As soon as he spied the Jolly Wrencher on my shirt, [Jerry Wasinger] beckoned me toward his booth at Kansas City Maker Faire. Honestly, though, I was already drawn in. [Jerry] had set up some interactive displays that demonstrate the virtues of his Pi-Plates—Raspberry Pi expansion boards that
follow the HAT spec and are compatible with all flavors of Pi without following the HAT spec. Why not? Because it doesn’t allow for stacking the boards.
[Jerry] has developed three types of Pi-Plates to date. There’s a relay controller with seven slots, a data acquisition and controller combo board, and a motor controller that can handle two steppers or up to four DC motors. The main image shows the data acquisition board controlling a fan and some lights while it gathers distance sensor data and takes the temperature of the Faire.
The best part about these boards is that you can stack them and use up to eight of any one type. For the motor controller, that’s 16 steppers or 32 DC motors. But wait, there’s more: you can still stack up to eight each of the other two kinds of boards and put them in any order you want. That means you could run all those motors and simultaneously control several voltages or gather a lot of data points with a single Pi.
The Pi-Plates are available from [Jerry]’s site, both singly and in kits that include an acrylic base plate, a proto plate, and all the hardware and standoffs needed to stack everything together.
The 5th annual Kansas City Maker Faire was as fun as ever, but it definitely felt different from previous years. There seemed to be an unofficial emphasis on crafts this year, and I mean this in the broadest sense of the word. There was more exposure for the event in the local media, and this attracted a wider variety of faire-goers. But the exposure also brought more corporate sponsorship. This wasn’t an exclusively bad thing, though. For instance, several people from Kansas City-based construction firm JE Dunn were guiding mini makers through a birdhouse build.
Many of the this year’s booths were focused on a particular handicraft. A local music shop that makes custom brass and woodwind instruments had material from various stages of the building process on display. Several tables away, a man sat making chainmaille bags. At one booth, a girl was teaching people how to fold origami cranes. Several makers had various geek culture accessories for sale, like a shoulder bag made from a vintage Voltron sweatshirt. The guys from SeeMeCNC made the 12-hour drive with the Part Daddy, their 17-foot tall delta printer. They printed up a cool one-piece chair on Saturday, then made a child-sized version of it on Sunday.
The entire lower level of the venue was devoted to a series of exhibits related to the film and television industry. Collectively, they covered the entire production process from the casting call to the red carpet. Several local prop and costume makers were showing off their fantastic creations, including [Steven] of SKS Props. He started making video game props for fun a few years ago. These days, his work adorns the offices of some of those same game companies.
Of course, there was plenty to see and do outside, too. All the kids playing human foosball were having a blast. LARPers larped next to lowriders and food trucks, power wheels raced, and a good time was had by all.
Tiny chair printed on the Part Daddy by SeeMeCNC
This is clearly an exceptional R2 unit.
A husband and wife team make arty robots using antique cameras, test equipment, and tins.
A luthier explains his process to an onlooker..
Some of the well-detailed costumes on display.
Masks by SKS Props.
JE Dunn hammered the weekend away helping kids make birdhouses.
Nerdly housewares were plentiful this year.
A peek at the film and television production process.
Tiny chair being printed on the Part Daddy.
There is always a great variety of things to see and experience at the Kansas City Maker Faire. This is the fifth year for the event which is held at historic Union Station, a beautiful art deco train depot from a bygone era. With a multitude of booths and exhibits across two floors and a vast outdoor area, there is something for pretty much everyone. Often times, the interesting things are mobile conversation-starting creations. When we saw [Dan] walking around with a giant wooden contraption on his arm, we knew we must find out more about it.
The impetus for [Dan]’s project was his desire to pick up a soda can using a mechanical grip. He now believes this to have been a lofty goal, given the weight of a full can of the stuff. This prosthetic hand is made from wooden finger segments that are connected by small, continuous hinges. Each of [Dan]’s gloved fingers curls around a metal ring to control that digit’s large wooden analog. On the inside of the hand, sections of paracord run underneath strategically placed eye bolts on each finger segment and are tied off at the fingertips. A second set of eye bolts on the back of the hand anchor the network of rubber bands that provide resistance. Although he made it look easy to open and close the hand, [Dan] said that it’s pretty heavy to lug around and somewhat strenuous to use. Next time, he’ll probably go with foam or 3D-printed pieces.