Makerspace visit: DSpace

dspace-outsideI was in Dunedin recently and Ian and Paul from DSpace in Dunedin were kind enough to show me through their space and to talk to me about some of the projects that are happening there.

They share their space with a range of different community groups in the North East Valley in Dunedin, and the first thing that struck me was how BIG their space is: it’s actually an old workshop and has a series of large spaces that are used for different things, but they’re really lucky to have so much space at their disposal!

dspace-electric-carThere’s a full-on hoist for working on cars including the project shown in the photo to the right, which is a conversion to from petrol to electric. The electric tuktuk looks just as interesting.

dspace-bike-workshopIn the same space is a bike workshop where old bikes are fixed up and restored. I’m sure more than one of these discarded bikes were discarded by Otago students leaving at the end of their study. The cool thing about what DSpace is doing is that they’re all now potentially new(-ish) bikes for new Otago students arriving as they begin their studies.

dspace-reworkThere are some pretty amazing electronics projects going on at DSpace with both Paul and Ian talking about the workshops they run to help people design and then have built their own circuit boards. The SMD rework station and surrounding components show that this space is well-used. Paul has been prototyping circuit boards for robots and kits of various sizes to teach people to solder and about electronics, and is planning to return to China soon to oversee the production of some of his projects.

dspace-3d-printers3D printing is also big at DSpace with the team printing a lot of parts for Prusa Repraps, and in the spirit of Repraps, giving them away to people on the condition that they build a printer then print two copies of the plastic pieces and give them away to pay it forward.

Makerspace visit: Fablab Masterton

Recently I was travelling through Masterton for work and was lucky enough to be able to call into Fablab Masterton to have a look around with John Hart, one of the founders. This Fablab is working with local schools and community groups to increase people’s experience with making and fabrication, as well as to grow people’s capacity to teach others.

Small laser-cut prototype with full-sized CNC table behind.

They have a CNC router which has enabled them to build their own furniture. John showed me the tiny little prototype of a table they cut on the laser cutter to test the design before hitting ‘go’ on the big CNC. Seeing the little table in front of the big table shows the power of different fabrication tools at different times in the design process.

3D prints and laser-cut rings.

A lot of the design work that happens at Fablab Masterton is 2D and 3D. People learn how to use software like Inkscape and 3D modelling software, then make their designs using either the laser cutter (2D) or 3D printer (3D).

Table with removable centrepiece.

Some of the tables have a centrepiece that is removable to allow different tools to be dropped in if activities change. It’s a clever design feature. This example was on an ‘unmaking table’ which encourages people to pull things apart in order to better understand how they work.

John and Kirsten have also set up a way for schools to share files with them so that after initial sessions learning about design and prototyping at the Fablab, they can work on their designs back at school, send the file to the Fablab and have them print it on one of their 3D printers.


Disco bike project

There’s nothing like a bit of James Brown and some neon wire to brighten up your making. We recently ran a couple of sessions building what we call ‘Disco Bike’ (although ‘Funk Bike’ is probably closer to the truth. As you can see in the video below we made a glow-in-the-dark, sound activated bike:


  • Kid’s bike. Kindly donated by Mr 6.
  • Electro-luminescent (EL) wire
  • Sound-activated inverters
  • Bluetooth Speaker

EL wire is pretty cool stuff: when you put alternating current (AC) through it, it lights up like a neon light.

disco-bike-inverters-smallThe trick is that in order to be mobile on the bike, we need to use batteries to power our EL wire (we can’t use mains power!), but batteries provide direct current, not alternating current, so that’s where the inverters come in. Inverters can turn DC into AC, powering the wire. Even cooler, we used inverters that are sound-activated- they light up when there’s a sound and don’t when there’s no sound. Perfect for a disco bike!

To assemble the whole operation, we wirelessly connected the bluetooth speaker to a phone for music, then zip-tied the speaker to the bike. We then mounted the inverters near the speaker and wound the wire all around the bike. When we turned the whole thing on, and played music through the speaker, the bike lit up in time with the music.

Disco bike!


Paper circuits: Mother’s day fun

paper circuits

Over two weekends, we ran some workshops for people to build Mother’s Day cards with a bit of a difference- an electronic difference. Paper circuits are made using normal paper and card and conductive copper tape. The tape is adhesive and can be stuck onto the card to form a circuit when used with other components like LEDs and batteries. There were some very creative cards produced and I’m sure a lot of mothers got a few surprises alongside their cups of tea in bed! The best thing to see was all of the problem-solving and trouble-shooting when things didn’t work out as expected.


An easy way to help out TAP:lab Makers

Take this into a West Liquor outlet with proof of address to claim your toolkit.
Take this into a West Liquor outlet with proof of address to claim your toolkit.

TAP:lab is our community makerspace: a joint initiative between the council and the community to foster creativity and develop skills for everyone in Te Atatu. There’s a simple way you can help out our little community of makers, and it won’t cost you a thing. The Trusts are generously offering every household in the area a small toolkit to help with household repairs. It’s a great little kit and would be perfect for the kind of workshops we run at TAP:lab. If you don’t want your toolkit, we’d love to take it off your hands.

Here’s how it works: take your voucher into any West Liquor outlet with proof of address (recent phone or power bill) and you can claim your free toolkit. If you email with your address, we’ll come and collect it from your letterbox, or arrange another way to collect it that’s convenient to you.

You’ll be helping out the community by giving people the tools to be able to make and repair things.


Simple Wearables Workshop

We’ve recently been running some very popular simple wearable workshops at TAP:lab. Simply put, wearable technology is any device that can be worn by a person. While people have created incredibly elaborate costumes as forms of art or self-expression, we’ve started small with simple circuits. Over a series of Saturday mornings, people have unleashed their creativity with LEDs and 3v coin cell batteries. The magic ingredient for these is conductive thread: cotton with stainless steel strands woven through it that, when stitched into a garment and knotted around electronic components form circuits: you can literally stitch the circuit right into your clothes.

Makers creating wearables.
Makers creating wearables.

We had a whole lot of creativity in the workshops, from magic wands to hacked cookie monsters to Mario mushrooms. Next step is to begin adding components that interact with the environments: leds that get brighter as the sun goes down or music that plays when your friends get near.

Some of our inspirations: