Maker Faire UK 2010

So in the middle of March I was panicking about whether I would get everything ready in time for Maker Faire UK. Like last year Maker Faire UK was held at the Life Science’s Centre in Newcastle-upon-Tyne as part of the Science Week there. Unlike last year, this year I had been accepted as an exhibitor and was going to display a variety of projects, so I took the Friday as vacation for final preparation and I needed it.


The theme of my exhibit was the mix of tech and craft. Basically it was a collection of projects I had been working on and thought were good enough to display.

‘Programmable’ Earrings

Programmable earrings

Recently I started doing bead work, making necklaces and earrings and so on. One day when doing some electronics I realised that components would make awesome earrings. I then thought if you’re using components why not make them actually do something. So I prototyped up a design based around an ATTiny part that I thought would work and thought about scaling the design down to something that could actually be worn on the ears.

This turned out to be a bit of a learning curve. The only way I could do it was to resort to surface mount. Something I had never done before. Also I needed to product the PCBs professionally for the project to have any chance of working. Also something I had never done before. So this required me to learn to use a PCB CAD package. Yet more learning curve. And to add to the pressure because of the turn-round time on the PCBs I had one chance to get it right. I waited with baited breath for them to return from Olimex.

There were two issues with the board. The holes for the LED leads were too narrow. I fixed that with a pillar drill. Also the outline for the battery (which is mounted on the bottom of the board) was printed on the top of the board. That was my mistake since I created the batter holder component in the CAD package. I fixed that with judicious use of a craft knife to scrape away the print. I soldered everything up, programmed the micro-controller, and they worked.

They are light and wearable. The software carries out PWM on three RGB channels varying the colour of the LED. The colour pattern and speed of flashing changes with light level. The size is limited by the clearance of the LED and LDR leads and the battery. They were very popular and I may have to make more due to interest.

Knitted Cthulhu

Cthulhu

This was a fun little project. I found a pattern for a knitted Cthulhu on the web. Unfortunately I’ve mislaid the link right now but I do want to acknowledge the author so when I’ve found it I will update this post. The knit was fun in itself and included knitting in the round, adding and removing stitches, and i-cord.

However because I am me I wanted to stuff electronics in to it. So rather than using beads for eyes I used LEDs. I built a small circuit on strip board based around the ATTiny part which drove the two LEDs and used a mechanical tilt switch as an input. Additional output was via a piezo-electric sounder. The tilt switch was mounted upside down so that it was normally off. However shaking the cthulhu would activate it.

A software algorithm carried out key de-bounce and counts the number of ‘shakes’ within a set time and drives a state machine that flashes the eyes and makes noises dependent upon the speed of the shaking. The children loved my cthulhu.

Beebthernet

Beebthernet

A while I go i wrote a blog post about my Beebthernet project. Well since I was getting PCBs made anyway I thought I’d use the space space available to get a PCB for the parallel port/SPI version of the Beebthernet circuit.

I was hoping to have written a twitter client in time for Makefaire but all I’d gotten was basic sockets working. However having a stand with a BBC Microcomputer connected to a flat screen monitor and a network was interesting to many people who attended the fair. In many cases parents would tell their children how the BBC micro was the computer they used at school.

Temperature Sensing Hat

Work in progress - Temperature sensing hat

This project turned out to be a work in progress so I took it anyway together with some tools in order to continue to work on the electronics. The hat itself is based upon a design in Stitch ‘N Bitch which is an excellent book. It is the sequinned hat but without sequins however unlike the hat in the book mine has a long i-cord ‘tail’ from the top of the hat than hangs down the back. The tail houses a temperature sensor in the end.

The rest of the hat is intended to be covered in small LED beads but they were not finished for Makerfaire. The beads are an idea from Leah Buechley and are constructed from a surface mount LED and two beading crimp rings solder to each terminal. I chose gold and silver rings so that I could tell the polarity. They are awfully small and fiddly to make.


My exhibits seemed to go down well with the public. I ended up being interviewed by the BBC for their Pods and Blogs show on Radio 5 Live. And then I was filmed by the reporter’s colleague for a YouTube project.

I have to admit I don’t look my best since I was stressed and this was early on the Saturday not long after the faire opened and I hod gotten up early that morning to drive up to the event and set up my things.

The faire was very enjoyable and it would be great to be back there again next year. Hopefully I would be more organised this time. There were people I knew there but many more I didn’t and I made some new friends among the exhibitors. I would like to thank Molly and Kat who were my support team and who took over talking to the public when I needed a break, food, etc. I did get a chance to look around the faire and I have to admit the stars of the show were the musical tesla coils they were both awesome and loud!

Musical Tesla Coils

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