Tag Archive for: maker faire

Maker Faire UK 2017 announced

It’s baaa-aaaaack!

The greatest show (and tell) on Earth is returning to Newcastle with Maker Faire UK 2017, April 1st-2nd. It’s the biggest, loudest, most ridiculous and longest-running event of its kind in the UK. More than 300 makers, hackers, crafters, coders, artists and inventors from across the globe come together at the Centre for Life to showcase what they do, run workshops and activities, and generally loon around in the name of expressing themselves through things they make.

Think Physics built a magnificent pendulum wave sound sculpture for the 2015 Faire, which was accidentally chucked in a skip during renovation works at the University this year. Oops. This year we showed the Technology Wishing Well, which all worked for the first time about three minutes after the Faire opened. Both years we ran the beautiful Light Wall activity. What will we do for 2017? Watch this space!

Better still, sign up to the mailing list at the Maker Faire UK website, block out that first weekend of April in your diary, book your tickets as soon as they’re available, and – best of all – think whether you or your school have projects you could showcase yourselves, attending as fellow Makers. There’ll be a Call for proposals via the website soon.

Want to get a better idea of what the Faire’s about? A few years ago I filmed Make magazine founder Dale Dougherty as he took a wander while it was still quiet on the Sunday:

Introducing the Technology Wishing Well for Maker Faire UK 2016

At Maker Faire UK last year Think Physics had two stands; a wall of light boxes, and a magnificent harmonic pendulum display which, slightly embarrassingly, I still haven’t written up. Hoping to avoid a similar mistake this time around, I should introduce you to this year’s new installation: the Technology Wishing Well.

WishingWell v1

Er… yeah, that’s a bit of a mess. What you’re looking at is a corner of my desk, on which you can see the black disc of a small turntable. That’s part of the light box installation, repurposed shamelessly (hey, I’m allowed to steal from myself, right?). On the turntable are a couple of LED lights. The green one is pointing upwards, the red one fell over and is pointed off to one side.

Left of frame is a retort stand, holding a Raspberry Pi (Pi 3! Woohoo!) and a PiCamera, which as far as I can tell is a mobile phone camera module on the end of a stubby little cable. The Pi is driving the big monitor upper right, and the window in the top corner is showing… what, exactly?

OK, so I’ve written a little Python code which does the following:

  1. Grabs a picture from the camera.
  2. Takes all the stuff which is ‘dark’ in that image, and turns it transparent.
  3. Adds the result to the previous image.
  4. Repeat.

So, as the turntable turns the green light smears into a ring, and the fallen-over red light smears into a… weird red blobby donut thing. My python code is appallingly slow, but conveniently the result is mesmerising to watch as it gradually builds up. Which is a relief, because we’ve committed to building this thing and there’s no turning back now.

The plan is to build a big one of these, so the current turntables can sit on the big turntable, and then we’ve made a giant light-powered video Spirograph-like-thing. We’re also planning to build little gizmos which move lights around, or change their colour over time, or … well, you’ll have to wait and see. You’ll also be able to make your own lights and toss them onto the turntable disc to add to the artwork as it develops, which is where the whole ‘wishing well’ idea comes in.

There’s lots to do before Maker Faire, but right now I’m just excited (and a little relieved) to see something on a screen rather than in my imagination. This moment’s been a long time coming.

The header image shows the first run of the software – here’s detail of the second, just before the Pi crashed hard. Umm… I should probably look into what caused that.

Tech wishing well second run

The Magic of Light Boxes

Think Physics, and Think Club members, had a great time at Maker Faire UK this weekend.  As you may have seen from our blog, we’ve been creating and making things for Maker Faire for a few weeks.

Here are some of the creations from our wall of light boxes.  There was an ever-changing parade of light sculptures on the wall, although some boxes lasted a little longer than others.

If you came along, can you spot your creation?

Think Club 0 – Maker Week, day 5+1. Pendulum predicament edition

Maker Week may be over, but there’s plenty of making still to be done. You’ll notice from the picture above that I’ve been hacking away at the turntables again. Meanwhile, Joe now has a refined version of our LED lamps sorted out. It’s pretty neat, and bright enough, but we’ve counted up and realised we’ve the means to make a lot more lamps. Tomorrow is likely to see some production-line soldering.

The biggest challenge of the day, however, has been the pendulum:


Joe is right to look pensive. We wired things up, swung a kettle, heard chime roughly when we’d expect them – then, just as we started to celebrate, we noticed that the chimes were, in fact, coming entirely at random. Drat.

We scratched our heads, rewired, tried again. It was worse.

We scowled at it, tried something else. That didn’t work either.

Eventually… we ate some of the biscuits. Subsequently, we think we have a solution. It’s a bit touch-and-go, but close enough that we reckon we can afford to sleep tonight. We’ll pick up the pieces in the morning and see if our current thinking is correct.


Think Club 0 – Maker Week, day 5


We forgot the biscuits.

Whilst you’re all pondering how that could possibly happen – and today, being the end of maker week, I had some really good biscuits, let me tell you – here’s what we did:

Above, the Think Club crew beavering away. I have absolutely rubbish photos of the incredibly intricate soldering work being done to assemble our advanced lights for Light Play. So I won’t show you the photos, but I will tell you about the lights, since they’re works of art. We have Trinkets – which are like half an Arduino, if that means anything to you – powered off a single 1.5V cell via a step-up board that works, as far as we can tell, via unicorns. The Trinket drives a handful of Neopixel RGB LEDs, and a couple of controls allow you to set the colour, or the rate change of colour. It’s all terribly neat and self-contained, and particularly pretty. Pictures next week, promise.

Meanwhile, we assembled the pendulum frame and finally got around to hanging the pendulums. Pendula. Penduloptera. Whatever:

Pendulum hanging

What really surprised us was that our frame was clearly wonky. Like: properly out-of-kilter. With trepidation we offered up a spirit level to the cross-member, and found this:


Huh. Well, that’s fine, then. I guess.

The pendulum array now looks like this:

Pendulums hung

OK, so there’s one missing from the end, and the lengths aren’t sorted, and we need to tidy lots of things up, and we haven’t got the instrumentation in place, and we have yet to even begin the essential stage which is ‘flashing light optimisation’… but you get the idea. Suddenly, the undergrads revising for exams in the quiet work area just outside Think Lab went from wholly indifferent to ‘ooh, shiny!’ and started talking to us. Which was nice, and gave us a taste of how people might respond when they see this thing in place at the Faire next weekend.

So – huge thanks to the Think Club 0 crowd for their endeavours this week, they’ve done a heap of work and have been delightful company to boot. The bulk of the work for both projects is done; next week Andrew, Joe, Sarah and myself have a bunch of finishing-up to do, then… dun-dun-duuuuurrrrrr: Maker Faire UK. Woohoo!

We also seem to have a gigantic pile of biscuits to scoff. What a disaster that is.

Think Club 0 – Maker Week, day 4

Maker week was busy enough today that I mostly took photos of the empty lab at the end of the day, like the abandoned soldering table at the top of this post. However, here’s Jess in flow making turntables, and Chris in deep code:

Turntables were most definitely on the menu today, with Jess, Lauren and Sarah completing at least a dozen:

Turntable assembly line

We’ve also made significant progress on the rest of the light wall, and there’s been lots of marking up of the pendulum frame. Also, on my way home tonight:


Oh yes. We have pendulum bobs. Though I think the people in the queue behind me at the checkout were a little confused about why I was buying quite so many kettles.

Tomorrow: bringing it all together. >ulp<

Think Club 0 – Maker Week, day 3

A quiet day today, with family commitments reducing the turn-out. Nevertheless, Joe’s particularly proud of getting the colour-changing lamps to work. My still photo above really doesn’t do them justice.

Pendulum frame

We’ve assembled the two ends of the pendulum support structure. Look at the size of that thing!


We now have a working turntable design which is slow enough to look good. It’s a bit bodged but works surprisingly well, particularly since it relies on a chopstick as a key component. I’m unreasonably delighted by that.

Meanwhile, Chris was immersed in Sonic Pi, the Scalextric was briefly up-and-running, and Andrew’s done a heap of calculations around the pendulums, working out what notes we should go for and hacking my simulation code so we’ve had a bit of a listen. It’s much less irritating than it was.

Oh, and we’ve ordered another round of electronic bits, and most importantly restocked the biscuit supplies. With exciting new varieties, no less.

So tomorrow we’ve mass-production of turntables to arrange, lights to finish assembling, colour-changing light circuits to solder up, and pendulum bracing to sort. We’re hoping the Think Clubbers come back after their day off. Otherwise, a busy day will become a hectic day.

Think Club 0 – Maker Week, day 2

A day of concentration, quiet focus, and trying to work out whether there’s any limit to Lauren’s new-found obsession with Sonic Pi. Turns out: nope, five hours straight wasn’t nearly enough time to exhaust her fascination.

Today was a bit of a skills day. Soldering (note to self: next time, buy the kits with the pre-programmed PIC controllers. Sorry, everyone), Arduino stuff, Sonic Pi… and a little wiring up of lights for the light wall. I’m delighted to report that Think Club has finally earned the ‘Let the blue smoke out of some electronics’ achievement, though since the LED in question is still sort-of working we’re not sure it counts.

Today’s game of choice: Snake Oil. Unanimous vote to play it again at the end of the day rather than Spaceteam, so we’ve clearly some work to do in choosing tomorrow’s game.

Speaking of tomorrow: pendulum raising, turntable construction, and possibly a few more boxes to cut.

Think Club 0 – Maker Week, day 1

The intrepid members of Think Club 0 – our trial of a maker club – today began preparations for Maker Faire UK in a couple of weekends’ time. We’ve several projects to show, including a couple of physics/arts installation pieces. I’ve previously posted about early efforts with the pendulum wave, and we’ll come back to that later in the week. Today, however, was all about cardboard. Well, cardboard, and dismembering miniature tripods.

It’ll all make sense as we make more progress, but today looked like this:

Great work from everyone today. We’ll show you progress through the week, as everything starts to take shape. We may even play more Spaceteam.

Tag Archive for: maker faire

Light Wall

Think Physics’ take on the Exploratorium’s classic ‘Light Play’ activity, an ever-changing sculpture of colours and patterns.