A Modular Workstation

Picture of Modular Workstation

What if you had a workstation that was reconfigurable from the ground up? That’s exactly what this workstation seeks to do, make a unit that can be quickly customised for specific project needs. The reason I made this unit is that I don’t have a traditional workbench which I can use so I keep moving from one place to another. It’s quite irritating to move individual components, and even of I do, I often lose something on the way. I made this workstation to try and solve those problems.

A run-through of the configurations :

1. Base configuration – you get a large box with a screwdriver set and a hammer. It’s big enough to fit two circular saws and have some space left over.

2. Large modules – two of these can be placed in the box at any time. There are four in total, the jigsaw module, the drill module, the carpentry module and the electronics module.

3. Smaller modules – three of these can be placed in the box along with any two larger modules. These have removable dividers so they can be used either for small parts or for keeping slightly larger items like an arduino or a raspberry pi.

I’ve been using this for quite a while now, and I can honestly say that if you don’t have a permanent workstation, this can be incredibly useful to work on projects. To learn how to make this, please click here. Cheers!

The Steporama (A working title)

This project evolved out of an old weak stepper motor that I had laying around. I first tried to create a robotic arm with the stepper motor. The motor was barely able to lift the arm, let alone an external load.Then I tried to build a 3d printer with the stepper. Clearly I wasn’t thinking straight – the stepper couldn’t lift thermocol and I wanted it to print objects in 3D. Not too smart.

The end of this project was to attach the stepper to an ATMega328 with a ULN2003 darlington array and just keep making it spin around. I used the stock stepper code on the arduino website and used my Leonardo to program the ATMega. The only use I found for it was to create a panaroma capture device. However, as whimsical as it might sound, it genuinely does take better photos than a handheld device. Enjoy!

The Name Lamp

My first woodworking post here! And its actually something I made quite a while back, but never really got around posting plans for. This is a really simple custom table lamp you can make in very little time and also one which doubles up as a USB charger. The only power tool you’ll need is a drill!

Parts Required

  1. Drill
  2. 1/2″ wood – 30″ x 5″ (You won’t get wood this size, but this is all the half inch ply you need for this project)
  3. 1/4″ wood – 10″ x 5″ (The same for this as well, you can use scrap wood if you have some laying around)
  4. A USB charger
  5.  Wire
  6. A bulb holder
  7. A small LED bulb
  8. Glue
  9. Female and male AC plug

Steps

  • Cut 3 pieces of 10″ x 5″ wood (two from the half inch and one from the quarter inch)
  • Like the template below, draw up a scaled version of of the text and place holes in roughly the positions of the text. The holes shouldn’t be too close, otherwise the drill bit will keep slipping into the adjacent hole (unless you have a drill press, which I don’t). It doesn’t matter if the text doesn’t look readable, it was the same for me, but it takes shape better in the wood.
The front of the box. The holes signify drill points

The front of the box. The holes signify drill points

  • On the piece of 1/4″ plywood, make a hole roughly the size of a usb port. Use a cable to measure it out.
The top of the box

The top of the box

  •  For the side pieces, cut out 5″x5″ pieces of 1/2″ plywood.
  • Now, mount the bulb holder on one of the side pieces. Make sure you mount it at the centre of the piece so that the top piece can fit on well.
  • Now, mount the usb device so that it is aligned with the hole made previously. In case your charger has a curved edge (like mine did), find a corner to mount the usb charger. Then use a USB female connector to extend the charging port.
  • Finally, wire up the AC plug to the bulb and use the female AC plug to the USB charger.
  • Glue the entire thing in place! This is the boring part – waiting for that glue to dry so that you can look at your beautiful creation.
  • After its dried, I suggest you use a stain to make the plywood look nice. I used paint, and it just hides the grain of the wood completely.

Here’s the one I made for my sister!

IMG_0092 IMG_0092 IMG_0094

Sing Along.. Or not..

Everyone loves music. There’s no denying that. Whether its toddlers listening to the Teletubbies, a teenager listening to Adam Levine’s latest album or a 90 year old attending a Carnatic (Indian traditional music) concert; everyone shares the same passion for music. And sometimes, that passion can be source of great pain to the rest of us. 

That passion, induced by hearing beautiful music, makes people ‘try’ and emulate the singers by singing along. They have this desperate urge to express this passion. Of course, when a toddler sings, it all seems to be very cute. But as you get older, the ‘cuteness’ quotient reduces. You begin to sound distinctly like a dying walrus! And to add to the problems, people think bathrooms are soundproof rooms where you are authorized to sing as loudly (and creatively) as possible. 

 

                                           

As bad a picture as this might paint, it might interest you to know that there is one category of singers worse than the ones I’ve mentioned. There are some kids (boys especially) who are pressured into learning Carnatic music by their parents and relatives (some distant aunt, second cousin’s uncle, etc, etc). From the early hours of dawn right until the sun sets, they religiously and tirelessly practice, giving you a heart attack every time they reach a high note. And when the poor kid finally stops singing (hallelujah!) you sympathise with him, but sympathy turns into psychotic rage when he once again starts singing, like a frog heralding the rain!

The family of that boy is very supportive of him. When you meet the grandmother, she bursts out praising  her grandson’s voice. You control your laughter. You meet the mother a day later who asks you if her son’s singing has improved. You nod your head and try to change the subject before you strangle the woman in front of you. And finally when you see the dad after a while, his first and only question to you is whether you heard his son singing ‘Kurai Onrum Illai’ (a famous South Indian song). You mutter some praise about his voice, but you have reached your breaking point. You find a new house next to a loud construction site the next day and move over there for the sweet melody of the cranes and the drills. 

But all is not lost. Several studies show that singing out loud can actually reduce stress and make you happier (even if the rest of the world mourns). So even if you are traumatizing the rest of the world with your ‘wonderful’ voice, you are helping yourself. So sing out loud, but please, soundproof your walls (or your bathroom).

The World of Google

It is only fair that my first blog post pays a tribute to the website which ‘Does no Evil’ – Google. Google knows everything. From the Archives, to right Now, there are very few things Google does not know. Right from when ‘Google’ became an official word in the Oxford Dictionary to Google launching Google ‘Nose’ (no, it is not real); everything Google has done has always impacted the world in some way. Despite being this corporate giant which seems to try to take over everything, Google is actually far more playful. Both because it knows everything about everyone and also because the only motto Google has is Don’t Be Evil. But no matter what Google does, there is an element of playfulness that accompanies it, which no other company can claim to have; not even Apple.

Google doodles are amazing pieces of art, Google’s April Fool’s pranks are some of the best and most of their products are a result of free time their employees have. Google has a rule of 20, that is every employee must necessarily devote 20% of his time every week to a project of his own. It is because Google is so relaxed that we have Google Instant, Google Now and Google Maps. Apart from this, work at the Googleplex has billions of other perks including free haircuts, laundry services, massages, free food (all of us would love that) and game rooms.

Google is representative of what a company which is willing to go beyond the book can achieve, what it can do. Not only does Google give us information at all times, it helps us store it, document it and even write blogs like this one! Unfortunately, Google is also a double edged sword. With Google, nothing is secretive. At no point of time do we have the exhilaration that comes with figuring out an answer to question after long searches. Perhaps that feeling can never come back to us now that Google has all but taken over the world; so I’m probably going to go on Gmail to find those Youtube links to Android’s KeyLimePie keynote release.

The Diary of a Younger Sibling

Parents. You can’t love them, you can’t hate them. As a younger sibling, the first few years of my life were bliss. Everything I wanted, I got. Everything I did not want, I got. My sister on the other hand, was not as lucky as me. I knew it, and I spent the first 12 years of my life taking advantage of that! I had great power, but not an ounce of responsibility. And then came my sister’s 10th grade and all the discussions about career options. Of course, as the younger sibling these conversations never required my insightful suggestions and so I kept out of them. The same thing continued for the next three years and then my sister was sent off to college. I now had possession of her room. I thought things would go back to the way they were, now that ‘career options’ were taken care of, but I was wrong. Very wrong.

 

Now not only did I have to bear the brunt of my parent’s bad moods all on my own, I also almost never got the attention I had before. All I ever heard was how ‘that poor kid must be suffering in college’ when in reality I was the only one who knew exactly how much she was ‘suffering’. In the first month she got an entire box of my mother’s homemade chocolate. In the second month she got a box of homemade sweets from my grandmother. Trust me, if those boxes were made available to the public, we would be millionaires (although I suppose everyone feels that way about their mom’s cooking). And while my sister got box-fulls of ecstasy, I lay in the background, feeling like a kid who had missed his bus. And this wasn’t even the worst part.

My parents had now crossed the hurdle of sending the first kid to college and this made the effects of old age evident on them. They now needed me to read their restaurant menus to them. They now needed me to repeat myself multiple times. They now needed me to remind them about their meetings, while they forgot parent-teacher meetings at school. I treated the entire process as some kind of punishment for what I had done earlier, and hoped and prayed that it would stop.

Here I am, one year after my sister has left for college. And while I make my way to the new Thai Restaurant, I think about how my parents had forgotten to attend the parent-teacher meeting that Friday, but I snap out of it when my father asks me to read the driving directions off Google maps because he left his glasses at home.