I traveled to the Twin Cities to shoot the Maker Workshop segments of Make: television, so I needed to bring along a lot of my tools, materials, supplies, and parts. Both for on-screen making, and hotel room tinkering. Sometimes, we figured out how to present our projects at the eleventh hour, so I had one night to cook up a demo to fit the new talking points. (Bill Gurstelle was probably up a lot later than I was, building brand new trebuchets and such…)
Once, I forgot to bring solder. I ended up twisting lots of wires together in my room late at night. I ought to get a big Pelican case or tackle box full of gear, that’s ready to go. You never know when you’ll be called on to hack something together in the field. Anyone have suggestions for their mobile workshop?
24 thoughts on “Hotel room prototyping”
My masters project was pretty intensive and required a fair amount of peripherals that were connected to a Terasic DE2 Cyclone || development board. I had to have it connected to a VGA monitor, and PS2 keyboard at least. I was doing a fair amount of travel due to job interviews so what I did is I went to circuit city and bought one of their LCD 15″ floor models and stuck it in my sweatshirt along with my development board and a crappy keyboard I found. In the end this mobile rig was so useful that I ended up being able to develop everywhere I went.
I think investing in a development board is the way to go in that regard. It may not be as 7337 but at least it will save your behind in tight situations.
How did you manage to clear airport “security” with all that gear?
I’ve got an RC Monster Truck (T-maxx 1.8 if your interested) and whenever I go to a site to bash or just screw around for a few hours, you almost always break something or have to tweak some little thing to get everything going good. So I’ve got an old multi-level tackle box I got from Canadian Tire years ago and started putting necessary tools and spare parts in. It holds everything needed on the job; I added a little strap for a fuel bottle on the side, all of the radio equipment (with batteries) is in the top, and once you flip the lid it doubles as a work tray.
Most large-ish tackle boxes have trays inside that slide out and are perfect for small parts and bits and pieces, along with one large tray for tools and larger parts. So it would be perfect to throw in various electronic tools, even large soldering stations or stands in the top, and little parts in the compartment trays below.
Should be perfect for bringing all your gear with you on the go for hacking and tinkering on the road!
I second the tackle box idea, and I’ll add a few of the essential items for it: cordless soldering iron, solder, breadboard, jumper wires in assorted sizes, spools of wire in a least two different colors, solderless connectors and crimper, wire cutters, pliers, and a “security bit” screwdriver set.
This type of kit is standard for just about any ham radio operator who’s involved in public service or emergency communication, so try to find your local ham club and ask them for pointers, too. The real challenge is to keep from going overboard and packing so much stuff you can’t carry it.
I’m turning a briefcase toolbox I picked up at Home Despot ($20 at the time) into a prototyping station. I’ll be reworking the tool panel to fit the tools I’ll need, the divided base compartment will hold parts, power supply, etc.
I’m making a cheap copy of an expensive digital experimenter’s board with debounced switches, clock circuits, function generator, displays (7-segment and LCD). The electronics will be mounted between 2 sheets of plastic with the prototyping board(s) on top. I’m thinking about making parts of this modular, but I need to work out the mounting system (I’m still in the layout and parts-collecting phase).
Picture of a similar briefcase: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6d/Aluminium_Briefcase.jpg
I may do an Instructable on it.
I gotta say, our hotel room table at Maker Faire Austin looked a lot like that. (Not including the pumpkin carving mess.)
One shoe box sized cardboard box is about right for most of what you need. Contains soldering iron (we travel with a weller), solder, wire, clippers, strippers, screwdrivers, multimeter, solder braid, cable ties, hot glue gun, etc. The box gets packed in checked luggage. Extra microcontrollers go in the carry-on laptop bag.
Craig, I was pretty paranoid about that and sent stuff via DHL in advance. On my return I put everything in checked luggage and had no problems. Just a little love note in my suitcase from the TSA telling me they’d had a look around.
Jhoung, that sounds very cool, please do an Instructable about it and let us know!
Lenore, what fun is a cardboard box? Don’t you know that guys are always looking for excuses to pack things in Pelican or Halliburton cases? It makes us feel like James Bond. :)
Alan, thanks for the tip, I’ll search out the ham sites and see what people pack.
Fomori, that sounds excellent, I like the idea of it being a true mobile mini-workbench.
All great ideas! How about a portable workbench like the one I built- you could make one just the size to fit into a hard-sided suitcase (plenty of those for cheap at the local thrift store…) You can check out the details at: http://flickr.com/photos/42433826@N00/1369493106/
The cool thing about having been in the cities is that you could hit up an Axman Surplus store (http://www.ax-man.com/) if you needed some cool ideas or parts for your impromptu project (and yes, they have solder too.) I was just there over the holiday myself, and had to make a quick work space to hack together a project for my sister.
I don’t recommend my method of working on the floor of your parents living room with newspapers spread out on the floor. BUT – I have had good luck toting around little boxes that I pick up at Home Depot and various surplus stores.
The small plastic shoe box size boxes can house a fair amount of gear, including tools and various parts. I put parts into those pill boxes you can get at Walgreens for a few bucks (or the fore-mentioned Axman for $.65 or less.) I often use old Shure Microphone bags for tools, and then grab the little bag that I need when I head out.
This has worked well for me, though these portable workbench ideas are great, and I’ll be looking into that further myself too!
OK, ejoso, you are the third person to tell me about Axman, I’m definitely going to check it out when I go there next week for the TV show premiere party. Maybe we should have had it at Axman… :)
You have given a very good and a nice information about hotel room prototyping. The information which you have given is beneficial for me also for others who wants to know this. I liked and very much impressed by this.
I end a lot of wires twisted together in my room late at night. I should get a big pelican case or deal is full of gear it is ready.
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