March 22, 2017 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Skateboard Guitars & Ninja Timers [Maker Update #26]

This week on Maker Update: a timer for a ninja, Hackaday Prize, what happened to Maker Faire Chicago, skateboard slide guitar, PiCade hats, Feather cases, and this weekend’s Maker Faires. SUBSCRIBE ON YOUTUBE

Project of the Week

John Park Ninja Stopwatch

John Park Ninja Timer


2017 Hackaday Prize Launched

Hackaday Prize

Maker Faire Chicago Postponed

More Projects

Lap Slide Guitar Skate Board by BeavisChrist

InkScape Fret Ruler Extension

Slide Guitar Skateboard
Photo and project by Beavis Christ.


Etcher Software for SD imaging

PiCade Hat

Pimoroni Picade Hat

Feather Cases

Feather Board 3D printed cases
Photo and project by Noé Ruiz.

Maker Faires

San Antonio Mini Maker Faire San Antonio, Texas
Maker Faire Ruhr Dortmund
Twin Tiers Mini Maker Faire Horseheads, New York
Lynchburg Mini Maker Faire Lynchburg, Virginia
Mission Creek ALT

Maker Update is a weekly video series that comes out every Wednesday morning, covering news, projects, tips, and events that will interest the maker and DIY community.


This week on Maker Update: clocks for ninjas, Hackaday Prize, what happened to Maker Faire Chicago, skateboard slide guitar, PiCade hats, Feather cases, and this weekend’s Maker Faires.

It’s Wednesday, March 22nd, I’m Donald Bell, and welcome to another Maker Update. I hope you’e had a good week. I’ve got a fun project 99% wrapped up that I’m excited to share, hopefully this week. I was also happy to see a handful of you donate to my Hello Kitty GoKart project. I really appreciate it. It’s going to be cool, I swear. Cooler than it sounds.
But now let’s get this show moving, starting with the project of the week!

This week, maker extraordinaire and Ninja-in-training John Park unveiled this gigantic LED stopwatch, complete with a breakout controller for starting, pausing, stopping, and resetting the timer. There’s also a separate finish-line stop button mounted on top of a 3-inch PVC tube.

The whole setup is currently installed at a gym that does training for American Ninja Warrior, allowing people to race the course and hit the stop button at the end to compare their times. For authenticity, John even hooked up a car horn to the finish line button.

Now, as beautiful as the project is, for me the real star is the documentation John has on building one for yourself.

John breaks down what it takes to build just one of the 7-segment digits. Each one is made up of 7 sections of NeoPixel LED strip, plus single LED dots for the decimal and colon.

John includes the CAD files for the sandwich of material needed to hold and diffuse the LEDs. He cut his out on acrylic using a laser-cutter, but there’s no reason you couldn’t print these out as templates and cut them manually with a jigsaw or even boxcut them into some cardboard.

The whole thing runs on an Arduino M0 Pro, which has some extra memory that’s useful for the code and addressing all those LEDs. John also wires up his own board for level shifting the 3v output of the Arduino to the 5 volts needed for the LEDs.

The end result is so professional looking. It’s crazy. He even shows how he packaged everything up inside a $30 heavy duty enclosure made for sprinkler timers.

I love it, and there are so many great tips within this guide, such as how to diffuse LEDs, how to manage a rat’s nest of connections, and how to use Cat5 ethernet cable to run electronic connections across a room.

I also think it’s a great project that can be adapted for any sport, or a giant clock, a giant kitchen timer, or maybe a Christmas countdown timer. Well done, John.

And now for a little Maker News. This week, Hackaday officially launched their 2017 Hackaday prize. This is my favorite annual competition, in part because it really is by-and-for the maker community, but more importantly because it always finds a way of putting our creative focus on making things that make the world a better place.

This year there are 5 main categories for entry: Internet of Useful Things (emphasis on USEFUL); Wheels, Wings and Walkers — a challenge for mobility solutions; Assistive Technology — a challenge to help people with physical or mental challenges; an Anything Goes challenge open to anything with a clear benefit to humanity; and a Best Product challenge which circles back around on anything that was entered and singles out the most extraordinary product.

Entries are now open. It’s free to enter and there’s over $250,000 in cash prizes. So if you have even just a vague idea of something you’d like to try you should throw your hat in the ring.

In other news, last week I caught that Maker Faire Chicago — the newest of all the big, flagship Maker Faires — has been post-poned. It was going to take place April 22nd and 23rd, but now the website is vaguely saying Fall of this year. That’s a bummer. And I haven’t seen anyone directly comment on what happened, but hopefully it’s nothing that can’t be worked out.

Alright, and now for one more project. This past week, Instructables user Beavis Christ posted this great guide on making your own lapsteel-style guitar using a skateboard deck.

Appropriately enough it’s a Maker Faire deck. It uses off-the-shelf guitar tuning pegs, a nut and a bridge to run strings across the board. There are some sections carved out for electronics, like the pickup, jack, and spots for the volume and tone knobs.

Most importantly, he includes a PDF of the measurements required to stencil in where the fret markings are. Now, because this is a slide guitar, you don’t have the benefit of a metal fret to pinch down on to lock in a note, so the markings are your only guide to where your slide should be.

What I thought was especially cool is that another Instructables user, XTL, left a comment pointing to an Inkscape software plug-in that can calculate fretboard measurements at any length. It even does those crazy fanned-fretboard designs. It’s a free tool, and one of those things I just feel like I know I’ll use at some point. Maybe I’ll pair it up with that Xylophone making tool from last week’s show.

And now for some more tips. This week I discovered This is a cross-platform tool for writing disk images to SD cards. It’s been around for a year, but it’s new to me, and it’s handy for writing Raspberry Pi software to mircro SD cards. Also, because it’s Mac, PC, and Linux-compatible, it’s just easy to recommend without having to remember 3 different tools.

I also saw that Adafruit is stocking the PiCade hat for Raspberry Pi. This is a cool design from PiMoroni in the UK that makes it easy to attach a joystick and arcade buttons to your Raspberry Pi. It also includes a little amplifier for connecting up a speaker. It’s a great core for any Raspberry Pi arcade project.

Also, just a few days ago, I noticed that Noe Ruiz from Adafruit published the design for these 3D printed enclosures for the Arduino-compatible Featherwing boards. The design is really well thought out and includes battery storage, mounting holes, and cutouts for a USB cable.

Maker Faires! We have 4 Maker Faires this weekend. There’s San Antonio Texas, Dortmund Germany, Horseheads New York, and Lynchburg Virginia. If one of those is near you, you owe it to yourself to go check it out.

Also, another reminder that I will be giving a talk and a workshop at the Mission Creek Art, Life, Tech festival on Saturday April 8th in Iowa City. It’s free, but if you want to pre-register for one of the 30 spots in the soldering workshop I’ll include a link in the show notes.

And that’s it for this week’s show. I love making these, and if you want to show your support for me making these, please be sure to subscribe, give a thumbs up, leave a comment, or share this video, alright? It all helps. Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next week.

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