Make Lehigh Valley Make Hardware, Make Software, Make Art


Large LED Clock from Recycled Components

Finished Clock

Finished Clock

One of the first things I noticed after joining Make Lehigh Valley was that there was no easy way to tell what time it was if you weren't near a computer. After discovering a box of LEDs that had been recently donated to the space, I decided I would fix that problem. The LED clock itself is made of mostly recycled and donated parts. The 7-segment displays are made from laser-cut cardboard and tissue paper as the diffuser. The LEDs were rather unusual in that they were arrays of dies in a rectangular metal package; this lent itself well for the 7-segment arrangement.

Control Board

Control Board

The control board is about as simple as it gets. The Atmega328 communicates to two MCP23016 16 bit I/O expanders and a Dallas DS1307 real-time clock chip via I2C. Also onboard is a DHT11 temperature and humidity sensor. This allows the clock to function like one you would see at a bank. The display cycles through time, temperature and humidity - three seconds each.


Testing the Drive Method

Testing the Drive Method

Since the LEDs are actually small arrays, they have a forward voltage of about 7v - I was thinking I would need to multiplex the display and use additional transistors to handle the voltage, but the LEDs were plenty bright enough at 50mA (the output rating of the IO pins on the expander IC) so I was able to use a dual rail power supply to power the LEDs with the IO expander directly (well, with current limiting resistors anyway). The LEDs are connected in a common anode arrangement to the +12v rail of a power supply scavenged from a 10mbps ethernet hub. The logic runs from the 5v rail. When the pins on the IO expander go high (+5v), there is only 5vdc across the LED and so it stays dark. When the pin goes low, it gets the full 12v through 220 ohm resistors, limiting the current to about 22mA.


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Hacker’s Phone Charger

This project starts a few months ago when one of our members was putting together a class for a girl scout troop. He was teaching them using adafruit trinkets and needed a fairly powerful 5v supply to power them. His Solution was to use some old rear pci slot mounted USB jacks, similar to the image bellow, connected to the 5v supply line of a PC power supply.

USB PCI Header

One day at the space someone needed to charge their phone so they plugged it in to the jack connected to the power supply. I liked the idea and decided to take it a bit over the top. I used openscad to create a box to hold all the USB jacks along with binding posts that connect to the +12v, +5v, and +3.3v coming out of the power supply. I printed the top and bottom of the box on the 3d printer. and now have an over-the-top hacker phone charger, raspberry pi and everything else power station. Two of the PCI USB slots had status LEDs on them. I added an attiny85 to blink them around in a cycle as just a fun extra feature.

Without further ado here is the finished product.




Here you can see the lights in action



The arduino code along with the stl and openscad files can be found at my github here

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Lehigh Valley Mini Maker Faire: Welcome!

Hello Makers!

We hope you had an amazing time at the Lehigh Valley Mini Maker Faire this past weekend! We all had a great time meeting with the community showing tons of people how to solder, and showing off what we do as a makerspace. We look forward to getting to know you all and can’t wait to see what cool things you’re working on.

Nearly everyone who signed up was interested in becoming a member, and we couldn't be happier to welcome new members into our group. Follow the link here for our public docs and find the Membership Application and Liability Waiver. Once you have it filled out, you can hand it to any board member for review.

While we’re planning our upcoming events, we encourage you to spend time getting to know our community, share your interests, and get involved, here’s how:

Open Hack Nights are Thursdays from 6:30pm ~ 9:30pm at The Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, Suite 101, 905 Harrison Street, Allentown. (The first loading bay along the street from the end with the water tower in the parking lot, park on the street, and look for the wooden stairs or use the doorbell next to the loading door). We’re open for members and non-members to come in and meet with the community. Feel free to bring projects that you are working on to show them off, or just come by and take a look at what we’re up to. This is a casual event, but a great way to get to know our group and get involved.

We look forward to seeing you soon!


Standing Desk Mod

Standing desks have become pretty huge lately. They are said to be a great way to avoid the long hours of sitting that accompanies many jobs. After using one for a few weeks when I was working in Germany I understood the hype and when I got home I had to have one for myself.

The first thing I thought was that I didn't want to just make a tall desk. That would have made it so I was always stuck with a standing desk. Sometimes you need to just sit down. When I looked for pre-made convertible standing desks I found out that they were ridiculously expensive. I knew I needed to make my own desk or modify the one I had.

I racked my brain for a while thinking what to do. I thought of some ideas that would put a new top on my desk that could be lifted but that seemed like a big task. Then I came across an eBay listing for 18 inch stroke linear actuators that run at 24 volts and could lift 600lbs. They were being sold by Each actuator was about $45.

Using 4 linear actuators, a 24V linear power supply, an arduino, a relay board with 8 relays, and a few other components I created a convertible standing desk.

Check out the video below for a tour of the desk.

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Should a Maker go to a Hackathon?

We invited Tim Lytle of LV Hack (among other things) to share his argument for why a hardware hacker should join an event that is traditionally for software hackers. They're really interested in having more hardware guys around to bring new ideas and make new things possible. There is some fun to be had! -- Josiah

What's a Hackathon?
First things first: A hackathon is an event - generally a few days on a weekend - that brings people together to build interesting things, all the while learning about new technology and sharing experiences. People may 'hack' on something: take a technology, exsisting product, or open source software, and repurpose it into something else, add features, or explore new uses. Other's may 'hack' something together: take various building blocks, APIs, hardware platforms, and create something completely new and unique.

What's a Hacker, and a Hack?
It's probably safe to say that most makers wouldn't raise an eyebrow at those terms - but in case the definition is a bit fuzzy, a hacker is simply someone really good at solving problems and overcoming limits in ways that may not seem obvious to most. Paul Graham has said that a hacker is "someone who can make a computer do what he wants—whether the computer wants to or not." And a hack is the imaginative, clever, and perhaps crafty output of that hacker. "Whether the result is a quick-and-dirty patchwork job or a carefully crafted work of art, you have to admire the cleverness that went into it" is how the Jargon file distils the meaning.

If you think that sounds a little like the software version of a maker - well, you'd be right.

But hacking is not really limited to software, and making is not really limited to just the things we can physically touch - so I'd venture to say that a hacker and a maker are pretty much the same thing.

But Why a Hackathon?
That's a fair question. Whether you're tinkering on a robot (or laser), working on some software project, or building something with a microcontroller - there's weeknights after work, open hack nights at the makerspace, and every other weekend. What makes a weekend hackathon so different?

It's for all those ideas that you're not working on yet. The ones that would take more than just a few nights to test the potential, or that need another set of eyes, a second pair of hands, or a few more heads to really figure out. And even when it's not your idea, it's a great opportunity to see what's bouncing around in someone else's head, and end up making something that inspires your next idea. 

The people you meet at a hackathon can become lifelong friends, partners on projects, and even at times the team that takes a hack of an idea, and turns it into something much bigger.

And while traditionally people think of hackathons as a place for software developers, that distinction is becoming less and less true. From software to embedded devices to mechanical engineering - we've seen a variety of hacks at our hackathons over the past few years. And we expect even more variety this time around, as our venue is the Wilbur Powerhouse with a assortment of printers and prototyping tools.

So yes, a maker should definitely go to a hackathon - and fortunately for you, there's one going on in just a few weeks. See you there?



Lehigh Valley Science Festival


Saturday, March 22, 2014 (Rain or Shine) 9:30 am - 5 pm at Coca-Cola park, Allentown, PA

It a free family event for with fun for all ages!  There will be a Text and Drive Simulator by AT&T, Gummy Worms and Fingerprints by the Cedar Crest College Chemistry Department, Hands-on Lego Building and Robotics by Igutech, Robotics, 3D Printers, Music, and More by Da Vinci Science Center's SPOT Program, and SO many more activities!

Event Details | ActivitiesGeneral Description


Correction: Mini Maker Faire Lehigh Valley – Free for non-commercial exhibitors

Yesterday's blog entry stated that all exhibitors would have a fee. This is not correct. The fee only applies to commercial vendors. Non-commercial vendors will be able to exhibit for free. All you need to do is sign up and get on the list.

So, what else are you waiting for? Sign-up!


Mini Maker Faire Lehigh Valley Town Hall Report

We were at the Town Hall today about the Mini Maker Faire Lehigh Valley happening April 26th. It sounds like it will be amazing and is positioning quickly to be an incredible celebration of making and makers in the Lehigh Valley. There are opportunities for just about anyone in the Lehigh Valley to get involved. The enthusiasm for this event is amazing and it's going to be a lot of fun to be involved in any capacity.

Mini Maker Faire Lehigh Valley

Who is a Maker?
Check out the variety of makers mentioned at the town hall!

  • knitters
  • gardeners
  • quilters
  • cooks
  • paper-craft enthusiasts
  • engineers
  • woodworkers
  • musicians
  • 3D printers
  • beer brewers
  • much more

Everyone is welcome to come share what they enjoy making with the community. There are opportunities to have a table, give a performance or give talks.

Sign-up To Show What You Make

Top priority at this point is to figure out how much interest there is in exhibiting. If you have any interest in exhibiting, you'll want to sign up for the "Call to Makers". This will give the organizers an idea of what you'd like to share and how to keep you informed as things develop. We're expecting something between 50 to 300 makers and we'd be glad to have you be one of them. (If you're a Make Lehigh Valley fellow, note that when filling out the form so you can be around the rest of us.) We may end up with a whole section to ourselves. There will be an exhibitor fee Non-commercial vendors will be free! Exhibitors who are selling items will have a modest fee, but what that will be has not been determined yet. Don't let that stop you from signing up to exhibit.

Find out more about exhibiting by signing-up.

Free Admission
Admission to the event will be free to the entire community. Feel free to start getting the word out there to friends, family and co-workers about the event. We heard of a paper rocket booth already being worked on to allow kids to build and launch some really amazing paper rockets. This has been a huge hit among kids (and adults) at other Maker Faires so it'll be great to bring this to the valley. Other child focused events will also be around. Make Lehigh Valley will likely be teaching soldering again. 3D printers are almost certainly going to be spread around to enjoy.

Sponsors & Partners
There has already been a significant interest in sponsoring this event.  It will be held at ArtsQuest. That will be a beneficial partnership. Lehigh University's Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation is also closely connected to helping make this happen. PBS39 is also very interested in both fiscal and other assistance. Lehigh Valley Tech and Make Lehigh Valley are, of course, closely connected with helping organize this whole event. We hear others are lining up to be a part also.

Find out more about sponsorship.

There are opportunities for people interested in volunteering for this event also. If you are passionate about supporting making in the valley, then perhaps this is the spot for you. You can start right away be telling everyone, inviting people you know who have cool things to show. Tell friends, family and co-workers.

Find out more about volunteering.

EDIT on 2 Feb. 2014:

  1. Good news, fees for exhibitors are only for commercial makers. Non-commercial is free.
  2. Corrected the name of Lehigh University's Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation.

Recent Activity – A Pictoral Tour

If you haven't been around recently, here are a few things you would have seen.


Community Scrap Day Sat 10/26!

On Saturday October 26th beginning at 10AM Make Lehigh Valley will be hosting a special event during which we finally eliminate the scrap, abandoned projects and computer piles.  Members and the public alike are invited to come participate in helping us disassemble, salvage and scrap all the stuff in the piles.  While we’re at it, the Make Lehigh Valley members can provide a wealth of knowledge about whats inside and how things work.  MakeLV keeps and sorts certain useful parts we find, and has scrap outlets for all metals, batteries, and PCBs.  We’ll need some help keeping all that sorted as well, along with taking out the trash!  This is a great chance to check out Make Lehigh Valley and see what we’re all about too.

Please note that this does NOT mean you should bring things you want to scrap as we’re trying to clear out our space.

Pizza and drinks provided courtesy of MakeLV!  Although we do have tools and safety gear, it may be advisable to bring along your toolbox – useful items might be gloves, safety glasses, a screw gun, both regular & precision screwdrivers, pliers and cutters.  Tools should be marked or otherwise easily identifiable.

We have cataloged what we can out of the abandoned projects pile and contacted the owners.  Those without a known owner (but we know it was a project) are listed below.  If you do not lay claim to these projects and either a) make your plan for timely completion known, b) store it in your locker if you have one, or c) pick it up and take it with you by Sat 10/26, your project will be up for grabs and scrapped for it’s useful components if not claimed.  We are certainly not pressuring anyone with an active project, these have been dormant 6 months or more and are consuming a considerable amount of space.

Record Player w/Orange Tape
PA Amplifier
Allen Bradley PLC
Modular PC
Grain Mill/Arm
PlayStation Mod? (was in box wired to Basic Stamp)
DIY LCD Projector
White box CPU with “Project Do Not Scrap” on top

If you have any questions or ideas, feel free to contact me.  Spread the word!  Thanks in advance for your help everyone!