Author Archives: Mat Bettinson

A look back at the Faire

An impressive number of attendees took photos and videos of the Faire on the day so it seems appropriate to do a quick round up. First off there’s a Flickr group pool of photos which has no less than 18 contributors with nearly 300 photos! Well worth a browse.

There’s also a good deal of video of the day:

Thanks to everyone for the fantastic pictures and videos and, yes, we’re already thinking about the next one…

Hackerspace Focus: Connected Community Hackerspace

With just a day to go before the glorious festival of creativity that is the Melbourne Mini Maker Faire, we conclude this series of posts on Australia’s hackerspaces with the faire organisers … the Melbourne Connected Community HackerSpace.  The CCHS started in early 2009, in a garage like so many other hackerspaces and successful technology ventures.  This year, a new space has been acquired, which will provide more room and better access throughout the week.  Close proximity to Swinburne University, public transport and numerous cafes make it an ideal location.

Members work on a variety of group and individual projects, ranging from custom designed electronics (often based on the Arduino), 3D printers, rocket telemetry, a laser cutter, even machines that clone DNA.  The group often present at local conferences, including running the popular Arduino mini-conference in conjunction with Freetronics.  This year, the intention is to start running technical workshops in areas such as electronics and 3D printing.

The CCHS aims to provide a workplace for anyone to get their hobby or technology idea completed.  Sometimes this occurs by building the tools, such as a computer controlled mill, that can be used to undertake complex projects.  The goal is to share skills and enthusiasm through collaboration and creating a supportive and creative environment, no matter what your level of experience.

Current president, Andy Gelme notes that the CCHS attracts a wide range of people from electronics enthusiasts to performance artists and students. He’s particularly enthusiastic about describing the positive benefits of looping back some of the existing skills in the community to the younger generation.

“We do have a lot of ‘grey beards’, people who are retired or have been in the industry for decades and they’re often keen to pass their experience on. It’s like closing the loop, people that love electronics and have been hacking all their life and passing it on to the next generation.”

Organizing the MakerFaire has been a significant event for our group and we hope that everyone who attends or exhibits has a wonderful day and considers staying in touch with our hackerspace in the future.  Details of our up-coming meetings and events are on the web-site calendar and we stay in-touch via our email list.  Up until now, the CCHS has focused on software, electronics and mecha-tronics, but the goal is to encourage a broad range of makers and crafts.

Click after the break for a video interview between EEVblog’s David Jones and CCHS benevolent leader Andy Gelme during a weekly hack session. Andy discusses CCHS and some of the issues getting a hackerspace up and running.

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Featured Maker: Robert Shepherd

Robert is a biomedical researcher pursuing his PhD in using transgenic plants to make vaccines for developing nations. Robert is part of a group that is promoting a DIY DNA amplification machine called OpenPCR. Ordinarily PCR machines cost several thousand dollars are firmly out of the reach of researchers, schools and hobbyists. Robert said that great technology and life saving therapies are often sadly too expensive to be used in low-resource environments but at least in the area of DNA analysis, the OpenPCR machine delivers an important tool to a wider audience.

“What is so brilliant about theOpenPCR project is that it can be used by almost anyone with a basic understanding of molecular biology, and isn’t cost prohibitive to get started,” Robert said. The machines are already being used in collaboration with CSIRO Education to introduce school kids to experiments in DNA that they wouldn’t have access to.  The ‘open’ stands for ‘open-source’ and Robert said that this approach provided huge potential for the application of the OpenPCR machines.

“We’re really proud to be the first group promoting this machine in Australia, but as they start to catch on with education, research and hobbyists, the applications in which they will be used is only limited by people’s imagination.”

Robert is inviting people at the Faire to come by and ‘play with DNA’ and have a chat about this exciting new field. Click to jump for a video on OpenPCR made at  at  a stateside Maker Faire.

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Featured Maker: Gregory Crocetti

Gregory makes use of recycled and upcycled objects to craft all kinds of weird and wonderful and totally unique lamps as part of a project he calls ‘Lamp it Up’. Greg said he was initially inspired by the opportunities that arose out of the arrival of compact  fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, adding that their low heat meant that they could be used near ordinarily flammable materials like textiles, wood and plastic. Just the ticket for transforming junk into luminous works of art. We can’t help but wonder what could be achieved by combining these upcycled fixtures with some similarly creative interactive LED electronics? Sounds like a great discussion topic for the day!

“Our lights are made using small wooden bowls and white glass shades, cheaply sourced from op shops, second hand stores and recycling centres,” Gregory told us. He said the main challenge is connecting the lamp holder and plans to provide a demonstration at the Faire on how to easily and safely handle the wiring aspect of the job.

Check out Gregory’s Flickr set for some inspiring photos depicting the ‘wombling for waste’ to gather raw materials.

Featured Maker: Karlo Julian

Following on from Atosha yesterday, we’re delighted to welcome another fantastic group of women in technology. Karlo is representing Robogals , a student-run organisation with the aim of introducing young women to engineering and technology.  Explaining what drew Karlo to engineering, she told us: “Engineering a little bit of creativity on top of all the mathematics and science concepts so, there are so many valid solutions for a given problem.”

 “The moment where you get everything working is the best feeling in the world”

Started locally at the University of Melbourne, Robogals is now an international organisation that hopes to help increase female enrolment in engineering, science and technology courses at universities. Robogals members travel to  girls primary schools to run LEGO robotics workshops and mentor teams in LEGO robotics competitions.

Karlo and the Robogals team will be hosting two one hour workshops, “on the day, be quick to register because there are only 20 spots per class!” said Karlo. In addition, throughout the day Robogals will be displaying some of the robots used in the workshops as well as answering questions regarding a career in engineering and talking about Robogals in general. Click the break for a documentary video about Robogals to learn more.

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Hackerspace focus: Make, Hack, Void

Continuing our focus on Australia’s vibrant hackerspace scene, this time it’s the turn of Canberra-based Make, Hack, Void or MHV for short. Starting out as a geek community in 2009, in a familiar tale of hackerspace growing pains, MHV outgrew Alastair D’Silva’s purpose-built three car garage/hackerspace. In an inspiring tale for other would-be hackerspaces, MHV turned to the local government for help and secured a large disused workshop near the centre for town at a knock-down rate. What a result!

“Our original demographic was very heavy with software and electronic engineers,” Alastair told us, adding that MHV is adding new faces with additional skill sets. Even now there’s a wide variety of projects under way at MHV thanks to members interested in projects from fibreglass moulds to FPGA electronics, Arduinos to DIY pizza ovens.

“I find hackerspaces are a great motivator to actually completing projects, as I tend to leave things in a “good enough” state (or worse) without driving force of having to present it to others,” Alastair reckons, adding that he enjoys the community of like-minded members. “They are a great resource for assistance, and also as sounding board to bounce ideas off,” he said.

We’re delighted to welcome another fabulous Australian hackerspace to the Faire. Make, Hack, Void will be showing off the MHVBoard, their own Arduino clone and presenting details of the MHV AVR runtime library. Alastair will also be presenting a walk-through of implementing simple projects using MHV’s home grown hardware and software tools. Geeks miss out at your peril!

Featured Maker: Atosha McCaw

Atosha creates ‘noise makers’ or loud analog electronic instruments that she says “look like they might have fallen out of a cold war submarine”. Always interested in how things work, from the time Atosha tried to work out how her first watch worked by smashing it open with a rock, she spent her pre-teen years rewiring headphones  with sticky tape to use them as microphones. “I lost interest after year nine electronics where I was the only girl in the class,” Atosha told us.

Fortunately she rediscovered her love of “red buttons and massive switches,” and told us that when starting a new project she begins with a case and then imagines what would be “amazing” inside including: “circuit bent toys, feedback loops, amps, effects, oscillators and the occasional self developed circuit primarily based on the ever reliable 555.”

Enthusing about the aesthetics of obsolete technology and the “faced optimism they represent,” Atosha has a love of anything that she can “coax a noise out of.” One of the projects that you can see at the Faire will be Atosha’s homage to the instruments of the Radiophonic Workshop, a keyboard made out of 12 individual oscillators “just like the one that was used in the workshop and used on the Dr Who theme”. Dooo wheee-oooo!

 

Featured Maker: Bernd Wachs

Bernd is a member of the local Connected Community Hackerspace in Melbourne says he was first attracted to the Arduino microprocessor platform  because of the availability of Macintosh development software and because add-on modules were easily available at reasonable cost.  One such Arduino-powered project is Bernd’s car trip computer.

“I wanted to develop small electronic projects such as a car computer based on a system that can be reused again easily to decrease development time,” Bernd said. He also built a rally computer for a friend that competes in rally motorsport with a VW Beetle.

“I have learnt a lot from the members of the CCHS hackerspace who have interests in  microprocessors, 3D printing and CNC milling”, he said. Bernt also participated in the CCHS entry for the Element 14 Global Hackerspace challenge entry,  the electronics teaching toolkit OpenLab. Bernd will be showing off his car trip computer at the Faire.

Hackerspace focus: Robots and Dinosaurs

In this series of posts we’ll be featuring the Australian hackerspaces that will be exhibiting at the Faire. Hackerspaces, for the uninitiated, are communal working areas for like-minded enthusiasts to gather and work on group projects or use facilities and equipment made available to members (Wikipedia). Hackerspaces can be found in many cities around the world and Australia is no exception. Each hackerspace is unique and serves as an essential grounding point for the local maker community. This first post will focus on Sydney-based Robots and Dinosaurs.

What deceptively appears as a regular house in South Sydney’s Rockdale is in fact a place “where geeks and artists brainstorm ideas, play games, work on collaborative projects, and share the cost of some great tools.” Themed rooms cater for different needs of the Robots and Dinosaur members including Miriam’s Room with a collection fabrics and patterns, the Laser Room with CNC machines and lathes, Main Room with soldering irons, projectors and computers and even a shed with drill presses, saws, hammers, electric kiln and even a gas furnace. Robodino has all the tools for creative magic to occur.

So what sort of people are the members of the Robots and Dinosaurs hackerspace? “We’ve got people interested in all sorts of projects from pretty much every field. Just last week we had people working on lasercut RC cars, making engraved Japanese ‘go’ boards, building 3D printers, crocheting things, making their own flying quadcopters and more,” said Robodino chief Gavin Smith. One of Gavin’s own projects is the LightScythe, a device which writes glowing text in mid-air, while another Robodino project is iZac the Android bartender. Make mine a double iZac!

“Rarely when you’re working on something do you get it exactly right the first time. Being in an environment where you can bounce ideas off each other and get inspiration and advice from others people is invaluable,” Gavin said.

Robots and Dinosaurs is  a vibrant part of the Australia maker scene and one of several of hackerspaces that will be taking part in the Faire. Be sure to stop by their stand and see what other amazing stuff goes on at Sydney’s buzzing hackerspace.

Featured Maker: John D’Alton

John grew up with model steam trains as a child, then read some of the cyberpunk classic novels in his later formative years so it is perhaps no surprise that he would one day transform into Prof. Uncle Festa, Steampunk inventor and ‘upcycler’ extraordinaire.  The good Professor is not just going to show off a range of wood and brass steampunk extravaganzas, he is going to turning ordinary household junk into  "useful and/or beautiful objects"  right before your very eyes at the Faire.

The quixotically creative Uncle Festa will also be holding workshops where he will discuss the philosophy of upcycling as a way of life and the practical challenges of forging works of varying forms and functions.  Watch and be amazed as every day waste is transformed into the exotic such as an airship desk light, fairy shadow box (pictured), steampunk walking stick and the obligatory steampunk raygun.  We can’t wait.