I'm so incredibly jealous. Lady Ada over at AdaFruit Industries has all these great toys to play and experiment with, and she's figured out how to do it while enriching all of our hacker lives and making a little money to find more great stuff.
The 'toy' that triggered this post for me is some conductive rubber stretch cord that acts as a sensor. It's like being able to pull on the end of a resistor and have it's characteristics change linearly as it gets longer and shorter. Way cool! And it is incredibly cheap. She's priced it at less than ten dollars for a full meter and even includes a pair of alligator clips and a 10k resistor. Science teachers, for example, could dice it up and have enough for each student to have a piece for experiments.
The only drawback that I can see is that the sensor takes a little while to recover after being stretched, though I guess that could be compensated for in some applications by using two sensors in opposition.
As usual, the AdaFruit website has a great related tutorial page so you can learn while having fun.
One of the great things about publishing a popular technology blog is that people frequently contact me about fantastic events and conferences that I would really love to attend. Unfortunately, since I happen to live and work in Japan and have finite budget, getting to many of the events is out of the question.
The most recent 'Darn I Really Want to Go" moment was when I received notification of the Art && Code 3D conference scheduled for late October at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh - a hotbed of robot development, research, and creativity:
ART && CODE: DIY 3D Sensing and Visualization (#artandcode) is a festival and conference concerned with the artistic, technical, tactical and cultural potentials of low-cost 3D scanning devices — especially, but not exclusively, including the revolutionary Microsoft Kinect sensor. This highly interdisciplinary event will bring together, for the first time, tinkerers and hackers, computational artists and designers, professional game developers, and leading researchers in the fields of computer vision, robotics and human-computer interaction. Half maker’s festival, half academic symposium, ART && CODE will take place October 21-23 at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and will feature:
- Hands-on workshops in programming interactive software with low-cost depth cameras, such as the Kinect;
- Live demonstrations and speed presentations of interactive experiences made with the Kinect;
- Lecture presentations by leading international artists, designers and researchers;
- Social events that mix independents, corporates, and academic researchers;
- An evening of immersive audiovisual performances; and
- An unconference with topics selected by you!
(Via Art && Code 3D » Presenters.)
Michael Overstreet has been a good and respected friend since the first time we hooked up several years ago at RoboGames in California. So, I hope he doesn't mind if I make some frank, and well deserved, comments.
When we first met Michael seemed like a typical robot geek, very talented with lots of expertise, but a bit shy and withdrawn. You really had to push him to get him to tell you what he thought. I'm sure he had lots of valuable and useful things to share, but they didn't flow easily.
Over the years, with experience, learning, and success, Michael has really blossomed and come out of his shell. He's become a key member of the Cowtown Computer Congress - Kansas City's leading hackerspace, a frequent exhibitor and participant in Maker Faire events all over the US, and a strong proponent of the DARwin-OP humanoid robot platform.
My personal fascination with electronics and technology started at a very early age when Santa brought a simple electronics experimenter kit one Christmas Eve. All the components were laid out on a board and each one had small wire springs for terminal contacts. The instruction book included diagrams showing how to hook up the wires to complete each circuit.
I can't remember all of the experiments exactly, but I do know there was a switch triggered burglar alarm, some light circuits, and a crystal radio, among others. The 'radio' used a rough crystal with a cat's whisker probe with no application. Luckily we were living in Southern California at the time with at least one 50,000 watt broadcast radio station that I could pick up.
I was very intrigued, and pleased, to discover Andrew Alter, a leading humanoid robot designer, Mech Warfare organizer, and RoboGames champion, explaining the Electronic Brick Starter Kit, since it shows that the same basic approach is still very much in use today.
’Old Electronics Kit Concept Made New (Video)’ continues
If I had no budgetary and time constraints it would be fantastic to jaunt around the world experiencing all the fantastic technology, robot and science exhibitions I could find. Number one on my personal wish list, at least at the moment, would be the Ars Electronica Festival, scheduled for August 31st through September 6th, in Linz, Austria.
The long running festival goes back to September, 1979 when it was originally staged as a "pilot project was designed to take the Digital Revolution’s emergence as an occasion to face important questions about the future and to focus these inquiries on the nexus of ART, TECHNOLOGY and SOCIETY."
I can't be exactly sure what Michael Overstreet and his gang of fellow makers are up to in Kansas City, but whatever it is, it sure looks like fun. They have turtle shell racers that appear to be remote controlled from the operators smartphones, that look just as if they jumped right off the screen out of a Mario Bros video game adventure.