Greg Needel

Sep 162015

We often talk about STEM (science technology engineering and math) education and how to get more students involved in programs that inspire them to go down the path of becoming an engineer or scientists. What we don’t talk about often is that many times the schools or teachers who are being tasked with growing STEM, really don’t have any background or basis to do so.
In my local community of Dallas we have a large group of Middle and High School FIRST robotics teams, one of the largest community makerspaces, an amazing startup community and even some of the biggest technology companies in the world, locally headquartered. This all adds up to an environment that you think would resonate down through our society to make things like making and tinkering as accepted as playing football. Unfortunately, like in many communities that just isn’t the case.

Just yesterday, student from a local High school was arrested for bringing in his home electronics clock project. You may have read about the story already as it has been spreading through the national news very quickly. The unfortunate side of things is that it is being approached from a racial perspective, because of the student’s ethnicity. It is very easy to make that leap and ask the question if all of this would have happened if he had a different skin color, but from my perspective this is a cultural and systemic problem much bigger than race.
My message in response to this story is not to attack the school, but we as makers need to help find ways to widen our reach into areas un-served. Things like Maker Faires and Robotics completions help to broaden the exposure but I consider those events “opt-in” where most people who attend, are already either interested in the community or part of it. The vast majority of the population is not actively seeking out these kinds of events and that is the real problem we need to solve.

I see this event as a good call to action, where we should be making sure that schools in our communities have the right support, and knowledge where they can avoid situations like this. Going into schools and volunteering is one of the easiest ways we can help. Programs like FIRST Robotics, and others are always looking for people to help out, and many schools don’t participate due mainly to lack of mentors. If you have the skills and a bit of time I urge you to get out there and help. The more people we can include in our culture, the better we will all be.


On a personal note if by chance Ahmed sees this, I am willing to help you out how ever you need. Want a tour of Dallas Makerspace, or a spot on a local robotics team, or some parts from REV Robotics, just let me know…. You are the future and don’t let what happened to you deter your ambitions in anyway.



May 062013

I was too delirious to post this last night, but I am proud to show off my team’s 2013 Redbull Creation Qualifier “Food for Thoughts”

The “Food for Thoughts” machine is designed to provide kids with the encouragement to learn about math, science and engineering. The machine asks them progressively harder questions, and you loose it all with a wrong answer. Kids who are willing to go for the glory will be handsomely rewarded.

This machine is driven by a combination of a Raspberry Pi, and an Arduino with the Turnbull Entabulator shield. I will be posting more technical details in the upcoming days, so check back.

Apr 062013

One of the things that I have really started to look forward to each year is the Redbull Creation competition. This year will mark the 3 year of the event, and I am happy to say that I am planning to participate again.

Just like in past years there is a qualifier event, and then the main event. The qualifier rules are simple, build something cool using atleast some of the materials provided and submit it. Then teams will be selected based on their qualifiers and are selected for the final build.

I have been told the official announcement will come on Monday but teams who were involved previously got a small head start this year…..

Today in the mail I received a fun package containing the contents for this year’s qualifier and some other info about the event.

This year it looks like they are going back to the “build in NYC method” but only with 6 teams. We are going to have to think of something crazy to ensure we qualify. I am not sure what it will be yet, but You can bet that it will involve Beer. Take a look at my team’s past qualifiers

Here is the unboxing.

“Let there be light”

I see LED strips. 1 Meter of these 5 meters of these

A new Custom Board in true RedBull Style

The TurBull Encabulator….

It’s an Arduino Shield, designed for driving lots of LEDs, Cool.

The back of the board has a link to a google code page, which contains the libraries for this bad boy. You can check them out here:

From the website


The TurBull Encabulator has now reached a high level of development, and is successfully being used in the operation of controllable LED lighting art and nofertrunions. The only principal involved for the qualifier is you must create create something awesome using interactive lighting, then upload a video (up to 3 minutes long) about what you made by May 5th 12AM PST.

Please note:

  • This year you do get extra points for creatively displaying your creation in a public space.
  • Well produced and/or fun videos always tend to score better, make sure to put some time and thought into your final video. Tell everyone who you are, and demonstrate your Creation.
  • Always be mindful of the principals of mangneto reluctance and capacitive deractance.
  • You must incorporate the TurBull Encabulator into your final Creation in some capacity. You are free to use as much other hardware and technology as you like though.
  • Always keep the Reciprocating Dingle Arm on the Encabular clean.
  • Final teams competing in Red Bull Creation in New York will have 4 team members. You can have as many people helping on the qualifier as you would like though.
  • Qualifier judging will take place May 8-11th. The final 6 teams invited to Red Bull Creation will be announced May 13th!


Judging is based on a combination of: use of technology, concept, execution, and creativity in where/ how it is displayed. Focus on making your Creation as good as it can be and making a great video. Have lots and lots of fun. There are not many rules beyond that.

This project hosts the source for the Arduino library as well as a forum for the TurBull Encabulator. Please use the forums for Encabulator related technical questions and issues. For competition and qualifier specific questions please contact the Team Liaison at

Let There Be Light!

-Team Red Bull Creation

Feb 262013

For Deconstruction 2013 Our Theme was “Deconstruct a Proposal.” Christina and I have been building all sorts of projects since we met. In fact we met when I was designing my battlebot (tetracide) next to a pool on a summer day, followed by a typical date (Dinner, Home Depot, and a movie). The two of us have been together for many years and so when I decided to propose it only seemed fitting to build something to do it and Deconstruction provided the perfect platform for this to happen.

The build itself, a Large multi-display POV, was a method to allow the same output as a jumbotron display without all of the complexity or cost. The display has a resolution of ~120*270 while only using 360 LEDs (vs the 32400 normally required). The goal was to build this display to display the message “will you marry me,” but the time limitations (48 hours) prevented the full photo and videos to be displayed. Even without the message Christina still accepted my proposal so the project was a complete success. We will be finishing up the code to make the board fully functional in the upcoming days. Additionally I will be during a much more detailed write up of the build if you ever wanted to build something similar in the future.

I want to give a special thanks to everyone at the Dallas Makerspace who helped make this proposal possible. There were 15-20 people who worked around the clock for 48 hours to help me to accomplish my vision and I really appreciate all their hard work and I hope that the journey was as gratifying for them as it was for me.

Technical Information

  • 3 spinners wit 120 LEDs each
  • linked together mechanically with a 3/4 HP DC motor
  • 120 LEDs per spinner each individually addressable using the WS2812 IC on custom designed and fabricated boards.
  • Each spinner features a Teensy 3.0 micro controller, a wireless module, and a sensor to detect the home location.
  • Software written in Ardunio Sketch, using the FastSPI libraries (will be changed to the OctoWS2811 LED Library in the future)
  • Power delivered to the boards through custom designed slip rings.


Deconstruction 2013