Makers Beth and Dave have been tinkering at home for several years and we’ve invited them along to the Bristol Mini Maker Faire 2015 to showcase some of their work.
One project they will definitely be discussing is their latest make, Is Martin Running?, which aims to have their pet hamster tweet every time he runs on his wheel. Simple, funny and effective – like so many of our favourite makes!
We asked Beth to explain more about their work…
I guess the first question should be… Is Martin Running?
Not currently, no. Right now he’s asleep in his little house, dreaming about whatever it is hamsters dream about, probably sunflower seeds.
Can you introduce yourselves and tell us what you do when you’re not making?
Our names are Beth Cotterell and Dave Kimber. I am a science communicator and right now I work as part of the amazing Live Science Team in At-Bristol, Dave is a computer programmer who works for a software company right next door.
What is it that you make?
Dave and I like to build things that make our lives easier and our flat cooler. We have a voice-activated fire place (a screen wedged in the grate, hooked up to a netbook), which can either show a crackling blaze or a live feed from the International Space Station. The app controlling this screen can also show a graph comparing our weights, as a bit of friendly competition is a great incentive for us to get off the sofa.
We also build a lot of toys; we strip down any junk electronics that we find for parts and turn them into walking, flying, driving robots. We mainly use microcontrollers from the Arduino family to make our rough little creatures and our creations include a friendly, waving desk-buddy and a scared little mousey robot who runs away from movement and loud noises. Between us, we’ve had a go at blacksmithing, video game design, 3D printing and we’ve even made the occasional Android app.
How did you first get started?
Both of us have always loved dismantling electronic toys to see what makes them tick, and in some cases even putting them back together again. Ever since cheaply available microcontrollers like the Arduino appeared, and with them a huge online community of support for people who want to learn more, we’ve been able to turn our interest into a full-blown hobby and start to make our own creations from scratch. We bought some LEDs, servos and sensors, took a week off work and got our first few projects under our belts.
Tell us about a recent project?
We entered an antweight Robot Wars competition held at the University of Bristol this year with our circular saw-wielding robot, Buzz Killington. He weighed less than 150 grams, with an aluminium body, two speedy wheels and a deadly spinning blade at the front. We used a model aircraft motor which could spin up to 20,000 rotations per minute and deal out some serious damage to the other tiny robots! Unfortunately, we were so focused on mounting the blade on flat, that we ended up off-centre on the motor. When we turned on the blade to fight, he shook himself to bits before he could get stuck into the opponent!
What’s are your top 3 ‘makes’ of all time?
Cherry Bakewells, Roombas and the Hoover Dam!
What can people expect to find at a Maker Faire?
A giant show and tell. All the projects that have been hidden away in garages, basements and bedrooms will come blinking out into the light of day for everyone to enjoy. Many projects are just for fun with very little commercial potential, however some things on display you could be seeing in a few years time in the shops with a hefty price tag on!
And finally, can you give us a project we could start this evening…?
Make a Minecraft Creeper.
Get your biggest rectangular box and stick on some creeper-skin patterned paper. Draw the face on with black marker and cut out some feet from the flaps at the bottom. Now leave it in a prominent place and wait for a loved one to return home, or if its big enough, wait inside it and jump out hissing!
Thanks Beth & Dave! Can’t wait to hear all about Martin’s progress and much more this Saturday.