Student Stuff

Moving into MakerSpace: First thoughts

So on May 27th, I got my invite to MakerSpace, which is attempting to be a new social network for DIY enthusiasts. (I was on my honeymoon for a bit, so I’m just now getting around to making an account). This is the same group that does MakerFaires and publishes Make Magazine, and I’m kind of excited that they’re going into this area.

After making an account and browsing last night, here are my first impressions:

  • The first reaction may be to compare this to Instructables, and that’s entirely fair. I’ve never posted to Instructables, but it’s got a stellar community. MakerSpace seems to be entering into the same territory, so it remains to be seen if they’ll be competing, or just overlapping.  Instructables does cover everything from electronics to knitting, so it might be MakerSpace’s biggest competitor. They do can get a little corporate with their contests, but there are so many good ones,
  • There’s also Hackaday.io, which I’ve also not experienced too much, but they feature some very hardware/software-heavy projects. At first glance, MakerSpace might be the more accessible platform for non-techie types. There is, of course, the Hackaday Prize
  • Speaking of contests, those other two sites almost use their contest guidelines to ensure that people write excellent, comprehensible content. It makes you wonder if we’ll see anything similar from MakerSpace.
  • The name is within the Make-realm, but it might be a bit confusing when people might already associate that with physical locations known as “Maker Spaces”, which people might prefer to use for their shop rather than a “hackerspace”.
  • Projects can be linked externally, and accessed without an account, so your posts can be seen by people without an invite!
  • It’s a pretty new community, and a few social butterflies are starting to emerge. Interaction is the bread-and-butter of online communities, so we’ll have to see how it progresses. A lot of these sites falter when their user-base is excessively self-promoting, rather than contributing to the group experience.
  • New users are posted in the timeline like “James Maddux was 3D printed out of Stardust”. Just thought that was cute.
  • On each project, the “Tools & Parts” section starts with a quick run-down at the beginning, hot-linked to a slightly-more-detailed, semi-ugly list at the end, which does give a chance to list part ID’s. This Sample Kimchi project…the quantity of ‘1 Sesame Seeds’ is a little off, I’d guess. If the author had a place to post quantities in a recipe-friendly format, it would probably look better.
  • I like the large photos that accompany some of the uploaded projects.
  • There are some older projects uploaded by Makezine authors, and some of them are a little out-of-date because of their collaborations with RadioShack. Those same projects were also published on the Makezine.com site, but oddly removed. Kind of ironic, because the Makezine site has an arguably better interface, although it probably took a little more finagling to write a clean article with it.
  • On the other hand, the Maker Media user seems to auto-follow new users, and has posted lost of Primers and intro projects that are good examples/style guides.
  • There is an option to post pictures of what you’re working on, without posting a tutorial. I like this, though others may not.
  • There are bits that are from Amazon AWS – at least the photos.
  • The profile is a bit interesting. You can upload a circular profile photo, and a header image. It has badges, a bio, a tagline, and spots to add your other social networks, especially two interesting ones: Instructables and LinkedIn. There’s also GitHub.

So overall, MakerSpace shows promise, and I plan on uploading a few projects, to give it a shot. I have about ten invites, so if you’d like one of them, my email is in the “About Me” section.

Concatenate function in Excel and Google Docs

Concatenate…Concatenate…

So as previously mentioned, I’m (gradually) improving at using Excel for fun and profit. Actually, in this case I’m using Google Docs, since it uses most of the same features and syntax, with a few random add-ons.

Here’s one little project that actually got somewhere. It’s a Google Docs spreadsheet where I’m taking a copy-pasted table of last year’s ex-dividend announcements in the month of May, trimmed them down to stock symbols, and then used those stock symbols to automatically generate links.

Why do this? Well, some stocks do a quick “jump” after the dividend announcement, it would be convenient to have an automatically-generated list of links to observe each stock’s performance post-announcement. These announcements usually come around the same date each year. I generated this list to test my theory, but it should be emphasized that this just spreadsheet advice, and definitely not financial advice!

How to make it:

The first step was to copy-paste the dividend calendars from last year into the spreadsheet. Because the info is already in table format, you just need to select the box that you want to become the upper-left-hand corner of the pasted information. This is repeated until you have a nice, long list of stocks and info, which can then be sorted by Excel/Google Sheets. You can also freeze the upper row of the sheet, so that you have labels as you scroll through.

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Corporation Education!

I’m going to start a new resource-gathering focus for this blog, in which I scour different company websites to see what sorts of PDF’s, ebooks and resources that would be useful to students. A lot of the literature on their sites may be too specific to the application or the product, but there is some worthwhile stuff that companies put out!

A good example of this would be TI’s Op Amp handbook. It’s an easy download as a PDF, and it’s not terribly vendor-specific to TI.

Tech Discussion: Paper Spray!

So I’ve been working in medical laboratories for a few years, and the logistics of the handling and storing biological samples is always pretty intensive. Companies often have to keep blood at certain temperatures, process them within certain timeframes, and devise a workflow that separates blood components and ensures that all the necessary tests can be done off of the provided volumes. To sum it up: tons of freezers, refrigerators, centrifuges and electricity bills! So when this equimpment from ThermoFisher popped up on my LinkedIn feed, I was pretty excited to research it!

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So Bacteria can Boogie?

After seeing this hilarious video on Metafilter, I had to look more into these magnetotactic bacteria. I’d never heard of these, and from the video, they look like the bacteria are able to be steered using a magnetic field. Here’s what I’m finding so far. (more…)

Rehashing the ol’ Engineering Math

This is the K.A. Stroud book on engineering mathematics that I'm studying to catch up!

This is the K.A. Stroud book on engineering mathematics that I’m studying to catch up!

So here’s what I’ve been working through recently, as I prepare to return to school for the last couple years of my degree. I picked up the Engineering Mathematics book by K. A. Stroud at Barnes and Noble about a month ago, and it’s incredibly comprehensive. I feel like I am going back through those classes, and I’m enjoying it.

There’s something soothing about rehashing everything you learned in those early math classes. It’s not quite like unexpectedly running into an old friend, but it’s close. While most of the info has been somewhat forgotten, it’s still there, waiting for you to blow the dust off its cover. Now I realize that for me, the math is only a couple years in storage, and for others it may be decades. But at least it’s nice to have a book on the shelf to rehash things like how to find the slope of a tangent at any point (you know, besides breaking out the ruler and graph paper). So far, this book seems fill that role.

I’ll be writing an update when I finally finish my review. Also worth mentioning, I am using the 6th edition, but I linked to the 7th instead, because if you feel so motivated as to buy it, the new edition is strangely cheaper!

SDR looks like fun!

Software Defined Radio is something I haven’t gotten to see much, save for one nicely set-up booth at the Tulsa Mini Maker Faire. So when I stumbled across the following three resources, I knew that I had to write a quick post and save them for future use.