teeny-weeny-makerspace

The organization skills of my current coworker, Jessica Shipp from Lighthouse School, are an inspiration. She is a daemon with storage boxes and a bit of coloured duck tape, and has made finding materials in the Creativity Lab a joy.

Materials at the Lighthouse Creativity Lab

This weekend I was inspired to organize my very own mini-makerspace (more like shelf). I used small take-away tubs in place of the big storage boxes, and they are perfect for putting all my bits in the right place.

My very modest storage system.

Speedy Stars and Stars

This Friday was my first July the 4th in the USA, and I got invited to a starts and stripes themed SF Bike Party. SF Bike Parties happen about 6 times a year, and consist of an evening bike ride to multiple destinations around San Francisco with 50 or so other cyclists, clad in blinking LED galore. The bike party will stop at each destination, turn the sound system high, and have a boogy.

In my excitement of this possibility (bikes + dancing + lots of nice views around SF) I decided to make a stars and stripes themed headband, using the Adafruit kit I had in my Possibilities Box. The only small problem being, was that I had less than 2 hours to make it! (1 hour and 45 mins to be precise!).

5:00PM
Decide I’m gonna make a stars and stripes themed headband -and go for flashing blue, white and red starts. I gather materials, download flora arduino IDE. This doesn’t work the first time, as I hadn’t changed my security setting. Change security settings, and finally manage to download.

5:18PM
Run strand-test example to see if it is working. I then change the code so that runs a red-white-blue fade, and then a red-white-blue flashing cycle.

5:22PM
I want the light to be diffused and find some stuffing left over from a toy monster project. That’ll do.

5:23PM
Find some white fabric to make the stars. I realize at this point that I will not be able to “bag the stars out” (technical term for sewing them inside out and then folding out). I resign to allowing my 1-and-a-fraction-hours creation looking a tad shabby round the edges and cut out my star shapes.

5:48PM
Oh, we are cooking on gas! I find a headband. Meanwhile, fireworks are blasting in all directions about the neighborhood, I start to feel rushed and quickly sew on the Flora. Thank you Adafruit for making this so goddam easy to do with your big conductive pads!

5:58PM
3 shiny stars connected to power.

6:07PM
Ground and power is connected, just need to sew on the data. Quick!

6:08PM
Test the first star, and it works!

6:46PM
Finally got all the starts sewn in, now a quick stitch to secure the Flora.

6:47PM
Oh no, I am 3mins late! But it works! Get headband on head, grab coat, beer, bike, and keys -off we go!

Much later
Big smiles as I cross the Golden Gate bridge, and a dance in Marin. Happy face, sparkly stars.

Calm before the storm at the Lighthouse


As I mentioned earlier I am teaching on the Summer Maker Camp at Lighthouse Community Charter School, in Oakland CA. The first 2 weeks of my teaching job at Lighthouse are dedicated to planning, preparing and developing the curriculum for the 5 week program, and we’ve just finished! The most challenging part of the preparation has been predicting how long students will take to make projects and learn new skills. As all makers know, making takes longer than you think, and people work at different paces, so working out how much students can make in a day is quite tricky! To try and allow for students to work at their own pace, we have made examples to inspire and use as a guide, and we are also making hand-outs for students to work form if they get ahead.

Each week is themed: Fiber Arts, Textiles, Games and Toys, Wood and Metal, and Installations. During the final theme, Installations, students will structure, design, and make their own projects. These could be sculptures, art for the school, or a community build -we will be there to facilitate, but hope that students learn skills in the previous weeks that they can use.

My favorite part of the prep was making samples -I love making samples! We made samples in e-textiles, fabric dying, Scratch, woodwork, 3D printing, and animation. I don’t have all the screen based projects rendered to post here yet, but here are some pics of the physical things we made. We also created a “Documentation Station”, a photography set-up, with whiteboards where students can document their process and write about their work for the School’s Maker blog.

Week 1: Fiber Arts
Tie dye, embroidery, machine sewing, and e-textiles.

Week 2: Animation
We mostly prepped all the computers.

This was a typical scene:

Week 3: Toys and Games
We’ll be taking toys apart and hacking them! As well as making games with Scratch and 3D printing. We made a mess with toys!


and above is my 3D print -that I designed on Tinkercad, it interlinks and everything!

Week 4: Wood and Metal
We went to a scrap yard to get this copper -they bought the roll to us on a fork-lift truck, how thoughtful! Aaron made a fabulous mask as an example, which he is still working on and adding a mustache!


And above is a stall I made in an afternoon! My first wood project!

It was great to finally meet my coworker, Aaron Strauss, who will be teaching the High School program, and who I will be working with over the next 8 weeks. Aaron is a fantastic maker. He has an intuitive understanding of how things work, and it was really great work with and learn from him.

Maker Ed Maker Corps

Maker Ed is a non-profit based in the Bay Area. They are a sister company of Maker Media (Make Magazine, Maker Faire) and work to support making in schools.

I recently applied for Maker Ed’s spring teacher training and teaching position called “Maker Corps”, and got selected! We, the “Maker Corps Members”, spend 6 weeks training in Maker Education and then 6 weeks working at a school or community space. I will be working at the Creativity Lab at Lighthouse Community Charter School -a K-12 school in Oakland, that recently sent some young makers to The White House!

As part of the training we were sent a “possibility box”, which is full of (yes you guessed it) possibilities for making! Included is Intel’s Galileo, Flora, MaKey MaKey, Squishy Circuits, Little Bits, Drawdio, tape, paper, hot glue, soldering iron and much much more (see image below)! Each week we are invited to experiment with a different material, and we share this with the community of Maker Corps Members.

Knolling the possibility box by Brent Richards, who is also a Maker Corps Members, and currently studying an MFA in Art and Technology

The spring training has officially ended, and we have moved on to the summer sessions, but I am just getting round to finishing some of the projects and posting them here. The first week was a tinkering week -and I got very excited about he MaKey Makey and yarn. I made some conductive pompoms, and made some pompom sensors that drummed when touched.
Ideas -my scribblings of light sensitive pompom clothing and *conductive pom pom world*. It will happen. It will!
All the materials one might need to make a musical pompom: Yarn, conductive thread, scissors, card, and MaKey MaKey.
Pompoms -mixed in with conductive thread = conductive pompoms.
A makeshift ground connection to close the circuit.

Pompoms in action -testing how they work with the simple MaKey MaKey software.

Nexmap book hack

I recently had the absolute pleasure of taking part in a daylong book-hack (a boohackathon?). It was hosted by Nexmap, a San Francisco based arts-tech company who are currently developing a series of hackable journals for schools. I spent the day discussing and making books with an group of creatives, including friend and collaborator Natalie Freed, Jennifer Dick from Nexmap, David Cole from CV2; and pop-up book artist Susan Lowdermilk, who makes books, prints and zoetropes.

Susan bought a sample of artist books for inspiration, and also wowed us with her own marvelous and very beautiful creations. Then she showed us a simple way to make a book with out any binding. Susan will also be developing the next in the series of journals for the Nexmap project, I am excited to see what she makes!



Nexmap have great Google community called “21st Century notebooks” if you are reading this, you should join!

How to make an animated GIF in photoshop

Over the past couple of years quite a few people have asked me how to make an animated gif, as I often used animated gifs to document my work. I learned how to make a gif in photoshop by using a mish-mash of online tutorials. In the tutorial below I have combined this mish-mash into one place.

In this tutorial you’ll make a gif in 15 steps using CS5 on a Mac.

1. Organize and name files you are using for your animated gif into sequential order.

2. Open Photoshop, and import files as layers to one image, go to: file –> scripts –> load files into stack…

3. Click browse and choose the images you organized in step 1.
Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 12.55.51 PM

4. Be sure to check “attempt to automatically align source images” (see image above)

5. Hit OK, and images will open as multiple layers in one image, and automatically align (as best as possible).

6. Now to make the animation. First get the animation window up: window –> animation

7. The animation window will open, this is where you will create the animated gif.

8. Note: sometimes when you open the animation window it may not open with frames automatically, and it will look like the image below. If this is the case, choose “convert to frame animation” in right bottom corner.

9. Before you start making the animation, it is best to set up the time delay on the 1st frame (as this will duplicate for any frames you add, and it is a pain to change each one individually). Click the arrow for the time delay menu, this will be how long between each frame. I recommend 0.1 or 0.2, but you can experiment with this.

10. To create you frames, click the duplicate frame box to add the desired number of frames (in this case 4).

11. To create each frame, you’ll need to correspond each layer, so that it is visible on the frame the frames you want. Getting this right it the trickiest part.
i.e.
1st frame = top layer is visible
2nd frame = 2nd layer is visible
3rd frame = 3rd layer is visible
4th frame = bottom layer is visible

above -1st frame

above -4th frame

12. Select the looping options to determine how many cycles you want your GIF to run through (I usually choose forever)

12. You can test the animation at any point by by hitting play –and continue to make any edits you need to.

13. You’ll probably need to crop the image so that there is no dead space around the edges, where the layers do not align. Sometimes I use the patch or clone tool to create a “fake” border if one of my layers is too small -this is a good trick if you don’t want to loose the edges of all of your layers.

14. Now you’ve made the animation, and need to save as a gif file. Go to file –> Save for web and devices…

15. Use the same preset options below. If you have a large image, adjust image size (If you are embedding in a blog or Flickr, you will need to add the media in it’s original size, else it does not function properly. So choose a good width for viewing. I usually go for a width of 600-700 px). I also choose “original tab” as this is slightly better quality, but does not make a huge difference. Now hit save.

Congratulations -you’ve made a gif!