an Engineer?

While the high school was out of classes for Regents and midterm testing, a group of Project Lead the Way students re-visited the middle school to talk about the technology courses the high school has to offer to our upcoming freshman class. Eight students and two high school tech teachers explained what each class entailed and described some of the activities that went on in the classroom. Our high school students were even able to show some of their projects from each class, getting excited about what they were able to create. After the presentation, the middle school students spent the second half of the period asking questions either about PLTW or about high school in general. The questions ranged from, "Does the high school have vending machines?" to, "How close is a robot to human intelligence?"
During some down time we even got to visit a 7th grade tech class and help out with their projects and around the classroom in general.

The prospects for next year's PLTW freshmen class and we can't wait to see them!