Maker Faire UK 2014

makerfaire uk

Well it was Thursday the 24th of March and while scanning our twitter feed I noticed that the UK Maker Faire was on in 2 days’ time, without further ado I bought a family ticket for the weekend, booked the last hotel room I could find in Newcastle (in what turned out to be the Stag and Hen night HQ of Britain – a good night’s sleep it was not) and booked the train tickets. My alarm went off at an ungodly hour and we were on the train for 07:11 (yawn). We rolled in to Newcastle Central at a respectable 09:33 and headed to the hotel to drop our bags off.

As we arrived at the Life Science centre we were met by a huge purple puppet / Robot called BinBot, which as the name suggests was made from bins, and she was busy singing and dancing around the square.

Turbo the Disco Turtle was cruising behind with a DJ wearing a snorkel playing ‘under the sea’.

As we walked do to the front door we avoided being run over by some children being peddled around in the Flycycle and the Submercycle, a clown in a clown car and a man cycling what looked like a seat slung between two penny farthing wheels. We then passed a Dragon and a mechanical RC horse – so nothing unusual there.

After getting through the doors we were met by a Dalek (well a few of them) made by the Northern Charity Daleks.


In a stall not so far, far away (sorry) were the Rebel Legion UK.

And then we were in the first of the halls, can you spot yourself?

And here are some of my highlights:

Agnes RoboKnit the scarf knitting Robot.


This was truly awesome, a mannequin robot that sits and knits scarves, she also has a habit of looking up at you and creeping the bejesus out of you. She was created by Andy Noyes and if you like you can check out her Facebook page.

DoES Liverpool

At this stand they had a very cool model railway which was controlled not only by a nice homemade controller but also via a web based app, simply by going to the URL you could start, stop, speed up, slow down and reverse the direction of the trains from anywhere with an internet connection. They also had the Bubblino which when someone tweeted #bubblino or #makerfaire_uk it would make pretty bubble!


Robot Arena –

This was loud and fun, my kids loved smashing each other’s robots in the Arena – took me back to watching Robot Wars back in the day.



They also has a disturbing looking Robot they made for the Gadget Show – it looked like they had cut Jason Bradbury’s head off and stuck it on a Robot waiters body.



Just add Sharks – Laser cutters

At this stand they make laser cutters and had some excellent examples of what you can create with them, have a wee look – the useless box was great, switch it on then it opens and a little finger switches it back off again.



BlinkStick is a USB-controlled smart pixel. It is an easy and fun way to build a notification light for your computer featuring a growing list of API implementations for programming languages and operating systems making it very easy to control.

It’s fully open source and designed to be both educational and practical.


And they also made a huge macro version of the board which was very, very cool.

They make low cost projects as an alternative to buying an Arduino, they are all made on a breadboard and are very easy put together, although they will sell the kits they also encourage you to source your own parts or use parts you have lying around. Check them out


You can see their PoV project in this rather unprofessionally taken picture (I’m not sure how to increase the exposure time).



UK Hackerspace foundation

A huge map showing all the hackerspaces in the UK still room for more I think.

I also met the dude from Oomlout and I got 4 key rings, yay!


I also said hello to the Kitronik guys where i saw there new e-textile cat kit which you can now pick up in our store



Soldering with Mitch Altman

My kids loved the soldering workshop with Mitch Altman and they got to keep their own flashing maker badges, I’ve not seen them so quiet for ages, which was nice.

Newcastle maker space

These guys had so many cool things it’s easier just to show some pictures:


Nottingham Hackerspace

Musical floppy drives, nuff said 🙂

and a very heavy tactile ‘thing’

 The National Museum of Computing

This stall was awesome, and now I must visit the actual museum, my wife has said so 🙂 here’s a few pictures:

10 PRINT "Thanks for reading"
20 GOTO 10

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Project Horizon – Beat Felix!

Welcome to the first article about Horizon’s new mission, ‘Beat Felix!’ Horizon is the near space programme at Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall. We are a team of pupils who build and launch autonomous probes into the region of the atmosphere known as ‘near space’ (20-100km above the Earth’s surface).

1Photo of the Isle of Wight taken at 32000m by the Go Pro Hero 2 onboard Horizon 2

Last year’s team launched the first two Horizon probes, carried the UK’s Space Mascot ‘CASSiE’ on her first high altitude flight (more about her later!), set the 44th Highest World Amateur Altitude and brought back footage of the journey through the blue, familiar Troposphere and out into the cold black void of the Stratosphere.
Inspired by last year’s ‘Near Space Jump’ we plan to beat the altitude achieved by Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos Team and go after a top ten position in the Amateur World Altitude Records. Roy Fisher and the team at have generously offered their support for our programme’s goals and we’re really looking forward to working with them to bring you the inside story on the project and its progress.

We have three launches planned this year; early May, late June and early July. The first launch will be a training mission as we find our feet. Our first launch will be ‘Horizon 3’ (a working title until we come up with a better name for it), a light weight, energy efficient version of last year’s probe.

2Horizon 1 ready for launch – From left to right: The payload box, pre-deployed parachute and weather balloon

The probe will be carried under a pre-deployed parachute which will be attached to a helium filled weather balloon. It will contain:
–    a flight computer which will transmit the probe’s location back to Earth using a radio signal;
–    a sensor array which will record temperature inside and outside of the probe, relative humidity and atmospheric pressure;
–    a back-up tracker in the form of a small smartphone which can be commanded to  send its exact location back by text message;
–    a GoPro Hero 2 video camera to capture in-flight footage.
By visiting our webpage you’ll be able to track the probe’s location throughout the flight and hopefully watch the launch live on ‘Horizon TV’.

The first Flight Computer built by the Horizon Team undergoing testing

Horizon 4 and 5 (again, working titles) are out record attempts and will launch in June and July. These probes will be even lighter than Horizon 3, weighing just a couple of hundred grams. They will be attached to Hydrogen filled weather balloons. Hydrogen provides greater lift than Helium but is more volatile and so we have the gas experts from BOC Gases UK helping us design new filling equipment and write new safety procedures. The probes will carry a light-weight flight computer so that we can track them throughout their flight. They should achieve an even greater altitude than Horizon 3 but we will probably have to travel much further to retrieve them.

The Earth’s atmosphere is made up of several distinct layers. The first layer is the Troposphere. This is our blue breathable atmosphere; it contains most of the world’s moisture and varies in thickness from 10km at the poles to 17km at the equator. Commercial aircraft fly in this region at between 9 and 12km in altitude.

4Photograph of a plane over West Berkshire, taken by the automated camera on Horizon 2.
The Troposphere transitions into the Stratosphere which is black, very thin (almost negligible pressure) and has a background of cosmic radiation level approximately a hundred times that at sea level. The Stratosphere runs from the top of the Troposphere to 50km above sea level and contains the Ozone Layer which prevents an intense flux of ultraviolet radiation from reaching the surface of Earth.

Project Horizon was founded in February 2012 by a mathematics teacher at Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall. He originally intended to recruit a small team to build an autonomous probe and fly it into the Stratosphere using a weather balloon filled with Helium. The pupils’ response to the project was overwhelming and it quickly became clear that the project could have much greater scope. Instead of just one launch he decided to set up a near space program capable of carrying out launches every year. Pupils were recruited into four teams:
–    Publicity and Sponsorship
–    General Engineering and Radio
–    Electrical Engineering
–    ICT and Media

5The Horizon Team preparing for the launch of Horizon 1
The four teams worked together to plan, design and build the different aspects of the project. The pupils also setup a live online video feed for launch days dubbed ‘Horizon TV’. A bigger project required wider goals and Horizon now aims to:
–    develop a reusable launch platform that could make regular trips into the Stratosphere (30-40km above the Earth’s Surface and far beyond the safe blue breathable atmosphere).
–    provide a rich STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) activity at the school which was accessible to the pupils and ran on a shoe-string budget.
–    inspire pupils at the school to take an early interest in Space science, the UK Space Industry , STEM subjects and activities.
–    forge links between the school and engineering/technology firms in order to broaden the pupils’ aspirations and discover exciting new opportunities for them.
A fresh team are recruited and trained each year and each team has their own mission and adds their own touch to the programme. Horizon also enjoys the support of the UK’s Space Mascot ‘CASSiE’ and her creator Vix Southgate.

6CASSIE- The UK Space Mascot (mini version)

To find out more about CASSiE and her adventures please head over to her blog ( or her facebook page (

We hope this initial article has piqued your interest. To learn more about the project’s past, head on over to our website ( We’ll be writing more articles for the blog as the project develops and you can get the very latest news from the project’s twitter feed (

7The new Horizon Team working on ‘Beat Felix!’

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Open Source, Prototyping and DIY technology

We are definitely finding that going from project concept to a finished product is becoming much more accessible to new starts.

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Arduino Tutorial – Episode 1

An introduction to the Arduino, and an overview of how to install the IDE (Programming Environment) & Drivers.

This is the first in our Arduino Tutorial series – Over the next few episodes we will cover electronics basics, and programming the arduino to interact with buttons, LEDs, relays and other fun stuff.

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The Rolls Royce of Arduino Controlled Model Railway Turntable Controller

Roy builds a custom controller for a customer, as usual in Roy’s eyes, a simple controller with switches to locate the alignment, Roy built a programmable controller, with seven push buttons, each with an led, and a stepper motor driver, as well as a potentiometer and a rotary encoder. As the Arduino Pro Micro does not have enough in/out pins to do all of this, Roy used a Resistor Ladder to read the Push buttons, this used 1 input instead of 7.

The Rotary encoder is used when programming the unit, while the potentiometer is used to set the speed of rotation of the potentiometer.

To learn more goto our site.


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Adafruit 1141 Data Logging Shield

Drew tells us about the Adafruit 1141 Data Logging Shield.
Proto-PIC is an authorised Adafruit distributor in the UK.

Check out the Proto-PIC range of Adafruit Products here:

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Adafruit 746 Ultimate GPS Breakout Board.

Drew tells us about the Adafruit 746 Ultimate GPS Breakout Board.
Proto-PIC is an authorised Adafruit distributor in the UK.

Check out the Proto-PIC range of Adafruit Products


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