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No Shortage of Maker’s in VT!

Champlain Mini Maker Faire
Wow! Our second annual Maker Faire appears to have been a huge success. I heard rumor (unconfirmed) that the Faire was at capacity (sold out) on Saturday. My booth was buzzing with eager makers from open to close on both days.

What better setting could we possibly have for a Maker Faire than the Shelburne Farms Coach Barn?
Shelburne Farms

There is something about combining new technology in an old and beautiful setting that I really like. It seems to go really well together.

My main project / theme was “Roll Your Own Persistence of Vision“. In addition to my own large scale POV fan (seen behind me to my left in the photo below), I had a couple of commercially available POV toys to further demonstrate the concept. People of all ages were extremely interested in learning more about the capabilities of Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and the differences between the two, all of which I was more than happy to explain.

In addition to POV, I laid out various random projects such as a laser trip wire that turns lights on/off and plays random sounds and RGB LED lights flashing with amazing colors. These were all done using Arduino components. These definitely got the creative juices flowing for my visitors. They walked away excited and interested in learning more about the endless possibilities for these controllers for their own future projects.

Spreading this excitement in learning is exactly why I love volunteering my time to do this. It is my little taste of why some teachers are so passionate to teach.

At my partially setup booth on day one.  A bit of calm before the storm!
At my partially setup booth on day one. A bit of calm before the storm!

I met many people who wanted my business card or wanted to know if I consulted on various projects. I had to explain quite a few times that is just my personal hobby site and not what I do for a living. For those of you that want to stay in touch or contact me, you can always use the About Page on this site which has a contact form, and also follow me on Twitter, Google+ and of course, Instructables.

The SparkFun Roadshow Van.
The SparkFun Roadshow Van.

For those of you that don’t know, is like a huge online toy store for tech geeks. I wish they had physical stores and they were local! They are what Radio Shack was back in the day for Electronics geeks but 10x better.

As always, my retro Armatron robot arm from the 80's was a huge hit for kids and adults!
As always, my retro Armatron robot arm from the 80’s was a huge hit for kids and adults! This thing never gets old.

While this particular robot arm is no longer being made, you can find a similar one on Amazon for about $38. Click the link for details.

In closing, I really wish I could have done more with my booth this year but work and home responsibilities prevented me from doing so. I didn’t even START my POV fan project until the day before the Faire. Lucky for me, everything worked on the first try as I was putting it together (that doesn’t happen too often). There is no doubt that I will be back again next year. This is an event that pretty much defines who I am.

It was so much fun answering questions and demonstrating a few of my projects to others. For the “Newbie’s”, there is no such thing as a stupid question. I’m more than happy to help anyone that is eager to learn.

Take care and keep on Making!

– John

Book Review: iWoz

iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing ItiWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It by Steve Wozniak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have always been a fan of Woz, long before I was ever an Apple user. After reading this book, I’m an even bigger fan!

You will really enjoy this book if you’re a technical person that is always creating and building things yourself.

I found it very easy to relate to Steve in many ways, not just on the technical side, but also with his overall perspective on life. If you don’t care about the technical details of how things work and are designed from the ground up, this may have some dull parts for you. That said, they are pretty well contained in the book so it would be easy to skip over those sections as needed.

There is no doubt that I would highly recommend this to all my Engineering and Maker friends.

View all my reviews

Dry Aged Beef @ Home

Dry Aged Beef.  It’s what any high end steakhouse serves and one of the main things that is difficult to reproduce at home with your normal grilling process.

Until now anyway.  Thanks to, below is a fantastic article on how you can produce your very own dry aged beef.  Let me know if you try this. I know I’m dying to myself.

Digital RGB LED Strips Using Arduino!

Get started on RGB LED strips using Arduino

Check out this awesome Arduino controlled Digital RGB LED Strip.  There are 32 LEDs per meter of the strip and they can be shortened or extended quite easily.

With this I can programmatically set the color of each LED’s red, green and blue component with 7-bit PWM precision (so 21-bit color per pixel).  Below you can see my demo of it running through a test script with several different effects going on.

This is much easier to do than one might expect thanks to the libraries that have been already written by others to do the grunt work.  You can easily have your own RGB LED strips using Arduino for control in no time! If you have any questions, feel free to ask!


Warning, once you start playing with these and realize how easy they are to control, you will be hooked!

RGB LED strips using Arduino

Below you will find several options for buying your own LED strips from Amazon

Special thanks to John Cohn for hooking me up with these! (John, you can borrow my Arduino stuff anytime!)  You can see John wearing a headband made of the same type of LEDs on his Wikipedia page and possibly spot his nearly famous LED hula hoop in one of his many blog posts. The project opportunities are endless.  I’m hooked.

Find Schematics On Everyday Products

Did you know that detailed technical schematics and product documentation is available for most common electronic devices?  Phones, remote controls, games, etc. Anything that has to be registered with the FCC can be found here, and it is not widely advertised.

This little known tip should come in quite handy for your next DIY project.  Here is a 30 second video overview:

To get started simply visit the FCC ID website shown below:

Easily Remove Dried Hot Glue

I’m sure almost everyone has encountered “Hot Glue” or “Hot Melt” at some point in their lives.  It’s a very handy substance used to quickly glue things together with reasonably good strength and flexibility.  No doubt a staple in every Maker’s toolbox.

Hot Glue Gun - Easily Remove Dried Hot Glue

You may have also struggled with trying to remove Hot Glue from various objects.  It seems like no matter how harsh of a remover you try (acetone, mineral spirits, turpentine, etc.), nothing is effective at removing it cleanly and quickly.

Well that is until now…

I’m going to show you how to easily remove dried hot glue.

I literally stumbled on this trick while working with hot glue over 20 years ago at a previous job. It ended up being a major discovery for how we conducted re-work on defective PCB parts.

After a bit of research I was surprised to find that as of 2010, nobody else seemed to be aware of this solution. Most people were attempting to use harsh chemicals such as those mentioned above, and without much luck. “So this is what it’s like to discover that new species of insect or new star that was never noticed before” I thought. Well, not quite, but it’s still pretty cool being one of (if not THE) first person to discover this trick. Several people have since created similar videos or articles demonstrating the technique but hey, they say imitation is the greatest form for flattery!

Long story short – use Isopropyl Alcohol

Easily Remove Dried Hot Glue

This little video continues to be extremely popular. The feedback received has been tremendous and very rewarding. Helping others is exactly why I enjoy doing this stuff. Here is a sampling of the feedback:

“yrusam2 – Thank you. I just tried it on a vintage wicker basket that had been decorated 25 years ago. I had pulled most of the hot glue off, but there was still much that remained & in little nooks of the basket. Old glue really stuck on there!! The rubbing alcohol method worked! thank you so much.”

“DanMan9871 – Worked perfectly! +1 internets to u”

“GTC1958 – Thanks Siliconghost, it worked just like you showed it would. Blessings to you.”

“TheAnonymousRaccoon – Ok, 1. That video helps alot. Many thanks. 2. You have excellent taste in 8Bit Music! :)”

“kmpjayhawks – We used the alcohol on the painted walls and brick to remove the hot glue, it worked great. It did remove a little paint which was fine because we are repainting. I work at a school and we had to remove alot of it. We were chipping away, we tried heating it and that made it worse. There were 5-6 of us working on it while racking are brains on an easier way. I googled it, found your tip. After that it just took 2 girls to finish up and got it done in the time it took 5 of us that worked on it all day. Wanted to say thanks!! Now we can go home and ice are sore arms from all the chipping we were doing before I found your tip”

“billfarr – May you be Blessed by all and/or any Diety that watch over you. And may you never become unable to hold onto a single blade of grass to keep from falling off the earth.”

“tiggerlick – Okay, I bought an antique reproduction Victorian couch for a song because repairs had been attempted with hot glue and resulted in a fairly hideous mess. I’m pretty confident and fairly clever, so I went after it with paint thinner. No luck. I tried paint remover. Nope. Windex. Nix. I broke out the big stuff; Methyl Ethyl Ketone-negative. KleanStrip solvent, which will damn near dissolve human bone (I don’t know this for a fact). Nah. I would have used a small thermonuclear device if the internet instructions had actually worked properly but someone somewhere has clearly altered them. Then I found your video. In 15 minutes I’d picked enough hot glue off of the pink velvet to get the result I needed and continue the repair. Thank you. Not only from me, but from all the inhabitants of my fair city who were saved from atomic incineration by your timely and instructive video.”

For those interested, the awesome retro background music in my video is by 8bitpeoples
Album: Claps and Leads
Song: Funktify

Vermonter Tip #322 – Efficient Snow Blowing

Vermonter Tip #322 – Efficient Snow Blowing

Just like mowing your lawn, there is a better way to snow blow your driveway. This technique boils down to always starting in the middle and blowing the snow outward.  As simple as it sounds I continue to see people doing their driveways with other patterns, throwing snow over areas they have already cleared or constantly wrestling with the snow chute to change direction.  Sound familiar? Keep reading…


I’m going to illustrate this technique with a simple rectangle driveway.  The concept will be the same regardless of driveway shape or size but the area you approach first may vary.

This method:

  • Minimizes the need to adjust the snow throwing chute
  • Keeps snow off areas that you have already passed
  • Keeps you moving in a forward direction
  • Eliminates the need to clear the same area(s) more than once

Let’s Begin

Start by clearing some space on both ends of your driveway.  This will allow you to easily maneuver around each pass without going out into the road or coming too close to your garage.

Figure 1 demonstrates this with four passes.  On each end start on the outside and work your way in.  If necessary adjust your snow chute to throw toward the middle of your driveway.

First clear the ends
Figure 1 – First clear the ends


Now adjust your snow throwing chute so it points to the right. It should now remain in this position for the remainder of the job.

The Bulk Of The Work
Create a strip straight down the middle of the driveway (see pass #1 indicated in Figure 2 below). Always slightly overlap the last area that you cleared and continue blowing snow toward the outer edges.  Again, when following this pattern you should never have to adjust your snow chute because it will always be point toward an outer edge of the driveway.

Work from the middle out
Figure 2 – Work from the middle out

Continue each circle pass following the pattern above. When you reach the outside you are done! If done correctly, at the right speed with the right overlap, you should never have to go back over the areas you have already covered. It is that simple.

Happy Snow Blowing!

Do you have a “Vermonter Tip” worth sharing? If so, please submit it here!

Vermonter Tip #476 – There Is No Such Thing As “Grill Season”

Don't let a little snow stop you!
Don’t let a little snow stop you!
Vermonter Tip #476 – There Is No Such Thing As “Grill Season”

In Vermont there is no such thing as “Grill Season”.  Grilling can be done year round. A little (or lot of) snow shouldn’t stop you.  On contrary to popular excuse belief, grills can still get extremely hot in the winter if given the proper time to pre-heat.

When cooking in the winter don’t bother with the built-in grill igniters.  They usually freeze up and will only cause headache.  Instead get yourself a box of nice fireplace matches such as these:

Click to Order!

Most grills have a hole in the front right corner designed for lighting manually. If not, simply hold the match down through the grate at each burner as you turn it on.

It’s also very important to keep the lid shut while cooking. Hopefully you spent the summer learning how your grill likes to operate. You should only have to open the grill once or twice to turn the food or make sure small fires are in check.

Do you have a “Vermonter Tip” worth sharing? If so, please submit it here!

Vermonter Tip #351 – Lift Wiper Blades

Vermonter Tip #351 – Lift Wiper Blades

Lift wiper blades up before a snow storm. This will keep them clean and free of ice. High end car manufacturers have even incorporated this as a “feature”. The cars will automatically set the blades away from the glass when turned off.

Lift Wiper Blades - Save yourself a little time by flipping your wipers up before a snow storm
Save yourself a little time by flipping your wipers up before a snow storm

 Why does this help?

Unless the snow is very light and fluffy, it usually lands on your windshield wet and drips down to your wiper blades.  This also happens when you just come in from driving and your window is warm from the inside heater.  This causes ice to form on the blades, freezing them to the windows.  Depending on how much wet snow you get, it can be a real pain getting them unstuck from the window.  If you do so forcibly, you risk ruining your wiper blade.  When you lift wiper blades up, the water has nowhere to collect so the wipers stay clean and the window doesn’t build up ice.

Take it from someone who has a lot of experience cleaning snow off cars. This really works. Try it!

Do you have a “Vermonter Tip” worth sharing? If so, please submit it here!