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Meet Our Interns: Part 3

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Meet Our Interns: Part 3

Every component of our system requires a litany of skills to develop and build. Our staff has a mix of engineers, programmers, theater technicians, and machinists. We bring in interns with diverse backgrounds and training as well. Our last 2017 intern is a perfect example of solid mechanical know-how, theater experience, and engineering training.

Meet Danton

As a senior studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Virginia, Danton Wein’s interest in scenic automation evolved before high school, where he was a light and sound board operator along with being a part of the stage crew. That interest continued at UVA, where he works in the Theatre department as a carpenter and welder. Danton’s has also worked at UVA’s Heritage Theater Festival but realized that working at Creative Conners would provide a much deeper knowledge of scenic automation than just building a show.

Since UVA uses Creative Conners’ gear exclusively, Danton has known our products for some time. When the UVA’s shop foreman advised him to apply for an internship Danton says “I gave it a shot. I emailed Gareth, interviewed, and landed a position a week later.” We hope all his job searches go so smoothly.

Danton’s skill set was a great match for much of the fabrication and milling work we do and we were glad he joined us.

What’d You Do This Summer?

Each morning kicked off with a team meeting, where everyone touched base about their projects and Gareth laid out the day’s game plan. Then he would work with the crew, helping with projects and working independently. Danton is most proud of one particular project – designing and building a custom machine for a TV studio. He built a lever that pneumatically actuates and opens and closes a door.  The geometry and cylinder mounting involved were tricky but a challenge that Danton was excited to overcome. He says the experience of working directly with Gareth Conner on design principles, from initial concept to final product, was invaluable. “I’d never started from a completely clean slate drawing board to design concepts, using actual modeling in CAD,” says Danton. “Seeing it done was awesome.”

The studio project consumed a healthy chunk of our summer production schedule and Danton leapt right in. When he finally saw his project on screen it was rewarding to know that his work was on display.

Welcome to Rhode Island

Danton’s most surprising revelation was how welcoming the Creative Conners team is. He would make jokes and references that the crew would understand immediately, and he bonded with the team quickly. Coming to RI from Richmond, VA, ten hours away, Danton knew absolutely no one, and the friendships he formed helped him feel at home. He says, “It was amazing to me how much I fit in and how great of a team is here” Living in Rhode Island had its charms. “I’ve spent a lot of time hammocking in Colt State Park enjoying the gorgeous views. I hadn’t lived this close to a coastline before.”  It turns out that the smallest state in the union is a pretty cool place to spend your summers.

After graduation, Danton is considering a master’s program in Mechanical Engineering. After that, he looks forward to a bright career in the theater automation industry, for which his Creative Conners internship helped him prepare. We know we will be seeing him again doing bigger and better things (maybe even with us).

Meet Our Interns: Part 2

We want to expose every intern to what it takes to build a show-ready automation system. They not only work with the mechanics but with the electrical components, electronics, software, even the shipping and logistics. It is more than engineering,  CAD work, machining, or coding – we bring all those skills to play every time we take on a project. Our second intern is a perfect example of the melting pot of technical skills and theatrical interest that we love to see.

 

Meet Ross

After high school, Ross Berry’s passion for robotics led him to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Robotics Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he is now a senior. Robotics, Berry says, is a combination of the computer science, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering majors. “In high school,” he says, “I was getting into robotics club, and I was also getting really into theater. The two passions lived side by side until I found a way to combine them.”

At WPI, he further discovered that his path for robotics overlapped with his interest in theater, where he enjoys scenic work, lighting and sound. Instead of just knowing how to design electrical systems well, Ross says, “Robotics teaches you to take the knowledge you have designing electrical systems and to integrate that into software.”

 

Okay Google – Find “Creative Conners Internships”

Ross’s interest in Creative Conners started in the spring when he was researching internship opportunities. Ross stumbled across the website (Google is good). It was a perfect match for what he wanted to pursue. After e-mailing Gareth Conner his resume and an explanation of why he wanted to work here, an interview was set up and shortly thereafter an offer was made. Ross was a good fit for us and we were a good fit for him, sometimes it’s just that simple.

Will Code for Food

Early in the summer, Ross focused on electrical work, and then shifted into programming and coding. “Initially,” he says, “I worked a lot with prototyping changes to the Stagehand motion controller. Then I worked on improving our internal supply management program, and upgrading the Stagehand firmware.” Although he knew C and Java coding languages coming into this internship, Ross is proud of the Python knowledge he has acquired over the summer.

Ross was impressed with the range of experiences his internship offered. “Gareth gives all of the interns a broad taste of everything that happens.” His favorite project to work on was the web development experience he gained upgrading in-house supply software, Off the Shelf. “After working on Off the Shelf for a while,” cites Ross, “I think I’ve gotten much more efficient. It was really cool learning a variety of new skills.” He has also done lots of trouble-shooting on equipment and rentals needing to be repaired and checked.

Each day, Ross’s learning process was different and new. “Going in, I reviewed a bunch of tutorials to get up to speed. Gareth gave me easier projects at first, then ramped me up to more advanced stuff, offering his help whenever I got stuck.” He was never on his own but we don’t babysit either. Ross stepped up big time and several software projects benefited greatly from his work. Our internal supply software has never been zippier and some of Ross’ Stagehand coding has already been incorporated in recent updates.

A Nice Short Commute

Originally from Easton, Massachusetts, Ross commutes to the Warren, RI, office of Creative Conners. His internship has further developed his passion for theater and robotics, giving him cutting edge-experience that will propel him to the next level of success at WPI and beyond.

Ross was great to work with this summer. As the school year starts and he dives back into campus we know the past few months were smoother for us because he was here. We hope he had as much fun as we did working with him.

Meet Our Interns: Part 1

Every year we hire a handful of talented undergrad and graduate student to serve as interns over their summer vacation. We call them interns, but really they are quickly integrated into our team and pitch in on anything and everything in our office. Now that the school year is upon us we’d like to introduce you to the 2017 interns and let them share a bit of their experience working with us. This year we were joined by three great automation nerds, Jessica Gilliard, Ross Berry, and Danton Wein. They are headed back to campus, but they will be missed in our shop.

Meet Jessica

Jessica Gilliard enjoys a challenge. Years ago, she was told that she wouldn’t excel at Technical Direction. But she persevered, falling in love with carpentry, metalworking and creating scenery. She emphatically says, “It became what I wanted to do with my life.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Design and Production from California State University, Fullerton, Jessica is currently a second-year graduate student at San Diego State University pursuing a MFA degree in technical direction for Theatre, Television, and Film.

Automation Indoctrination

Jessica gained her first experience using Creative Conners’ Spikemark software during her junior year of undergrad. Encouraged by Cal State Fullerton’s TD, Bill Meyer, her first foray was as the automation operator, where she was “just pushing buttons”. She was impressed with Spikemark’s intuitiveness and ease of use.  By graduation, she was a full-fledge Automation Technician for every show that included moving scenery at the school.

Before this internship, Jessica gained professional experience in CNC work for South Coast Repertory and was a draftsperson for a theme park project. At SDSU, she is a carpenter and teaches stagecraft classes.

Jessica got her foot in the door when she helped set up the Creative Conners USITT booth and met Gareth Conner, Founder and President. “I already wanted to work here, but I wanted to get a feel for it,” Jessica says. She applied for the internship in‑person and was accepted.

In addition to her strong automation skills, Jessica absolutely excels at soft skills that are essential but hard to quantify. She loves learning, is doggedly persistent, and is a creative problem solver. This summer gave her an opportunity to practice and reinforce some real word technical skills as well – metalworking, fabrication, and electrical work kept her busy. “I learned a lot of electrical aspects here, and following diagrams to create pieces of machinery,” she says. “Once I have diagrams in front of me, I can figure out how to do it.”

 

Jess and Ross double-teaming some circuit board fab. #makeitmovecci #scenicautomation #madeinusa

A post shared by Creative Conners (@creativeconners) on

Coolest Summer Projects

Jessica’s favorite project this summer was the stock ticker for a fantasy football television show, where she used Fusion for the first time. She says, “The stock ticker effect is one of those old timey ticker tape machines that pops out of a desk. It spews the paper out at the announcer. There was a prototype when I came in, but I thought, ‘How can I make this better?’” The creation to completion process was exciting. Now that little machine is in a studio in daily use for a television show.

 

As part of the Creative Conners team, Jessica’s day begins at 8:30 am with a meeting, where Gareth discusses ongoing projects and makes sure each person knows their assignments. Then she jumps into projects, striving to be as efficient as possible.

What has been most surprising for Jessica about Creative Conners is the camaraderie. “I think the people here are great and very talented.” Also unexpected is how small the Creative Conners team is considering the volume of products they produce.

Plans After School

Once grad school is done, Jessica could see her career returning to Creative Conners. But she’s got the talent and drive to chase down any number of opportunities. Time will tell if she ends up at a regional theatre, working in the TV/Film industry in southern California, or something entirely different.

During down time from her busy schedule this summer, Jessica, a first-time visitor to Rhode Island, enjoys relaxing and trying different foods, including the ocean state’s pizza. She’s enjoyed Rhode Island’s awesome food but somehow, she managed to not eat any lobster (for shame).

Last Thoughts

Jessica says this internship has been an unforgettable experience. She feels grateful to have heard about the opportunity from her advisors, Bill Meyer and Loren Schreiber, who had faith in her abilities. “I’m lucky to be here, and hopefully I’m proving their recommendation correct.”

 

Best of Luck Jessica

Now that Jessica is returning to SDSU to finish up another year of grad school we’ll miss her. We know she’ll take back firsthand knowledge of how we Make It Move and wish her the best.

Choose Your Multi Tool

We’re firm believers in the right tool for the right job, but sometimes the best tool is the one in your pocket. After a recent discussion in our office about what is the best multi-tool (or what I like to call the technician’s third rail) we posted a Facebook question to see what our fans preferred to use. Our office was primarily Leatherman territory, but we did have a variety of makes and models.

Below is a breakdown of the responses we received from our not-so-scientific Facebook poll.

Multi-tool Brand

Specific Model

Some of the outliers were “Call Gareth” and a threat to beat up all the respondents and take our lunch money.

The Purest Multi-tool

My personal favorite came from our own expert machinist, Mark. Mark’s favorite multi-tool was a good metal file.

He can use it forward, backward, and upside down – and right or left handed. It can cut, shape, and smooth a variety of metals. He can use it by hand or with a lathe. It is the purest definition of a multi-tool.

Multi-tool Machine

In the world of automation,  the Spotline hoist is the multi-tool machine. We’ve seen it fly set pieces (with one or dual pick points), power an elevator, and converted to a deck winch. It won’t fit in your pocket, but any theatre that has one is always a step ahead during tech week.

Our Spotline hoist with optional deck track tensioner

Did we miss your tool of choice? What do you carry on every load-in and strike? Do you find a particular tool better for your automation needs? Let us know in the comments.

Until Next Time…Make It Move

 

 

Meet Our Team: Sylvia Bagaglio

We’re not just automation junkies at Creative Conners. Our expertise runs deep – theatre, mechanics, art, octopi. One of our newer team members is Sylvia Bagaglio. Sylvia describes her job at Creative Conners as Electromechanical Assembler. Whether wiring circuit boards, performing quality control checks on Stagehands, or wiring a new Pushstick deck winch, Sylvia’s wide range of professional experience is put to good use. Get to know a bit more about Sylvia and how she works…

Sylvia hard at work

What did you do before coming to Creative Conners?

I’ve had lots of really interesting jobs. I worked in a fabrication shop for a while, and did some really cool retail installations. If you ever need a mosaic made out of jelly beans…

I don’t even consider that one of the weirdest jobs I’ve had. I worked for a “Peter Pan” [show] and we had a two‑man, larger than life‑size crocodile puppet that constantly needed love, because it was built for a stand‑alone show, and they decided to tour it. It was supposed to look like it came out of a kid’s closet, so it was made out of pajamas and clothespins, and the like.

I worked for a very high‑end lighting designer at one point, like a really frou‑frou designer. I’ve had a lot of experience interacting with higher‑end visual artists.

What skills have been useful in your work here?

I keep taking jobs where I have to do math. It’s really amazing. I thought I got away from that.

Honestly, this might sound weird, but I think the fact that I have little tiny paws for hands has been really useful, because having very dexterous, small fingers has been really helpful for assembling all those little tiny parts that have to get put together.

Were you a Lego kid?

I still have Legos. My new addiction is Metal Earth; little tiny, laser-cut metal models. They’re super tiny. You have to put them together with tweezers.

What do you do when you’re not here?

I read books, and watch movies that are public domain and write reviews about them on a blog called genxpose. Which is great, because the Internet Archive has all kinds of stuff. It’s absolutely free, anyone can have it, and use it, and view it. It’s really simple to download or view on their website. There’s fascinating things on there.

You have an interesting Twitter follower… What’s up with the Octopus? Poctopus?

A couple of years ago, my husband had gotten me this Valentine’s card that has this little octopus. It was holding a heart that said, “I love you a lot.” It was my portable hug. I started taking pictures of him wherever I was traveling. I’d take a picture at the museum, and different places in Europe, or if I’d go to visit a friend of mine from out of town, I’d take a picture with them. That’s sort of how the octopus became a name.

Poctopus

The octopus now has an official twitter account. You can follow his travels on twitter @Poctopus.

Sylvia is just one of the team of tiny paw’d builders, designers and fabricators that help Creative Conners build the automation gear that makes your turntables spin, your wagons travel, and your scenery fly. Give us a call with your next show and Sylvia can add that to the long list of projects she’s been a part of.

Until next time… Make It Move!

A Ruff Day at Creative Conners

Friday was a ruff day at Creative Conners as it joined the ranks of reportedly pet-friendly businesses like  Ben & Jerry’sGoogle, and Build-a-Bear Workshop.  In the midst of assembly, manufacturing, and travel preparations, we hosted two canine friends,  “Miko”, and “Sprocket”.

 

Ryan & Miko
Sprocket

Miko is Ryan’s adorable Shiba Inu, and Sprocket is Gareth & Emily’s rather hillbilly Lab / Basset Hound (lovable hillbilly of course).  In addition to relaxing along side their hard working humans, our companions delighted in patrolling, playing, sniffing (lots of sniffing), and even doing a little computer work:

Sprocket & Miko at Work

Clearly from Miko’s bright eyed alertness she is the owner of the Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in the picture.  Sprocket couldn’t be bothered with her Power Point presentation on the merits of the new Deck Chief.  He’s more of a “What time is lunch?” employee.

 

A Big Welcome to Erin Tooley!

Creative Conners new Graphic Designer Erin Tooley

Big news this week – we’ve hired a graphic designer to help out with our marketing efforts! Erin Tooley joined the Creative Conners team on Monday and she’ll be helping out with renderings, social media and, most importantly, making all of our web and print marketing materials look awesome.

We found Erin through New England Institute of Technology, which is the same school that brought us Tom Battista. Erin has been a graphic designer since 2004, and we’re very excited to have her on board. Welcome Erin!

Deck Dog Milling Video

Milling multiple deck dogs on our CNC mill

Here’s a great video of Royal and Ryan making 5 deck dogs at once on our fancy Tormach CNC mill. Royal says it takes about an an hour and 40 minutes to make the 5 bodies. We used to do it by hand on the mill and it took about 2 hours to do each, so a pretty substantial time savings.
 

 

New Deck Dog And A Lower Price!

New deck track dog

Exciting news today – we’ve just finished our new dog design and we’ve cut the price by $255!  Using our fancy 4-axis CNC mill to machine the Delrin, we’ve dramatically reduced the labor required and we’re passing that savings on to our customers, for a new low price of $195.

Our new dog is mostly similar to the previous dog, but now it’s 4″ shorter, for a total length of 8″. As with our previous design, the cable passes through the dog and is secured with set screws.

You can read all about the dog here, or view a dimensioned drawing here.

 

And So We Bid A Fond Farewell…

For the last 3 months we’ve had some extra summer help and it’s been a pleasure working with Jon and Kody. But all good things come to an end and their time with Creative Conners ends tomorrow as Jon heads back to UConn and Kody travels back to St. Louis for his senior year at Webster.

While they were here, Jon and Kody made a whole pile of parts, welded machine frames, made Stagehands, assembles machines and made a bunch of shop improvements that we never got around to doing. Not only was it a big help this summer, but they leave behind a nice pile of stock gear ready to go out as soon as it’s sold. Oh- and Kody got us on Instagram!

We wish them all the luck in school and I’m sure we’ll see them again soon. Thanks for all the help, guys!

 

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