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Happy Arduino Day!

Happy Birthday Arduino!

To celebrate Arduino Day, has several fantastic deals on Arduino boards valid one day only for “Arduino Day” which is today, March 29th.

I would recommend the $9 “RedBoard” for anyone just getting started. The $3 mini boards are great if you have a little experience and are looking for a low cost dedicated Arduino for your projects.

They are allowing back orders on these awesome prices.  Don’t miss out on these great deals.

Also note that today from 4 – 8pm is the “Launch Party” for Generator, a new VT Maker Space with lots of cool (expensive) gadgets for your building needs. They will have a cash bar from 6-8pm and Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup. What more could you want?

Have fun and let me know if you build something.


Arduino Classes in Essex, VT

Arduino is an electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It is intended for creating interactive objects or environments. The sky is the limit on the things you can create.

Interested in all the “Maker Craze” with Arduino? Not sure where to start?

Arduino Yún
Arduino Yún

John Mangan of will be presenting a series of classes on the Arduino microcontroller in two tracks. The beginners track is for people who have zero experience with Arduino.

A series of separate hands-on classes will follow with increasing levels of difficulty (and fun!). An optional Arduino starter kit will be available for purchase and use in the hands-on sessions.

The details of each class are still being planned. The introduction class will be a one-hour session. Hands-on workshops will be 2 hour sessions and will require students to bring their own PC or Mac to participate. Classes are planned to be offered in Essex, VT, but details on the venue are still being finalized.

Class sizes will be limited and pricing will be very reasonable. Interested? Sign up to my mailing list below to be notified when more details become available.

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Delivered by FeedBurner 2013 Geek Gift Guide

Welcome to my first annual Geek Gift Guide!
2013 Geek Gift Guide
It’s no secret that I’m a gadget guy. I’m always on the lookout for new and unique items. There is something on this hand-picked list for everyone, young and old! They are in no particular order and new items will be added to the top of this list daily during the first two weeks of December. Check back regularly for updates!

If you have suggestions for items to add this year, please use the contact form here.

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

October Declared Tech Month in VT

Another busy day at work today.  As a nice little break, VT Gov. Peter Shumlin visited our site to officially declare October as “Tech Month” in VT.  An article about the visit can be found here.  We had representatives from, Fairpoint Communications, and other local tech companies  joining us for the announcement.

October declared "Tech Month" in VT
October declared “Tech Month” in VT

This all helps to kick off the MWG created “Hackathon”,  a competition in which more than 100 computer programmers will be given 24 hours to develop a computer application, website or other digital product that will benefit the state.  I really wish I had time to compete myself.  Maybe next year.

In other news, I created a new rub the other day. Tonight it was tested on dinner and was very well received with my family.  I consider it a success so I’m posting the recipe here.  It’s called “Cinnamon Bun Chicken Rub” because it really does smell like cinnamon buns cooking in the oven.  My kids LOVED this rub on chicken thighs. I encourage you to give it a try.  You can find the recipe here.

Cinnamon Bun Chicken Rub
Cinnamon Bun Chicken Rub

That’s all for tonight.

Night all.

Champlain Maker Faire a HUGE Success!

Champlain Maker Faire at the Shelburne Farms Coach Barn
Welcome Makers!

Wow, I had such a great time exhibiting at Vermont’s first ever Maker Faire yesterday! I didn’t have much to present other than an older project I built that I call the “Critter Twitter Trap”.  I almost didn’t even make it to the event as I’ve been flat out busy with Work and Home responsibilities.  Hacking and “Making” is my lifelong passion so I couldn’t possibly pass it up.  I worked from about 9:30pm – 2am Saturday morning to pull things together for my booth.

It was really neat to see that a few of the “last minute” things pulled together were extremely popular with visitors. One was a Arduino powered laser trip wire built from a standard laser pointer pen.  When guests “broke” the beam I had random sounds played through an external speaker.  That was programmed at about 1am on Saturday morning. The second was not a project, but an item from my retro collection of toys.  It was a Radio Shack Armatron, robot arm.  I set it up so kids could pick up lego figures and deposit them into a small box.  I just happened to spot it in my basement while packing up my final things and thought “what the heck, everyone loves  a playing with a robot arm!”.  Sure enough, the Armatron was tied up all day with kids and adults lining up to give it a try!

Everyone loves to ply with a robot arm

The heart of my display, the “Critter Twitter Trap” was really nothing special from a technical standpoint.  Simply put, the trap sends a text message and posts to twitter when it is sprung. I had no idea how popular this would be  although I’m sure the fact that it was mentioned in the 7-Days newspaper on Thursday didn’t hurt.  People packed my booth all day asking how it worked and I had a blast explaining the details as they stood there with huge smiles.  “Wow, what a great idea” was said on numerous occasions and I have to admit it felt great.  Several people recommended that I pursue the idea as a commercial product, swapping out the WiFi for GSM so it could be used in remote locations.  I have to admit it is tempting.

Critter Twitter Trap

My Critter Twitter Trap 

My only regret was not bringing along a friend that could manage the booth and answer questions so I would have more time to walk around. There were so many amazing projects to see amongst such creative minds.

Me and John Cohn
Me and John Cohn

The night ended with a cold pumpkin brew and as much excitement as it had in the beginning. You could tell the Makers knew without a doubt that this was a huge success and there will be more to come!

Pumpkin Ale
Organic Pumpkin Ale! Amazing Stuff!