SciHackDay side project

2014-Nov-19, Wednesday 09:34 am
chebe: (Default)
Set the scene; it's midnight, I'm just back from (sci-fi) book club, SciHackDay kicks off in the morning, and I want a project; something sciencey. I decide I want a radio telescope. But, well, I don't have the parts. So I scale back my idea into something I can iterate up into a radio telescope.

I shifted my focus on the electro-magnetic spectrum up to visible light, hoping to use my new colour sensor. It will really only give me one reading from one point of space, like a single pixel. To scan an area I'll need something to move it along. But I don't have any servos, and I've never played with motors before. Luckily I have a robot arm handy. And then the rest should just be Arduinos.

That's the thing about poorly researched hacks, they're never as straight-forward as they seem.

Down the rabbit hole )

Also, photos are up!

SciHackDay 2014

2014-Nov-17, Monday 12:47 pm
chebe: (OnTheVergeOfSomethingWonderful)
Science Hack Day is an all-day-all-night hackathon; covering software to hardware, but with a project emphasis on science. It's in its third year running in Dublin, but this is the first one I've been able to attend (November is a much more civilised month than March).

It started Saturday morning (15th Nov), and finished Sunday evening (16th Nov). In thirty-two hours of incredibly intense focus, I got a mere thirty minutes of sleep. But ate a lot of pizza! It was fantastic the way the SciHackDay crew set things up. Large quantities of food would just appear every so often, and there was a steady supply of snacks throughout. Eliminating one very common, and annoying, disruption to work; that of hunting, gathering, preparing food. Sleep as well! Although many people went home to rest, and some managed a few hours on sofas and floors, my brain was just getting settled into focusing on some software work in the wee small hours, and not being forced to leave and miss that period meant I was much more productive than I would have been otherwise. But I am very glad it wasn't any longer. As soon as I got home I fell asleep for sixteen straight hours.

There were some really great project ideas, and even more great project implementations. (A fantastic number of wearables and etextiles too.) But I was wary of the too-many-cooks problem, so I helped out where I wasn't in the way, and worked on my own small project.

Chording Glove project )

Gléasta tote bag kit

2014-Nov-11, Tuesday 07:54 pm
chebe: (Sewing Machine)
The Knitting'n'Stitching Show has come and gone. I was only there briefly, but still managed to achieve my goal: acquire a new sewing machine. I also picked up a tote bag kit from Gléasta (they had a much greater range of fabrics and colours at the Show than are currently on their website. Hopefully they'll update it soon.) You know, to put my new machine through its paces. It did admirably, and now I have a new sewing bag!

A tote bag hanging on back of a chair. Bottom is purple cotton, rest is white vinyl with images of thread and buttons all over it

Finished Bag
Photo by chebe



Some brief details )

Outreach

2014-Oct-31, Friday 04:00 pm
chebe: (DarkStare)
Let's talk about why I'm a keen believer (and participant) in tech outreach. It has nothing to do with pipelines of any kind. I resent accusations to the contrary. I'm a believer in education for educations sake, in not altering college courses based on current employers expectations. I'm not that practical. Tech is all around people nowadays, and it will benefit them to understand how it works.

I'm not trying to induct people into a career where there are lots of empty vacancies. I'm trying to show them that they don't need to be afraid of technology, that computers are tools you can master, and to demystify the process of creating software. I simply want people to feel comfortable using technology.

As a bonus, I particularly want to show young women that tech is an option, if they are at all inclined in that direction. That they're not weird/strange to have such interests, that women do work (and play) in this area, and enjoy it. There's a huge difference between saying "hey, this can be fun!" and saying "you will become a programmer/techie, start now". Just because you learn to read, doesn't mean you'll pursue a career as a novelist.

I don't operate under the banner of any of my employers, and being at events sponsored by companies makes me uncomfortable. It means we can have bigger, and better events. But don't mistake that as being a shill for anyone.

In the end I don't (can't) teach, I just try and share my interests. And hope that that's enough.
chebe: (StarryNight)
I think that's right, yeah. There's a festival this weekend called Prototype, which focuses on play and interaction. There are some interesting talks and performances ranging from games, to analogue human interaction, and even some wearable tech. Niki and I are running a workshop tomorrow morning, teaching the basics of soft circuits.

We're going to be making pet stars. Now, we all know that stars like to shine, but they have to feel safe and loved (go watch/read Stardust). And pets like being petted and cuddled. So when you pet your pet star it shines brighter! If you poke too hard the lights go off. If you do a good job the star will purr! (Turns out a star purring is a lot like lights twinkling.)

Here's the prototype I did up. The real ones will be much nicer, have proper felt, and be more cushiony.

A blue felt star, with a silver star in the middle with a trail of white LEDs

Pet Star - prototype
Photo by chebe



insider details )

I'll take some photos of the proper finished pieces at the workshop. And if the workshop goes well I'll do up detailed instructions on how to make your own.
chebe: (Default)
As we learn, we grow. We're iterating on the existing projects, to make them better, stronger, more reliable.

One piece that definitely needed improvement was the Talking Torque. An over-abundance of technical issues meant we were left using a microcontroller to control a malfunctioning specialised microcontroller. So version two has just the one (functional) LilyPad MP3 Player, a microphone, and we replaced the tilt switch with an accelerometer (for finer control with less dependency on placement). Niki also wanted to make it much bigger, and give it a back. See it from the front on display here.

Back/inside of version two of the cough torque; just a LilyPad MP3 player, microphone, and accelerometer

Version two; LilyPad MP3 player, microphone, accelerometer
Photo by chebe




The Kelp then was more subtle; we changed the LEDs from blue to green, reinforced the connections more, and varied the appearance of the felt.

Version two of the humidity neckpiece; electronics just added and wired, using green LEDs this time

Version two; humidity sensing neckpiece freshly wired up, with green LEDs
Photo by chebe




There will probably be at least one more iteration of the Kelp (and perhaps an instructable on it), but we're looking forward to coming up with new pieces, new explorations and adventures.
chebe: (Default)
Things have just kept on keeping on.

My work with Niki is just finishing a run on display at a felting exhibition in Farmleigh called Common Ground. I was at the opening on the 25th September, feeling quite out of my depth amongst the very talented craftspeople. But the nibbles were delicious, and I got to see some beautiful pieces.

Kelp piece displayed on a square of clear perspex, with mine and Niki's name visible on a label next to it

Kelp piece on display at Farmleigh
Photo by chebe



The 4th October then saw newer versions of our work on display at RuaRed as part of Digital Week. I was unable to attend, but Niki tells me there was great interest, which is exactly what we're doing all this for! At least she wasn't alone, with plenty of company from toglodytes. (Photos; close-up of the kelp, and newer, larger version of the talking torque.)

Niki demoing the kelp piece

Niki demoing the kelp
Photo by Joseph Carr at Rua Red



Yesterday, 11th October was the UNs International Day of the Girl. Intel had an idea and got in touch with both tog and CoderDojo Girls and #GalileoGirls magic happened. 75 (or so) girls and teens crowded into the usual CoderDojo space, and got to play with some hardware. From getting started with the Galileo board, to then choosing to play with electronics, wearable electronics, or social media programming. It was a long, chaotic day, but fun seemed to be had, which is very important imho.

Some of the CoderDojo mentors early in the morning

Mentors on parade
Photo by Niambhs, source



Next Saturday, 18th October, Niki and I will be running a 'Playful Wearable Electronics' workshop. I'm looking forward to it as it's a slightly different demographic and I'm curious on what aspects they're interested in, and grasp the fastest.

It's also my last commitment for a while, so I'm looking forward to break afterwards. And I totally mean it this time.
chebe: (FlowerInHair)
Post Dublin Maker I haven't exactly had much of a chance to rest.

TOG had a stand at Dublin Comic Con (out near Swords), where we dazzled people with many, many LEDs. At least I think that's why people seemed confused that we weren't selling anything. I was impressed by the quality of the costumes; both the professional ones on display, and the ones worn by attendees. I attended a panel on Special FX, and was charmed by both Al Matthews and Virginia Hey at another. I may have acquired one or two (too many) books on art/design/costumes of various films.

Rob at our stand with all the blinky LEDs

Rob and the blinky LEDs
Photo by chebe



Two weeks later I attended Shamrokon (a literary con, and this years Eurocon), and was a talking head on three panels; 'Wearable Tech', 'Back to the Couture', and '3D Printers and Copyright Law'. (Name drop; two of which were with Charlie Stross, a delightfully contrary man.) I attended two long days of great panels, my favourite probably being 'Peaceful Science Fiction' and 'Genre Toys'. It was also good to catch up with some friends I hadn't seen in a while (who were mostly busy running the con), and to meet a few people I know mostly online (*waves at [personal profile] vatine*).

Bill Thomasson, @chebegeek, @ickle_tayto, @cstross, sitting at table before panel begins

The only proof that I was there at all
Photo by Joe Mansfield, source



The next week Tog Duck (and some tog members) migrated East to Bletchley for EMF Camp. It was camping. With internet. I made it through two nights this time (yay, improvement!). But it was still camping. The trip also included many hours of driving (omg the M6, the horror, the horror!) and a couple of ferries. So it was fairly exhausting overall. But a good time was still had. There were interesting talks (including the inner workings of Quasar, and Bletchley Park), and Saturday night had people out displaying their finest light-up wearables. There were hats with chasing RGB patterns, animated dot matrix displays, a green EL wire outfit (waistcoat, tie, and hat), and a superb EL wire dinosaur wire mask (with operational jaw). I ran around the motion sensitive LED-poles Grid, and generally marvelled at peoples' projects. But I missed chances to catch up with people, so hopefully there will be another chance at the next run of events (April seems so far away...).

pics )

Also took the opportunity to visit the National Museum of Computing and marvel at the old(est) computers still running (both original and resconstructed). And Chester as well, because it was on the way and contained hotels.

I'm running real low on reserves, so I'm trying to take it easy over the next while. If that happens there should be more blogging happening here. Should.
chebe: (Default)
All the pieces were inspired by bits of Irish heritage or sayings. Some people seemed a little insulted that we were explaining the inspiration to them, while the majority of people had never heard of them at all. Were they just very regional activities/sayings, or are we largely discarding our past?

Which brings us to my own personal favourite piece. My favourite because of its relative simplicity, and because it's the closest to actual etextiles. During this piece I discovered just how wonderful real felt is to work with, and how perfect the thick soft fabric is for running channels of conductive thread, completely hidden.

And so I present, arguably, the piece most suitable for modern Ireland (perfect for the daily grind in an office); a waistcoat that lets you know someone is standing behind you, by sending a shiver down your spine.

Mannequin wearing felt and spotted silk waistcoat, front Mannequin wearing felt and spotted silk waistcoat, back

Waistcoat at Dublin Maker
Photo by chebe



Magnificent details )

And so our tale comes to an end. I learned a lot, had fun, stress, and sleep deprivation, along the way. But it's always worth it. I'll leave you with photos of the day from the official photographer. *falls down in an exhausted heap*
chebe: (Default)
In times gone by, when you caught a cold or got a cough, one of the things you could do to try and cure it was to tie a red flannel around your neck, under your clothes. Did the extra layer of warmth actually help, or was it just superstition? I'm not in a position to answer that, but it sparks some interesting questions.

For all its vibrant colours, traditional torque design, and dynamic nod-to-Newgrange kerbstone spirals, this piece strikes me as something futuristic, or interstellar. How Niki massaged the felt into these shapes I've no idea but, except for the torque clasp, this is one solid piece.

Mannequin wearing black tshirt, and a red felted torque piece

Red flannel neckpiece at Dublin Maker
Photo by chebe



Glorious details )

But for all the set-backs and frustrations, this piece turned out to be many peoples favourite. Everyone who tried it laughed, some almost split their sides. Niki has some good ideas on improvements for the next version, and at the very least there will be fewer microcontrollers involved! So keep an eye-out for the next revision.
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