During the school holidays we hosted a stop motion animation workshop for kids. The goal was simple, show some kids how to use play-dough and some clever phone/tablet apps to tell awesome stories but the most interesting bit was that we had our youngest “workshop leaders” running the show.
Ben and Zak, two young makers with a couple of stop motion animations under their belt already worked with around eight kids to bring their ideas to life using play-dough. There were stories about caterpillar-eating spiders, friendly penguins and even a Star Wars – Pirates of the Caribean mash up with the Kraken eating a Tie Fighter!
The app they used was “Stop Motion Studio” which is available for both Apple and Android devices
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
EL wire is pretty cool stuff: when you put alternating current (AC) through it, it lights up like a neon light.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
Andrew held another popular 2 hour workshop for beginners on how to use TinkerCAD. Starting from basic principles of viewing and manipulating objects in the the design area, the group followed along and designed a pencil stopper. Additive and subtractive combinations of objects were used to create the final object.
Sadly, our 3D printer was returned in what turned out to be a non-working state, so we were unable to print objects on the day. This didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm, reduce questions asked or the the kids desire to design 3D robots.
If you look in the background in the image above you can see a locally made RepRap Prisua i3, which was on display. This is the kind of 3D printer that is made with a lot of parts printed on a 3D printer. Compare that to our Ultimaker below and you get both ends of the hobbyist 3D printer spectrum.
Minecraft has landed at the TAP lab. We’ve got five minecraft accounts loaded onto our latops along with a NAS running Minecraft server. Jeremy and I spent a couple of hours on Friday installing Minecraft, connecting an ethernet switch and setting up a server.
On Saturday, six 6 – 9 year olds got together for a somewhat impromptu Minecraft LAN party. In the spirit of seeing how much lava, TNT and mobs they could inflict upon each other, spent 90 loud minutes destroying the virtual landscape and each other.
The afternoon was a chaotic success by any measure.
Lesson learned today: Kids will not stop playing Minecraft until the mice are prised from their over-active hands, so make sure an adult is in control of the the host to kick all the kids off when their time is up.
And wear ear muffs. It gets loud (Sorry, Andrew, who was also in the lab trying to build an AV centre).