Meet the Makers: StickTogether

StickTogether is the fun, collaborative, community-building activity with a beautiful reward. Participants ‘StickTogether’ by adding colored stickers to a large color-coded grid (color by sticker). When all of the stickers are attached, a vibrant image is revealed. For groups of all ages and sizes, Stick Together creates community and celebrates the experience of collective accomplishment in living color.

Help create a StickTogether image in the course of the day. Come early to participate. Come back later in the day to see your contribution rewarded!

The Troy Mini Maker Faire is this Saturday, August 27, from 11 am to 6 pm. Get your free tickets  now (or just come by) and join us on to meet all our Makers. We look forward to seeing you!

Power Tool Drag Racing Comes to the Streets of Troy!

If you love racing — and particularly if you love crazy racing vehicles — the Troy Mini Maker Faire  is right up your alley! On August 27 the streets of Troy will become the scene of the first Power Tool Drag Race (PTDR) to be held in our area. Tom Tongue, executive director of the Tech Valley Center of Gravity, describes it like this:

Power Tool Drag Racing puts racing contraptions powered by ordinary power tools in head-to-head competition to see who takes it … who REIGNS SUPREME!

The history of Power Tool Drag Racing is apocryphal and filled with myths, legends, hyperbole and downright facts. Never let facts get in the way! Needless to say, it’s probably been around since the first hand power tools were available and some genius decided to zip-tie the trigger on a belt-sander and watch it tear across the floor to sounds of mad glee, terror and pure, unadulterated delight.

Today power tool races are held all over the world, and almost anybody can build a racer in a few hours with a few items from a thrift store. And that’s where YOU come in!

Do you hear it? Do you hear the sirens maddening call to BUILD AND RACE?!? Then YOU need to come to the Troy Mini Maker Faire on August 27th, 2016 and RACE to the adulation of the throng!

Our Power Tool Drag Race page has more info on this great event. Or go directly to the online form to register to enter the Power Tool Drag Race and join the fun! Questions? Email Tom at PTDR@tvcog.net.

Meet the Makers: John Petsche and his Biodiesel Land Speed Motorcycle

Maker John Petsche will be traveling up from Long Island to show off his hobby at the Troy Mini Maker Faire on August 27 — building racing motorcycles that run on vegetable oil. In 2011 and 2012, he brought  his first alt-fuel speed motorcycle to World Maker Faire New York. He built the custom drivetrain in his garage workshop, and set multiple land speed records in the Alt Fuel category. Then, in 2014, he retired the bike from racing and set out to build its successor.

For 2016, John will present his second homemade alternate fuel motorcycle. It is a 1979 Harley Davidson Sportster with an 850cc v-twin tractor diesel engine, running on 100% biodiesel. He fabricated and welded every component myself, developed the drivetrain, and raced it at the Ohio Mile 2016 Land Speed Event, where it set its first of what he hopes are many records. John answered some questions for us about his exhibit:

What is your background (Maker and otherwise)?

I graduated from RPI in 2010 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. I currently work as a Controls Engineer for National Grid at the Northport Power Station on Long Island.

I have been tinkering for as long as I can remember, starting with Legos and Erector Sets as a child. I have been involved in robotics, alternate energy, biofuel, automotive, and motorcycle projects since high school. At my job, I am heavily involved with electrical projects, equipment troubleshooting, design upgrades, and environmental compliance.

How did you come to build your first vegetable oil-powered motorcycle? How long does it take to construct one?

My first diesel bike took about 3 years to construct, troubleshoot, test, redesign, and race. I developed the transmission from scratch, and fabricated the mounting brackets, exhaust system, supercharger drive, and controls in my garage machine shop.

I built it because I have always been interested in alternate energy and biofuels, but had an extremely limited project budget. A friend gave me the remains of a junked motorcycle that he had parted out, and I decided to use it as the basis of a biodiesel project. It was an invaluable learning experience, and taught me much about vehicle design.

Tell us about the records you’ve set with your alt-powered bikes.

My first bike holds four records in the Alt-Fuel category at the Loring Timing Association in Limestone, Maine. The second bike, completed this past Spring, holds one Alt-Fuel record at the Ohio Mile in Wilmington, Ohio, with hopefully more to come!

You exhibited earlier models of your vehicles at World Maker Faire New York. What did you enjoy about that experience?

Exhibiting at the NYC World Maker Faire was an amazing experience. I enjoyed meeting an incredibly diverse and talented group of other makers, sharing my experiences with them, and learning about their projects in return.

What are you looking forward to at Troy Mini Maker Faire?

I am looking forward to returning to the city of my alma mater and meeting a different group of makers, all with their own unique stories to tell.

If you would like to have your own Maker exhibit at this year’s Troy Mini Maker Faire, the Call for Makers is open until August 1. After that date, we’ll consider new exhibits as space allows, so get your application in! There’s no charge to be an exhibitor, and we are open to any kind of art/tech/science project you have in mind. Just fill out the online application form and let us know what you’d like to share with the Maker Community. We look forward to hearing from you!

Meet the Makers: Needles and Gears with Andrea Habura

Our next featured Maker, Andrea Habura, is calling her exhibit Needles and Gears — just one of many fashion-related activities happening at Troy Mini Maker Faire on August 27. Her description:

Victorian women were steampunk. Don’t believe me? Come play with their gears. You’ve seen photos of Victorian dresses, with miles and miles of ruffles, buttons, and ribbons. Sewing machines had just been invented then, along with hundreds of attachments that made it easier to whip out the latest styles. They’re fascinating to watch: no motors, no electronics, just machinery and cleverness. Try out these antique machines yourself, and see some modern e-textiles sewn on them.

Andrea is a member of TVCOG who contributed several top Instructables on behalf of the makerspace and also helped run the CoG’s booth at World Maker Faire New York in 2015. She answered some questions about her fascination with antique sewing machines and provided some illuminating videos of them in action.

You have a PhD in biology, but you are also highly skilled in decorative crafts. How long have you been interested in fabric arts?

Longer than I’ve been a biologist. I started doing embroidery as a teenager, as physical therapy after a nerve injury. For many years, I was a member of the SCA (a medieval-reenactment group), and I did a lot of embroidery and costuming for that. I also quilt and crochet.

I am especially interested in the history of textiles, as part of a broader interest in the lives of women in previous eras. I have a collection of antique womens’ magazines like Godey’s Lady’s Book, and it’s remarkable how much of the content is about fiber arts. If you were a 19th century woman, sewing was one of the things you thought about every day.

How did you start collecting antique sewing machines?

A friend of mine is a Civil War reenactor, and she also collects antique sewing machines. The first time I saw one of her machines, I was fascinated by the mechanics of it. Modern sewing machines were something I used because I needed to sew things, but they are kind of boring. The antiques are fun to watch, and they are also remarkably sturdy. If you keep them oiled, they will run forever.

My friend helped me get both of my antique machines. I have a Singer 128 made in 1920 that I use for my sewing, and another made in 1908 that has lots of fancy gold decoration on it. They’re interesting because you can see several design improvements that Singer made over the 13 years between the two machines.

My friend and I also bought another 1920’s Singer and donated it to a charity that gives hand-crank sewing machines to people in Tanzania. Many of the villages there don’t have electricity and are accessible only by dirt roads, so a sturdy non-electric sewing machine that the local mechanic can probably fix is really appreciated!

What makes these machines different from modern versions?

I like the Maker motto that “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it”. Modern sewing machines hide all of the machinery from you, but early ones make it much more obvious what’s going on. There are even little ports you can open up to watch the drive shaft at work. They are also made to be repaired and improved, not thrown out. Very much in the Maker spirit!

The attachments are also little mechanical marvels. Sewing machine makers were trying to compete with skilled hand seamstresses, so they had to make it possible to do a lot more than just sew a straight seam — and you had to be able to do it with one hand, because the other hand is turning the machine crank! The inventiveness that was applied to this problem is just remarkable. Old Singer machines are like a KitchenAid mixer: there are so many cool attachments you can hook up to them.

That said, these machines are slower and fussier than modern ones, so I do use a modern machine if I’m trying to get something done on deadline.

What will people see/do/learn when they visit your exhibit at Troy Mini Maker Faire in August?

They’ll get the chance to see and use one of these machines, learn about how they work mechanically, and learn a little bit about the 19th century textile industry in Troy. I’ll also have a few “crossover” pieces of fiber arts: e-textiles sewn on an antique machine.

You were part of the TVCOG team at World Maker Faire New York last year. What do you like about Maker Faire and the Maker Movement?

I think the biggest thing is the sheer enthusiasm and the can-do spirit. It is so energizing to be in a crowd of 50,000 people who all believe that we can make the world better if we try. You can see how excited people are at Maker Faires — everyone has a bounce in their step, and you don’t see kids whining or looking down at their cell phones.

I also love the fact that Makers are so ready to share what they’ve learned and to encourage each other. It’s a very mutualist and supportive community that will also give you an encouraging push if you’re stalled on something. It’s a very healthy attitude.

[Editor’s Note: In 2015, there were 85,000 attendees at World Maker Faire New York.]

If you would like to have your own Maker exhibit at this year’s Troy Mini Maker Faire, the Call for Makers is open until August 1. Just fill out the online application form and let us know what you’re like to do. It’s free!

Meet the Makers: Toothpick World

Troy Mini Maker Faire is excited to welcome Maker Stan Munro and his creation Toothpick World! It’s an ongoing project to re-create famous buildings and other structures from around the world ALL to the same 1:164 scale using toothpicks and glue. Munro has exhibited his amazing toothpick models at World Maker Faire New York, NYC and Mini Maker Faires in Buffalo, Rochester, and Utica, and his work was featured on the Make Magazine website and on the New York Times’ City Room blog.

Munro answered a few questions about what’s in store for visitors at the Troy Mini Maker Faire on August 27:

Your exhibit was a major hit at World Maker Faire New York in 2012. Since then you’ve exhibited at several Mini Maker Faires upstate. What do you enjoy about being a part of Maker Faire?
I truly enjoy meeting the other makers–there’s something about their “can-do” attitudes that inspires me. I always learn something new and make great connections. It’s the best place to recharge your creative energy.

Toothpick Cathedral

What will you be bringing to Troy Mini Maker Faire?
I’m going to bring some well-known buildings (like the US Capitol and Notre Dame), and a few surprises–maybe some pieces from my new Sci-Fi exhibit.

What’s your favorite building? Which was the toughest to build?
“My favorite building is always my next building–it’s the joy of creating and meeting new challenges that keeps me going. Two of my most difficult pieces were La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and the Golden Gate Bridge (that’s 40 feet long).

How long does it take you to go from idea to finished product?
“The process is widely different from building to building. The Washington Monument took five hours –La Sagrada Familia took five months –and they’re both about the same height. But in general, a tower takes a week, and a temple takes a month.

What buildings are you hoping to make in the future?
So many buildings… So little time… I have over 40 countries represented, but I’d like more. So many ships too (SS Great Eastern is haunting me). I’d love to do a cross-section of El Duomo in Florence. The Shard in London, a cathedral in Cuba, a temple in Vietnam, Baalbek in Lebanon, an oil rig… Hopefully, I’ll be working on one of these at the Faire!

If you would like to have your own Maker exhibit at this year’s Troy Mini Maker Faire, the Call for Makers is open until August 1. Just fill out the online application form and let us know what you’re like to do. It’s free!