Space Camp!

I couldn’t go to Maker Faire this weekend because I was at Space Camp. I’ve wanted to go since I was a kid, and they have adult programs so I finally got my act together and went. My friend Srini came too.

Because the description on the site was so vague, I was worried that it would be too “kiddie”, but it wasn’t, it was awesome! I guess the kiddiest thing we did was build model rockets, but that was fun!

Space Camp has a full-size shuttle simulator and a mission control. We did 3 missions over the course of the weekend, and people rotated between Mission Control, Orbiter Crew (Commander/Pilot), and Mission Specialist (EVA).

I got to do EVA on the first mission, which is exactly what I wanted. I was on the Canadarm and Srini was in a harness simulating free EVA. We had to lower a satellite into the cargo bay, repair it as mission control instructed us, replace some antennae, reactivate it, and release it. It was so much fun!

For the next mission I was Flight Director, which was kind of boring until things started going wrong. Then I had to find the solutions and communicate them to CAPCOM, who relayed to the orbiter crew. Still, it was interesting to see how Mission Control works.

For the final mission, I was the Commander on the shuttle and Srini was the Pilot. (Apparently astronauts don’t like to be called “co-pilot”, so the pilot is the “commander”, and the co-pilot is the “pilot”). We had lots of checklists to run through and many switches were flipped. I brought the shuttle in for a smooth landing at Kennedy.

Beside the missions, we visited the museum, rocket park, launched our rockets, and designed a mission patch. We went on the multi-axis trainer and the centrifuge. A nice bonus was that we had access to the museum during off-hours, so we could get right up to all the exhibits.

The whole experience was great. If you like space and rockets at all, you should consider going. There are also kid/parent camps (and of course straight-up kid space camp). The one thing I would suggest for adults staying at the Marriott across the street instead of in the dorm, which is pretty grody from generations of kids staying there.

September 20, 2011 | Posted in: True Stories | Comments Closed

Star Trek Flying V

Saga FV-10 Kit

Saga FV-10 Kit

I made my friend Jack a guitar for his birthday. It’s a flying V painted like the old-school Star Trek insignia. Like I did with my SG-knockoff build, I used a Saga guitar kit. This one is the FV-10.

The first problem was that the neck they sent me arrived completely busted. The seller was slow but helpful and did get a replacement neck shipped out. As I was taping it up I realized it did not have mounting holes drilled. Raaah! Well, I had to test-fit it to the body anyhow, so I drilled my own.

Neck and Body Painted

Neck and Body Painted

I sprayed the face yellow, and the sides and back black. The neck is black also, and the face of the headstock yellow. There’s a couple blemishes that I tried to touch up by hand. It was either that or start the paint over.  The electronics in this kit are pre-wired to the faceplate, so I had to accept a white faceplate. I think it still looks OK.

I have to admit, if I were to start over I would go with a more gold or mustard color instead of super bright yellow. I also would have done a body with rear-mounted electronics. That way I could have decorated the front more like an insignia (on this kit the pickguard covers up the routs for the electronics, so I couldn’t leave it off). Other than that, I like it.

When I started to assemble, I realized the mounting holes I drilled were not deep enough (I was scared of punching through to the fingerboard). Â I will measured the mounting holes on the busted neck and started again.

You can see in the closeup of the headstock that the tuners are a bit misaligned. That is because 4 out of 6 of the mounting holes were in the wrong place. Arr.

There’s also something funky with the electronics. Sometimes when you flip the selector, everything drops out. Another flip (out of and then back to the same position) will bring everything back. It’s such weirdly specific behavior, it doesn’t seem like a loose connection. Due to my zero knowledge of guitar electronics, I don’t know how to diagnose it. The electronics were pre-wired, so it’s not something I did. It’s probably a bad switch.

The next guitar I build will definitely NOT be a Saga kit. Before I built the SG, I had heard a lot of complaints about them but it was so cheap I figured what the hell. I guess I lucked out with the SG (which went very very smoothly), because this one had so many problems.

Saga SG Kit

I barely play guitar, and have never played an SG, but for some reason I’ve always loved the SG body. And I love a project! It was $179 on ebay so I figured it would probably sounds like a $179 guitar.

Saga cannot legally sell the kit with the Gibson headstock shape, so you have to cut the “blank” headstock yourself. I used my bandsaw and it came out OK.

I had BIG trouble with the spray lacquer I ordered from StewMac. I followed the instructions (warm up the lacquer, use broad strokes, start and stop off the guitar) but it still spit a lot and I ended up with a lot of blobs and runs. I stripped the whole thing off. In retrospect, part of the problem was probably the sealer on the kit.

OK, purists, avert your eyes: I ended up going with wipe-on Minwax Crimson. It did not come out very red, but I liked the tone and stuck with it. I also used Minwax wipe-on poly for the gloss coat. It went on very easily and has a nice gloss to it. I guess I’ll find out how it holds up.

I built a stand out of PVC so I could hang it up as I went along. It worked out really well, and I can break it down and put it away until I need it for future projects.

Once the neck and body were finished I had to black the headstock. Here I did use the StewMac gloss black and it came out good.

I used the Gibson logo as a base to make my own. I printed it onto a waterslide decal and then put clear coat and then lacquer on top.

I got all the electronics together pretty easily – no soldering, just click together and heat shrink tubing.

Then I just added the tuners, all the knobs, the pickguard, and strung it.

Everything worked on the first try, I couldn’t believe it! The action and intonation were good. Now I just need to learn how to play better. Looking forward to another build soon.

Lego Keith Hernandez 1986

I’ve been working on this one for a while and it’s finally done: Lego Keith Hernandez 1986.

This was my first face decal. Thank you everyone who reviewed the variations. I also did decals for the stripes. I had a hard time getting the colors of the stripes right (because of the color of the plastic underneath) but other than that I’m pretty happy with it. Helmet emblem, belt, socks, and shoes are hand-painted.

The glove is made of Green Stuff putty. He’s got interchangeable right hands so he can hold the glove or the bat. The bat is from

Full-size photos in my Lego flickr set

Latest Legos

I’ve been a slacker about posting my projects lately, so here they are all in one lump:

Kathy is from Maine and she and her mom are Red Sox fans. Her mom requested a Jonathan Papelbon, so here he is. I tried to capture his weird facial expression but it didn’t come out so good.
While I was at it I did Kevin Youkilis too. I think his trademark grimace came out pretty good. I gave him a black eye but got rid of it, it made him look like a zombie or something.

Here’s Brandon Dubinsky of the Rangers. This was a tough one because the Rangers’ uniforms are so intricate and stripey. Eventually I decided to just try to capture the feeling of it rather than reproduce it exactly. I think it came out ok. The socks are sort of sloppy but by that time I was mentally done working on it.

Indoor Skydiving

I’m in Las Vegas for a conference, so last night I headed over to Flyaway Indoor Skydiving. It was really fun, and you should check it out if you’re in Vegas. You watch a training video, go over safety and hand signals, get your equipment, and then go into the wind tunnel.

One thing I didn’t picture when I read about it was how HOT it would be in there. As one of the guys working there said “It’s like being under the hood of a car.”

Here’s a video of my session (no audio).

First Light: Celestron NexStar 8 SE

The clouds finally lifted, and last week I got the check out my new NexStar. After setting up the red dot finder, I was ready to go.

Having already entered my latitude and longitude info into the scope’s computer during one of the cloudy nights, alignment was very easy. From my backyard I could see the moon, Saturn, and Mars in the sky, so I decided to try using the Solar System Align. I got the moon centered in the scope, hit the button, and the scope immediately began to track.

I still love my dobsonian, but it’s so great to let the scope do the tracking instead of having to nudge the scope every few seconds. I think it’s really going to help with photography.

Next I hit the button for the scope to slew to Saturn, and there it was, right in the center. Then I told it to go to Mars, and the result was the same. Very satisfying. Although I do hope to learn the constellations better, the GoTo functionality is going to be great for short sessions where you want to see something quick.

So far so good. I hope to post some moon or Saturn pictures in the next couple weeks.

June 15, 2008 | Posted in: Astronomy | Comments Closed