A maker presents laser cutting to visitors at Brighton Mini Maker Faire. Photo courtesy of Justin Pickard.
A maker presents laser cutting to visitors at Brighton Mini Maker Faire. Photo courtesy of Justin Pickard.

Brighton Mini Maker Faire 2014


09 June 2015

Programme Assistant Natalie Kane spent last weekend hanging out at Brighton Mini Maker Faire, where she ran into fighting robots, gunge and a rogue Dalek.

Radio Cryptography at Brighton Mini Maker Faire. Pictures courtesy of Justin Pickard.
Radio Cryptography at Brighton Mini Maker Faire. Pictures courtesy of Justin Pickard.

‘It’s a bit like magic isn’t it?’ ‘Well, it’s not exactly magic, it’s science, which is kind of magic in itself, right?’

I had spent a large portion of the day on Lighthouse Studio resident Coralie Gourguechon’s paper electronics stall, where I had been trained up by Coralie to talk about her beautiful paper speakers, which included explaining to many eager young people about how they actually worked. Hopefully I did them justice, and I’ll never forget the countless sets of wide-eyes as I played Prince’s ‘When Doves Cry’ through a sheet of A3.

Wandering around, I got the chance to see some of the best projects from makers across the country, including stalls to teach young people to solder, Gunge stations (If you remember Get Your Own Back), fighting robots, radio cryptography and building fixtures made from recycled bottles. Teaching to repair, not replace, restart Brighton promised to teach me how to fix my phone screen, which has seen since better days since falling from a building. It was great to see such a diversity of interests (from knitting a city to 3D printing) and people, with a lot of stalls centring on technology education, rather than just the whizz-bang-wow stuff.

I saw a couple arguing about the fact that their 12 year old daughter had accidentally discovered Minecraft at BMMF, and were worried that she’d waste her time playing the game. I might have butted in and talked a little about the advanced engineering, planning, and innovation skills that the game develops, so hopefully their daughter is now making their very own virtual Ancient Metropolis or Space Shuttle launch site. Or she’s grounded.

One of my favourite things wasn’t glittering with LEDs, or things talking or chasing after me (no matter how hard Alan the Dalek tried), my favourite was a simple, useful game for young people in schools, which teaches how to code in proper, sustainable ways.

Everyone Can Program, run by developer and educator Adam Martin, has created a unique system that teaches project management, problem solving and co-operative skills that are often missed out, or neglected, when it comes to learning how to programme. ECP’s system is incredibly simple, and easy to follow; it’s essentially a series of 3D printed tubes, marbles, and plastic switches with different outcomes which can be solved in different ways, depending on how you want to design your tube system. The system is behaviours based, not just a series of instructions.

Learning how to think in a system allows you to know where to look when things go wrong, or how to anticipate the problems ahead. There’s often a problem in engineering where you are taught to fix a local problem with an immediate solution, without thinking about the life that solution has ahead of it. At its worst, it can have grave consequences, such as in the case of Reteah Parsons, whose image was used for a Canadian dating site, months after her death. It’s refreshing to see this stance against solutionism in programming education, one that sees the system as an adaptable, changing network rather than a series of problems to fix.

All in all it was great, so a big congratulations to our Creative Producer Andrew Sleigh and his team, who managed to keep a Dalek under control, which we know can be a bit of a hassle at the best of times.


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