Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rocket Stove

It took me forever to finally get time to make a video but here it is.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

End of Quarter

Thank you all for being such a great group of students this past quarter. This was the first run of Alternative Energy Design/Build and it went very well.

If any of you want to continue working in this way, or are interested in teaching this class yourself--just shoot me an email and we will figure something out.

Again, I really appreciate all of your hard work.

Have a good Spring Break!

Friday, March 12, 2010

details of the indoor vermi-composting worm-bin

Hi all,

For ya'll's reference, I thought I'd post the details of my indoor composting worm bin:

(This is what I'd decided on switching to, after realizing that the iPhone Mighty-Minty-Booster would be too much of a learning curve for this Winter term.)

I chose it because it seemed easy to do, and very, very practical.

Coincidentally, the resident services person at my apartment complex recently decided to make planter bins available in the courtyard for all residents!

As I live downtown with no outdoor soil or earthy spaces -- I hadn't entirely planned out how/where I would grow things with the soil I received.
So this is a happy coincidence of timing!
I'm really looking forward to growing spices, such as Rosemary and the like ^_^

The instructions were pretty good overall, and I really liked her style of instructions -- she made them very personal and relevant to the reader. :)

That said, they could be a little confusing...
So make sure you read through *all* of the steps, in detail, *before* building!

Or at the very least, read *several steps ahead* before completing your current step.  She often alludes to future steps at the end of the next step, which can make it a little confusing.

While one specific step was simply a mistake on my part, I made a clarifying comment here:

In addition, here's the author's
info about [smelly] composting concerns:

"It won't stink, really! Not even the worm tea. It smells like nothing. My husband is very smell sensitive and complains about how our pet rabbit smells, but he does not smell our worms.

Okay, if you are careless about putting meat, or if you put in rotten veggies, or put in too much stuff and it rots, it will stink. I've made a few of these mistakes, but I've just thrown some extra shredded paper in and things end up correcting themselves and it goes back to a lovely state of non-stink.

The question about capacity is tough for me to answer, as I've never really measured it. Anecdotally, I'm in a 2-person household where we don't cook much, but we do feed each of our 3 bins lots of coffee grounds, some fruit and veggie clippings, rabbit poo and paper once a week.

I think our bins could probably be fed more than we offer, but no one complains. So maybe one bin to handle one person's weekly food waste? I usually harvest some castings out of the bottom of each once a month or so. I think if I fed them more, I'd get more castings...

The worms stay around the top of the bin, reason is, they are top feeders. They are not into making deep burrows like nightcrawlers are, but they do go where the food and moisture are, so if there is food in the middle or bottom, they'll go there too. The bag tends to stay drier around the bottom - more airflow - so they generally avoid that...."

-- One other note on the worms (mentioned in another comment):
When you first purchase them, they may be traumatized from the move and crawl out when there's not much light (e.g., at night, or if you have the curtains drawn and the lights off).
... So a solution to this:  Shine light (like lamps) at the tops of the bins to keep the worms from crawling out...   Somewhere, if you read through the comments (it might be on the step about worms or at the intro, not sure),  there are details about these things. :-)

All in all, an easy and fantastic project!!
My mom wants me to build one for her, if this one doesn't stink. ^_^

So I'm pretty stoked!


Hi, thought I'd, possibly inadvisably, throw up a link to a very incomplete sort of web-siteish documentation of the project I am working on. Basically, I've been wanting to try and learn how to make a website for a little while and this seemed like a decent excuse to run into the old learning curve, my old nemesis. Stay tuned, or not, for updates. Thnkas -

Thursday, March 11, 2010

oven OH NO!!!

Tonight, while firing my oven for my friends birthday party, my oven collapsed. It was raining rather hard and has the last week making the oven weak I guess. It is really depressing as I have spent the last week mixing cob and applying layers.... I had it covered but still it wasn't stronger enough.

I hope my next try holds up.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Broken Solar Cells, Bitchin garden

So my solar cells ended up being pretty busted up when it was finally time to open them up and solder all of them together. I only had enough cells that were still connected to the tabbing wire to build half of a panel which threw a damper into my plans considering that I had bought everything that i needed for the full 18 volt panel. So I decided to order some more cells and to put this project on hold for a bit. So I've decided to post some pictures of some other projects that I'm currently working on. We have about two hundred square feet of gardening space ready all around our house. We have a raised bed with a plastic covering so we can start plants earlier and also keep plants warm until it's time for them to go in the ground. Also we can grow stuff that requires warmer temperatures. The 3rd picture is a design of a small insulated pvc greenhouse that I am working on. This greenhouse is going to be used for growing gourmet mushrooms (oyster mushrooms will be the main mushrooms that i will grow in the greenhouse). I also have plans for an enclosed plastic structure to build in my garage where I could grow shitake mushrooms (shitake mushrooms prefer colder temperatures for fruiting). The last picture is of two different jars of rye berries inoculated with oyster mushroom mycelium. Notice that the jar on the left is fully colonized and ready to be transferred into ten more half gallon jars. Our yard is a complete carbon cycle with mushrooms decomposing the wood and trimmings from our fruit trees and then providing food which then end up in the compost with all of our other scraps only to bring nutrients back to our soil for healthier plants.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Possum Living

hey all i've mentioned this and have finally remembered to post it! check it out! alternative living all over the place!


Sunday, March 7, 2010

starting to look like an oven

sand form and brick archway for opening

applying the newspaper layer (makes it easier to dig out the sand when it is done)

first layer of cob (just sand and clay)

This Is The Head:


This Was The Plan:


This Is what Started Happening:


This Is What Happend:


Now Its A Happening:


Soooooo its a composter (in the shape of a robot(Duh)). You will be enlightened further WHEN THE DRYING PRocess IS COMPLETE!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

making cob with my helpers... very fun, and messy


I put steel L shaped pieces across the base with a wire grate on top. I then covered in with straw and cob to make a base for the fire brick.

Friday, March 5, 2010

solar charger box

Well today was the last day of class... Monday we will have the big "show and tell" about our projects, so I didn't want to let the cat outside of the box, so to say. But I did clean up the box a little bit though. I used instant coffee and butter, and I think the appearance is a little bit more appealing if I do say so myself. One reason why I decided to make this box is to save money; and I did a little math (that’s what the adding machine on top of the box is forJ)!!! So I went to a website called and if you at least buy 40 but less than 199 AA batteries you can buy DURACELL ® ALKALINE BATTERY @ .50¢ a pop. I purchased eight Nickel-metal-hydride batteries instead for 19.99 brand spanking new. These things really kick some ass or at least some of my electronic stuff; for the first time I think I had ask for a “little less power please”. The solution to this problem is to have two different types of batteries, the less powerful Nickel-Cadmium, and the holy-moley Ni-MH (they seem just as good if not better than alkalines. The container says I can charge each one 1000 times (the more powerful ones). And I had purchased a patio solar-charging unit for 20 bucks too. I guess this puts this project @ 40 dollars invested. And if I only use this for AA batteries alone, I should save about 4000 dollars (American greenbacks baby)!!! Not half bad huh??? For 40 dollars I have this machine, everything else was given to me like the 1sqft of seven layer plywood, brand new from our esteemed leader himself, Zack Springer to everything else that I took apart to get to the insides. I’m going to pat myself on the back now, take care, Matthew.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Friday 2/29

We will be meeting in the woodshop. This is the final week to work on your projects and the next week will be your final presentations of projects.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

an alternative to wind turbines

Well I had surgery over the weekend, but you know what they say... what does not kill you, only makes you stranger. So it’s all good!!! I finished the box for the unit I will be using; as soon as I find a computer with an SD card reader on campus, I will transfer photos of it to this blog site. Now comes the fun stuff... I get to play with lots of wires and stuff, this thing is going to be pretty interesting looking due to fact that I have been cannibalizing a lot of my electrical stuff. So when I'm done this thing it might look like kin of Frankenstein. One things for sure... I am tired of calling it "it", so I will have to come up with a name soon. Well I need to get my sleep, so I will blog again tomorrow after I mess with the innards. Thanks for reading, chow. Matthew

Monday, February 22, 2010

cement footing

garden box i built this weekend

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Next week

We will be meeting in the Woodshop all of next week.

Attendance for this class is very poor and anyone who has missed more than 2 classes will start to see it affect their final grade by 5%/day. I you are working on your project at home then I need to see pictures of what you are doing on the blog.

Friday, February 19, 2010

todays work...

today i built a small retaining wall and on the other side of it I dug out the oven oval form and side counters.... i will stack concrete blocks to create the base of my oven.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

How things are going...

ok so I know some of you are probably wondering how my oven progress is going. First I have to say that all the "prep" work has been the hardest part so far! But doing it all by myself is rewarding and I am learning how to my tools better each day. The weather lately has been great, allowing me to spend most days outside digging a level surface to place the oven. Since I am incorporating this oven into an overall backyard re-design, I made the half circle area around 12ft in diameter. Below are a bunch of sketchs, and pictures of my work so far.

First I dug out and layed the pavers next to my back door. The area before was completely muddy and made it really hard to go back and forth on. The six square blocks on the outside are going to be replace with the glass blocks that will be lit up from my SOLAR PANEL! yey. I am also putting in some stairs there to get up to the back yard area.

The area where the oven/ firepit will be.

Today I am finishing leveling the surface. Tomorrow I am pouring the concrete slab that will go under my oven and act as the foundational support.

Next Saturday the 27th I want to invite everyone over to my house (SE off of Milwaukie). We can finish the oven ( apply the cob layers ) and fire it up for some food and drinks...

hopefully it will look as nice as this one!

Monday, February 15, 2010


I am not sure if the class already discovered this but the tram is closed today Monday the 15th.... :(

Monday, February 8, 2010

skippin class

Well this has nothing to do with my usb and cell phone solar charger that I am going to try to build, but I decided to let everyone know of an art lecture I attended in lieu of a biology lesson. Most Monday nights in Shattuck Hall Annex at 7:30 an artist will conduct a lecture for free, open to the general public; even you! Normally I'm in class but tonight I went to a lecture conducted by Paul Ramírez Jonas from Honduras.

He started his lecture showing a statue of a brass man on top a horse surrounded by real live soldiers. Then Paul Ramírez Jonas let us know that the brass man was the town hero from where Mr. Jonas was from; so when Paul Ramírez Jonas let us know that his fellow countryman assassinated their hero I instantly thought this was going to be an interesting and funny lecture. Paul Ramírez Jonas made me think of politicians politics and their audiences in a whole new light… oh yea he even talked about art!


Sunday, February 7, 2010

solar powered usb project

Well I have gotten all of the stuff I need for my solar powered usb and cell phone charger that I intend to pack off into the woods yet still be able to use my stuff without house hold current… and I am pretty excited. Even though I haven’t hardwired everything yet I was able to find out thru a series of just holding wires to the different things; I noticed everything is going to work. I was able to make sure the solar panel can charge the nicads (nickel cadmium 600 ahamp) the cell phone will take a charge from the Turbo Charger, the turbo charger is happy with the three nicads as a power source (which is what is going to power my cell phone). So long story everything is going to work. Now I need to start thinking of some sort of pretty box to put everything in. And ps if you have an apple phone ,Turbo Charger has an apple version (apple phones tend to be picky on non apple products; I think they want you to go to the apple store)! See yall in class Matt.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Water-saving: Dual-flush toilet converter

hey all,

So I missed class today, and figured I should probably post something I'd mentioned on Friday:

I don't know that I can afford to purchase one right now....
But I'm wondering whether it would be possible to make something like this.

What does everyone else think?
Is there anyone who, after following the link, might consider getting one for themselves?

- Joseph

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Friday 1/29

We will be meeting in the woodshop, bring materials for your project. No excuses!
i dont have zach's email, but matt can't make it to class friday, january 29th.

here is a link to a controversial alternative energy company.

everyone seems to hate them in the discussion forums, but i have met one of the scientist/investors and he seemed well informed.

smug alert!

a pretty critical and HILARIOUS take on the green movement...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


My formula the other day was WAY off.. that's what too much coffee does I guess.. I am learning a lot though and will post what I find about water pressure as I go...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


YAY! I'm finally on the blog! And more I think that after drinking way to much coffee today and doing way to much math that I can do this project! Basically given a pipe 4" wide and 13' or so long attached to a 1,000 sq. ft roof it could be possible be able to generate 40-50 Watts of energy per hour during average rainfall. I have copious notes if anyone is interested in seeing the math but the basic numbers would be

360 cubic feet of water on the roof given .03 inches of rain in an hour (not unreasonable I found a website with hourly updates that seemed to be a good average).

37.7 cubic feet in the pipe.

360/37.7 gives the flow. This is cubic feet per minute; for this equation it is 9.5 cubic feet a minute in this instance.

The formula for calculating Horsepower with Hydroelectric Dams is given as:

Hp = 64.2 x F x H

Hp= Horsepower (176 Watts)
F= Flow (9.5 in this case)
H = Height (in this case 6')
33,000 is some number related to Horsepower that I couldn't explain here, suffice to say it is a constant.

64.2 x 9.5 x 6

would end up equaling .1 Hp or a little less than 20 Watts. Except that I plan on using to turbines (hence the 13' long pipe 6' drop and a little extra for the turbines) so it would be hopefully 40 Watts. With two turbines and a hopefully steady flow of rain a six hour average rain storm could hopefully yield 200 Watts!

If anyone wants to see more math (I hope this wasn't too much for this post) or has any ideas about storage let me know!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

project usb

Project update for solar powered USB charger project… I received my solar panel Wednesday and it is half the size as I thought it was going to be but luckily I usually go for overkill and hear in the land of northwest moss and rain even a half a foot should be enough now I want to get some of the electric guts that I will need to make sure my phone will like the power that my project kicks out I just fried one of my cell phones messing around without waiting for necessary parts first… oh well I knew I was going to be destroying stuff right and left so I didn’t cry for too long. Also I will be putting in the order tonight for the “guts” that I will need (instead of buying a lot of single electrical parts I like to buy something that might have the parts what for less $$$$) then strip those parts out. That rebuild center was great and it was a lot like Free Geek (where I volunteer from time to time, so it was cool when Zach said we could earn extra credit for volunteering there) at the Rebuild Center!!! Matthew

Beer brewing this weekend + class related stuff

This weekend the Brew Crew will be brewing at 1:00pm @ THE BREW HOUSE (Sandy's house - 2238 SE Oak) on Saturday. Come hang out with us and bring a beer you have never tasted before!

For monday be ready to talk about the project you are starting to work on, if you haven't already talked about it. After the quick presentations you will need to start collecting materials for the projects. By next friday we should be ready to start construction!

Hope everyone has a good weekend.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Friday 1/21

Hey Everyone,
We are all going to be meeting at the Rebuilding Center friday morning at 10:15 SHARP!

The Rebuilding Center's address is:
3625 North Mississippi Avenue
Portland, OR 97227-1156

See you all there!

Monday, January 18, 2010

links, info, etc

here is a link to the earth tub I mentioned in class on Friday... more for commerical or neighborhood/community wide use.

also a link to the Eugene Schools best practices manual- which talks about how they switched to composting at 7 elementary schools with earth tubs http://

Friday, January 15, 2010


I would love to make a usb solarpowered power source… I have the feeling that in my chosen career path; many times I will be camping in the woods away from any conventional power source. No, not a terrorist but a field biologist in case you think I am a dangerous nut or something. Here is the link to the instuctables project that gave me inspiration of course I will be modifying this project big time, as I build it and I will be blogging about all of my adventures (or misadventures) in making this project; but already I will be replacing the solar panel from radio shack part #277-1205 1.28” inches square to a panel that is roughly one square foot (about ten times larger). So on Tuesday or Wednesday when I get the solar panel in the mail, I will start to look at the power output because I will want to match it up with regular USB power output, then with any leftover power, I might want to store in a battery or something so I can listen to my music late at night too. Matthew

Yves Rossy Jet Man

Flying Dude

Perendev magnetic motor

Magnetic Motor


a couple interesting projects:

- a small scale vertical axis wind turbine - - could you mount a couple of these to the front of your tank like bicycle and get some good charging time in on yr morning commute/ ride wherever?

-i too would like to be able to recharge batteries while riding a bike, then use them to charge a usb device, there are a lot of designs out there, and probably a bit of trial and error and learning curving, etc,etc, etc .. this guy appears to have designed a couple bike charging methods, then combined with something like mintyboost to usb.

- not strictly alt energy related...BUT if i could spend some time learning about small scale aquaculture, figure out what the hell hydroponics is, and figure out some nice well-designed, inobtrusive way to get more growing plants indoors (hanging from flourescent lights that are on all the time...etc,, biological graffiti, in blandish urban places, i'd be happy.

instructables ideas (due Fri, 1/15/2010)

I) So here's a cool, but fairly complicated one:
a water-proof solar charger that you can use for, e.g., charging your cell phone.

What makes it cool?

1. It's water-proof.

2. It connects to two AAA batteries, which means -- you can let the batteries charge all day, and then hook up your cell phone to charge at night. Just like a regular charger!
... This is as opposed to an "emergency" solar charger that you might carry on a hiking trip, and you'd have to leave your cell phone hooked directly up to it for a full day or more. Vs with this one, you can just charge the batteries.

3. Oh, in fact, it could even just function as a battery charger. Apparently it's fairly simple to substitute other battery types (like AA) instead. Have a digital camera that runs off them?

4. It will save you (a little) money!

II) These look like cheap metal racks that might be used in an oven, maybe? or something -- but cheap metal racks that get thrown away or sold for a buck.

Very easy, affordable way to make hanging (non-mounted) and adjustable shelves, if you need something cheap and can't mount something but you do have something to hang them by.

... The title pretty much says it all.
Not much in the way of explicit instructions, unfortunately; but what he does write, plus the pictures, are enough that I think I could put one together. It *would* be useful (though I don't know if it would fit in my current space).

IV) Another not-real-explicit project, but again, the pictures + some text seem that they'd be enough:

V) YES. This is just the sort of thing I've been brainstorming myself, thinking about ways to get my clothes organized (with minimum sustained effort, of course). It's larger than it should be for my needs, so I'd probably just adapt it to be smaller.
this is an interesting idea

light up picnic place mat
I have access to cardboard and need furniture the sundial is funny the other to just seem cool
pedal powered bike light

Thursday, January 14, 2010

what i might like to build


So I am thinking about building one or two solar panels for my house and seeing just how many different household appliances I can actually power. It would be pretty cool to be able to power lights for a garden inside my house during the winter months or something of the sort. I could either get some full solar cells with chipped corners (but mostly intact) or some random broken bits of cells that would take a little more assembly (The second link below gives an example of this). There are also some pretty cool guides for solar panels on 'instructables' that track the suns movement throughout the day to collect more power.


Terrariums! using lightbulbs, ornaments

Terrariums using recycled materials from around your house or the detritus leftover from the holidays!


Seed Balls!

Easy planting in hard to reach areas or gardening on the fly (or the sly)...


Grow a garden in your toilet tank

I thought this idea was lovely - utilizing a constant water source that we all have in our homes as a means of growing plants indoors! Check out the video - it is pretty hilarious!


outdoor pizza oven

I have wanted to build one of these for a long time now. I think it would be alot of fun and very rewarding!