I’ve — suprisingly — seen a few building designs over the years, and they’re always cool to see. When I was on placement, we moved to a new office building and had to plan out all of the data drops on both floors, and today I saw a bundle of architect’s plans for an interesting project in Plymouth (that, obviously, I can’t talk about.)
But, what’s very cool to see here is SparkFun openly documenting it all. Much of this stuff gets lost in folders of paperwork after the project is completed and all of the contractors move on.
Last weekend was Maker Faire UK, up in Newcastle. Stewart, Dan and I headed up (aided by Stewart’s Dad’s superb driving skills), part of us from Exeter and Dan from Nottingham.
My journey started on the 6:55 train out of Plymouth to get to Exeter for around 8:00, from there we set off on the drive to Newcastle, via Nottingham. It’s quite the trip; we landed at the Life Centre by about 18:00 with just about enough time to setup, grab something to eat, find the hotel and then crash in preparation for Day 1 of the Maker Faire.
Our plan for being there was two fold; one was to evangelise 3D printing (as in, the stuff you can do on your desk) and secondly to help sell a few RepRap kits by promoting Printed Worlds. To do this we bought along a RepRap and spent the weekend printing off whistles. These make a cool demonstration as just off the printer they essentially work (you just have to poke the ball that’s printed inside of the body). We gave away a few to slobbery children (and, er, adults.) We’ll see how successful it ends up being in the next few weeks1.
For the evangelism side, this worked rather well. In the photo above you can see Dan explaining the purpose of a printed part to a group of people (this is likely a hotend assembly, although it’s hard to tell.)
And, as you can see below, we regularly had a rather huge group of people crowded around. The working RepRap (which was printing those whistles) can be blamed for much of it. It was a great crowd puller.
Overall, we had an interesting mix of people come over to the stand. A small proportion hadn’t heard all that much about 3D printing, had seen the RepRap going and came over to see what was going on. A much larger proportion had heard of 3D printing and were subsequently rather impressed with what we were doing and indeed, impressed with the price of the kit we were promoting. And a few others knew quite a bit (these often had RepRap’s or MakerBots or one of the many others that exist) and were more interested in us personally; that was pretty cool.
Another thing that was nice to see was design and technology teachers talking about what they were either doing, or thinking about doing with a 3D printer. This is already something that Stewart has been doing with local schools and colleges around Exeter; the students can work on their project in the morning (say, learning CAD) and then by the afternoon print it and see it as a real object. As someone who was quite uninspired after making the fifth wooden box at school, I can see this as being quite revolutionary — especially on the motivation front.
At the end of day one, we were fed and then head off in search of a pub. Firstly, we ended up at Newcastle’s Brew Dog Pub (which was rather nice), but then I suggested meeting up with Adam, who was in town, and a few other makers at a Weatherspoon’s closer to the venue. Here we ended up meeting Oli Wood and a bunch of other people. And had a fine time. Day 2 then followed, with slightly less, but still quite a lot of people. After closing time, we packed up, found something to eat and then turned in. We were leaving at 7, after all.
As a “maker” myself, it was fascinating seeing everyone else’s creations. From Pancake Bot to the Pole Dancing Robots in the photo above, there were lots of things to see. There was also a good showing from the many Hack Spaces around the country; notably Nottingham who had a huge stand.
Exhibiting at Maker Faire, and the faire itself was great fun. I hope to be at the next one. But in the mean time, I’ll likely next be at the Brighton Mini Maker Faire in September.
And if you’re interested, go and buy a kit. Say I sent you.↩
A few weekends ago was the second NASA Space Apps Challenge, a hack day centred around building stuff related to space and worldwide collaboration. The last one was fantastic and this one also did not disappoint. This time around, we set around to continue working on Predict the Sky, but more of that in a bit.
For me, it worked out as a nice breather before the mad rush of finishing off my project (even though I did spend some time reviewing some code and adjusting a few things).
But, more interesting was seeing what other people were coming up with. As an offshoot of Growers Nation (er, pun not intended) we had an open hardware soil analyser, entitled “MudPi”, which is able to collect humidity, temperature, dew point & moisture and is designed to be placed in the soil somewhere. They were commended for being quite close to market. I’ll be interested to see what comes next out of it.
Next, was a collection of projects from mostly Plymouth University students entitled ArduHack that was focused around the ArduSat platform. This is an Arduino based CubeSat, which itself is a project with the aim to reduce the cost of getting satellites into space — to the point where groups of people, researchers (as in, not space ones) can do. Anyway, half of the team was focused upon attaching an earth orientated camera to the ArduSat, so that people would be able to photograph themselves from space; the key bit here was being able to photography themselves — people could essentially operate their own spy satellite for a moment in time.
The other half of the ArduSat project was about bringing some of the sensors “back down to earth”. Using a combination of a Magician Robot Kit, an Arduino, Raspberry Pi and a TI SensorTag Development Kit. The key bit is the last one, it includes an IR temperature sensor, a gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, pressure sensor and a humidity sensor all of which are able to communicate over the Bluetooth Low Energy standard. From here, they used the Raspberry Pi to communicate with the SensorTag, to then control the Arduino which would drive the robot around.
Finally, the team behind WebRover1 where looking at expanding what a set of Lego Mindstorms based robots could do for outreach — getting young people interested in robotics and it’s related STEM subjects. They ended up with new control code and an easy to use front end which would work with most browsers (aimed a touch devices). Their project page gives a better explanation of the user interface design process.
There were several other interesting things by other groups there, too. And, the last two, ArduHack and WebRover1 are up for global judging.
A Continuation of Predict the Sky
A few weeks before the event, I’d emailed around asking to see if any of the old team were interested in spending the weeknd continuing on with Predict the Sky. My hope was to catch up with the work which was done at the Met Office’s Weather for Fun event last year (which I’d missed) and for us to work out where we’d take the project. Personally, I wanted a documented API that we could wave around at people and then from there work on the mobile applications and so forth that we had worked on at the first Space Apps Challenge.
And actually; that’s exactly what we did. Emma was around all weekend, Sophie was with the WebRover1 team (but we grabbed her on a few bits and pieces) and we were joined by a few more people.
In the end, we ended up assembling predictthesky.org, which will contain a description of what the project is all about, the people involved, the API documentation (there’s some examples at the moment, they need actually implementing) and eventually some cool projects that are using it.
We also looked at the way we were going about calculations and the data sources for certain objects. We’ll be using PyEphem for much of it and relying on Space Track for the object references (a project run under contract to the US Department of Defence). A few other data sources will be used for other objects, too.
The whole API will eventually be implemented using Flask and you can find the code (and source for the GitHub Pages based site) under the Predict the Sky Organisation.
My next steps after I finish University (rather soon, now) is to start on the code side, and also build out the documentation — especially for others to contribute who are new to the project.
In the mean time, if you’re interested, shout at me and I’ll make sure something is done about it.
But overall, another great event, one of hopefully many more to come.