We are working towards setting up an Interaction lab, and as part of research I went to an Open Day at the Atelier. Glad I went, as I could appreciate the great work done by the organizers and volunteers, play with some of the equipment they make available, and observe the enthusiasm of fellow visitors.
I was impressed with the 3D printing. I had thought this would be an esoteric activity, with very expensive setup, but it seems to be quite accessible. Apparently the printer was purchased as a kit and designs can be easily made using SketchUp. Within the 15 minutes I was chatting in front of it I saw a matchbox-sized locomotive being printed from a design set up by a child–albeit with extensive “help” from a parent. Of course, what is of more interest to me is the capability to design much more sophisticated structures.
I also spent some time chatting about microcontrollers and observing Arduinos in action. Again, what was interesting was the accessibility: easy to follow instructions and a library of programs to start with, and then the possibility of changing the programs and also playing with the connections between the different components. I was also told about Leaflab’s Maple processors, which seem to offer more power and flexibility. I hope we can find a UK distributor.
There were more things going on: laser cutting, Raspberry Pis, and crafts, but I didn’t have time to stay longer. All in all, the members of the Atelier and the local hackerspace Fizzpop put on a very interesting event, and gave me some great ideas on what we can do at Warwick.