The Heart of Maker Faire is an installation piece, built for and first displayed at Maker Faire UK, April 1st/2nd 2017, at the Centre for Life in Newcastle.
More than 450 people contributed a little piece of themselves, writing a note about something that was in their heart on the day and sealing it inside a jar. They measure their heart rate, then add their jar to the shelves above a set of lights which beat at their heart rate.
We like to think that the installation says something about the people who come together at Maker Faire. About how we’re all individuals, but about our similarities too.
Watch the video to get a sense of how the piece looked, and of the responses it prompted.
Building the Heart
Lots of people want to know all the geeky details of how the Heart works. Here’s the quick rundown:
- 2,200 ws2812 RGB LEDs (’NeoPixels’), as strips of 50 lights per shelf.
- 6 FadeCandy controllers to drive the LEDs.
- 2 Raspberry Pi 3s to run the animation and command the FadeCandies, programmed in Processing. We needed two Pis only because we found a Pi won’t talk to a FadeCandy via a USB hub. Which is weird.
- 1 Raspberry Pi Zero W acting as wifi network host, MySQL database, and MQTT message broker. All command information between elements of the system is passed as MQTT messages, with the SQL database as the persistent data storage.
- 2 more Pi 3s running the programming stations, each using a Pi Camera to scan the QR code labels on the jars, and also driving the thermal receipt printers, rotary encoders to dial in your heart rate, more NeoPixel LEDs, and a Pimoroni Micro Dot pHAT.
- Several ESP8266-based control boards (Wemos D1 mini) hanging off our Maker badges, to release shelf location colour assignments.
- A huge number of jars from the outstanding Plastic Bottles Company in Cumbria.
- The shelves have a milled groove to seat the LED strip, and laser-cut trapezoidal divots to locate the jars. Each of the divots was glued on by hand… all 1,056 of them.
We’ll have more to say soon, but in the meantime do feel free to laugh at our code on Github.
How we got here
After the Technology Wishing Well last year, one of our ideas for Maker Faire UK 2017 was to use piezo transducers as contact microphones scattered around the Faire. We’d have streamed audio from the mics and mixed it live into a soundtrack which reacted to the event.
…which would be cool, but the more we thought about it, the more we worried about writing real-time audio processing code. However, we did come across a few pages and blog posts which described using piezo transducers to measure heart rate. Those got us thinking.
Another inspiration was this film from early on in the Maker Faire movement, featuring founder Dale Dougherty describing ‘the heart of Maker Faire’. We borrowed his phrase for the title of our installation.