Visit to Vigyan Ashram

Nikhil and I visited Pune on the 16th of March to catch up with Capgemini, a company that we have been working with to spread the maker movement in corporates. The meeting went well, met their engineers and had a good discussion on how Makers Asylum can work with Capgemini.
On our way back, we wanted to visit some local maker spaces so we got in touch with Vigyan Ashram, Heram Labs and Doothings.
Vigyan Ashram was the closest to where we were and they have been known to be doing amazing things in the agricultural and rural entrepreneurship sector. That being something of my passion, we drove straight there.
The moment we reached, our jaws dropped!
Vigyan Ashram is situated in a small village near Pune called Palbal. It was founded 30 years back by a scientist who wanted to empower workers in rural India to start using their hands with technology and make. They have year long courses here that cost INR 23000 per year including food and hostel to stay and if students can’t pay, the fee is waived off.
They learn everything from welding, machining, poultry, agriculture, 3D printing and laser cutting. There is a full FAB lab inside their facility filled with digital manufacturing tools, including 3d printers, pcb cutting Modela PCB cutters and a epilog laser cutter. FabLab
Amazed by the equipment we met the principal who asked one of the students to take us for a tour of the space. Oooo This tour was something.
Pranay started by showing us the equipment inside the shed and explaining how each tool works. He soon got into the stuff people have been making there. From incubators for chicken eggs, to hydraulic machines, to cycles to a solar power cooker to a full bio gas plant.
We saw this huge shield made of mirrors about 3 times my height. Puzzled by what it does I asked him, It was a solar roti maker. It had solar panels attached to it, to control the direction it faced, and the glass mirrors converged the light onto another concave mirror that focused the sunlight to a pan to cook the Rotis. This was a perfect example of making something for the love and passion and to prove it can be done following true to my ideology.
There were students doing studies on agriculture, there was a fish farm, There was a lab to test food samples and blood samples. They sold the produce, to visitors and local villagers to sustain the space.
This place was like Heaven. All the students live in the facility, they have a minimum requirement to earn INR1000 in a year at the space, either by making food, or taking people on a tour(INR 20 per tour) of the facility. This is a superb model as it not only teaches them to be entrepreneurs but also makes them love their space as they are earning from it.
After the tour we found out they have a DIY lab setup within the city and some visitors from the Tokyo fablab are visiting them. Surabh from the Lab invited us to join them for dinner, so we head straight to meet them.  They were setting up a fablab in Lebanon and Tsuneo was working in tokyo with the fablab network and had just recently made a delta 3d printer. We shared stories on whats been happening in India and how Maker’s Asylum can work with FabLabs to grow the maker culture.

[caption id="attachment_4289" align="aligncenter" width="700"]The cow shed The cow shed[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4288" align="aligncenter" width="700"]The Roti maker with a focus mirror to focus the light from the giant mirror at Vigyan Ashram The Roti maker with a focus mirror to focus the light from the giant mirror at Vigyan Ashram[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4287" align="aligncenter" width="700"]The Giant Light deflector and solar panel at Vigyan Ashram The Giant Light deflector and solar panel at Vigyan Ashram[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_4284" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Incubators made by the students at Vigyan Ashram Incubators made by the students at Vigyan Ashram[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4283" align="aligncenter" width="700"]The FabLab at Vigyan Ashram The FabLab at Vigyan Ashram[/caption]

Origami Workshop at the Asylum

The last time we did an Origami workshop was in June of 2014 at the Garage in Bandra. Since then, we kept having numerous requests to repeat some more. Unfortunately, it's been a busy time for all of us, and it wasn't until last month that I asked my dear friend Himanshu if he would like to lead an Origami workshop at the Asylum. Himanshu has honed his folding skills by leaps and bounds since I first met him about 15 years ago, and the results are evident at his photo blog on Flickr. We decided to hold an intermediate level workshop aimed at people who already know the basics of Origami.

March is turning out to be an extremely busy month at the Asylum, with big events lined up on all the weekends - from SciCamp on Mar 7th, Bring-a-Hack in association with Hackaday on Mar 21st, and Arduino Day on Mar 28th. Luckily, we could freeze the workshop dates for Mar 14th. We spent some time discussing the structure of the workshop, deciding the models to be shared and so on. Until about a couple of days prior to the workshop, less than a handful of people had signed up. Since we were going to use the proceeds from this workshop to fund the "DIY Book Scanner" build at the Asylum, we needed as least 10 people minimum, so at one point we also discussed the possibility of scrapping the workshop if we don't get enough sign-ups. Eventually, we decided to add a free, 1 hour foundation workshop aimed at those who did not have any prior folding experience. That, and a mention in the Mumbai Mirror, saw registrations swell. Between 35 to 40 people turned up for the foundation Workshop. We discussed the basic principles of Origami, a little bit of historical perspective, and folded a few simple Origami traditional models. There was some talk about Math and Physics too. We had a couple of kids around 10 years old, as well as a few folks in their 70's. The hour flew by quite quick, and we broke for a short break.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="960"]doing some basic Origami doing some basic Origami[/caption]

For the intermediate Workshop, 19 people stayed back. We covered some of the more technical aspects of folding. We explored Bases and how they lead on to finished models. Some more models were folded. Himanshu showed some of his beautifully folded models.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="960"]Himanshu shows us a Gen Hagiwara Origami Violin Himanshu shows us a Gen Hagiwara Origami Violin[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="960"]an Origami Mask - this one uses foil backing to provide support to the paper an Origami Mask - this one uses foil backing to provide support to the paper[/caption]

We were happy we could steer the workshop towards a more mature discussion about Origami art and math rather than dwelling on the crafty aspects of folding.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="960"]Himanshu explaining the finer points of Origami during the intermediate workshop Himanshu explaining the finer points of Origami during the intermediate workshop[/caption]

At that point, the young kids got excited and came along to show off their own models. We wrapped up with a photo session, and some networking.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="960"]a group photo a group photo[/caption]

Workbench Buildgroup: Introduction and first baby steps

jewelery bench


The build group for the workbench project was initiated On Saturday 14th. We started with a quick set of images to help understand what a workbench needs to support and the various uses it can be put too. The group then put on their thinking hats and began tossing about ideas. Workbenches for the asylum need to support the various builds that we undertake. They are also going to be used for the workshops conducted
We discussed the following stuff

 Stuff for Electronics
- Power ports
- Magnifyier
- Third hand
- Soldering kit with fume extractor
- Storage: little bins to organise parts(chips, resistors,  capacitors, etc)
- Spool for wires of various gauges and materials




workbench_wood (2)

 Stuff for Woodworking
- Heavy top
- Stable base: ability to take sawing and planing without  shaking
- Clamps
- Side vises (face vise, end vise)
- Bins for screws, nails, nuts, bolts, etc
- Sunken channel or slot for keeping tools while working
- Power ports for power tools


General Stuff
- Collapsible
- Mobile
- Modular (a person should be able to swap modules in and out, for the purpose that the table is going to be used for)
- Comfortable height for work when standing
- Each table is shaped as part of a circle, like a small arc. Many tables put together would make a semi circle and the instructor or lead can speak from the center and easily access the items around the circle instead of having to walk around a large table.

Current Project

Discussions were quick and very soon a consensus was arrived at, and the following items will be discussed over the week on the group.
Atleast 2 tables will be built,

A solid, stable and permanent one. It is a maker space, so atleast one table MUST be available for heavy work all the time.
We will begin the build for this table next Saturday the 21st.

  • solid, well built base
  • heavy top to absorb all the blows and vibrations from various heavy tools
  • Sunken channel or slot across the back for keeping tools while working

I anticipate this build to span the next 2 Saturdays. So if you are interested get in quick and help speed up things.

Future projects of this buildgroup
A collapsible table on the lines of Dave flanagan's collapsible table is the likely collapsible option. We will be redesigning it to allow for our build group's approach.


Our approach is to create modules and the table will have slots to add or remove modules in various configurations. We will need some COOL DESIGNERS for this. So if that is you please come by next Saturday the 21st.
Some of the modules planned are

  • Power port module: features 2 individual 3 pin points and a 3 meter retractable cord to plug the module into the nearest power supply.
  • Tiny components module: features 1 or more trays, with little bins to store chips, resistors, capacitors, nuts and bolts, screws, nails etc. When away from the table, the module will be stackable so as to have as small a space cost as possible.
  • Wire spooler
  • Soldering kit
  • Drill Press (I propose to build a drill press)
  • etc

Keep an eye out for these, I will call them out on the group.

Bilal’s and Shilo’s visit to the asylum

Bilal the man behind kickstarting the maker movement in the middle east! visited the asylum on the 13th of March. Singing and dancing, pouncing with energy, Bilal and Shilo roared into the asylum.Bilal We celebrated Aditi’s Birthday - she started maker fest in India. India’s only maker festival.
We started by talking about the community of the asylum and the ups and downs of setting up a makerspace. He shared his experiences of various maker spaces that he has visited and helped setup around the world. And exactly what is it about maker spaces that make them special? Is it the projects that are coming out or it the relationships its building - the hidden gem of the space that cannot be measured and the ripple effects last for decades.
How is that innovation happen? does it happen over the internet, over forums? no it happens when people bump into each other and share their backgrounds. These were some common ideologies that we all share.
We discussed the positives and negatives of membership model and why is it necessary and why its a barrier. The evening ended with some awesome coconut water outside the asylum and exchange of plans to meet soon in the future:)
Makers Asylum

Balance Bot Build

Build Groups are a great way to get the community involved in creating something together. Each member of the group has the drive to contribute and be a part of something big, and in a physical setting like the Makers Asylum, helps people get ready access to tools which would not possibly be available at home.

Posts on Facebook for the build group went out, and we met with the participants on a Saturday Afternoon. We went over how the build group is going to progress, what components are going to be used, how the mechanics of balance work, how the human brain acts as a very complex control system, and how a PID helps achieve smooth balance.

Feb 1st-Feb 7th

We worked on creating a laser cut frame for the Balancebot, keeping in mind all the parts that are going to be fit on the bot, holes for routing wires, motor mounts, and pieces that help make levels on the bot become flat and parallel to the ground. This is particularly important, because the bot has an IMU, and it needs to be level. We used inkscape to design it, and the laser cut it on acrylic.

Purchased the motors and all the electronics from the local electronics market, Lamington Road.


February 7th, 2015

Day progressed with the members starting to solder the Mapone. The group did smoke tests of the Blink LED, which confirmed that all is in good shape!

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February  14th

We brought all the parts to the group, and explained how the parts will fit together.  These were easy to fit, with all the holes drilled and the joints on acrylic fit really well.


The day started with identification of each component, its role, and testing it out with simple arduino programs. For example, I explained about the motor driver chip, what an H-bridge is, what back EMF is, why we need to have flywheel diodes in the circuit that drives a motor, and the L293d module. We interfaced this module to the arduino, connected the motors, and wrote simple programs to turn the motors clockwise and anticlockwise.


We used a LM2596 buck regulator module, the MPU6050 6 DOF IMU and a L293D motor driver module.



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I spent some time over the week building the Maker's Asylum Balancebot as well. 10959761_1064302350263257_7737300821836095602_n


February 21st

This was a crucial day, we started early at 11 am. The plan of the day was to get the bot on its feet, er,  wheels.

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Everyone started with seeing if the gyro returned data well, and which axis of the gyro needed to be used, once we had the angle of tilt information, we started to do on/off triggering of motors based on angle. It wasn't a very good control strategy, because the response of the motors was the same irrespective of the magnitude of the angle, leading to wild oscillations. The bot rarely was able to keep up with the change in angle.

One of the groups tried to map ranges of angle to PWM speed of the motors. for example, a smaller angle has slow speed, larger error angle had a larger speed. The response improved, but still wasn't ideal.


We moved on to using the PID library, which is a great way of encapsulating a complex functionality inside a ready library, with good function interfaces.

The groups then tried to tune the library to get a steady response, but by the end of the day, none of them were successful.


The groups took their bots home, and tried to fix the issues with balancing them.


I started to build the balancebot at the Asylum, and that is still a WIP.


Will post a video once I am done with it. Here is a link the Makers Asylum github library where my code commits are done.