All posts by john

Playing with Fire

One of the projects that was being worked on at the Transistor was a forge to melt and cast aluminum. I saw some interesting videos online that made it seem rather easy to melt aluminum in a regular fire. Well, we have fire at ProVolt regularly because of the wood stove, and I decided to finally try it.

The first challenge was a crucible. It seems like people had used regular steel cans because the melting temperature of steel is much higher than aluminum. I grabbed a spaghetios can from my car, and threw it in the fire!

Spaghettios can in the fire.

Next, I had the challenge of putting the cans into this makeshift crucible at the back of the stove. I fashioned a curved tool out of wire, and was able to drop the cans by their pull tab into place. It has a droop in the center, that allows met to lift the top of the aluminum can higher than the door of the stove, and lower them on top of the previous one.

It was fun to see can after can disappear into a small space!

The steel didn’t hold up to the heat, and liquid aluminum came out the bottom.

Here’s a picture of the blob sitting on the stove after it’s cooled.


Robot Dreams

My daughter told me she had a dream about cars that drive themselves, and I told her I dream about the same thing. I found her this old video about the autonomous vehicle that I helped build at the University of Utah for the DARPA Urban Challenge, and thought it might be fun to show it here.

Back when The Transistor was going, I wanted to make a 4th of July float for the big parade here in Provo, and I’m thinking that ProVolt should look into trying to build a little autonomous float for the parade this year.

Should we do it?

Don’t come to ProVolt this Saturday!

There are so many things happening in Salt Lake City this weekend that I encourage everyone to head up there to either StartSLC and the UTOS hackathon, go to Salt Lake Comic Con, or check out a film at Sundance. There’s to much to do, and so little time. Also check out Make Salt Lake, they’re awesome!

This video I took at Make Salt Lake shows simply why I want to get a laser cutter at ProVolt so bad. You can Donate Bitcoins toward a ProVolt laser cutter here:ProVolt_laser_qr

Water Jet Class

ProVolt will be having our first in a series of monthly classes on Saturday, January 24th, 2015 at 4:00 pm to learn about the water jet cutter we have access to in SLC.
We’ll be covering how it works, what it can do, and how to design parts to cut on it. We’ll be installing software and everyone will have the opportunity to design something to be cut. We’ll also be giving away 15 ProVolt key chains to the first 15 people who show up.



We’ll optionally be leaving at 6:00 and going up to the cutter in SLC and actually cutting things from 7:00 pm until everyone has cut what they want.


This class is available to everyone, and there is no cost.

ProVolt is located in the back of Provo Studios at 189 West 500 South in Provo.
The water jet is at an undisclosed location near downtown in SLC. You must come to ProVolt or call me to get the address.

Bio Innovations Gateway

I recently had the pleasure of touring the Bio Innovations Gateway at 2500S State in Salt Lake City. They received a huge grant a few years ago from Ustar to build a state of the art facility to support biotech companies here in Utah.


They support Utah businesses by providing technical resources and access to equipment and facilities that would otherwise be impossible or extremely expensive to get access to. Their facility includes a clean room, a wet lab, dry lab, and machine shop.



It’s the type of place that I hope to see ProVolt become in the future.

A look inside

It’s been a while since we posted pictures of the inside of the space, and a lot has changed.

We reorganized the shop area, fixed the light, brought in some of the salvaged wood, and added a plastic ceiling to keep dust out of other areas.



We set up the wood stove for heat, and insulated most of the windows in the main space. That little lounge is nice and toasty.

Lounge and wood stove


Here’s the larger lounge area for meetings and sharing videos on the big screen.



Public computer area with Mac and Linux machines. There’s the workbench we built with salvaged wood. There are a bunch of tools for working on bikes here as well.



You’ve got to have the right tools for the job. We have pretty much everything you need for getting into something broken and fixing it.




Exploring boundaries is something we love to do. Pick up a microscope and take a closer look at the things around you.



And when you need to get things going, try a microcontroller or two or 5.



I hope you have enjoyed this look inside ProVolt! Come down and see us. There’s almost always something happening every Saturday.


Good News Everybody!

We are going to be getting a 3d printer very soon!

We will be getting a ZeniKinetic Origin in the next 2 weeks.

We will also be getting access to cut sheets of metal on this awesome water jet cutter!

Water Jet Cutter
Water Jet Cutter

And Finally, my son did his first electronics project today at ProVolt! He held the soldering iron, and solder himself to put all the parts together!

Planning Progress

As part of FoundrySLC I’ve been making weekly progress reports on a business I’m starting called Crossies. It’s been so helpful to Crossies, that I’ve decided to use the same methods for ProVolt.

The first part of the Foundry system is the creation of a MOKR (Mission, Objectives, Key Results). Google ventures has a good video about how they use OKRs to keep track of what’s going on in different departments, and to help communicate their goals and focus.

Here is ProVolt’s MOKR (It’s a work in progress)

The second part is the creation of weekly Management Reports that detail what has been done, and what the plans going into the next week are. We share these with the group Friday evenings so that everyone can get up to speed, comment, and give advice on Saturday and Sunday.

Here is ProVolt’s Management Report for this week.

The third part is a Monday Morning Meeting meeting with the other companies to help each other brainstorm their progress, and overcome obstacles that couldn’t be resolved online. I’d like to see our member meetings be helpful like this.

The fourth part is a monthly Project Review for each business to really bring collective knowledge to bear on the business and give good insights into things that may have been overlooked, or need more work. The idea is to rip the business apart, and find it’s weaknesses so these issues can be addressed to make the business stronger.

The Foundry also has a weekly get together with a special speaker or just to socialize and keep in touch once a week.

I hope these documents are interesting, and help you to understand what is going on here at ProVolt!