First Shanghai Maker Carnival

First day of the Shanghai Maker Carnival was today with exhibitors also attending from Beijing and Shenzhen.

It is part of the very large Creation Exhibition, an arts and crafts expo with about 200 exhibitors – #12, in Century Park Shanghai and runs from today Friday to Sunday 4 November 2012.

Today was a slow start as it was a work day and the weather windy and cool, especially by the lake, but I am sure tomorrow will bring lots more interesting items!

I prepared a small swarm of SwarmRobots running the new remote control code I just released. Some people surprised to see the SwarmRobots move, most were surprised to see group movement where each group does the same movements. A few people really “got” the demo mode.

Nearly everyone wanted to know why the remotes did not control just ONE SwarmRobot, or did not control ALL, but most struggled with the explanation of deliberate separation into different groups – until this was explained in Chinese! Maybe I should have stuck with my idea to use coloured flags and letters/numbers to indicate the groups, rather than just use the wheel colour! Main reasons I did not was it would transport harder and more effort to set up the flags at events.

Using standard TV/DVD remote to control robots – I thought people would instantly understand how to control the robots! Well as usual I was wrong, at least until you get people to think like controlling your DVD, then some get it, others takes some demonstration first!

The one lone SwarmRobot that was configured as an object follow SwarmRobot also raised questions – why not the same! It is good everyone understands that these are the same, but the idea that some behaved differently really raised some questions.

Several XinChejian members helped repairing battery connector wires and making more SwarmRobots. Some non-members also had fun finishing and making SwarmRobots – thanks guys!

Swarm Robot competition winners announced at World Maker Faire

Xinchejian SwarmRobotsThe fantastic capability of the XinCheJian SwarmRobots has been recognised with 2nd placing in the AFRON $10 robot competition Traditional (Roaming) category. The announcement made at World Maker Faire today (via Wired) awarded first place to Harvard’s research group and third place by to MIT University. XinCheJian’s high placing against such prestigious competition highlights just how good XinCheJian’s SwarmRobots are!

The SwarmRobots are still under rapid development with work progressing on coding object detection and inter-robot communications using the already developed InfraRed shield. Work is also underway on wireless charging and a Atmel 32u4 version. It has been a lot of fun to be part of this team as can be seen in these videos!

Swarm Robot competition entry and workshop

SwarmRobot with new IR shield PCB
SwarmRobot with new IR shield PCB

Just put in a huge effort to enter the Xinchejian SwarmRobot into the AFRON competition.

Also used the assembly instructions created as part of the entry to help run a  workshop with other Xinchejian members making SwarmRobots. The workshop was pretty successful, although our preparation was lacking a bit with an untested PCB that just arrived and was assembled for the first time during the workshop and a different power switch that did match the board!

Definitely time for a more relaxed pace – exploring the Lophilo and a few other projects!

Barcamp Shangahi Fall 2012

Three Xinchejian SwarmRobots

Had fun at Shanghai Barcamp Fall helping to show off Xinchejian’s SwarmRobots. It was great seeing how all the children (young and old) explored the robots ability and asked heaps of questions!

Also helped with a presentation about Xinchejian’s SwarmRobots and the AFRON $10 robot competition and I gave one presentation on one of my favourite topics “Instantly turn your project into a kit” available in Libre Office odt and as a power point. It has a LOT of pictures and includes three video picture shows, so it is around 10MB!

Communities artistic, creator, DIY, social, maker, hacker, …

One goal of this site is to help bridge and bring together the many different communities that can help and learn from each other. An alternate perspective is to broaden the view of makers and hackers to see the rest of the world 🙂  So it is very pleasing to see that there are many others who have similar goals. This previous post highlighted some of the routine activity at Xinchejian last weekend, but it did not highlight the activities contributing to this goal where diverse community members come together.

Communities seen at Xinchejian last weekend were Breesee, Makesense and GoodtoChina.

Breesee‘s business card slogan “creative community” fits in with this sites goal. Breesee aims “to be a bridge connects different types of creators in the world. Whether they are artists, designers or engineers, we will try to encourage them cooperate and make more innovation happen”. Their site has some very nice content – it is worth a visit!

Makesense were also present, several of their members have close relationship Xinchejian. See this previous post for an introduction to their very good work worldwide.

In addition to the “drop in’s” Xinchejian is sharing the new space with GoodtoChina with a very co-operative open plan and shared facilities arrangement!  “GoodtoChina inspires and supports sustainable living through environmental projects, social initiatives and consulting projects”.

Xinchejian are also setting up a kitchen in their new space for hacking cooking, there is already a post on Sous Vide, Xinchejian is active in the Space program, see this mailing list, and host extremely popular popular processing classes to help anyone with an artistic leaning to create computer art, are into hydroponics and also have active relationships with Dorkbot Shanghai and Xindanwei.

All that is pretty amazing on top of all the making and hacking already reported!

Lophilo, Swarm Robots and R2D2

Xinchejian hackerspace is still settling in to their new space, but there was a lot of activity on the weekend!

Things that I noticed included many active projects undergoing design work, coding and assembling a quadcopter (commiserations on the maiden flight crash) and first timers playing with Arduino.

Highlights for me were:

  • getting hands on a real Lophilo – this development hardware looks extremely professional, flexible, and is not “vapourware”… can’t wait to own one!
  • Swarm Robots meeting – lots of really interesting ideas
  • R2D2 was at the swarm meeting – just too cute not to give a special mention


Beijing Maker carnival, five dollar micro controller, candle replacement and more!

Beijing Maker Carnival was held last weekend: “makers and hackers from around the world and China came together to show off their projects, do talks and lead workshops. The event was mainly organized by Beijing Maxpace with a lead role by Justin Wang (王盛林) and the help of many students from various Chinese universities in Beijing”. Ricky from Xinchejian attended and presented and has published some very interesting highlights .

A portable, rechargeable, affordable candle replacement has been developed by the Wyld Collective and Foul labs in Canada to help reduce very frequent fires in Bangkok! They gave a presentation at Xinchejian in Shanghai and also attended the Beijing Maker Carnival. It is really inspiring to hear how such a simple LED light can have a major social impact, quite possibly worldwide!

Mitch Altman and his “crew” were in Beijing for the Maker Carnival and also visited Xinchejian in Shanghai a few weeks ago. The inspirations that I gained from there talks were:

  • Mitch has been living of the proceeds of the TV-b-gone for several years! UPDATE – Mitch just blogged his trip report.
  • $5 micro controller MC HCK that is roughly equivalent to an Arduino is being developed by Simon Schubert. This extremely affordable price will make the board very accessible to those who otherwise cannot access these tools and also means the board can be “left in place” as a permanent project, rather than disassembled for the next project! I really like this idea!
  • Yair Reshef showed how extremely simple ideas can have a huge influence: {coin battery + LED + tape} = fun toy to introduce very young kids to electronics! I scored some that were left behind and a couple were still working a week later!

Project updates

Here is a brief summary of project progress over the last couple of weeks:

  • Robot car: finally ordered ultrasonic HY-SRF05 sensors. Initial testing shows stable accurate output, even without averaging. One interesting point – there are (at least) two different SRF05 sensors, with different chips and different pin-outs!
  • Spent some time thinking of ways to help Treecycle, the discussion is at the Xinchejian group.
  • Ordered some ATtiny85 for Safer alarm project next steps, thanks to a bulk order through Xinchejian.
  • Desktop chaos – my dream desktop workspace.
    • Testing continues to show promise, despite the misuse of CodeBlocks (C::B) for this purpose. Even when using very fragmented work habits 5, 10, 15 minutes chunks of time (forced due to my chaotic availability) and some unexpected testing of C::B behaviour after it’s process was terminated by a likely Ubuntu bug which closes the user session when logging back on after a suspend!
    • Search (Recoll) and Sync (Unison) – both look promising, but some effort is required to create workable implementations, and especially to make more generic for wider public use when integrated with C::B.
  • Spending way to much effort on site upgrades, spam and reacting to vandalism from many different IP addresses. If anyone has good tips in addition to the official / common ones for Mediawiki, phpBB and on analysing Apache logs and good Unix automated site and MYSQL database backup, please use the about email to drop me a line (the site is still locked down as I do not have time to deal with vandalism at the moment).

Inspired growth of Protei!

In a previous post, Protei was listed as an inspiration for several reasons, one was the “speed with which the community created”.

Now they need someone to “manage an international team of about 30 scientists, engineers and designers in the early stage of an ocean technology Open Hardware start up and Non-profit organisation. The work would range from business development to team management and from grant writing to assisting in the production of prototypes. You may have the opportunity to travel and install exhibitions, to test prototypes in the water and do PR work. ”

See the Adafruit job board for full details.

The advertising of this position gives an insight into the growth and success of this idea, and all the spin-off projects!

Makesense challenge followup

Aurel commented that you can ” Just sign in for free and enjoy!” the brainstorm on Editstorm.

There are many interesting notes there already, but you need to go there and join in to see them!

Even if you are not interested in this Shanghai challenge, do look at Makesense, or even one of these Inspirations on the wiki, it just might make your day!