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The members of the 3D Printer Club are broken up into several teams, each performing an important role. Each team has two key players: the primary lead, and the secondary lead (or apprentice). The primary lead is always at least one grade level higher than the secondary. Each team also has an adult adviser, whose job is to help the team members succeed on their own.

Here are the key roles:

Build Master (Build Team): The Build Master needs to work very well with other club members. He or she is responsible for keeping the project running smoothly and coordinating communication among team members. This student must have a keen understanding of the build process and work closely with the BOM Manager to identify which parts are needed and when. The Build Master must keep communication going even outside of regular meetings.

  • Develop and manage the build schedule
  • Keep up frequent and meaningful communication with other team members
  • Provide status updates as required by other members

Accountant (Accounting Team): The accountant needs to be very detailed oriented and good at math, including percentages. He or she will be responsible for the overall budget and keeping track of money coming in and going out. All purchases must be approved in advance by the accountant, and the accountant should provide regular updates to the Blogger. The accountant must work closely with the BOM Manager in order to keep the project on budget.

  • Keep a detailed accounting of funds and transactions
  • Manage the overall budget
  • Approve expenses
  • Provide biweekly status reports

BOM Manager (Materials Team): The BOM Manager needs to be very detail oriented and good at managing tabular data. He or she will be responsible for managing the Bill of Materials (BOM), which is a list of the all the parts we need, have on hand, and have received, as well as their expected costs and when they’ll be needed for the project. The BOM Manager will need to work closely with the Accountant and the Build Master to be sure the project is kept in budget and ensure that parts are available when they’re required.

  • Keep and manage a detailed BOM (costs, required dates, etc)
  • Secure parts on time and on budget
  • Provide biweekly status reports

Blogger / P.R. Manager (P.R. Team): This person needs to be an effective verbal and written communicator, and will be responsible for providing detailed updates on build progress and challenges to the rest of the world. He or she will need to work close with the Build Master and have a good general understanding of where the team is on the project at any given time. He or she will be the primary student contact for outsiders who are seeking more information about the project, and also be in charge of capturing the progress on camera (still and video).

  • Write and publish detailed status updates, at least biweekly
  • Develop and provide promotional materials to interested parties
  • Photograph and video project progress

Membership Coordinator (Membership Team): This student must have good “people skills” and have a keen understanding of who is on the team and what their roles are. Should positions open up or should extra help be required in some areas, this person will be responsible for helping to recruit the help that is necessary. He or she will work closely with the Build Master, Faculty Advisors, and SMEs to this end.

  • Keep and manage a list of members and roles
  • Recruit to fill open positions

Maker-Operators: The rest of the team is made up of Makers—these are the researchers, engineers, builders, designers, and helpers who make the whole project possible. They work closely with many other team members, where necessary, to carry out the work that needs to be done. This may include doing research, creating documents, sourcing materials, ordering/making parts, experimenting with build techniques, designing modifications or enhancements, troubleshooting, and learning everything they can about how to operate, troubleshoot, and repair the machines or inventions that the club produces.


The meeting we had scheduled with the director before the first break was unfortunately postponed, and we wanted to keep the energy and interest alive. To do this, we created this short promo video (complete with an out-take at the end!) to help explain the 3D printer club idea. The kids in the video wrote the script and even planned out the “Easter egg” scenes. (Click the “CC” button if you don’t see the closed captions — it may make it easier to understand.)

The video was shot and edited entirely with an iPad, and so we didn’t have a lot of detailed control over the sound.


This is the original brief proposal (redacted, edited, and reformatted) that we were asked to submit to submit to the school director with the goal of starting an official “3D Printer Club” at the school. You can use it as a starting point for your program.

3D Printer Club Proposal

WHAT: A club to build a 3D printer for [school].

WHY: 3D printers are an exciting new technology just starting to gain a foothold in schools. Once built, a printer facilitates many creative endeavors and links to math, science, art, and more.

Building a 3D printer is a great project for a school like [school]. Students will have to both integrate STEM skills and work as a team. The students who build the printer will really understand how it works and will be able to adjust and repair it (or know who to contact in the maker community for help).


  • Faculty Sponsor: [Faculty Sponsor]
  • Parent Volunteers: [Parent Volunteers]
  • Students: About six to 10 students in second through fifth grade who are willing to focus and work hard and who want to build something great for their school. We hope for teacher and parent participation in selecting the students.

WHERE: Meet after school at [school] once a week (or perhaps biweekly), hopefully starting second quarter. Time frame to complete build: 2 quarters (see proposed schedule below).

COSTS: Supplies will cost approximately $350–$400, and additional fundraising will be part of the club.


    1. Session 1: Demonstration, general overview, requirements of club members, goals of club, funding requirements, and describe teams and roles.
    2. Session 2: Review parts and part categories, including RP (printed) parts, hardware parts (vitamins),
      electronic parts, and mechanical components. Create a bill of materials using working printer.
    3. Session 3: Finalize bill of materials, begin sourcing and ordering parts, and develop develop build plan.
    4. Session 4: Build the frame.
    5. Session 5: Build the extruder.
    6. Session 6: Build the Y axis.
    7. Session 7: Build the X and Z axes.
    8. Session 8: Build the X and Z axes.
    9. Session 9: Electronics and wiring.
    10. Session 10: Calibrate.
    11. Session 11: Test print.
    12. Session 12: Pay it forward. (Help another school do the same thing.)

Greetings Maker Faire North Carolina Attendees! It was fun speaking with many of you today. Here is a collection of links to bots and technologies that I spoke about:

StickBot (the simple 6-legged walking robot)

SphereBot (the bot that draws onto ping pong balls, eggs, etc)

Other links:

Well, I discovered that Popsicle is a brand name, so I’m officially renaming this little guy “StickBot” so the Popsicle police don’t come after me. To be clear, this little bot has nothing to do with Popsicle brand ice pops, and never did. My appologies Popsicle; I hope you still let me eat your ice pops because life just would not be the same without them.

Now that I’ve come clean, here’s a video that show how to assemble StickBot’s right eye. It’s an analog 555 timer-based 1Hz oscillator that controls the right/left PWM servo signals generated by the left eye.

This is the latest version, powered directly by four 1.5V LR61 batteries (similar to AAAA batteries, and often found inside 9V batteries). As a result, it does away with the voltage regulator.

Details for the previous version can be found here: StickBot V2.0 - Untethered!. The original tethered version can be found here: StickBot: A Simple 6-Legged Walker. I’ll try to get updated schematics and more assembly videos up soon.

I’ve had a few people ask me if I have a kit for this little critter. I’m working on one geared toward kids — it’s a fun project to do with kids, and it seems like they really learn a lot from it.

The parts for this eye include:

  • 555 Timer IC
  • 1k ohm resistor
  • 330k ohm resistor
  • 2.2uF capacitor
  • About 9 inches of Cat 5 network cable, phone cord, or other similar wire
  • Some electrical tape, solder, and soldering iron

He we’re test-driving the our latest robot creation for the first time. It’s the boy’s design and made mostly of wood. The tires are o-rings, and there’s a 12V AA batter pack sandwiched between the two pieces of plywood. The system right now consists of a drive controller using a Modern Device‘s RBBB (small Arduino-compatible) and the Pololu TB6612FNG Dual Motor Driver Carrier, a robot controller, which is a standard Arduino Uno (which doesn’t do a whole lot right now expect forward messages from the remote), and a remote controller, which is another RBBB, joystick and display.

Right now there are two driving modes. The first is a tank drive, where, for example, if the joystick is moved far left, the right wheel moves forward at full speed and the left week backward at full speed. The second mode is what I call “target drive,” in which you set the target speed and direction of each wheel. Soft starting and stopping is built in to the controller, and the jerkiness you see sometimes is a bug in the keep-alive timer — if the robot stops getting messages in target drive mode, then it will stop.

Music is “Don’t you” by stefsax (CC BY 2.5).

Math Monday came early this week, and we had some fun exploring Reuleaux triangles. Next to a circle, they’re the simplest curve of constant width you can make — that basically means you can roll a plank on top of them as smoothly as on wheels. The kids didn’t expect that one! (They also would make great manhole covers!)

Although they roll very smoothly, they do tend to wobble around a bit, so I built a little gutter on the plank to make it easier for the kids to experiment with. It was a quick project, and lots of fun for the kids. You don’t have to use a band saw or even the sander; all you really need is a jigsaw or coping saw, some scrap wood, and some nails.

Music credits: “260809 Funky Nurykabe” by spinningmerkaba (CC-BY 3.0)

We finished up PopsicleBot StickBot with a couple of 555 timer circuits to allow it to roam freely and untethered. It was a lot of fun to build, and even though it’s not the fastest walker or the simplest design, it feels very organic, partly because it’s entirely analog. (As another reader noted, it would have been a lot easier to just use a Microchip PIC12F683 — or PICAXE-08M or 08M2 — but that wouldn’t have been quite as fun, and I was really looking forward to making “eyes” out of the circuits.) See the original post here: StickBot: A Simple 6-Legged Walker. You can click on any of the photos to see larger versions.

StickBot v2 - Untethered

StickBot v2 - Untethered

There’s a 9V battery now attached to its belly with a cable tie. The power feeds into a 7805 voltage regulator, which is fastened with a drop of glue and another cable tie under its nose. 5V and GND are fed up to it’s right eye, where a 555 timer is set up to oscillate between 0 and 4.25 volts with a frequency of 1Hz — so a half second for the left step, then a half second for the right, and so on. The green wire is the 1Hz square wave output.

StickBot v2 - Power

StickBot v2 - Power

The soldering work is far from beautiful, but it is functional, and of course wrapping it up in tape makes it look a little cleaner. You can see where I slipped in little pieces of electrical tape where needed to avoid unwanted connections. There’s a video of soldering up one of the eyes here: StickBot - Building the Right Eye

5V and GND are also fed up to the left eye, where the inner green wire carries the 1Hz square wave generated by the right eye, and the outer green wire carries the servo control signal. The 555 circuit that makes up the left eye creates this control signal, using (in part) a resistor (R3) that I bundled with the other eye. I did this to keep the number of components in each eye balanced. Nobody wants to see a PopsicleBot StickBot with one eye that’s much bigger than the other!

To simplify the soldering work, I left pin 4 (reset) empty on both circuits, as well as pin 5 (the control voltage pin) on the 1Hz oscillator. Ideally, you’d tie both reset pins up to 5V, and tie the empty pin 5 to ground through a 10nF capacitor. This keeps unwanted noise from potentially affecting the circuit.

Here’s the schematic: (Click for a larger version.)

PopsicleBot v2.0 Schematic

StickBot v2.0 Schematic, with two 555 timer circuits sweeping a servo motor from right to left.

…and here’s the video:


Here are some helpful resources if you’re working with 555 timer circuits.

Updated Name

I realized that Popsicle was actually a registered brand name and not just a common word, so in order to avoid any confusion or trouble, I changed this little guy’s name to StickBot. This project does not (and never did) have anything to do with Popsicle brand ice pops. In fact, I’m not even sure the craft sticks I uses were actually from Popsicle brand ice pops. So my sincere apologies to the Popsicle people; I hope you continue to let me eat your ice pops because life would simply not be the same without them!

The goal was to crawl on the cheap, and what’s cheaper than popsicle sticks craft sticks and fishing line? Next we’ll wire up a 555 circuit so it can roam untethered, but until then, here’s how to make one of your own. But first the video! 🙂 (UPDATE: Details about the untethered “version 2” with the 555 timer circuits can be found at StickBot V2.0 - Untethered!.)


  • 4 Popsicle craft sticks (like Popsicle brand ice pop sticks)
  • 3 small eye screws
  • A few feet of mono-filament (fishing line). We used 10 lb test.
  • 3 pipe cleaners (one is just decorative)
  • 1 small cable tie
  • A bit of masking tape
  • 1 mini micro hobby servo

How to Make It

  1. Body: Stack four popsicle craft sticks, and drill three pilot holes through all of them — one in the center and one at each end. Three of the sticks will be the legs, and one will be the body.
  2. Joints: Arrange the legs on top of the body, and fasten them together with three small eye screws. On most eye screws, the threads will not go all the way to the top, so the legs should be free to move back and forth.
  3. Muscle: With a small cable tie (and possibly a dab of glue), fasten a 3.7g mini micro hobby servo to the body stick, centered between the middle and hind legs, with the motor shaft at the rear. Attach a servo arm so that it points out like the legs when the motor is in its center position. (You can get these motors on ebay for a couple bucks.)
  4. Tendons:Cut six lengths of monofilament, each about 9 inches long. For each line, tie a knot into one end, and thread it from the bottom through the hole at the end of the leg. The knot should be big enough that it won’t slip through the hole. Thread the mono-filament from the legs as follows (in this order):
    • Front left: Left to right, though the center eye, and through the right end of the servo horn.
    • Front right: Right to left, though the center eye, and through the left end of the servo horn.
    • Back left: Left to right, though the center eye, and through the left end of the servo horn.
    • Back right: Right to left, though the center eye, and through the right end of the servo horn.
    • Middle left: Left to right, though the front eye, and through the right end of the servo horn.
    • Middle right: Right to left, though the front eye, and through the left end of the servo horn.
  5. Adjustment: Carefully pull each line snug so that the legs are all perpendicular to the body, and tape them down to the servo horn. Trim off the ends, leaving an inch or so for later adjustment or tightening.
  6. Legs: Cut some pipe cleaners into six 3-inch lengths and wrap each one around the end of a leg. Bend the legs so that they all touch the surface, and are angled toward the back of the crawler. It can take a little time to get it just right, and you’ll probably want to adjust it when you get the motor hooked up.
  7. Antennae: Add some antennae if you wish by wrapping a couple 5-inch lengths of pipe cleaner to the front legs.
  8. Brain: Power the servo with an Arduino, Basic Stamp, or other micro controller, and program it to turn left and right continuously. There’s a sample sketch below.

A Simple Arduino Sketch


#define SERVO_PIN       9    // what pin is the servo on?
#define LEFT_EXTENT     0    // how far left should the servo go?
#define RIGHT_EXTENT    180  // how far right?
#define PAUSE           500  // how many milliseconds between steps?

Servo myservo;

void setup() {

void loop() {
  myservo.write( LEFT_EXTENT );
  myservo.write( RIGHT_EXTENT );

Video Music Credits

The music in the video is by Morusque (CC BY-NC):

Updated Name

I realized that Popsicle was actually a registered brand name and not just a common word, so in order to avoid any confusion or trouble, I changed this little guy’s name to StickBot. This project does not (and never did) have anything to do with Popsicle brand ice pops. In fact, I’m not even sure the craft sticks I uses were actually from Popsicle brand ice pops. So my sincere apologies to the Popsicle people; I hope you continue to let me eat your ice pops because life would simply not be the same without them!

In celebration of Independence Day here in the United States of America, here’s a great 10-minute narrated animation that reviews how the nation got to where it is today. Read the instructions, click the X, then click Play.

Videos are available for sale at

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