This week’s meeting started out with a proposition by Frank to change our constitution and bylaws. Because we have expanded from our origins of being a primarily CECS club, Frank proposed that we get rid of the requirement that we prioritize CECS students when filling the president and vice president positions in our club. This proposition passed unanimously, with all 45 meeting attendees voting “Yea” (although there was one very horse-like and later retracted “neigh”).

Next we reviewed the TIG build, showing photos of the participants who have completed their shields. This build had our highest success rate so far – only a few people still have not finished! We also gave special notice to Joe, one of our makers who won the “Blue Flame” award last year for having the most mess ups, who smoothly got his TIG shield to work and display our logo.

Then we transitioned to discussing the BUILD 3D series, which is now officially full for this semester. The first build day is next Saturday, October 12 at 10 am in ECS 306. We talked about ways to take your printer to the next level, showcasing several printers that our members have upgraded in various ways. Bryant To gave his printer Hagis (built Fall 2012) a bracket designed to mount the switching power supply onto the printer itself, making it easier to transport. He also set it up so he can print without a laptop, adding an LCD screen to select the desired g-code file from an SD card. Zak Bales upgraded his printer Meatball Marinara (Fall 2012) with a Raspberry Pi and a screen, also making it fully functional without a laptop. Eddie Garza changed up the look of his printer, [The Black] Pearl. He made it nearly completely black with cool heat shrink tubing and added an aluminum carriage. Matt Wright’s printer, Ellie (Fall 2012), was actually present at our meeting. Matt gave Ellie  increased height, changed some of the rods to 5mm, which are easier to keep tight, and printed a bracket for his RAMPS to keep it off the table. We suggest you start your modifications by getting some heat shrink tubing and woven mesh tubing for the wires to make your printer look nice and to keep your wires in order. Fall 2013 participants might want to look into getting some of these things now.

Ben then went on to discuss further applications for the TIG shield. He’s still finishing up his Twitter scraping code, so he explained the importance of protocol in transmitting messages and getting devices to communicate. Ben showed us how to set up our own protocol. The most basic way to send information between your Arduino/TIG shield and a computer/another shield/Arduino with sensors is via 2-wire serial. Ben sketched out  a quick dirty way to package messages for sending serial information. All messages should have a start byte (which could actually be several bytes), an end byte, and the message in between. The Arduino code for sending a message should start with if (Serial.available()), which checks to see if any data is in the buffer. Once there is data available, the program keeps looking at the buffer until it finds the start byte and then the end byte, which shows that the data is intact. This is important because the Arduino has a finite buffer (only 64 bytes). If you ignore the need for start and end bytes, your buffer may fill up and you may end up with an incomplete, nonsensical message.

Feel free to ask Ben if you have any questions about serial communication and your TIG shield. Also, our forums are now open ( Please use this resource to ask questions, get advice, and share cool projects or ideas with other club members.

We ended the day with a surprise bag of hot wings courtesy of Frank – what a great way to finish our meeting. See you next week!