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:

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.

CoderDojo Limerick at work, image by Gabriela Avram, license CC BY

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.

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)

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!

With 17 confirmed participants from 7 countries, we are now just under three months away from the ‘Make Stuff that Matters UnConference‘ that Elmine and I are hosting on 20/21 June.
This weekend we announced one of the key ingredients: FryskLab is coming!

bus1 klein
Image: Frysklab.nl

This 12 meter long truck, is a converted mobile library, and now houses maker machines. It is operated by the provincial library for Fryslan in the north of the Netherlands. Equipment for 3d-printing, laser cutting and milling is all on board and will be parked on our doorstep. A facilitator will be there to teach participants and neighbours to use the machines.

As the FabLab bus is taking up quite a bit of space, we do still need to talk to the neighbours about using some of the parking spaces. But as they will have the opportunity to play with the machines as well, I am sure the neighbours won’t mind much to park their car a bit further away for 2 days.

Last week Peter Rukavina was a guest at our home here in Enschede. Although he was worried his old cat allergy might be rekindled by our two cats, that didn’t happen. He did catch a bug though, the making bug. As it turns out making is an infectious meme.

Now, Peter has always been a tinkerer in the years we know him. Building small clever software tools, or running your own hand operated printing press is not everyone’s daily habit. And earlier he picked up on my ‘find your guy in the blue shirt‘ suggestion for opening up government held public data with equal energy, resulting in ongoing effects. So maybe he is more receptive than others. But infect him we did.

First we showed him our newly acquired cnc router (it was in his guest room) and laser cutter for our home mini fablab. Then Elmine took him to the local FabLab, and asked him “would you like to make something“. Experimenting with making wood type for his letterpress ensued, followed by further work on a laser cutter in Sweden on the next leg of his journey. According to himself his vacation has transmogrified into a ‘makeation‘.

Making is contagious. Better get used to it. A thing to build on as well, when it comes to local resilience in a more connected and complex world.

I have continued to chronicle my path to a working mini FabLab at home over at MakerHouseHolds.net (which is a pendant to MakerHouseHolds.eu, a site to start collecting material around making in the context of globally networked, resilient local communities.)

So head on over to read how Elmine and I put together the electronics for our laser cutter in “Bringing a Laser Cutter to Life: Phase One“.

The laser cutter as it arrived in the boot of our car

The finished electronic components. Tried and tested.

It took over two years, but this week a FabLab opened right in my own home town, to both my and Elmine’s considerable joy.
FabLab Enschede has been a long time in the making, with the lead of the project changing hands several times (also between different institutions), but with the consistent and persistent support of civil servant(s) of the city, guiding the project through the various administrative hoops to secure funding. I wasn’t involved directly but on behalf of the FabLab Foundation added our experience with starting other labs, and helped the plan evolve.

In the end, the FabLab has ended up under the umbrella of Saxion Hogescholen (the local university for applied sciences), and has a focus on smart materials and textiles. It is housed directly adjacent to Saxion’s materials lab and product testing lab.

The formal opening was a great and festive event, with a lot of interest from the business community, and also a lot of people showed up who were eager to start making things. That however is not quite possible yet. Machines are still to be delivered (for the opening they borrowed some machines from elsewhere), and there is also still a job opening for the FabLab’s coordinator. So I am curious to see when it really opens, and how quickly it will gain traction in the local community here.

For now I am just extremely pleased that I as a board member of the FabLab Foundation BeNeLux could sign the license for FabLab Enschede, and that there is now a FabLab in my own city.

Last Saturday Karsten Joost and Axel Grischow organized the first meet-up in Germany of people interested in FabLab. There was room for 40 people in the venue, and that number quickly filled up. In fact there was a waiting list for people who would have liked to attend as well. People came from different cities, apart von Bremen, there were people from Berlin, Hamburg, Aachen, Nürnberg and Düsseldorf, as well as from other places.

Creating the programme on the spot
Karsten and Axel had invited several of us from the Netherlands. Peter Troxler (to talk about business development), Bart Kempinga (FabLab Groningen, and how to get from idea to product), Petra Koonstra (creating a venue for the creative industry at Het Paleis in Groningen) and me (Dutch FabLabs as a network, and community building)

In true barcamp style the program of sessions was decided collectively at the start of the day. It was a good an varied programme. Talking both about organizational aspects of starting a FabLab as well hands-on topics, as well as a demo-space where different equipment was available to give a try.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day as well as the cool people. I hope that this may be the start of the emergence of a range of FabLabs in Germany.

My slides on the network effect of FabLabs and community building (partly in German, but mostly in English) can be seen below, and the pictures I took on Flickr.