November 29, 2017 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

All the Angles [Maker Update #62]

This week on Maker Update, gift-worthy projects including an RC Ladybug, high-tech puzzle box, firefly jar Bluetooth speakers, and a foam core constellation lamp. This week’s Cool Tool is a Digital Angle Ruler.

Show Notes

Advanced Project

Project and photo by Greg Zumwalt.

Lady Buggy by gzumwalt

More Projects

Project and photo by John Park.

Mystery Box: NeoMatrix Mk I by John Park

Project and photo by Kirby Meets Audio.

Firefly Jar Portable Bluetooth Speakers by KirbyMeetsAudio

Project and photo courtesy of Darbin Orvar.

Magical Starry Night Light W/ Wood, Foamboard & Fairy Lights by darbinorvar

Cool Tools Minute

Photo by Gem Red.

Digital Angle Ruler


Photo and project by Becky Stern.

3D Printer Filament Dry Box by bekathwia

Excerpt courtesy of Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Pi Projects Book 3 (Free PDF)

Maker Faires

Rome Italy
Berlin Germany
Los Angeles, California USA

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This week on Maker Update, gift-worthy projects like this RC Ladybug, a high-tech puzzle box, Fairylight Bluetooth speakers, and a foam core constellation lamp.

It’s Wednesday, I’m Donald Bell, and welcome to another Maker Update. December’s almost here and I thought this week I’d round up some new projects that could make great gifts. So let’s get into it, starting with the project of the week.

Greg Zumwalt made this motorized ladybug toy that you can control with your phone over Wi-Fi.

The shell is 3D printed, and includes printed gears for the two servo motors that push it around. You also get spots to mount them, along with cutouts for a power switch, USB port, and a spot for the rechargeable battery and Adafruit Feather HUZZAH board.

For the control, Greg’s code uses the ESP8266 Web Server library to turn the board into it own little access point. You connect to it with your phone like a Wi-Fi network and then enter a URL, and you have you own touch screen control.

In general, it’s a great, approachable guide for making a little RC toy. With very little effort, you could adapt any other 3D model to fit this same base — a Pikachu, a tiki head, whatever you want.

For another great, gift worthy project, check out this custom mystery box by John Park. This is another one you could take a lot of different ways.

It’s essentially a $20 Adafruit METRO board stuffed into a cool enclosure, with potentiometers, a keypad, and a light-up button for input, and a nice big RGB character display and piezo speaker for output.

This could easily be adapted into a music sequencer or project controller. But John’s direction with the decoder ring on here and the included demo code is to have this work as a high-tech puzzle that reveals secret messages depending on the input. It’s a cool idea and it looks great, and a neat gift for someone who’s into puzzles or escape rooms.

I also really like this Firefly Jar portable speaker project by Kirby Meets Audio. This is a set of stereo, Bluetooth speakers, built into a pair of sealed glass jars with little strings lights inside.

The project walks you through etching the glass, modifying the lid to fit the speakers, placing the grille cloth, wiring the Bluetooth board and amplifier, attaching the rechargeable battery, and placing the lights.

It’s a cool idea. Not sure how good they’ll sound, but when they look this cool who cares?

For something even more on the crafty side, Linn from Darbin Orvar has this Starry Night lamp made from foam core, wood, and fairy lights.

The project involves cutting constellations into foam core using leather punches of different sizes, scoring the foam core into 6 equal panels, shaping it into a hexagon tube, gluing it up, and making a top and base using wood.

It seems like a low cost project with a cool payoff. The fairy lights are prewired to a battery pack with a switch, so there are no electronics to mess with.

It’s time for another Cool Tool review. I’m going to show you a digital angle ruler. It’s sorta like digital calipers but for angles. I got this one for $19 on Amazon and if you want the same one, using the link in the description helps to support my videos and the Cool Tools blog.

Angles are tricky things. A lot of tools have useful presets for marking and cutting things at 90 or 45 degree angles. But what if you’re trying to figure out the imperfect angle of something that already exists?

The angle ruler is essentially two 7-inch rulers hinged in the middle. A display shows you the angle in degrees. You get an on/off button and a button to zero out the measurement. An included Lithium coin cell slots in from the side.

It reads in either direction. You can flatten it out and zero it, and measure up from here.

You can compare angles by measuring one, zeroing out, measuring the other to see the difference.

If your tool’s built-in angle guide isn’t reliable, you can use this to verify it or calibrate it.

And for me one of the best features of this tool is that you can tighten this nut on the hinge to lock an angle in place. This way you can measure an angle, lock it in, and then transfer it right to whatever material you’re using to reproduce the angle.

Downsides of this tool? It’s cheaply made. I suspect it would only take a few drops to break the display or battery compartment. I also can’t vouch for the measurements being scientifically precise.

And the ruler is a little useless. The display covers a portion of it. The zeros match up at a 90-degree angle — so it can sorta double as a square, but it’s not my first choice as a ruler.

But for $19, it is my first choice for measuring angles, and for that it’s a bargain. You can pick one up using the link in the description. And remember, you can see thousands of reader recommended tools like this at

I have a few more tips to share with you. On Instructables, Becky Stern has her own take on making a 3D printer filament dry box using a gasketed plastic bin, teflon tubing, and these 3D printed filament feeders from Steve Reisig. It’s a step up from the ziplock bag technique.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation, publishers behind MagPi magazine, have made their 3rd book of Raspberry Pi projects. 200 pages of projects and Getting Started guides. You can buy a print copy — but just like their magazine you can also download a full PDF for free. It is one of the best collections of Pi Projects I’ve ever seen and it has a great intro guide to Python code in the front.

You can find the link for this and for all the projects in this show in the video description.

Maker Faires! Only a few this weekend as the year winds down, but there’s a big one in Rome, a mini one in Berlin, and one in Los Angeles.

In fact I got an email a few days back from maker and musician Davy Sumner who’s performing at the L.A. Maker Faire with his experimental fork organ that combines DC motors and tuning forks and magnets. I encourage you to check it out if you’re in the area.

And that’s it for this week’s show. Be sure to subscribe and leave me a thumbs up or a comment. Pick up an angle ruler. And subscribe to the email newsletter to get these links out to you every week. Alright? Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next week.

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