Maker Night #1

Our first of six Maker Nights is on Tuesday night.

Blank canvases are always a little daunting, so we’ve seeded a few things for you to think about and get your creative juices flowing: basic skills in Arduino and soldering, as well as leaping around like a crazy leapy thing (see below). You are of course welcome to work on projects of your own devising too!

Basic skills: Arduino

One of our Arduino kits available for you to use.

One of our Arduino kits available for you to use.

Our background is in the hackspace movement and interactive art, where Arduino is a nifty little computing device that can link the digital and physical worlds. It makes it very easy to do amazing things even if, like us, you’ve never had any formal programming training.

Check out the Arduino section on Instructables for a few examples of what’s possible. On the page as we type are step-by-step instructions for projects like a capacitive touch piano, an Iron Man costume, a morse code generator, robots, blinky lights and a hacked Roomba.

Arduino projects on Instructables

Arduino projects on Instructables

We’ve got 2 Arduino kits available for you to use at Maker Nights to try out and learn the basics. Bring a laptop with the Arduino software installed on it and we’ll help you get some LEDs blinking as the first step towards your mad inventions!

If anyone feels like making a Loud Noise Device that we can use for The Great Big Skills Share Jamboree, that would be most appreciated. We’d like something fun (and LOUD!) we can use to time participant introductions and the skills-sharing sessions.

Basic skills: Soldering

There are lots of kits around for cool things that you can make yourself. To do this you’ll need to be able to solder. Again, we have 2 soldering kits for you to use and we can teach you the basics so you feel comfortable to work independently on your projects.

Leaping around like a crazy leapy thing

MaKey MaKey board

MaKey MaKey board

We bought a couple of MaKey MaKey kits to use for the upcoming BANANAS! event in August.

We gave them a quick test yesterday:

First MaKey Makey test

First MaKey Makey test

It’s a lot of fun!

Basically you can connect up different things to the board and then use these to simulate keyboard button presses and mouse clicks.

For our first attempt we sliced up some space blanket, gaffa taped it to the floor, connected the MaKey MaKey and loaded up a game featuring a jumping monkey. It may have had us jumping around a fair bit too…

Your mission:

  1. Find a fun-looking online game that needs only simple key presses to play (out of the box the MaKey Makey supports left/right/up/down cursor arrows, space bar, mouse click, W, A, S, D, F and G).
  2. Make a note of the URL so you can find it again.
  3. Bring in some things that might make interesting interfaces. The instruction booklet says “Anything even slightly conductive should work”. Tin foil, coins, graphite pencils, silverware, humans, plants, fruits, water, marshmallows, Play-Doh…
  4. Combine game, objects and MaKey MaKey to invent a game that’s crazy silly and fun to play!

The Youth Orchestra will be downstairs with their tuck shop, so there’s easy access to calories and additives to fuel this process!

Tuck Shop

So: see you there!

We’ll be up on the 3rd floor in the Long Room. If you go to the reception desk near the main entrance the staff will give you directions. Drop in any time between 5 and 9:30ish. The Maker Nights are free, as is the wi-fi.

Please note: The main café closes at 4:30, but you should be able to find somewhere selling food on the nearby high street if you need to.

Travel and accessibility information is available on this page.

What is a Maker Night?

As part of our residency at The Public we’re hosting 6 Maker Nights.

In essence a Maker Night is a bunch of people hanging out together. It doesn’t matter what background, skills or job you have: at Maker Nights all the differences fuel each other and, as people start to dream up amazing things, it’s generally possible to pool all the bits of stuff everyone knows and end up with a collective ability to make the idea a reality.

Giving it a go is the most valuable skill you can come with.

Make Magazine published a blog post yesterday that describes a Dutch novel written during World War II. Here’s part of the story that it quotes:

We have to establish a club for boys with a technical hobby to, like Verburg so strikingly said, get grand results by cooperation. A club with its own clubhouse, where you can experiment, where you can make a mess and loud noise, where you can be your own boss and disturb nobody! A club of merely enthusiasts, of boys, who love technique, one with their hobby! A club for radio, photography, film, chemistry, electricity and more! A club that has never been, but that we will found! Our club…. The Hobby Club!Leonard de Vries, “The Boys of the Hobby Club.”

Nearly seven decades later, we can confidently replace the word ‘boys’ with ‘people’, and point to the growing number of hackspaces, makerspaces, FabLabs and craft nights that are today’s versions of the Hobby Club.

But what about this emphasis on technology?

I really like this short documentary that, amongst other things, talks about the importance of making technology accessible through looking at something, knowing it, understanding it, taking it apart, putting it back together and remaking something new.

We Make Things. from Tunnel Media on Vimeo.

Wikipedia describes Maker Culture as being an extension of “a technology-based extension of DIY culture” [source] Here’s Ken Denmead’s take on it in another recent Makezine post:

The DIY and Maker Movements [..] are filled with people who want to figure out how to make or do stuff on their own, rather than purchasing pre-packaged goods or services. Are the two movements different things? I don’t think so. I think they’re two circles on a Venn diagram that overlap almost completely. Perhaps there’s a bit more art and design in the Maker Movement circle (what we might call the “Burning Man Influence”), and a bit more changing-your-car’s-oil-in-the-driveway in the DIY circle, but otherwise the passions for creating, building, and sharing are the same.Ken Denmead, “Why the Maker Movement is Here to Stay”

For me the Maker Nights are all about the people who come to them and the unpredictable things that bubble up out of conversations. They’re what you make them.

Perhaps this post should have been titled “Why is a Maker Night”. I think the answer to that involves a combination of “because it’s important” and “because we all have an urge to dream and to make things”.

Our first Maker Night is on Tuesday – see you there.

Mitch Altman on Hackerspaces, and the Pluses and Minuses of Technology

Mitch Altman, one of the co-founders of the Noisebridge hackspace in San Francisco, was recently in Bristol talking about the pros and cons of technology.

Here’s an excerpt of his presentation at the Pervasive Media Studio in which he encourages us to be aware of the implications of the technologies in our lives.

If this is your first encounter with the idea of hackspaces, then we think Noisebridge is as good an example of any to show some of the possibilities involved.

Here’s the wikipedia definition of a hackspace:

A hackerspace (also referred to as a hacklab, makerspace, or hackspace) is a community-operated workspace where people with common interests, often in computers, technology, science, digital art or electronic art, can meet, socialise and/or collaborate.Hackerspace

…and here is a passage Noisebridge had on their wiki:

Noisebridge is a space for sharing, creation, collaboration, research, development, mentoring, and of course, learning. Noisebridge is also more than a physical space, it’s a community with roots extending around the world. […] We make stuff. So can you.

We love this video, too:

QUEST on KQED Public Media.

All of these put the emphasis on community and the uniqueness that comes from the people involved.

We’re running some fortnightly Maker Nights at The Public over the summer. Think of them as mini hackspaces.

Come along and be a part of the community.

Getting started


Although we’ve been plotting towards this summer of great stuff for a good few months now, yesterday felt like an official beginning.

I went to The Public to check out our new home for the next couple of months and start getting to know people. There was loads going on, but I managed to meet lots of the staff and also the resident knitting group who were busy working away in one corner of the café.

I had to ask one of the ladies to show me what she was doing, but really, really slowly – my eyes just couldn’t keep up with what her fingers were doing! I learned about ‘tatting’ – not something I had come across before and also had some really interesting conversations about our plans for skills sharing and mixing up tech and traditional crafts.


There’s got to be something we can do with these at some point too!

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