February MadisonSOUP

We had great attendance at the February MadisonSOUP:


With two great projects pitching for almost $400 towards their cause:
Kristin of Art in All the Wrong Places
Joe for Madison Sweet Potato Project

And great food as always:


Ultimately Joe took home the cash and is looking for participants to grow sweet potatoes this summer!

IMG_5083We hope to see you at the next soup coming soon!


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Posted in Food

Pour Yer Heart Out – Iron Pour 2013

We had a great time this year working with Alisa Toninato of FeLion Studios and are happy to share some great videos and pictures from this year’s pour!  Eric Allin stopped by with his camera and spent the day shooting some amazing videos:
Daytime video of the pour:

Nighttime video of the pour:

Thanks to Eric for the amazing shots and great editing work putting it together.

He shared the pour floor with a photographer and videographer from The Cap Times who also captured some great images and video.

A few Sector67 members realized that iron pouring might not qualify as a RedBull extreme sport, but the idea of playing with 100+lbs of molten iron a few inches from your fingers is definitely GoPro helmetcam worthy:

The camera was duct taped into one of the silver suit hoods to protect it from overheating and contact with splashing metal.

Todd grabbed some wonderful shots:

photo (1) SDIM0299C SDIM0309C SDIM0363 SDIM0392C SDIM0395

Joe took some great panoramas and pictures during the pour and a few pictures of the results from the pour.

Panorama Middle of Mold Floor

Here’s what everything looks like before it’s melted down and recast:Metal awaiting a melt

If you weren’t able to make it out but would like your own piece of very functional cast iron artwork for your home, consider Cook with Pride’s Wisconsin skillet by FeLion Studios:

Photo by Mike DeVries - The Capital Times

Photo by Mike DeVries – The Capital Times

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Posted in Hardware, News

Community Iron Pour – February 9th

FeLion Studios and Sector67  are proud to announce our 2nd annual community iron pour, taking place on February 9th at Sector67.  Please stop out anytime until the 9th to purchase your very own iron molds and have poured as part of the event.
We have two hearts for $30 or a tessellation pattern for $25 (limited quantities are available so please stop in to pick them up if you’re interested!), both of which can be customized to your liking and forever cast into iron:
Pile of Hearts
Creating your own heart is easy, you can modify any aspect of the mold:
Scratch Demo 2
Scratch Demo
Just remember a few rules:

  • Mold modification is messy, so lay the mold on a cardboard box or plastic bag to dispose of the excess sand.
  • Remember to draw everything backwards, it’s a mold, not a finished product, so everything will be reversed when it’s poured!
  • Sharpie your design first and carve following your lines
  • Use any pointy implement you’d like but we’d advise against using any power tools as they can create dust that you don’t want to inhale
  • Return your molds a few days before the pour up until EARLY the morning of the pour

Even if you aren’t interested in making your own cast iron artwork, please join us for music, great company, and a fun spectacle while the iron is poured:



IMG_2920 IMG_2926

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Posted in Hardware

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin Releases City Open Data Set at Sector67

Mayor Soglin stopped in at Sector67 to publicize the availability of City of Madison datastreams including crime, bus, fire hydrant, assessor, etc information; all available here on https://data.cityofmadison.com/.

Best of all, it was very well attended:

Some fun coverage of the event:
Cap Times
YouTube Video of the Event

Thanks to the City of Madison for making this information available, we’re confident some cool applications will come from it!

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Cooking “With Science” Day

Several people have been interested in cooking “with science” for quite awhile, so a day was finally decided and materials were purchased to make it happen.  One of our members owns the “Modernist Cuisine” cookbook, which provides an amazingly detailed set of recipes for those willing to hunt down the materials and equipment to follow them.


On the list of activities was:

  • Laser-cut ginger bread structures


(Testing on some cardboard to make sure things fit together)



  • Vacuum chamber pomegranate infused watermelon





  • Sous vide salmon
  • Sous vide cans of condensed milk, which turn to caramel.
  • Electrified pickles


(Don’t try this at home finger aimed at YOU)


We put the trusty PhD electrical engineer to work


  • The “Perfect Hamburger” per Modernist Cuisine, cooked sous vide then cryofried in liquid nitrogen and deep fried.
  • Laser toast




  • Carbonated fruit
  • Liquid nitrogen ice cream


  • Sous vide crème anglaise
  • Sous vide 16hr BBQ ribs


  • Modernist Cuisine inspired Weber charcoal grilling with special modifications
  • Sous vide custards and ice cream base

The event was a success when measured by the number of times we heard people say “Oh my God!” following the first bites of various food courses. One person testified to saying it 6 different times.


For my part, I was happy that the amount of effort that went into making 40 hamburgers was worth it. We learned that the hamburgers need only be cryofryed for about 15 seconds and then deep fried for a minute and a half at 350 F. We used organic cold pressed high oleic sunflower oil for deep frying and it worked wonderfully. The first burgers we cryofried for a minute and they ended up being cold inside even after deep frying to golden brown.




Look of satisfaction :-)

IMG_4830 IMG_4829

Which of course turned into “I wonder how . . . would taste”, turns out that not much could be done to improve hot dogs:


The crème anglaise was amazing when served over carbonated blueberries, and covered with fresh real whip cream made with a nitrogen charged siphon. I will be making this for Christmas dinner this year.


Things that we are saving for the next few events (next one is mid-February):

  • Laser roasted coffee
  • Laser engraved coffee beans
  • Laser popped corn (if it doesn’t invalidate the warranty of the laser cutter) :-)
  • Ultrasonic French fries
  • Swiss meringues made using a whipping cream siphon, then baked in a vacuum oven
  • Rotary evaporator “Rotovap” concentrated food flavors
  • Herb flavor extractions. Supercritical CO2?
  • Sous vide anything and everything……( but no avocado)
  • Smoking ribs in a home made smoker. Using unusual woods. Basil stems, straw, mint, etc
  • Sous vide lobster in butter
  • “Wood Fired” pizza using a metal plate to turn an electric oven into a pizza oven so we can make fresh pizzas in 2 minutes. MC pg. 2-26
  • Sous vide eggs at a range of temperatures to see the various different textures possible between 131 F and 194 F.
  • Crème brule using glass blowing torch to caramelize the sugar surface
  • Bacon!
  • Carbonated liquids in a soda siphon
  • N-Zorbit, Transglutaminase, Hydrocolloids
  • Coffee made with Japanese siphon and Cold brewed coffee


Have to do something with all the left over LN2:

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Posted in Food, Hardware, Laser Cutter

LED Holiday Wreath Build

I was looking for a fun and simple project to learn about the new laser cutter at Sector 67, so I decided to use it to cut some acrylic to hold some RGB-addressable LEDs in the shape of a holiday wreath. My LEDs are a strand of 50 from Cool Neon (part number TCLPXL50), but similar LEDs are available from AdaFruit. They can be controlled from an Arduino or any microcontroller with GPIO. They mount into a 12mm hole in a material about 1.5 mm thick. The closest I could find was 0.080” acrylic at Menard’s, which seemed way too thick (by 35%!) but due to the compliance of the silicone the LEDs are covered in, it actually works perfectly. After prototyping different layouts and sizes I decided to go with a ring nearly 14 inches in diameter holding three concentric staggered circles of 16 LEDs each. I used Google

SketchUp to create the outlines to be cut, and used a plug-in (that I found for exporting STL files for 3D printing) to output a DXF polyline file. Fortunately, the laser cutter software opened this right up with no tweaking, and with the help of Sector’s laser expert Joe Kerman, the acrylic cut perfectly on the first try.

photo 1

After mounting 48 of the 50 LEDs into the acrylic ring I wrote a program for the Arduino that sequenced through four different lighting patterns, including one my son coded up.

photo 3

For a finishing touch we sanded logos off and drilled holes in four dozen ping-pong balls and put them over the LEDs, which changes the harsh LED point light sources into pleasant diffuse light emitting surfaces.

photo 5 Thus, the original idea was done and working. However, while working on this project, I remembered Cheerlights, the brilliant project that bridges Twitter and real-world festive lights. The idea is that anyone can send a tweet mentioning a color to @Cheerlights (or use the #Cheerlights hashtag) and lights around the world change to that color! I’ve been wanting to experiment with serial communication to the Arduino, and couldn’t resist making the LED wreath part of the Cheerlights collective.
So I wired up the $25 Arduino to a $2K Macbook Pro that acts as its gateway to the Internet. A Processing program on the laptop connects to the Cheerlights API to fetch the latest color, and sends it to the wreath as an RGB value. The two extra LEDs (tucked discreetly into the real wreath behind the LED ring) show the current Cheerlights color; however, when the color changes, the wreath excitedly announces it by blinking the new color for a few seconds.
A video of the lights in action:

Overall this was a fun weekend project and I’m excited to find more things to cut with the laser.

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Posted in Arduino, Hardware, Laser Cutter, Projects

3rd Balloon Launch a Success

Sector67 launched its 3rd high altitude balloon this past weekend with great success. Lots of information over at Apollo67 and for here a beautiful picture:

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Posted in Field Trip, Hardware, News, Projects

Sector67 Laser Cut Gingerbread Houses


My family has a tradition of making gingerbread houses for the holiday season, the more elaborate the better. So when we got a 150-watt laser cutter at Sector67 one of the first “practical” project ideas I had was to try and laser cut structures out of gingerbread. To keep things fun and chaotic, we invited a number of other families along for the ride and had our event coincide with “Crazy Cooking Day” at Sector. It was interesting to watch candy-coated houses being erected alongside the preparation of sous-vide food and other delicacies like electrocuted hotdogs.

The good news is that it basically just worked, and the kids had a great time. The laser was in generally able to cut the gingerbread and the designs held up well. I created designs for a simple cottage, castle and barn using Inkscape, and transferred those designs through Corel Draw to the laser cutter in dwg format. Some design tips:

1) Make an prototypical tab and slot and clone rather than copy them in Inkscape so you can easily adjust for different material thicknesses across the design. In the designs I’ll upload, the tab and slot in the lower left are cloned across the drawing.
2) For the final upload, remove the prototype tab and slot and join all the lines you can to keep the cuts contiguous and thus faster.
3) Test cut your design in cardboard first to make sure everything lines up.



We cut at a speed of 15, power 100 and corner power 60 to get a consistently successful cut on properly prepared cooked sheets. These settings are of course dependent on the laser cutter you are using.


There are plenty of great hacking opportunities when decorating with candy. Licorice shingles, candy cane trees, marshmallow snowmen, life saver wreaths, gummy windows and more limited only by your imagination and the physics of gingerbread, candy and frosting.

The recipes we used are:

Aunt Judy’s Gingerbread
4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ginger
1 cup molasses
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons water

Bake at 325 for 12 minutes or until done

To prepare this for laser cutting, it is rolled to 1/8″ thick 11″x17″ sheets using 1/8″ round rods to ensure the roll is consistent. You might need to improvise a longer rolling pin. We rolled the dough on parchment paper and transferred the uncooked and cooked gingerbread on the parchment. This kept the dough from sticking. Make sure your rolling surface and cooling surface are flat. The baking time is shorter for a somewhat softer gingerbread.

Gingerbread House Frosting
1 pound powdered sugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder
6 tablespoons water

Mix all and beat until thick with rotary beater. Add drops of water to desired consistency. Forming the structure requires thinner frosting. When attaching the candy, a thicker frosting prevents sliding pieces. Icicles need thinner consistency to drop off edges. In the Madison area, meringue powder can be found at Michael’s and Vanilla Bean.

Things that worked well:

* Testing the designs in cardboard first was a must and gave the kids something to play with so they could get a sense of how to assemble their structures before working with the more-fragile gingerbread. Even 3/16″ cardboard cut nicely
* The laser generally cut through the gingerbread well, although more moist and thick gingerbread sheets did not work. There is a distinctive smell that is not exactly pleasant.
* We cut cardboard bases with tabs for the gingerbread slots in the bottom of the walls. This made the designs much more stable and portable when the kids took them home.

Things that did not work well:

* If the gingerbread was moist or too thick, it definitely hampered both the cutting process and the assembly process. With thick dough, tabs would not fit into slots, and with moist dough drooping made the structures unworkable.
* The cut gingerbread has a charcoal smell that sticks with it for days afterward. I’d recommend airing the completed houses out for a while outside if possible.

Things that I might try differently next time:
* Using a pasta roller or slab roller to get a more consistent starting roll.
* 11″x17″ is about the biggest practical gingerbread sheet to work with. I’d make the designs for 10″x16″ to give a little more breathing room on the cooked sheets. Broken corners made whole sheets unusable because the tolerances were so tight. A smaller design would let us crank out more cottages more quickly.
* Re-roll the dough to 3/16″ after taking it out of the oven to make the thickness much more consistent for the laser cut.
* Instructions or details could be etched into the gingerbread.

Now that the basic process has proven successful, we have big plans for next year. Imagine gingerbread flying buttresses, a complete village and moving trains!

The gingerbread laser cut source files for the cottage, a barn with a silo and a castle are available at:



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Posted in Hardware, Laser Cutter

Big 3D Printer Complete!

I’ve finally finished (more or less) building a very large 3D printer! Here’s a photo of the frame:


This machine was originally designed to test the blood of newborn babies for pathogens, and with the help of Chris Meyer and the denizens of Sector 67, I have converted it to a big, fast printer. Here’s a photo of an in-progress print:


And the same print completed (with bike helmet for scale):


I embarked on this project with the goal of creating large-ish representations of the algorithmic music that I compose, and the above print is the first such representation that I’ve printed at such a scale. I also ended up writing my own G-code generator, which accounts for the distinctive grid structure of the print. This grid structure will be particularly amenable to nifty dynamic backlighting (thanks Scott and Jim for this suggestion!).

Next step: buy more plastic.

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Electric Porsche Conversion

Well it didn’t technically explode, but the engine died. And is ridiculously expensive to rebuild so this is the perfect opportunity to turn it into a new project. Making it into an electric car!

The engine is currently getting ripped apart to recover some money on ebay

2 Toyota Highlander transmissions which contain electric motors. They will be disassembled and put in the back of the Porsche to make it electric plus a motor controller and a custom built battery pack. Hopefully a short winter project :)



Posted in Uncategorized



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