Star Wars Armada Correllian Conflict campaign improvements

In December, Fantasy Flight Games released one of the best miniature game expansions that I have ever seen. The Corellian Conflict allows up to six Star Wars Armada players to battle for control of the Corellian sector, Han Solo's home system. Over the course of several campaign turns, the players build and destroy bases and outposts throughout the sector. In order to track who controls what planet, the designers gave you a folded map and a whole bunch of stickers.

Since we have multiple people at the local game store that want to play, I thought it would be frustrating at best to use stickers. Along came my idea to make a smart map that loads map data from the web and then changes LED colors to convey information. The map will be mounted at the store very soon.


On the left is a close up from the front of the map where you can see the Neopixels I used for the colors. I'll be adding some 3D-printed items to diffuse the light a little better. The right photo shows the control button, the display, and the ESP8266. The ESP8266 is the brain of the whole thing. The button is used to switch between games that are displayed. It is also used to refresh the data with a long press. If there are no button presses for 30 minutes, it starts rotating through all the maps every 15 seconds.


Each Neopixel is soldered to the next. To help me when it came time for programming, I labelled every Neopixel from behind. The photo on the right shows the whole 25-LED strip. Painters tape was great for holding everything in place.

ESP8266 Thing from Spark Fun ($15.95,
OLED yellow/blue display ($9.99,
Neopixel RGBW strip ($17.95,
Micro USB wall charger ($12.90,

1000 uF capacitor
560 and 10K Ohm resistors
Jumper wires
Push button
22 AWG bulk wire

Wire cutter
Wire stripper
Soldering iron
Hobby exacto knife
3D printed plastic disc, 15mm across
Computer (for programming and uploading to the ESP8266)

Laminate and dry-mount map on foam core (unknown price because Fed Ex did it for free after they botched the first attempt)

Cutting with the exacto knife

I estimate that I spent a total of 20 hours on this project. The bulk of that was on cutting the holes and soldering the Neopixels, probably about 8 hours.

Making a table so Shoshie can work with me

I built a computer last month so I could have a much better time editing videos. My next project is to make a very simple work table so that Shoshie can paint her magnificent minis while I work in the same room. This is a 3.5' by 7' table that I threw together quick in SketchUp. This will give us the opportunity to perhaps do some streams of us working, too.

Still got the maker high even from a bad Arduino clone

Sometimes making doesn't go as planned ( Image by Edmund Yeo, Flickr )

Sometimes making doesn't go as planned (Image by Edmund Yeo, Flickr)

Last night I decided to spend time working on fixing a bad Arduino clone board from SainSmart. One of the boards I bought for the Arduino workshop at Makerspace Urbana was bad out of the box and would not appear on USB. I did an RMA for it, but the local UPS store doesn't line up with my schedule. Rather than just toss it, I decided to see if I could fix it. 

So far, I've failed to repair it. But the time spent still made me feel good. 

Since realizing that it still felt good, I started to think about why I might feel that way. Maybe it is because I still did something physical: the reset switch seemed stuck, so I desoldered and removed it. Maybe it is because I was trying different command line tools to try to program the USB chip. Maybe it was because it was just not giving up and learning something new. 

In the end, even failed making is rewarding. 

Makers keep making, August edition

I feel like I have not been giving good attention to this blog because I have not been making a lot of things, but it turns out that I have.

UAV business

With the FAA announcing new rules for commercial drone activities, I decided it was finally time to get a drone and dive into that market. We have a site up and running at, but I am still working on some portfolio videos. We are going into aerial photography and video, agricultural mapping, and construction imaging.

Star Wars Armada accessories

I really like Shapeways for print-on-demand 3D print sales. Several months ago, I created some accessories to use with Star Wars Armada. Every once in a while, I get notification that some of them have sold. When the 3D printer that I bought via Kickstarter arrives in the coming weeks, I plan to catalog building it and getting it going here. Besides Shapeways as a sales outlet, I might see about building an assembly line automation that would push prints off of the print bed so that another print could begin. Shapeways models are really nice, but you definitely pay a premium for them right now.

Teaching Arduino at Makerspace Urbana (photo by Jeff Putney)

Teaching Arduino at Makerspace Urbana (photo by Jeff Putney)

Makerspace Urbana

Earlier in August, I delivered my first workshop at Makerspace Urbana. I taught a handful of people the basics of getting started with Arduino, and it was so much fun watching them get excited to do some basics electronics. We started out with some basic LED blinking and worked our way up to creating a randomized LED to simulate a die. We are also working on the planning for the Heartland Maker Fest which will happen October 1st at Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana. If you're a maker, be sure to check out the site and submit a request to get your own table for just $15 if you've never been a maker at the Fest.

Control glove sketches

I could almost pull this off if I had dark hair...and more of it.

I could almost pull this off if I had dark hair...and more of it.

During one of my regular daydreams, I was imagining what things I could make to be like Iron Man. In my mind, being like Iron Man means using wearables to do awesome things. Once Tony Stark escapes the terrorists, he goes about creating a new Iron Man suit with one of the first components being the gauntlet. Iron Man gauntlets appear many times throughout the movies with them being perhaps the most fundamental part of the Iron Man power armor. Since it isn't really possible to create the repulsors that the armor has, I thought about using a glove as a control interface.

Sketch of how the wiring would look for the control glove

The idea here is to make a glove that can be used to control some Neopixel LEDs. Each fingertip has a small gap between the conductive threads to create an open circuit. On the thumb is a small piece of conductive thread that is wide enough to close the circuit when I touch a fingertip with my thumb. In this way, the thumb stitch of thread works like a switch. By wiring all of this into a Flora, I can do a variety of magic with the Neopixels.

  • Change which Neopixels are on
  • Change the color of the Neopixels
  • Trigger different lighting effects
  • Blind my enemies (Just kidding, Neopixels are kind of bright, so this is semi-legit.)
EveryCircuit: a pretty iPad app I'm testing for circuit design

EveryCircuit: a pretty iPad app I'm testing for circuit design

In order to make the wiring simpler, my plan is to use the analog-to-digital input of an Adafruit Flora wearable microcontroller as the input of all the fingers. In the circuit of each finger is a resistor of different resistance. By doing this, each finger will generate a different specific voltage into the Flora's input. Since my wife and daughter are both out of town this week, this project is one I'll do some proof-of-concept work and then complete with my daughter.

Pathfinder RPG token arch progress: it's genius!

A friend of mine reminded me this week about the movie that inspired my STEM-driven creativity from the time that I was a teenager. So while I worked on an accessory to enhance the use of Paizo's Pathfinder Pawns series, I picked up "Real Genius" from Amazon to entertain me while I worked.

"Relax, it's just yogurt."

"Relax, it's just yogurt."

Design progress

The idea behind this design started out as a way to more easily differentiate between the various pawns that might be on the map. Like many of my 3D models though, it has already started to evolve as I design. In Pathfinder RPG, there are a variety of conditions that can be applied to a character: dazzled, sickened, fatigued, paralyzed, grappled, etc. The next iteration of this accessory will include some way to attach condition tracking to each token arch in order to easily reference the conditions that apply to a given character.

Getting back to it!

It has been way too long since I was making new stuff. Grades get turned in tomorrow, and I have some time off in the coming weeks.  

Radio and intercom holder update

Radio mounting system

Radio mounting system

The intercom holder works well, and I was trying to come up with a good holder for the radio. Instead of trying to make a separate part, I'm going to try combining them into a single model.

More Pathfinder RPG accessories  

Giant leech...ewww  

Giant leech...ewww  

These little cardboard tokens are much easier to organize than boxes and boxes of actual miniatures. It would be nice to be able to tell them apart though. I'm going to make a small arch that essentially slides over the top and has a small number on it. I can hopefully get this design printed and confirmed functional by Friday when I game master at Heroicon. Yay for rapid prototyping!

Too sick to fly the Cub, not too sick to design

The Cub is ready to fly today, but I'm still having coughing fits from the fourth day of a cold. That makes for an unsafe flight, so I'm sadly staying indoors. If I can't fly, I can still do design work for flying.  


Three different accessories to improve the radio experience in a Cub.  

Three different accessories to improve the radio experience in a Cub.  

Each accessory slides a piece between the outer and inner skin of the fuselage. On the far left is an intercom holder. The intercom allows you to plug in two headsets so the pilot and passenger can talk to each other. This accessory gives you access to the volume and squelch controls. I might change the orientation to put the back of the intercom against the fuselage. The center piece is for cable management. There are two cables per headset, one for the push-to-talk button, and two more for connecting the intercom to the radio. The cable manager holds cables in place and out of the way. Multiple can be used to help in different places. The accessory on the right is for the radio. It lets you clamp the radio to it and keeps it at a convenient viewing angle. 

My only concern is that these could potential break, leaving a piece of plastic inside e fuselage. I think I can address that with the right thickness though, possibly making rounded edges, too.  

Projects I've got stewing right now

While I haven't made an update here in a week or so, I have multiple projects sitting and ready for more work.

Robot control via voice recognition

This project is related to the BB-8 clone being made by a group of people at Makerspace Urbana. I volunteered to take on some voice activated controls using an EasyVR shield from VeeaR. When I first soldered it all together, I was able to test it successfully. I have written some pseudocode for how I want to do voice commands, but I need to make some time to do the work.

Star Wars Armada accessories

The damage tracker is done with some very minor tweaks that I need to print to be sure. My next effort will be an add-on for upgrade cards with the ship tray. I have a few designs that I'm kicking around, but nothing that makes me completely happy aesthetically. After that is complete, my next idea is to create some alternate ship stands for the bases. The default ship stands all have the ships flying straight and level. Space ships should be maneuvering!

Workbench lighting

I really, really like my workbench lighting. Besides dance party mode, I have now added a mode for a slowly changing color wheel. It is very relaxing as the lights transition across my bench.

Maaaaybe a drone from scratch

I am still undecided, but I think I want to build a drone this spring and summer from scratch. It needs to happen after the BB-217 project is complete, but I think it is something I can finish in time for a big family reunion this summer.

Debouncing - what is it, doing it in software

It was bugging me that I couldn't change the speed of the dance party effect for my workbench lighting, so I added the ability to adjust the beats per minute. I also converted the switch to an interrupt so that it behaved better while doing other work. Interrupts are a simple concept - stop whatever the device is doing and do this other thing right now. However, this also means I had to learn a bit about debouncing.

When an electrical circuit is closed by a button, the voltage fluctuates slightly until it flattens out. This fluctuation means that one button press can look like 3 or 4 button presses over the course of a couple hundred milliseconds. This behavior is called bouncing.

Debouncing uses either hardware to smooth out the voltage or software to ignore the bounces. Since I didn't have the components necessary for hardware debouncing, I used a software method that works pretty well. When the interrupt is triggered - the voltage from pressing the button rises, including from bouncing, check for when the last voltage rise was detected. If it's shorter than 200ms, ignore it. Debounced!

Ready to print some damage tracker prototypes

I was able to drive the Shapeways price down as well as hopefully address some issues with visibility of cards for facedown damage. The back of cards will really only be visible if someone gets down at table height to try to see the backs. Unless I make major changes, the price will be below $15. 

Tracking damage in Star Wars Armada

Star Wars Armada uses cards to keep track of damage to the ships. When your Star Destroyer loses its shields and starts taking hull damage, a damage card is dealt to it. A ship is destroyed when it has damage cards equal to its hull value. These cards can be face up or face down depending on various other effects. Face up damage cards have additional effects like hampering engines or reduced how well your turbolasers can shoot.

Cutaway view from the side

The tracker uses slots that alternatively offset from each other. As damage cards are added, lower numbers are hidden by the cards inserted into tracker's slots. The total damage cards in the tracker are quickly known by seeing the lowest number visible. The slots are on an angle that keeps the backs from being easily visible. This is important because the text on damage dealt face down is supposed to be kept secret.

Due to the amount of empty space in this model, I am having to create voids to cut down its print time and cost. This may end up being one of the models I give away for free.

EasyVR voice recognition basic test

A group of folks at Makerspace Urbana are working on a project to build a functional, full-scale BB-8 (or BB-217 as we call it). I'm working on a control input voice recognition capability. After soldering together the EasyVR shield I bought from SparkFun, I did my first test to see if the voice recognition works.

Watch the video:

Final Prototype: Star Wars Armada ship tray

After a couple weeks of getting feedback and a couple prototype prints, the Star Wars Armada ship tray is finally complete.  

The Problem

Moving this between tables or even just to a different part of the table was annoying.  

Moving this between tables or even just to a different part of the table was annoying.  

The Design

I wanted something that was easy to move around the table as well as between tables. Some of the design features include: 

  • a place for the card
  • a place for command and defense tokens
  • a place for ship ID
  • a place for the speed dial
  • a place for the command dial stack
Final beta, made tweaks in the realm of hundredths of an inch after printing this prototype

Final beta, made tweaks in the realm of hundredths of an inch after printing this prototype

Final Version

The final design incorporates several features.  

Ship card

Fits into its spot in either portrait or landscape orientation. Fits and stays in its spot with or without a card sleeve.  


Overlap the ship card without hiding vital information. Slight drop in order to give tokens a small angle to make it easier to flip or remove them.  


Spots for both speed and command dials that hold them in place. 

Set the upgrades to one side and the damage to the other

Set the upgrades to one side and the damage to the other

When the ship is destroyed, put it right on top of the tray. Useful for between game transport, too.

When the ship is destroyed, put it right on top of the tray. Useful for between game transport, too.

Works with alternate card art, too!

Works with alternate card art, too!

Buy Now

Like what you see? You can order one from Shapeways and have it shipped straight to you!

Reducing the cost of products printed at Shapeways

Today's lesson in 3D printing was that it really does make a difference to reduce the amount of material in a model for production at Shapeways. While I'm uncertain that I like the aesthetic, I was able to reduce the cost of the Armada ship tray to less than $20 by removing as lot of non-critical components. The part that is under the ship card? Gone. Round the corners? Looks great! Every bit that reduces the time and material seems to make a difference in the cost. I don't think there's any more I can remove, but it is at least now in a range that I'm comfortable with selling on Shapeways. I'll print a prototype at the Makerspace this week and see if I still like the overall look and feel. Once my card sleeves arrive, I'll be able to finalize the design and start selling.

Making better lighting for my workbench

So I don't have very good lighting available for my workbench. I have a really bright standing CFL light off to the side, but it doesn't give good distributed light. I could buy a heavy fluorescent light, but why not make something that gives me more control? My plan is to get a strip of Neopixels, another Arduino-type board, and a rotary encoder. A rotary encoder is a knob that can be used to input position and speed. With that capability, I'll have the ability to control whether all the lights are on, all the lights are off, and whether a portion of lights are on including where the lights are on.

While prototyping this workbench lighting system tonight, I decided to use my ESP8266 Thing from SparkFun as well as a new full-size, solderless bread board. I learned that the power rails on the top half do not connect to the bottom half. That one took a bit to figure out, including some accidental connections.