staten island makerspace steam wagon

Staten Island Makerspace has its very own outreach workshop in the form of the excellent STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) Wagon. Equiped with some refreshingly analogue tools, as well as some decidedly digital ones the STEAM wagon has been equiped through around $25,000 in sponsorship as well as with donations including a LOLZBOT 3D printer in addition the wagon includes a bandsaw, pillar drill, vinyl cutter and typewriter. 


The truck they are using cost $3500 and is one of those cool wide postal service/food truck shaped vans you don’t see anywhere in the UK, the advantage being the height, width and that cool door between the drivers cab and the back. The truck is kitted out with workbenches to both sides with OSB cupboards for storage. 


Scott Van Campen (the perfect name for a van driver) is the executive director at Staten Island MakerSpace, he told me that an indegogo campaign has just been launched “Our hope is to be able to bring the STEAM Wagon to as many schools as possible to demonstrate and provide, creative, educational, and hands-on learning experiences.” They plan to create “makerthon” training experiences for school kids. 




making the greatest show and tell on earth

I’m at the New York Hall of Science (NYSci pronounced Neye Sigh) Flushing Meadow, Queens in New York for the 6th Annual World Maker Faire. Friday is the main setup day for exhibiting makers ahead of the weekend event. Staff and Maker Faire crew have been here for over a week setting up the huge site. Getting the scale of the event across in photographs is fairly difficult as the site is so large. For me this really is the greatest show and tell on earth and my Maker Faire of choice to visit. 


Maker Faire Producers from all over the globe exchnage experiences over lunch.
To put the scale in context the crew have their own canteen and rest area which is packed with bicycles for them to get about site. They have  a fleet of telehandler fork trucks, dozens of golf buggies wizzing about. The Faire uses 250 radios across 16 fully monitored channels for the crew. There are  800+ booths (Bay Area has 1200+ and so is the larger Faire) for makers ranging from huge pavilion sized corporate sponsors to individual young makers. The budget for the Faire is over $2millon.

The Faire covers (indeed literally take over) the NYSci site itself and pushes out into the Flushing Meadow park area (the home of the 1964 Worlds Fair). Staff at NYSci have been instrumental in the success of the Faire and it’s a great partnership for Maker Media and the Faire has reportedly changed the fortunes of the museum this being their flagship event. For the first time this year the Maker Faire has setup a stage next to the Unisphere for Eeppy Bird to perform Coke Zero & Mentos free of charge for the public, especially the residence of Queens who the Faire effects the most.  The ambition is to push the Faire further and further into the park as it continues to grow. 

5th annual brighton mini maker faire

A somewhat late blog post here, so my apologies but I’ve some stuff to get up on the blog and this post got misplaced! More to come soon.

The 1st weekend in September marked the 5th Brighton Mini Maker Faire to be held at the Brighton Dome. The team at Brighton Mini Maker Faire are highly experienced now and run a very good faire. As usual set up for Makers starts on Friday evening, a good opportunity to have a look at the tables of fellow exhibitors and make friends. Later beer and pizzas was laid on to aid socialising further.


For Just Add Sharks (who I’m proud to say were “professional maker sponsor”) MSRaynsford made a new attraction in the form of a catapult shooting range complete with knights and castles! You can read about it on his blog here. The range proved very popular and a big draw for kids who tried their hardest to destroy it with lasercut mdf missiles.


There was some talk of the event not running in 2016 (don’t take my work for it if you are reading this as a “what’s on guide) which I think would be very sad, though it must be said without proper funding and the support of so call “maker” companies in the UK it’s understandable that the event might not happen. Organisers work very hard and for little reward let alone the cost in time, events must be sustainable and can be very very expensive to put on so sometimes these things just don’t always happen and it should always be remembered that most exhibiting makers do so for the love of it and at their own expense.


You can see a gallery of my pictures from the event here.

rustic apple boxes – making laser cut things

For too long I’ve thought and talked about doing some posts of things I’ve made. After all my blog IS supposed to be a makers blog. What right at all do I have to talk about Maker Faires and Maker Spaces if I don’t make stuff? My business partner at Just Add Sharks, Martin Raynsford has long had his blog MSRaynsford where a few years ago he challenged himself on his blog to make 365 laser cut things in 365 days. More amazingly he ACTUALLY did it. Now, a few years on he regularly posts projects and challenges himself still to make things.IMG_8063

My first offering of an undisclosed and as yet undecided number of made things is this simple apple box. I wanted to recreate something like the apple boxes I’ve been seeing dotted about the place in antiques shops and as interior design and maybe I was also a little inspired by the Fruit & Veg Wholesale Market where we have our warehouse for Just Add Sharks. Sadly real apple boxes have been totally obsoleted by cardboard boxes which no doubt can be pulped rather than having to be returned to the orchard. IMG_8068
The boxes are made from 6mm Poplar Plywood from and cut on my Greyfin A2 Laser Cutter. The corners reinforcements are 10.5mm by 10.5mm pine rod and I’ve used my electric stapler on three of them and simple panel pins on the other one. I’ll probably try a smaller 3mm one using wood glue and perhaps try out some ageing techniques to see if I can add a little more patina. I’m quite pleased with the look of them generally.IMG_8076


2nd bristol mini maker faire

I often write about the many Maker Faire and Maker-Faire-A-Like events I attend and this weekend I’ve been attending the Bristol Mini Maker Faire. This is actually an event I help to run so my blog post probably isn’t very objective. I’ll try to stick to facts and general reportage.
This was the 2nd Bristol Mini Maker Faire  and the event was held in the event suite at @Bristol Science Centre on Bristol Harbour side. The first Bristol Mini Maker Faire was held at the MShed Industrial Museum across the harbour. The change in venue really stemmed from keenness on the part of @Bristol to run the event on their site. Having a bit of a budget helped too.
Bristol Mini Maker Faire 2 had around 1000 visitor (600 visitors specifically for the Mini Maker Faire the others for both the Faire and the Science Centre) with around 80 makers on 40 exhibition tables. Makers included several from the Bristol Hackspace as well as local start-ups and artists groups like local roboticists and puppeteers Rusty Squid. We had several robotics themed exhibits including Baxter the robot that will put us all out of work (well, his descendent might).
The Bristol Hackspace organised a “ShonkBot” workshop, a very cheap (£10 parts cost) Arduino based drawing robot held together by a CD disk and a load of hot glue. The workshops proved very popular and lots of little “ShonkBots” were made. It was very well run and well organised and I was impressed though initially I had reservations about the amount of organisation and funding that might have been required. Musical instrument makers, a hand/home built motorcycle (one of my favourites), pen plotters, Arduino pets , giant knitting, techno-music robots and of course 3D printers (RepRap Pro are a local company) also attended. I was also delighted to see/hear (I like the sound) and smell (it smelled of machine oil) a Teletype machine brought in by Swindon Hackspace.
I managed to take a few pictures during the event and you can see those here. You can also see tweets from the event here on our #BMMF15 hash-tag (sorry Brighton Mini Maker Faire).
The original Bristol Mini Maker Faire producer had a career change in 2015 leaving a gap so the Faire’s planning was fairly rapid and the countdown to the faire quite short. We’re hoping to run a much bigger Faire in 2016 and going out for sponsorship and a bigger push on marketing. All in all the producers received excellent feedback on the day from Makers, visitors and venue staff. Ruth Murray of @Bristol was exceptionally brilliant and her professionalism and enthusiasm carried the event.

My next Faire will be the Brighton Mini Maker Faire in about 2 weeks where I’m attending as an exhibitor. I also produce the 4th annual Derby Mini Maker Faire which will be held in October.

makeshop at the science gallery trinity college, dublin

Whilst over in Dublin for the Dublin Maker event held at Trinty College I was able to make a visit to the Science Gallery. It includes a good shop with interesting books, making materials and interesting objects from architecture to craft. Whilst the items are often (probably appropriately) expensive they are always inspirational and, based on my last 2 visits they’ve had different and varied things on sale and well worth a look.

 An area of the Science Gallery cafe on the day I visited was set aside for “making” tuition with soldering irons and interesting pots of tools and materials strewn across a work bench, two young tutors helped children to solder LED torch kits from Kitronik. I discovered later that the Science Gallery had extended this offering to a shop beyond the campus’ Lincoln Gate on Clare Street. Called Makeshop The shop offered more workspace and tools as well as a selection of project kits for sale.

This seems like a great idea and just the sort of things I’d like to see around the museum district in London perhaps? I hope I’ll see more places like springing up regardless of if it makes money or not, it very likely makes makers if it doesn’t make profit.

4th dublin maker 

I now think of 2012 as the Mini Maker Faire boom. It was the year that the UK Maker Faire didn’t run, sporning many Mini Faires into creation. That year I first co-produced Derby Mini Maker Faire, Manchester had the unofficial official (mini) Maker Faire and of course there was the first Maker Faire for Ireland, Dublin Mini Maker Faire all in 2012!

But why “mini”? Why not Dublin Maker Faire? To drop the “mini” part you need to be a featured Faire. This entails a bit more involvement from Maker Media and a different licence. Having been involved with conversations about the original ideas for a London based mini Faire I know that the name Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire was a compromise. The E&C team having been told that “London” could not hold a Mini Maker Faire. That being true, maybe Dublin couldn’t either? Anyway Dublin Mini Maker Faire dropped Maker Media and have gone for the alternative self branded Dublin Maker which now enjoys it’s 4th year. 

The event is one day only “it’s fairer on the Makers” explained event co-producer Jeffery Roe of TOG, Dublin’s Hackerspace. It’s free entry and has a footfall of about 10,000 visitors by best estimates. Support for the event is strong with partner organisation from the Science Gallery, Festival of Curiosity and Trinity College as well as sponsors like Hack Dublin and Intel. 

Exhibitors included travelling makers from around the UK and Ireland, TOG the Dublin Hackerspace, Galway’s 091 Labs, prop makers, educators and crafters of all kinds with around 40 groups of exhibitors. The event is held primarily on the Physics Lawn, a grassed area of Trinity College surrounded by venerably named buildings proclaiming PHYSIOLOGY and ANATOMY. The Maker event forms a village of little marquees spreading through the park like campus. 

I scratched together a stall consisting of soldering kits and fellow Shark MSRaynsfords popular laser cut toys and had a frantic though fun time chatting with local makers and visitors. Dublin has a large Polish community (Polish being the 3rd most spoken language after English and Galic though some say that really makes it the 2nd most used) and I’d estimate at least half the families I spoke with were Polish and highly engaged with the making culture. 

If you’re looking to run an event for makers and don’t want to be a Maker Faire licencee you couldn’t go far wrong by following Dublin Makers example. For me their biggest challenge is to make it sustainable for the organisers (so they have time to do it) and to continue to grow it. Maybe it’d benefit from charging a small fee for entry and having some big crowd pulling items or acts? Anyway I look forward to being there next time and seeing its continued success!