Stand back: we’re doing SCIENCE!

At yesterday’s Make Afternoon, we assembled our cloud chamber out of a glass container, an old projector, and some very flamboyant duct tape.

Photo by @betsythemuffin

We then gathered in the glow to look for particle trails. As Katie said, looking for the “tails” left by cosmic particles was more like looking at the night sky for shooting stars–you’re barely able to register that you saw one before it’s gone–but we managed to glimpse several before the dry ice melted.

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As an added bonus, Threadwitch Sally Byers also showed up to work on her LED fashion. In this photo, she models her hat with the chemical symbols for chocolate picked out in beads and blinking LEDs. (Watch it in action here!)



Photos by Erica Stratton


Our next Make Afternoon will be happening in May. In the meantime, come see us at our table at Robotfest  on April 25th.

Help Us Make A Cloud Chamber

This March, as a special project for our Make Afternoon social, we’ll be making a cloud chamber.  Invented in 1911, it’s a tool that makes cosmic particle visible to the naked eye as they travel through a cloud of alcohol vapors. We’ll be able to identify protons, electrons, and many other particles by the trails they leave as they travel through the mist:

We should have all the materials we need to create this chamber, but check out the directions if you’d like to help us put it together. And, as always, be sure to RSVP! 

Would you like to sign up for a monthly donation? 

Donations help us rent spaces to make more cool stuff in (and keep us in tea!)

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Make Afternoon Projects

Our first-ever Make Afternoon featured many awesome things and projects. Highlights included:

Nametags with different pronouns
Preferred pronoun name tags!

Soldering iron and sewing machine

Sewing machines and soldering irons.


An embroidered spaghetti plot.


And lots of LEDs and textiles.

We’re thinking of doing one of these every other month, so watch our Meetup group for the next one!




Our First-Ever Make Afternoon Is This Saturday!


Join Spanning Tree for our first ever Make Afternoon on Saturday, January 17th.  We will be meeting at 1:00 pm in room A-9 of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library for an afternoon of making, crafting, and getting to know each other.

This is the perfect place to finally finish those knitted mittens, put the finishing touches on your personal website, or learn how to solder. Bring a project to work on or just yourself. We’ll have tables, snacks, plenty of outlets, and — if our plans work out — wi-fi.

Additional equipment available for use: a sewing machine, extra knitting needles, a button-making device, a soldering iron and glitter glue. (If you’d like to bring artwork for buttons, try to fit it within a 0.875″ diameter circle — but leave plenty of margin around that, it will be set up to make one-inch-diameter pin-back buttons. )

Picture by Tony Hall on Flickr


More free classes in December!


Pictured: A hardworking 3D printer at the MLK Library.

If you don’t want to wait until the New Year to start a new hobby, Erica Stratton will be teaching more free classes this month at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. Here’s the full schedule:

December 3rd: How to Make a GIF

Have you been wishing you could make awesome animated GIFs just like they do on Buzzfeed? Well, wonder no more! This hour-long class will show you how to create your very own GIFs using Photoshop CS6 and Quicktime. RSVP here.

December 6th: Introduction to 3D Printing

During this hour-long class we’ll explain everything you need to know about how different kinds of 3D printers work, give demos of 3D design programs that you can use to create your own items, and finally show you how you can have your design printed in plastic by MLK’s 3D Print Crew! RSVP here.

December 17th: Designing Jewelry for 3D Printing

If you missed it last month, we’re teaching this class again! We’ll show you how to create a simple bracelet digitally using TinkerCAD, then walk you through the process for getting it printed in recyclable plastic by MLK’s 3D Print Crew. RSVP here.



Learn to design jewelry for a 3D printer this Wednesday!


Tired of turkey prep and want to learn something new? Erica Stratton is teaching free tech classes at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library this month. She would like to invite all Spanning Tree members to participate in her next class,  “3D Printing: Jewelry Design”.

Erica will  show you how to create a simple bracelet digitally using TinkerCAD, then walk you through the process for getting it printed in recyclable plastic by MLK’s 3D Print Crew. The class is this Wednesday (November 26th) so be sure to RSVP now!

Photo: Simple Bracelet

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

Happy Ada Lovelace Day! This is an international day celebrating the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. Do you know what pioneering woman in technology is referenced by our name, Spanning Tree?

The answer is Radia Perlman, a software designer and network engineer. She is most famous for her invention of the spanning-tree protocol (STP), which is fundamental to the operation of network bridges.



Learn how to make an interactive story with Twine!

Twine logo

Come and learn to use Twine with us!

Twine is a program that allows you to create interactive stories without having to know code (check out Worm Industrial Revolution or Even Cowgirls Bleed). The stories can then be posted almost anywhere on the web.

HacDC will once again be hosting us for this four-hour class. You won’t need to know code to take this class, but it’s recommended that you bring a laptop so that you can follow along. Be sure to RSVP here!



Our first-ever class was pretty great


Yarn, glorious yarn!

14461182468_b954c47bc3_oKnitting on the big screen.

Our students turned out to be a very diverse group. We got people of all ages and backgrounds, united in the quest to learn how to knit. Once they figured out casting, we settled in to talk about the difference between English and Continental styles, the proper way to hold a needle (“Like you’re going to stab someone!”) and how knitting patterns are like programming languages.

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“It doesn’t matter, yarn happened.”


Mackenzie demonstrating the Continental style of knitting: “Knit like you’re from France!”

People have already begun asking if we’re going to do a basic sewing class. We just might!