A New Beginning, Episode III: Revenge of the Charles

I’ve been doing a lot of these posts lately, it seems. Just last year, after departing my shopmaster/instructor position with MIT and hence no longer having a workspace there, I moved in to the Artisan’s Asylum, a local makerspace (which also happens to be the largest makerspace in the USA, founded and run for a while by the now creator of MegaBots). Now, barely over one year later, I’ve moved out again…

T H E   E Q U A L S    Z E R O   D E S I G N S   &   G R E E T I N G S   C O M P A N Y

…into something I can finally call “the shop”. God damn, remember when companies had REAL NAMES that didn’t sound like a syllable uttered while asphyxiating a small animal?

It’s about fuckin’ time. The hankering for workspace had reached a crescendo over the past few months between myself and Adam, my long-time partner in hood rat stuff & bad things, also now captain of Team Brutus. My recent contract projects have been bringing me newer, more interesting, and most importantly BIGGER work, and facing the prospect of having to also work on Overhaul again in a few short months (#season3), Artisans was becoming impossible. On the other hand, Adam has simply been making do without a permanent base camp for a while. Given both our proclivities and the rapidly rising prices in the area, it was another now-or-never scenario.


The building: a former clothing & sportswear factory which the company sold to new owners intent on eventually developing it into MOTHERFUCKIN’ CONDOSDO YOU PEOPLE NOT. HAVE. ENOUGH. CONDOS AROUND HERE OR SOMETHING? I digress. In the mean time, which means the next few years as they figure out exactly how ugly to make the new block o’ flats (that building being my local benchmark for ugly as fuck and overpriced construction) they’ve divided up the former factory floor into a few smaller parcels to function as rentable studios or offices, one of which fell into our lap. You can tell I really love the new property development trend in this area.

It’s on a typical “New England First Floor” – which means floor 1.5, with the basement halfway down. and us halfway up. So, no driving vans in, but direct freight elevator access to a real loading dock 6 feet below. In other words, just enough to be a pain in the ass and just good enough otherwise for me to deal, as the world likes it. The inside is stupendously large for both of us who have been conditioned to think that working butt-to-butt in a shared shop with Isaiah the Last Indie Wirebender is natural and acceptable. Nothing against you wire art, Isaiah, but my robots have tried to consume your workpieces several times while I was machining, and they’re really reaching their rebellious stage lately, so it’s better for both of us.

It’s ~2,300 square feet when finished – shown above is pre-construction of interior walls – putting it right about the size of MITERS. The multi-layered heavy wooden factory floor is finished in a classic “Inconsistently Leaking Machine” fashion sure to fetch thousands of hipster Bitcoins per month in the future when it becomes someone’s hotbox closet floor ,because weed is gonna be legal real soon now in Massachusetts! Oops… I mean #MakeAmericaStonedAgain-chusetts

With the beginning of the new shop space, so shall my Artisan’s Asylum presence come to a close. Luckily, most of my life is containerized. Not only did I count on having to move relatively often, as long as I didn’t own the whole damn block I was working in, but having stuff in nicely labeled containers appeals to my inner Jamie Hyneman greatly.  I bought a dozen more totey-bins (which by the way are called ALCs, or Attached-Lid Containers, but searching TOTEY-BIN returns the correct result on Google Images!) to more finely divide some of my parts since they would otherwise get too heavy.

By the way, it’s been physically verified that Mikuvan can contain 24 of these things – 26 if I use up the front seat.

As with moving out of any space or building or home, taking a look back once you’ve restored it to the condition you found it is a little somber. Alas, great adventures lie ahead! Onwards, through the skies, and across the seas… also over a few curbs, because 26ft box truck. You know what? Driving a truck in Cambridge ain’t so bad! You just BIG your way everywhere you want to go! Want to turn left? FUCK YOU! Want to merge onto Route 28 during rush hour? FUCK YOU TOO!  Uber driver? FUCK YOU SPECIFICALLY IN THIS FASHION!


The robots in their new homes, free to frolick in the open pasture… oh, none of them currently work? That’s too bad.


I picked a convex corner to slowly grow out of. While we have a “space plan” this is the two of us we’re talking about here, so everything is really coming together somewhat organically as needed, so long as it is vaguely understood to resemble some plan, if interpreted selectively. In other words, #yolo.

My former “workbench” at Artisans is made of a 60″ wide wire shelf, and it will become the new 3D printer farm and shipping center for Equals Zero Designs. Not shown here is a collection of Craigslist workbenches that appeared in the space some time later in the week.

As luck would have it, the IDC was getting rid of its original-issue fixed desks and cubicles to make space for more researchers. The large office desks that were a familiar sight in my build reports from 2012 onwards were going to get replaced with smaller, more portable tables. So what’s gonna happen to them?

They end up with me again. The corner I was in was the first to get cleared. While the desks were taken apart and shuffled, there is a very high chance that my former IDC desk is now in our new shop, another somewhat fitting and poetic closing of one of life’s little loops.

A photo taken later in the week of moving when the benches have been arranged and the IDC tables have been erected again. Notice that they’re a little crooked. They did depend on the cubicle divider walls for structure, which were not part of the deal. I might add some additional legs or some bracing to the desk later. However, for seriously heavy-duty work like “I am putting my laptop computer here”, along with EE work, they’re fine as-is. In fact, the widthwise span has already been set up as my EE bench as of the now.

Charlesland fades into Bercustan as you move rightwards above, with the border lying somewhere on a 3D surface defined by the location of the last series of hand tools we borrowed from each other. I’m going to build a wall of lipo batteries soon and make Adam pay for it.

Now, no new workspace that we have anything to do with is complete without….





My children weigh 4,600 pounds combined! Don’t you dare call them fat,  you droplet of coolant curdle!

Getting these two machines – the result of an industrial auction – is a worthy post by itself, and we learned a lot about rigging and moving heavy things that week. There’s quite a few resources on the Internet from people who have documented their own DIY machine moves, so I will gladly contribute to it. Let’s just say it involved….



 Don’t look at me, I wasn’t driving.

So what’s next? I’m basically moved in and have been hacking at things for a few days now. Ongoing facilities improvements will occur – such as moving the machines to their final spots where power will be run to them. I’ve been kept busy by contract work for most of this fall so far, but #season3 is on the horizon and I have some new and exciting content for the Beyond Unboxing series coming up soon, not to mention Brushless Rage development.

Welcome to Big Chuck’s Little Robot Warehouse!

Since December, I’ve been shifting operations over to my little safe-corner at the Art is a NSA-sylum. My ‘center of gravity’ is now over there, with only some big hardware still lounging around MIT which I hope to evacuate once I figure out space. Here’s what’s been going down on that front!

I decided to use a network of wire shelving carts and FIRST Robotics binny-things to organize storage and projects. That size of tote was on serious sale after the 2015 FRC game which involved moving them around.  There were two “densities”. One of them spaced the shelves around 15 inches apart, allowing a closed tote to be stored as well as allowing the usage of smaller 30-quart Sterilite bins which I had acquired a taste for in the IDC, but permitted the opening of neither in place (I  have to remove them). The other was build around 23″ spacings, allowing the large totes to be opened in-place and the smaller bins to be stacked.

Here’s my emo-corner after a night of setup. I decided to use the tighter spacing in the end since… let’s face it, I was more likely to put every little thing everywhere here, so might as well make more room for it.

I ordered two packs of FIRST bins. Once they arrived, it was time to get packing!

What I learned from this was that I had a lot of stuff. Gratuitous amounts of  stuff. And that’s JUST what fits inside approximately 10 bins! I have several go-karts and scooters that I need to find homes for, a rack of metal stock, and some other scattered builds and containers. These few weeks saw me unload a lot of stuff at MITERS and elsewhere, including LandBearShark, which has officially been adopted. Like the old LOLrioKart, you might see it surface again in another form with new operators.

Here we are now, on New Year’s Day, after another big move. It’s now feeling like home – once your 3D printers start moving over, that’s when you’ve truly settled into a space.

And yes, that’s my personal MarkForged machine! Go ahead. Ask me about it. I’m basically a salesman for them anyway.

I also have my own little export of the IDC electronics bench. Sourcing and dealing with the tools there has caused me to grown a liking to them, as well as allowing me to get to know their shortcomings and how to address them, so I got my own copies. The BK supply is still one of my favorite lab power supplies – the IDC ones have been regenerated into or accidentally shorted dozens of times by students. I purchased a WD1 station years ago at a MIT Swapfest event, and now finally have a proper place to use it.

The combination desk & EE bench will handle most of the RageBridge shenanigans, but what I don’t have yet is a more solid workbench for mechanical work.


Around the corner is a storage-only location. Consider it an evolution of Stuffcart. This uses the 22″ spacing for shelves, so I can open one of the bins in-place – basically cold storage for parts and whatnot. Not like I have a choice – the DC Motors bin outweighs me, for instance, and needless to say it’s on the very bottom holding the shelf upright. On the right side is basically all of Equals Zero Designs, plus some more robot detritus.

All of the shelves are on wheels in case I have to retool the spaces to do something in particular, or if AA is shifting around spaces; this corner is known as a “Pallet storage” location, where technically all your stuff should be on pallets but the keyword is “easily movable if needed” since the space membership cycles regularly and spaces open up or get eaten.

Finally having all my tools in one spot showed me that my single little rolley toolbox was not enough. It was time to move on up!

I #yolo’d this 44″ rolling tool chest from Harbor Freight on New Year’s Eve  as part of their end of year sale. While their prices generally don’t fluctuate much (as a devout HF disciple, I have a good idea of what everything costs yearround), it was on the low end again and… hell, why not. I immediately regretted this as I had brought neither help nor an appropriate vehicle, and it subsequently took myself and two HF guys to wrestle it into the back of Mikuvan after removing the pallet it comes on. This thing is quite beastly – it weighs 300 pounds empty and rides on huge aluminum-core casters. My only complaint is that it doesn’t come in Miku Blue.

What I might do is create a MDF and butcher-block top surface for it which bolts into where the handles and add-on side chests would go. That way I basically have a workbench built on top of this cabinet. Then at least I can hang things like a larger bench vise and arbor press, etc. off of the side, instead of having to source an entire other structure to have as a workbench. Anything heavy duty just gets walked over to the Asylum’s shop spaces – I don’t need to create a self sufficient bubble, just things which are a convenience and which don’t take up much space.

With stuff settled in and the space achieving productivity, it was time to move this coming year’s citizens in… Welcome to your new home, Sadbot. Don’t put too many holes into the drywall.

 what’s next?

  • RAGEBRIDGE 2!! After a month and a half of delay, Rage2s shipped from the PCB assembly house this week. It’s going to be an exciting week. If you’re a backer, prepare to get an update!
  • Overhaul v2 will be the  first “big hardware” project that this space takes on. I’m actually in the midst of trying to get special permission from BattleBots / ABC to blog all of it, from start to finish, including design and the work on Sadbot. Why? Well, first, because I can’t ever shut up about anything I’m building; you know that.But second, because I see the TV show as one grand chance to preach the gospel of engineering to a much bigger audience than I’ve ever done so before, and to show that building a robot of any sort is not something for ‘smart people’ or ‘the kids from MIT’ (a label which I’ve warned them I was fully divesting from this time). Showing the conception, design, engineering, fabrication, assembly, testing, and revision of one of these machines from end to end is specifically part of my agenda, something I was barred from doing the first time around because of the nature of the production. I hope to change this, or at least, be the only exemption. Maybe they can focus on OH2 as a specific side story thread or something. I don’t know, nor do I care about the presentation, so long as it happens.

That’s right, I’m fighting for the ability to disclose to you and discuss ALL of Overhaul 2’s deepest secrets, in immense detail, because I can’t be bothered to treat my favorite hobby & sport of 15 years as something that is magic to onlookers or have this notion that the secret-er I keep my robot, the more likely I’ll win.

That’s some kind of Apple bullshit, and I’ve never been a Apple fan. Let’s hope it works!