Breaking, tinkering and making at Makerfaire UK, Newcastle

Breaking, tinkering and making at Makerfaire UK, Newcastle


As a kid growing up I spent as much time as I could with my Granddad in his workshop. Granddad was a craftsman, an engineer and a fixer. His workshop was a magical place packed with tools, hardware and the skeletons of broken electrical, electronic and mechanical products. Nothing was ever thrown away because it might be useful. We fixed vacuum cleaners, built go-karts, made basic circuits and built things from wood. I learnt the practical craft and life skills that don’t appear on a school curriculum.

We’ve got a workshop at home that is almost a replica of my Granddad's and now it’s me that is attempting to inspire my children and pass on skills such as fixing rawl plugs, making basic wood joints, rewiring plugs and soldering electrical circuits.

Granddad would have loved Makerfaire, a community that celebrates arts, crafts, engineering, science and the do-it-yourself mindset. It captures his spirit and energy.

Dan, aged-6 and myself, aged-43, headed to the Centre for Life in Newcastle yesterday to meet up with hundreds of makers at the Newcastle Makerfaire UK event.

Here are some of the highlights of our day.

3D printing was the talk of the show. The promise is that in the future we’ll be able to order products online and manufacture them on our 3D printers at home.

Dan is a big fan of Mindcraft, the 3D online game and so the chance to print out physical models of his virtual designs on the printcraft stand seemed magical. Unsurprisingly the stand was crowded and unfortunately we never got the opportunity,


There was plenty of opportunity to pick-up a soldering iron. We built a set of electronic bagpipes thanks to MadLabs, the Manchester digital laboratory, and brought home a digital watch to build from Spikenzie Labs.


Sarah Blood is a Newcastle-based artist that works in glass. She had a furnace burning and was handcrafting lighting tubes. We’re going to check out her studio on the Ouseburn at a later date.


We loved PancakeBot, a 3D printer of sorts that prints pancakes onto a hot plate. It consists of a lego-rig that is fixed to a computer and ‘prints’ a pancake batter design. We’re already thinking about how we could do something similar.


And if you’re going to print pancakes, you need to print maple syrup as well. Here's the maple syrup-bot.


We jumped at the chance to play Robot Wars. Who wouldn’t? There were also dancing robots, robot dogs, painting robot arms, dragon robots, and a prototype of the next Mars Lander.


I came face-to-face with my past on the Museum of Computing stand and got the chance to tinker with a BBC Micro. Dan didn’t think much of the games and wanted to know how you connected it to the Internet.


We took part in the Dr Brian Degger’s Microbe Kisses project. His goal is to make science accessible. We each kissed an alga dish (made from readily available ingredients) and await the results on the Microbe Kisses’ Tumblr blog to see how the bacteria we left behind has developed in an incubator overnight.

It was a really inspiring day. A huge thanks to all the makers that made it possible. We loved it and my Granddad would have too.

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