Trondheim Maker Faire

Stand on a Skybar, and play pong on the LEDs on the Rockheim museum.

Playing Pong with the Rockheim Museum from the Skybar.

Last year’s Trondheim Maker Faire, the first full-blown Maker Faire in Scandinavia, was a runaway success. This years looks to be bigger, brighter, and full of even more quirky Norwegian hacking.

One stand out feature of last year’s faire was how it seemed to spread from the faire itself out around the city. A great example of this was the advertising campaign leading up to the faire, Raspberry Pi and MaKey MaKey equipped bus stops that let pedestrians play Pac-Man.

Not to be out done, this year the faire organisers have seriously raised the bar. Building on, and vastly scaling up, their bus stop hack they’ve taken over the huge, building sized, screens on all four sides of the Rockheim Museum — the city’s museum of rock music — and installed the classic Atari game of Pong, the first computer game ever invented, onto the huge screens.

Their plan? That people can stand in the Skybar of a neighbouring hotel, and play Pong on the on the museum building. They’re also hoping to stream live video directly onto the screens all throughout the faire itself.

Highlights of this weekend’s faire work by Hans Jørgen Grimstad, who built the washing machines sized 3D-printer last year, and has built a “city beest” for this year’s Faire.

The "City Beest."

The “CityBeest.”

The CityBeest has a total of 20 bones. Each bone is made up of by 11 segments, some of which are permanent and some may rotate. Each segment has a length, which are the only parameters in the design. The construction is very sensitive to the length of the segments and even a slight change in just one of them will significantly alter the movement. If one picks random numbers for lengths, most combinations will result in a structure which is unable to walk easily.

The CityBeest.

A close up of the “CityBeest.”

The robot is inspired by Theo Jansen’s famous Strandbeests, but is not a direct copy. We asked Hans about his 3D printers and the Citybeest.

Tell us about what you’re bringing to Maker Faire Trondheim?

This year, I’m bringing two new printers — generation 2 & 3 of the Götterdämmerung — along with some test prints.

One of these prints is the 20 legged walker that I named “CityBeest.” The walker uses Theo Jansens’s linkage. The linkage is based on one set of “magic numbers” that define the lengths of the segments in the linkage. As far as I know Jansen have only published one set these numbers. Since the parameter space is astronomical, I decided that it would be fun to see if I could find other parameter sets out there, that also gave rise to viable gaits. I decided to follow in Jansen’s footsteps and wrote my own genetic algorithm and simulation and also defined a scoring function that would serve as the attractor for evolution. This GA ran for several weeks on a 24 core machine. It discovered several sets of parameters that could be used to construct a variation of the linkage. I selected one of them and used these as input to a CAD model in Fusion 360, where I could also do a separate motion analysis to verify that the parameters were sound. This model was in turn exported as STL and the parts printed over several weeks on the Götterdämmerung printer.

The CityBeest walker is printed in PLA. At the last count, it consisted of 377 printed parts. (6 kg of plastic). It has two axis, driven by geared DC motors. These are controlled by a simple mechanical relays (in an H-bridge configuration) on an Arduino prototype shield. It uses ultrasonic sensors to detect obstacles.

Tell me about your background, have you always been a maker?

I have a degree in computer science. I have worked as a software developer / consultant for the last 20+ years. I have always been fascinated by “mad science”, and “fringe” technology.

One of the first scientists in this category, that I discovered, was Thomas Townsend Brown. He had several patents and it turned out that someone had recently replicated the results in one of his patents (now known as the “Lifter”). NASA had also recently filed a patent claim for a similar device. This was a thruster based on an “asymmetrical” capacitor. I decided to try and build one, since I had an old flyback transformer lying around. It was constructed from of balsa wood and aluminium foil and super glue. When I applied power and it lifted of the table (without any moving parts), I was totally amazed. i could smell ozone, so I guessed that ions were produced. Still, it was orders of magnitude more powerful than any ion thruster. I almost felt like a child again. It was magical. It was a mystery. And I had made it. 

My next project was a relatively big, old school tesla coil. I had Tesla’s “Colorado Springs Notes” in my book shelf, but I didn’t have any good sources for the high voltage components that was needed. I discovered that there was a very active tesla coil mailing list on the internet and managed to import two relatively small neon transformers from Finland. The capacitor bank consisted of home made salt water caps. The coil didn’t produce visible sparks, but I managed to light a fluorescent tube with the EM field. I then discovered eBay and all my sourcing problems were instantly gone.  A few coils later and I was producing 60-70cm streamers in my garage

Ever since I was a kid, I have loved making stuff. I often had ideas to new projects, but the challenge was always how to control and automate them. This changed once Atmel released the AVR and the STK-500 development kit. Once I learnt how to program micro controllers, everything was suddenly possible. Later on, the Arduino was released and we now have a rich and open ecosystem with relatively cheap components that are available to anyone. 

We are surrounded by gadgets and amazing technologies, but because of their underlying complexity, it is no longer possible for the average kid (or adult for that matter) to have a real grasp of what is going under the hood. Because of this, people end up as passive consumers. Repairing a broken cell phone or laptop computer is more expensive, than buying a new one. When new tech is released, the old gets thrown away. There is no need to understand how stuff works any more. This is bad, because it is alienating. You could tinker with an old fashioned clock and have real hope of finding out why it had broken. In the process you would also learn something about the clock. You could also do this with a radio or a broken toy. In the process, you would also learn something about the object and the underlying technology – even if you did not succeed in repairing it. 

A few generations ago, people built their own tools. They learned a craft and how to make stuff. These skill sets are disappearing at and alarming rate. This does not only apply to the traditional crafts, but even electronics. I was overjoyed when I first managed to blink the LEDs on the STK-500 and I’m not the only one. I think that the familiar sight of grown-ups glowing with pride after having made a LED blink, using an Arduino is an indication that something is fundamentally wrong. At the same time, it gives me hope, since technology again is opening up for tinkerers, hobbyists and those who are just curious.

Make Magazine has been a real catalyst in respect to bringing back the joy of making and of understanding how things work. I have bought every issue that has been released. 

Also at the faire will be Runa Bjørke, Ingrid Lonar, Jonas Asheim, and Evelina Bruno who will be bringing along a upscaled version of the well known Labyrinth-boardgame.

Their “LaBaL” is 5 m² (appox. 54 square feet) and is built mainly from plywood. Standing on a separate balance-board, that is programmed to control the movement on the labyrinth table, the goal is to lead a ball through a labyrinth without it falling into one of the many holes. The scores will be listed, and I’m guessing that queues will be forming.  

The LaBaL, with Runa (to the right) and Ingrid (to the left).

The LaBaL, with Runa (to the right) and Ingrid (to the left).

The table’s movement is controlled by an Arduino board connected to accelerometers and gyroscopes in the balance-board driving the table itself using a microstep driver and stepper motors, and it’s design was driven by a desire to  take technical “outside the box” — an interactive game based on technology without using screens or apps.

Runa had this to say about the maker community in Norway,

The DIY tradition has deep roots in Norwegian culture. It is said that necessity is the mother of invention, and for generations living off subsistence farming or fishing in a tough climate, this was all the more true. This mindset has given us concepts like “dugnad” — a tradition of hands-on community based problem solving.

DIY projects capture the spirit of design succinctly. They are responses to the first-hand needs of their inventors, they are often spontaneous and collaborative, and they are made using the tools and materials at hand.

The faire will close out with a live performance on Saturday night by Daniel Lacey-McDermott — better know as Captain Credible — who will be doing things with synths and musical instruments. 

We talked to the Captain ahead of this weekend’s faire and asked him about his work, and what he’ll be bringing to this year’s faire.

Tell us about what you’re bringing to Maker Faire Trondheim?

I’ll bring a prerelease version of my forthcoming EP titled “Dead Cats”. This EP is released as a printed circuit board that generates music on the fly.

Hosting an ATtiny85, a coin cell battery, a headphone jack, a few resistors and an LED. The first five tracks are downloadable using the provided download code, but the final track is generated using your download code as input into a “complicated” algorithm running on the ATtiny85. So the last track is unique for your copy of the EP  (also it is infinitely long so you can listen to it forever yay!) Because online streaming services won’t allow infinitely long songs or generative code, users of spotify and the likes will have to make do with a robotic voice reading the code contained on the ATtiny aloud. This is the first in a series of three EPs that will be released on “metronomicon audio” starting October 2015

I will also be bringing my latest generation of live instruments, a collection of tetrahedrons and cuboid midicontrollers in white semi-transparent laser-cut acrylic with built in RGB ledstrip feedback and musical visualization guaranteed to cause temporary blindness and epileptic fits. I will be polishing up some code at my stall, preparing them for the concert on Saturday. The “brains” are based on the ATmega328 which probably all your readers are familiar with from the Arduino. The Arduino IDE really has been of huge importance when it comes to learning electronics and microrontrollers.

Tell me about your background, have you always been a maker?

I am a musician and artist and make all my own instruments and tools. I have been composing and performing under the name “Captain Credible” for 7 years. I also make interactive sculptures and installations and recently finished a bachelor of fine arts at the Norwegian academy of fine arts. I have always tried to make a point of using homemade tools to express myself, but it was when I first started performing live electronic music that I really got into making things. I didn’t want to perform with a laptop and trackpad and I found it difficult to find commercial controllers and instruments that worked the way I wanted them to. I felt a need for real physical instruments of my own design with which to express myself. So I started building them. Most of what I made and still make is based on MIDI and computer software. Controllers, novel instruments and musical robots.

The Trondheim Maker Faire will be held in the in the Trondheim town square this weekend — on Friday 28th and Saturday 29th of August — between 10am and 4pm and will be free to attend. There will also be seminars, lectures, and other smaller events at other locations throughout the city.