Junkyard Robots Workshop with Advocates for Inclusion

Early in July, I had the distinct honor of visiting Advocates for Inclusion and conducting a workshop with their group on creating their very first prototypes of robots. I must say, I had a blast and enjoyed meeting everyone and watching so much innate creativity come to life. A great inventor once  said, “All you need to invent is an imagination and a pile of junk.” So I brought the junk (cast of pieces of projects, recycled items, failed 3D prints, etc.) and these participants arrived with their limitless imaginations.

The main message I wanted to give that day was inspired by Wall-E, that cute robot hoarder that collects junk and saves it for future purposes. In many ways he is one of my favorite heroes. He doesn’t have any superpowers, giant guns, massive intelligence or any other things most heroes in stories are equipped with nowadays. In fact, Wall-E’s major heroic quality is simply that he is good, and cares about others. That is something that I believe we all share, though it might not be evident sometimes in everyday real-life situations. As makers and builders, I believe that we put a bit of soul into everything we create (if you don’t, you’re doing it wrong) and that we can put that piece, that charming “goodness” into our very own Wall-E inspired junkyard robots.

I am super proud of this group. They were all committed and enthusiastic about not only tackling the challenge of building their first robotic prototype sculpture, but creating a piece that was just as unique and special as they were.


Below you will find a gallery of their unique creations in various stages of completion.


Makerspace for a Day: Davis Park Apartments

Over the course of the last couple weeks, our first sessions of Makerspace for a Day have been nothing less than a blast.  Though we spent our time differently in many ways in our most recent experiments, both weeks have provided some unique lessons that everyone has been able to appreciate.

Session 1: Planning, Design and Prototypes. 

2015-05-09 13.31.56  If you could make anything, what would it be? Its really kinda tough sometimes to give an answer to that question, so in order to get our creative brains working away, we decided to draw and share designs of that one thing that we’d build, if we could build just about anything. Drawings started appearing on paper of everything from helicopters to items and artifacts with what would appear to be super powers. Then we kept going, labeling the part on the page and building lists of materials that we might need to get started on our first ever iteration of these awesome invention, the prototypes!

Our next steps on our personal inventions will be to begin making scale models and crafting our first 3D models in order to produce scaled versions of our world-changing new creations.. Stay tuned for future sessions as we continue to innovate and refine our designs into something to share and demonstrate in the real world!


Session 2: Focus Groups and Gaming


All of the makings of a super sweet SpellTag wand-making workshop

As a break and sort of a treat for all of the kids’ hard work on design in the last session, i thought to see of they’d like to try out one of our inventions at CSW, and make DIY kits of wands and spell/superpower (read: foam ammo) for our SpellTag game. As an inventor, its actually a rare and valuable thing to be able to present and guide a team of curious testers, tinkers and hackers and I felt that they’d really be able to show me what aspects of my invention work best as a game, and help me gain some insight into how I could keep making it better.  Again… we had a blast. From the moment I demonstrated how to fire your ammo off the end of your awesome magical wand, the lab went crazy with people crafting their own unique wands, talking excitedly about the powers they were going to imbue to their spells, and testing their wands with spells whizzing over our heads as we worked.

The best part of our day was after we had all created our wands, we learned what powers everyone had made, and practiced getting hit by a spell. Spelltag isn’t a game where its a bad thing to get hit. because we were all basically acting in improv as our own characters. So every time you get hit, its like your friend is saying, “hey, gimme a reaction!” and you got to act out your own character even more! A few times we had to stop the game due to the fact that people were laughing at the hilarious reaction someone had made when they got hit by a “lava ball” spell.

After the end of the day, I asked if everyone would rate the game as they experienced it that day on a scale of 5 possible stars, and pretty much everyone said they thought it deserved top marks except for one child. He gave it four. Amid the shouts of outrage to his lack of solidarity, I asked the boy what I could do to make the one more star, and he said simply, “Gimme your wand, I think its the coolest one…”


Session 3: Design Your Own Prototypes

Today we took a step further and began to think about that one thing we might want to try our hands at building on our own. We’d already seen in the last weeks that building something, whether it be a game, a kit, or an art piece might go through some changes and grow each time we attempt to make a prototype, so each person that took on the challenge of building their own invention was taking on quite a bit of work. Luckily, with our available tools such as a 3D printer, and a laser cutter, we knew that some materials would be a snap to create for the first time and test out. Some items that started taking shape were two rc helicopters, and a basketball hoop whose net could be made out of recycled plastic shopping bags.

Over the course of the next few weeks we’ll be iterating our creation from first drafts and drawn designs to 3d models and actual tangible items. This is going to be a big step for most, but getting that first thing you’ve created from scratch under your belt is a very important milestone in every young inventor’s life.


Photo Gallery:


Community Education Workshops

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We are grateful to be able to work with our local community and to listen to their ideas of

things they would like to make, build, or experiment with.

We have a great amount of passion for each and every person that decides to pick up a project, or

takes on a learning curve to satiate their curiosity. We offer our help in those pursuits as often as we

can and to the best of our abilities.

Progressive local community centers and educational institutions work extremely hard every day

to provide new and exciting inspiration, resources, and education for everyone, and it is up to us to

support their work in whatever way we can.

This fall we are proud to be working with Boise Schools Community Ed and local libraries on a wide

variety of evening classes—perfect for the curious citizen scientist in all of us. From tiny robots, to

prototyping and designing first inventions, we have something you might love to explore. Please

peruse our Calendar located on the right sidebar to see what Citizen Scientific Workshop is up to!



Prototyping Workshop with Meridian Public Library

2014-07-08 13.40.56On July 7th and 8th, 2014 we set out to have a public workshop in partnership with Meridian Library. For a few years now, there has been a mission to create small robotics projects for $10/kit, and so I have long relied on streamlined versions of BEAM robots to achieve that price point.

First of, introduced myself as an inventor, “just like all of you…” which certainly raised some eyebrows and made some smiles. I then stated that the kits we were making today were just like all of us, same parts on the inside, same requirements to work. I then explained that since these were the first robots that each participant had made, they were prototypes.  That is, our first model made real, never perfect, and always able to be improved.

2014-07-07 14.06.50Looking back, I believe that the entire first day might have been spent getting kids over the hump of an expectation that without their input and effort they would still leave with something working and finished. Some were surprised when I told them that I couldn’t make it for them, even though I’d designed the kits. They had skills to learn, and through practicing those, everyone would walk away with a working prototype.

2014-07-08 14.10.18By the second day, we had boys and girls taking up soldering irons and welding their pieces on, drawing their designs with the parts and pieces in mind, cutting out robot bodies in cardboard, and all in all mastering the innate hand to brain coordination that everyone is born with.

Getting to do things like this is the best part of our work at Citizen Scientific Workshop. Getting to be with and hopefully inspire many people, young and old is what we strive to do everyday.  Everyone did a great job, and the challenge was perfect to get those brain gears working in the summer months.

Many thanks to Nick Grove, the librarian at MLD who coordinated these two days, and to everyone who showed up and took part!

MQI Environmental Recorder, now in Beta!

MQI 2THE MQI IS AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER We’ve been putting the finishing touches on a new unit for the curious citizen scientist to gather data and gain some interesting elemental knowledge of their environment.

The MQI Environmental Recorder (named for its MQ gas sensors, and IR thermometer) enables its user to graph, map, and read precise data on air quality, temperature, and assorted gas levels in your home, community, or in the wide and wonderful wilderness. Using the non-contact IR thermometer and RGB indicator LED, you can use the MQI as a thermal flashlight to impress your friends, or that really smart girl or guy you totally like.

Using the features included in the MQI, you can map temperature differentials in your home and expose air leaks in need of some home efficiency TLC.

Public labOur work on the MQI began as research into the various thermal flashlight projects available through Publiclab.org. The community at Public Lab works to provide environmental mapping technology and community building to the world. They have been very gracious and supportive in our derivative work, and so we are proud to announce that 10% of the proceeds of our MQI Recorders will be donated to the ongoing mission of Public Lab.

MQI 1The MQI Environmental Recorder BETA is now open. Our first run of kits come with a full set of electronics, and a fancy pants laser cut acrylic case with limited edition number and beta badge.

Everyone supporting the beta will also be given access to our demo MQI Android application for user testing and feature requests. We want you to be a part of th process of invention, creativity truly comes from the many, and that is why we work for the citizen. The first small batch of MQI Environmental Recorders are now in production, and will ship in mid July.


Download the demo app below, just rename the file and take out the “.zip” portion.

MQI Environmental Monitor.apk