Class – Introduction to Arduino

This class is for anyone who has never played around with Arduino before and those who have played around a little bit but aren’t entirely sure about how the basics work. You’ll put together basic single component electrical circuits, learn about analog and digital, input and output, basic programming concepts, practice very basic Serial communication, and briefly cover basic virtual prototyping.

Class taught by Joe Moore, UAB Makerspace facilitator

Six-hour class – 9 am – 4 pm, Saturday, May 28th, 2016.
Minimum enrollment to run class: 8
Maximum enrollment: 16

Students must be at least 13 to take this class.

Enrollment deadline: Sunday, May 21st. 

$10 off if you sign up before Wednesday, May 11th!

Concepts covered will include:

  • Using a breadboard
  • Ohm’s Law
  • Digital and Analog
  • Input and Output
  • Arduino programming environment basics
  • Serial Monitor usage with text, variables and pin states
  • Creating schematics and PCBs using the educational prototyping tool Fritzing

Students will finish with a good understanding of how to use the Arduino circuit board as a control for their own projects, and a list of next steps to take to develop them.

Included in class:

SparkFun Arduino Uno Inventor’s Kit – a $109 value for only $90 (included in the class price)
Lunch from Roly Poly sandwiches.

Class cost:

Sign up before the end of Wednesday, May 11th to get early bird pricing!

  • Members – early bird: $145.00
  • Non-members (general public): $165.00

After May 11th (Regular price):

  • Members: $155.00
  • Non-members (general public): $175.00

6158: The Story of FRC Team 6158 and the Rocket City Regional

6158_on_the_field_of_playOur little rookie robot team from Woodlawn High School (yes, THAT Woodlawn – like the movie) made it as far as the semifinals in the FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) Rocket City Regional at the end of March in Huntsville. We were the ONLY rookie team to be asked to join an alliance for the playoff rounds, beating out a number of veteran teams to earn that honor. The playoffs are double elimination rounds, and we won our quarter final matches in a tie breaker (2 -1), and made it through to the semifinals. We got knocked out (0-2) by the alliance with the number 1 and 2 ranked team on it.

6158_inpsection_in_the_pit_areaWe broke (and rapidly repaired) our BLM (Boulder Launching Mechanism) at least 6 times – so we were like a little NASCAR pit crew.

The students are the only ones allowed to drive the robot – named pinta. Our student drivers earned street cred during the qualification rounds by scoring points with our robot in autonomous mode, scoring points by shooting “low” goals, and breaking down defenses (crossing obstacles). But mostly they earned “street cred” through strategy, which was to thwart the automatic “lock on target” function of other robots by bumping or nudging them right as they acquired a “lock” – especially that of team 179 – who were our next door neighbors in the pit area. They were a very nice and helpful team with a 5-year veteran driver and 20 year veteran team (lower numbered teams are the veteran teams). We actually caused team 179 to have their lowest scoring round during the whole competition, and that gave us “buzz”.

6158_alliance_number_5We were on Alliance 5 (team 2815, team 456, and us… team 6158) – and the winners were Alliance 1.

All teams competed in 10 qualification matches of various random alliances – there were 85 qualification rounds over a day and a half.

And better yet – there’s video of the qualification rounds…

Then we were lucky to be chosen at Alliance Selection – we get selected about 12:30 in.

After the two losses in semi-finals – our alliance was out.

A Little History

FIRST is an acronym – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology – it is an organization that was founded by Dean Kamen – the man who invented the Segway. Their mission is to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. They work with all ages of students beginning with FLL Jr. (FIRST Lego League Junior – grades K-3), then FLL (First Lego League – grades 4-8), FTC (First Tech Challenge – grades 7-12), and finally FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition – grades 9-12).

RMM got involved with Woodlawn High School last fall when their science teacher, Dr. Chanel Douglas, asked us if they could use our Shape Lab to build a robot for the BEST robotics competition (sponsored by UAB School of Engineering). When that was over, the students asked if there was another robotics competition in which they could participate. Dr. Douglas knew of FIRST, and she knew it was EXPENSIVE – the entrance fee alone is $6000, that doesn’t cover the cost of transportation, hotels, meals, and other incidentals. She applied for a grant from the FIRST Inspires organization itself and was granted $6000 spread over 2 years – $4000 the first year, and $2000 the second. She and other mentors scrambled to get donations and raise funds. WIAT 42 came through with a $1000 grant for their “One Class at a Time” program.

6158_making_sparksA team of 6 students rode to Huntsville for the kickoff event in January where they learned the theme of the competition – named FIRST Stronghold. In a worldwide broadcast, teams learned that they were to lay siege to castles with their robots, earning points by crossing outer defenses such as a portcullis, drawbridge, cheval de frise, Sally ports, and a “low bar” that robots must go under (robots doing the limbo). They also earned points by launching “boulders” (10-ounce foam athletic balls) through open windows, and finally, in the last 20 seconds of the 2 minute  45 second match, scaling the castle walls themselves. Wow! That was quite a number of technical challenges to overcome.

The team started with just 2 mentors, but soon grew to 7 mentors – Dr. Douglas from Woodlawn and 6 RMM members. The rule book was 300+ pages. The learning curve was steep. The work was complicated and tiring. The students had many commitments that competed for their time. A team motto was often heard – “Teamwork makes the dream work”. After 6 weeks of work, the team had to “bag and tag” our robot, as regional competitions began all over the world the next week. However, our Rocket City Regional was still 6 more weeks away. What was our team to do in the interim? Well, build a second robot, of course. We assembled a second robot and took advantage of a 30 pound “allowance” rule, in which teams can bring in an additional 30 pounds of manufactured items to attach to their robot. So, we build a BLM (Boulder Launching Mechanism). It was a sort of metal basket attached to arms that raise and lower, with two flywheels at the outer edge. The arm lowered and the flywheels rolled slowly in one direction to acquire the boulders from the ground, then raised up, spun the flywheels at full speed in the opposite direction, and a fraction of a second later, a solenoid pushed the boulder into the flywheels, launching it in the direction it was aimed. When all the parts were assembled, it came in at 27 pounds, just under the legal limit. Then it was time to load up the cars, trailer, and buses and the rest is in the books (and on YouTube)!6158_test_drive_at_RMM_back_lot

One of the mottos of FIRST is “The hardest fun you’ll ever have”. They were right, it was hard work and total fun!!!

3D Printing Classes Are Here! Enroll Now!


Build Your Very Own 3D Printer, Win One, or Come Learn How It’s Done On Ours!

Red Mountain Makers is proud to announce our “Introduction to 3D Printing” series of workshops during which we will guide you through every step of the journey to fully understanding this ground-breaking technology. Over the course of the last two Saturdays in May, you will establish an intimate familiarity of 3D printing including working theory, application, assembly, configuration, calibration, and operation of a 3D printer. NOW is the time to familiarize yourself with the most disruptive technological breakthrough since the personal computer! Customary Red Mountain Maker Member and early-bird registration (ends 4/30/2016) discounts will apply!


What is 3D printing? How do 3D printers work? What type of materials can be printed? How is 3D printing applied to industry? How does it innovate? These are a few very common questions people ask about 3D printing and are all great questions! We are prepared to answer them for you.

It’s Ground-Breaking Technology

Traditionally, manufacturing is a slow and expensive process. Industry spends many billions of dollars each year on the research & development and prototyping process alone, before a product ever even gets to production. We’ll explain how 3D printing is innovating that process, and the impact it will produce.

The 3D Printing industry is expected to change nearly every industry it touches, completely disrupting the traditional manufacturing process. As a result, the projected value of the industry is expected to explode in the near future, reaching $5.2B by the year 2020.

3D Printers Are Simple Machines

This is only true for people that understand them well. Without any familiarity of how they work, they can be quite intimidatingly complex machines. We’ll help you understand them well by explaining the name and function of each component of a printer in simple to understand language.

3D Printing is Fun!

3D printing is not exclusively available to business and industry. With the costs of printers decreasing dramatically over the past few years and emerging open source communities, widespread adoption of 3D printers by consumers and hobbyists is growing exponentially. People just like you are adopting the use of 3D printers to make art, create their ideas, and to overcome common problems and challenges they face daily.


Class 1: “3D Printer Assembly and Configuration”

by instructors Michael Jones and Sandy Campbell on Saturday, May 21st, 2016 at 8:30AM

When & Where:
Saturday, May 21st, 2016 at 8:30AM until all printers are assembled and calibrated
Red Mountain Makers (subject to change)
5502 1st Ave N
Birmingham, AL 35212

We’ll share our tools, knowledge, and years of experience by walking you through every step of assembling, configuring and calibrating a 3D Printer.

You’ll choose one of two options for this class: (1 or 2)

Option 1 ($600)

We will walk you through every step of assembling and calibrating your very own 3D printer. You will start with a box of parts, and by the end of day be the very proud owner of a quality 3D printer that you assembled yourself.

Cost of class option 1 includes:

  • All parts necessary to build your very own 3D printer
  • One roll of 3D printing filament (you’ll choose the color during registration)
  • A 3D printing toolkit
  • One free month of membership at Red Mountain Makers (begins day of class for non-members only)
  • Free lunch (Pizza)
  • Free enrollment in Class 2

Option 2 ($150)

You will work with other students to assemble and calibrate a 3D printer. At the end of the day, we will randomly pick a student to win the assembled printer (a $500 value).

Cost of the class option 2 includes:

  • One free month of membership at Red Mountain Makers (begins day of class for non-members only)
  • Free lunch (Pizza)
  • Free enrollment in Class 2

Class 2: “Introduction to 3D Printing”

by instructors Michael Jones and Sandy Campbell on Saturday, May 28th, 2016 at 8:30AM

When & Where:
Saturday, May 28th, 2016 at 8:30AM until all topics are covered and all questions are answered
Red Mountain Makers (subject to change)
5502 1st Ave N
Birmingham, AL 35212

Cost for this class is $60

Just want to know how they work, what they are good for and see a demonstration of a 3D print? This basic workshop will give you a full understanding of how 3D printers operate and much more. Learn to print on our printers! We’ll discuss:

  • Different Types of 3D Printers and How They Work
  • 3D Printing Materials (PLA, ABS, Composites)
  • 3D Modeling Primer (software)
  • Slicing an Object & Print Settings (software)
  • Printing Demonstration
  • Common Problems & Troubleshooting

How to Enroll

Click here to enroll in Class 1 – Build your very own 3D Printer
Click here to enroll in Class 2 – Introduction to 3D Printing

STEP 1: Register for the class by clicking either of the above links and completing the form.

STEP 2: You will receive an email soon after completing the registration form. It will contain a link to pay by Paypal, or Credit/Debit card. Once we receive your payment you are all done. Don’t forget to pay for the class! We must receive payment within 24 hours of your registration in order to confirm your registration.

Early-Bird discount ends 4/30/2016
Members of Red Mountain Makers are eligible for customary 20% additional discount!

A new open source 3D rendering tool

Eric Sherouse, at the Red Mountain Makerspace

Eric Sherouse, a co-founder of ,a href:””>the 3D Orchard CAD modeling software stopped by Red Mountain Makers this evening. is a new Alabama-based open-source 3D-design and modeling open website on a mission – to make 3D design and modeling software easily accessible, available and easy to use.

Eric Sherouse, one of the co-founders, stopped by the Red Mountain Makers space this evening to talk about his new site, currently in beta.

For the software development geeks reading, he and his partners developed the site using the Javascript libraries WebGL and Three.js.

If you’re interested in learning more about the site and what you can do with it, Eric will be back in May to demo the software and to talk about what you can do with it.

Visit to Noisebridge, San Francisco

I recently visited San Francisco, stopped by Noisebridge, and left a message on their scrolling LED display:

Some interesting previous messages there:

  • Bush Did The Moon Landing
  • h4k m3 plz
  • Welcome to noisebridge! We love you.
  • gibe moni plos
  • Donations & Chill?
  • require(“left-pad”)
  • Noisebridge: Now Web Scale!

They like RGB LED pixels too – an interesting setup with crates and clear glass bottles.  First image grabbed from their project page which also has a bunch of documentation:


Some photos of the back, showing the wiring: