Category Archives: Making

Making Makers, Danish Edition

Our friends Henriette and Thomas who live in Denmark, could not make it to MSTM14. So when we decided to head up to Copenhagen for a few days, we resolved to bring Make Stuff That Matters to their home. We added our 3D-printer to our luggage and set out to Denmark.

Last Friday we spent the afternoon and evening with Henriette, Thomas and their 10yr old daughter Penny. Coffee and home made (by Penny) chocolate cupcakes on their sunny deck, hanging out in the harbour / beach of Elsinore, and eating pizza and calamares was mixed with some fun 3D-printing.

We started with the Doodle3D.com add-on to the printer, as it is a fast way to quickly get a feeling for what you can do. Doodle3d.com provides a drawing tool in your browser, and hitting the print button makes it send your drawing to the 3d-printer directly. That way doodles, and word-art are immediately turned into tangible objects. A name tag for the door to your room for instance:

Having demonstrated the basics, it was time to print some more. Penny already had an orange Ultimaker-robot, from when Henriette us and Siert (Ultimaker’s founder) met-up at SHiFT Relays in Dusseldorf last fall. Her favourite color is blue, and we brought some, so logically a blue robot needed to be printed. And then later a red one. Hitting the select and print button on the printer was a bit scary at first, but every new printed plastic layer was greeted with a widening smile and fascination.

We showed some pictures from the event, and talked about Peter and Oliver Rukavina’s work in using Printcraft to 3d-print designs that were built in Minecraft. Showing Peter’s blog post with the Minecraft screenshot and the resulting 3d printed castle (that my colleague Frank’s son made after being shown Printcraft by Oliver and Peter) drew a direct response from Penny “Wow!”. Immediately the laptop and a mouse were brought out, and Thomas pointed her machine to the Minecraft server run by Printcraft. Penny constructed a pyramid that we then downloaded to our printer. Layer by layer her creation materialized in front of us.

The design was shared by Penny at the Printcraft site immediately.
As Peter said when we posted some pics to Facebook from Henriette’s living room it is beautiful to see the knowledge and inspiration spread. From Oliver, to our living room, to Frank’s son Floris, to Elmine and me, to a Danish living room, to Penny, and being turned into a pyramid.

Making Makers – The Process

We look back on a great event, our ‘Make Stuff that Matters’ unconference and bbq. Bringing together some 45 people from around our various networks to our home for a day of making. Most never had done anything like it before, most had never met each other before. So how do you guide a group like that through the day, in a way that they actually have made something together by the end? How do you make makers out of all of us? Here’s a quick run-down of the process we designed.

Turning introductions into an overview of skills and experience
We started with a quick intro-game. Each participant was given a blank card with the instructions to:

  1. write their name on the card
  2. find a stranger in the room
  3. introduce yourself, your skills and experiences
  4. let the other person draw on your card what she thinks stands out
  5. then have the other take their turn for the same
  6. stick the resulting cards on the wall to serve as reference for the day

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Introductions and making the cards / Inspecting the skill cards on the wall

Aan Klaas
Examples of cards

Printing new humans as a way to decide what to make
After these introductions it was time to start the real process. We created groups of 5 or 6. Then the group members created a series of drawings of humans. The first, invisible to their neighbour, drew a head, the second a body, the third legs. Doing that in a circle created 5 or 6 drawings per round. After a first round to warm up, the second round we asked to add more character, expression or indications of background or profession.

From the resulting drawings, the group then discussed and selected their favourite one and constructed a story around them. The story would explain character, backgrounds, origins, and things like age and their name. Stories were mailed to Elmine who printed them out.

The resulting figures and their stories were put on a big flipover sheet and then stuck to the walls.

IMG_6973 I am MERLIN
Drawing humans in groups, and a resulting drawing

Individually all participants then added post-its to the ‘new humans’ with items these people might use, want, need or care about. Then individually people picked one or more of these items to make during the rest of the day, and helped eachother to do that.

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Drawn humans on the wall with their story, adding post-its with ideas for things to make for them

Rationale behind the process
We wanted to make sure that all had the same starting point. Otherwise someone who had more experience or an idea up front might dominate a group simply because others had less well formed ideas, even though the others might not really be interested in realizing that idea. We wanted to make sure that everyone could pick something that was of interest to themselves, which triggered enough intrinsic motivation to see it through. By putting all through creating a ‘new human’ and specify their material needs, we created both a specific and neutral context in which an object was to be used, as well as enough diversity in ideas for all to choose from.

Origins of the process
Given our rationale of wanting to pick people up where they were, and offer enough ideas neutrally, we needed to come up with a process. Originally the ‘drawing people’ idea was suggested by Peter Troxler as an introduction game, but discussing it we realized it could be the starting point of the making process. We then thought some more about how to introduce people and repurposed a similar intro-game from last time (there one person wrote on a card how the other person was connected to us, which we turned into a network map), refocusing it on skills and experiences. Drawing was added to get people’s creative juices flowing. Elmine then put it all together in a instruction manual for all to use, embedding the process in a story that made the steps follow each other logically.

MidSummer UnConference MSTM in 4 Weeks!

In just 4 weeks our MidSummer Unconference and BBQ “Make Stuff that Matters” will take place in our home. We’re hugely looking forward to it!

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This third unconference in our home will bring some 40 people together on Friday 20 June, and double that on Saturday 21 June for the BBQ. Haven’t rsvp’d yet for either or both days? Please do so by 6 June!

What will we be up to at the unconference?
We’ll make things together!

We have more opportunity than ever to act and make things ourselves, while connected to and embedded in globally connected networks and globally accessible knowledge. Our world is however a closed system with restraints in terms of resources, with only our creativity in true abundance. So we better learn how to act, prototype, design and make well. Whether it is a product, a system, a structure or a new routine. So we better make stuff that really solves something for you or others, that makes something important possible. So we better Make Stuff That Matters.

With all participants we will explore making. To do that we are not just bringing great people together from many countries and backgrounds, but also a number of cool machines:

  • I am working to get my open source laser cutter working in time for the event
  • We have arranged to have the very cool mobile FabLab Frysklab, operated by the Provincial Library of Fryslan, parked in front of our home for 2 days.
  • Ultimaker, the great 3D printer company from right here in the Netherlands, is lending us a number of their 3D printers. (Together with our own printer, and the mobile FabLab, we will have 7 3D printers for the two days)

  • bus1 klein
    The Frysklab truck will be at our event

    Next to that we have brought together a wide range of cool guides, and electronics (Sparkcore, Arduino, Rapsberry Pi) to add to the mix. Our visits to ThingsCon in Berlin and 3D Camp in Limerick have added quite a few things to our arsenal of material.

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    Ultimaker is lending us some of their great 3D printers

    Laos open source laser cutter
    I am busy getting my open source laser cutter to work

    Elmine and I have designed a process, with the help of others such as Peter Troxler, and we have a program set out for the day.

    During the Unconference we will work in teams on making things that are meaningful to us. In between we will have up to 6 speakers giving presentations on stories they want to share.

    Two sessions we already have planned:

  • Keith Andrews, a professor at Graz University of Technology, will speak about data visualization (and we’ll have various great books by Edward Tufte to get inspired by as well).
  • Oliver Rukavina (13), the son of Canadian friends of ours, will do a session about 3D printing straight from Minecraft. (Minecraft is a kind of virtual Lego world, and e.g. the whole of Denmark has been recreated in it using open data)
  • I may want to do a session myself as well, but need to think about it. If you are participating on Friday and have a story you really want to share, do let us know and we will aim to fit you in the program.

    Saturday, the day after the conference, all machines and all output of the conference will still be available to work with. We will open up the mobile FabLab to the neighbourhood as well that day. And of course all other BBQ guests will get to play with the 3D printers as well!

    Join the MSTM Facebook group to already meet the rest of the guests, or blog / tweet / share things yourself by using the #mstm14 tag! Do get in touch if you have questions, or like to rsvp.

    Looking back on 3D Camp

    We had two beautiful sunny days in Ireland this week. One spent touring the country side and the coast with our kind hosts Gabriela and Ray, and Adrian McEwan (one of the other speakers, active in IoT and running a makerspace in Liverpool). And one spent at the event we were here for: 3D Camp.

    It was the 7th edition, and it’s not a full barcamp, in the sense that the program is set beforehand, although all sessions are still volunteered by participants.

    As I was speaking right after the opening key-note, I had the rest of the day to listen, learn and have conversations. Some random take-aways from the day:

    CoderDojo
    A great concept where children get to play by coding up stuff is CoderDojo. A room full of kids with one or both parents working together: the CoderDojo Limerick was in session. Groups are active in over 20 countries. These types of things can be life changing. I still remember getting my hands on my first computer when I was 12, and learning to code BASIC on it. I was immediately fascinated by the technology. Still am. What if my teacher hadn’t gone through the trouble of arranging a few machines for us to experiment with? I would probably have encountered my first computer only upon entering university. A very different stage in life to have your eyes opened to a range of new possibilities.

    3Dcamp 2014
    CoderDojo Limerick at work

    Cortechs
    Aine Behan of Cortechs shared with us some of the current things going on in measuring brainwaves and using it to control things, like games. Very interesting to hear about games that reward and give feedback on the amount of focus and calmness your brainwaves convey. It is being used to e.g. condition ADHD children towards better focus skills. Reminded me of the brain wave controlled helicopter I encountered at TEDxTallinn last year.

    Makey Makey
    Definitely the most funky stuff present at the event. Build upon Arduino you use Makey Makey to turn everything into a key. Like bananas to play music on. Intended for kids, but fun for anyone really.

    PiPhone
    Heaps of Rapsberry Pi goodness was the demo of the PiPhone by David Hunt. A phone built from Raspberry Pi and other components. A bit clunky, but it works. And while the question whether this is something that will take on the major mobile phone companies isn’t of much relevance, it does mean you can build your own without them, without needing an engineering degree. Another case in point of disruptive tech creating new affordances for individuals.

    Oculus Rift
    James Corbett, with Gabriela the organizer of 3D Camp, demoed the Oculus Rift. It’s a somewhat disorienting experience to wear it. As what your eyes perceive is different from what all other senses, including your entire body, are telling you. Although the visual quality isn’t all that good (pixelated), the sense of being in a 3d environment is complete and convincing. When I was standing on a balcony, I automatically tried to grab the railing to better look over the edge. My hands were surprised to not find anything where my eyes were telling me the railing was. Luckily there was a table edge I could grab, which then reinforced the reality of being in an experience with just one of my senses, but otherwise still in the event venue, as it was thinner than the railing. Looking down you are surprised to not see your feet (I didn’t have an avatar in the demo). Because of that disconnect between your various senses, it is a very different experience from e.g. being in a VR cave. In a cave you are more fully immersed, with both sound and sight, and you have your body with you. On the other hand, in a VR cave I never forgot that I was in a room with projections around me. With a VR headset like Oculus Rift I was more convinced to be someplace else, as my eyes were telling me only that, but you’re not completely there at the same time. Adding a ‚cochlear rift’ with surround sound will likely make the experience even stronger/stranger.

    FabLab Cloughjordan
    Anthony Kelly of the Cloughjordan sustainable village project talked about the FabLab called WeCreate they have started there. He talked a little bit about how to make it financially feasible to operate a lab. The FabLab is part of the village co-working space and business center, which makes a lot of sense. Adrian McEwan of the Liverpool Maker Space told me they’re doing the same thing. The co-working space is a main source of income, and at the same time it is a good pool of people from which new makers emerge. A stand alone makerspace will more easily end up with a fixed group of users, where the point of course is to expose more people to the possibilities of digital making. WeCreate has an interesting event lined up for September, OpenEverything (no link yet)

    3Dcamp 2014 3Dcamp 2014

    I had pleasant conversations throughout the day, on open data, internet of things, fablabs,
    talking to the Coder Dojo dads, etc. Elmine rounded off the day with sharing the ‘How to Unconference Your Birthday’ story, and the upcoming ‘Make Stuff that Matters‘ event (Facebook group). She called upon all to actively spread making literacy, and that an event like ours may help. At least two people seemed to have caught the bug.

    Thanks to Gabriela for inviting us over, and to her and Ray for being such great hosts to us. We’ve seen quite a lot in just two days in Limerick!

    3D Camp Limerick: Mixing Open Data and Making

    Earlier today I gave a short talk at 3D Camp in Limerick, Ireland. I explored how open data can inform digital making, and how digital making can help create data. So that we can get around to making things that matter, that solve something for us or the communities we’re part of. Away from making as an individual act, creating a single object. We’re not living up to the potential of social media, open data, internet of things and digital making. In part because we’re still learning, in part because these four things form silos, with not much cross-over. So I discussed how to build a bridge between open data and making. So we can best make use of the new affordances these new tools give us. That goes beyond acquiring skills (like being able to operate a laser cutter) to becoming making literate where you are able to detect what is needed for your living environment to work/be better, then conceptualize, and make a solution, that creates impact through application.

    Slides below.

    Signal Loss

    Yesterday at Re:Publica we came across a little booth to make your own signal blocking pouch for your mobile. In short: even if your phone is switched off, it is still traceable. By putting it in a Faraday cage, you render that impossible.

    In this little DIY booth, you could make your own mobile phone pouch from a cloth with metal weave, thus creating a Faraday cage. The material is actually sold as a layer for beneath your carpets and behind your wall paper to reduce em-signals in your home.

    Re Publica 2014 Berlin Re Publica 2014 Berlin

    With a 10 minute effort, we cut the cloth, stitched it together with pins, and ran it through the sewing machine (a first for me ;) )

    Re Publica 2014 Berlin Re Publica 2014 Berlin

    L1020410 Re Publica 2014 Berlin

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    The guy behind the booth pitched it as “perfect for during your next protest march!”. So if I ever end up in one, I will know how to make my phone invisible to police monitors ;). And you can do the same! Find instructions at Killyourphone.com. I wonder if they will detect it at airport security.

    ThingsCon Opening Key-Note: Alex Deschamps-Sonsino on IoT

    Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino gave the opening key-note at ThingsCon, in her usual thought provoking way backed up by conviction and active experience. There is much to take home from her presentation and resulting discussion in general, but much more so in particular which I will do in a few separate postings, to be able to connect it to other thoughts and take-aways from the conference. For now, here are the slides to her presentation.

    Far too little key-notes do what they should: be a kernel for conversation and interaction, while otherwise not getting in the way of the same. This keynote was exactly fit for purpose.

    Designing Discreetness

    How do you design applications that remove screens, and not add more rectangles of light to your environment? A lot of public screens are ignored, ‚banner blindness’ manifesting itself physically. Screens may get in the way even, distracting you, like some car UI’s.

    At the first day of ThingsCon I attended a workshop Designing Discreetness by Sami Niemelä of Nordkapp, who invited us to explore with him ways of removing screens, and get to more discreet designs. Think of a butler who anticipates your desires, and is there at the right moment, but otherwise gets out of the way.

    ThingsCon

    Sami, the workshop host, described the workshop as “Our homes, workplaces and vehicles are being saturated with glowing rectangles, all competing from our attention. We augment ourselves with pieces of glass we carry, and we are at the dawn of an era where all the world’s data is accessible to us everywhere, all the time. There must be a better way. I believe the answer to cracking this is creating and experimenting with smart, connected things that are silent, behave well, and play nicely with others. How to approach connected physical objects and the attached services as a medium for something larger, instead of the thing itself? Join me in 90-minute workshop where we will discuss and sketch the new frontiers and behaviors for the post screen world ahead of us. Because someone has to.”

    The workshop felt like a good fit for me, because Sami used the urban touch screens in Helsinki as a trigger. When we were in Helsinki 18 months ago I also noticed those screens and that they were unused and thus disfunctional.

    Sami explained how with wearables and connected things we’re still very much in the innovators and maybe early adopters phase, and that robustness, natural language vs gestures, privacy vs proximity, and useful for mainstream vs niche experts are still aspects in need of a lot of attention.

    He then took us through a work format, reminiscent of the Spimes workshop I did in Lisbon at SHiFT in 2008, and the open data workshops I do myself:

    Choose one of the following to improve / brainstorm around:

    1. ATMs
    2. Car UIs
    3. Public information screens
    4. Shop transactions
    5. Wearables
    6. Something else

    Pick one or more from each of the following:

    What: private / personal / shared / common / public
    How: haptics + screens + touch + voice + other = 100%
    When: Now / next year / in 3 years / in 5 years or more

    There was also a card game, again reminiscent of my open data workshop, that provided inputs, APIs and outputs, out of the combination of which you had to build an application.

    Designing Discreetness Designing Discreetness

    Then generate ideas for a different approach.
    I was in a group that worked on public information screens.

    Two notions came up early on. One, that these screens may be obsolete because of mobile phones, and are a digital replacement of earlier fixed info points like maps etc. So making them interactive etc may not actually be useful. Two, we treat them like adverts and ignore them, but those adverts are only there to pay for the screens, so if we find a different way to finance it we can do without adverts.

    I shared the idea of a park or street bench that changes color according to air quality, pollen and/or particulate matter (which came up during an open data workshop once). The color signals if it is ok to sit there, and there is no need to actually share the underlying environmental information in much detail, so no screen needed.
    If you can move the information into existing street furniture, you also bypass the financial constraints that necessitates advertising: all that street furniture has its own budget cycles.

    We did see a need for more sensors, to be able to better contextualize information public screens share. E.g. if it is raining maybe adapt information shared towards indoor activities etc.

    Moving away from fully public screens to e.g. more personal apps, we suggested that maybe info-apps could learn or recognize me as a repeat visitor. If I am in a new city, I may have a need the first day for information on how to get by metro from the hotel to the conference. On the second day I already know that, so maybe I want to hear more about things along the way, or an event that evening close to where I am. An application that helps you quickly establish a rhythm in your new environment.

    Designing Discreetness Designing Discreetness

    Designing Discreetness

    I enjoyed the workshop, although I was pretty much out of energy at the end of a long day. The ‚recipe’ we used I will add to my thinking toolbox.

    Update: Sami posted the slides and notes of the workshop