Monthly Archives: July 2012

Jolyonophone – Music from Science!

Ever heard of “Jolyonophone”? It is okay if you have not heard of it before, but come to the Singapore Mini Maker Faire 2012 on 4 & 5 Aug to see the real thing! Meanwhile, check out this photo for a preview!

Jolyonophone

What is a “Jolyonophone”?

A “Jolyonophone” is a self-sustaining two-string slide guitar with a water-pipe theme (see above picture). It is named after its inventor Jolyon Caplin.

The gadget was also used during the opening ceremony of the Gardens by the Bay recently!

 About the Maker

 Jolyon Caplin has been teaching, inventing and entertaining in Singapore for 24 years. During the day, Jolyon is located in Singapore Polytechnic. At other times, he plays with music, electronics, unicycles (wow!) and keeps trying out ideas and technical twists at home or in his unusual laboratory.

He shared that his work is also his hobby, and he has always loved seeing how things work and are made. Although he is officially an electronics guy, Jolyon expressed that he is wildly interested in everything from MRT construction to buildings, road structure, cars, several aspects of the Arts, etc.

At 10 years old, he made his first projects of cardboard box theatres with coloured lighting, and moved on to make light flashers, simple radios and other things from “junk” that people passed down to him and bits and pieces from the neighbourhood hardware shops or $2 stores. Usually, these items will be used in ways different from what they were intended to be. For example, the Jolyonophone was initially meant to demonstrate to school children how an electric guitar works, but he ended up adding automatic motors to make it play by itself!

Besides “Jolyonophone”, Jolyon will also be showcasing the “Ped-accompaniment” foot-controlled, chord-based backing themes for a street performer, a “Whirly-horn” shower-hose, water-funnel horn for fun music-making and more. Jolyon has also kindly agreed to demonstrate some performances at intervals. You should watch out for them!

On the Singapore Maker Scene

When asked about the Singapore Maker Scene, Jolyon said that groups like Hackerspace.sg collect quite a few like-minded people –many of whom are also fabulous at programming weird and wonderful systems – though not all are as crazy about manipulating electronics / anything-onics as he is!  He felt that most Singaporeans enjoy the activities of watching TV, surfing the internet, or playing destructive shoot-‘em-up games – leaving them with no time left to get practical! He opined that getting them to make things would be challenging, though he is still keen to do so.

Advice for budding Makers

Like many other Makers, Jolyon has a simple piece of advice to budding Makers:- Make time to tinker!

It is very true indeed, as most people would need the push to get started, so if you are thinking of trying your hands at something that had inspired your creative juice, please heed Jolyon’s advice and wait no further. Gather the materials and start putting them together now!

Jolyon added that it is important to enjoy what you do, not to try too hard or be too exact, and be ready to adapt ideas, and you may be surprised how good you can be!

If you do not wish to miss out on such interesting musical demonstrations, join us at the Singapore Mini Maker Faire 2012 next weekend at the Science Centre Singapore.

Student makers – A source of inspiration for peers

I was totally impressed by these two Secondary 4 students.

Fabian and Anton might look just like any other typical Singaporean students on the streets, but their curiousity and aspirations have brought them beyond academic pursuits, to explore how to improve things. I think they have set exemplary examples to their peers that if you set your mind to do something, nothing will be too difficult!

Check out this video which they had taken to document the process of their project, the challenges they faced and how they overcame them.

Their project

So, as you could see from the video, Fabian and Anton will be showcasing a modified AR.Drone, a remote-controlled quadcopter made by Parrot. They felt that the AR.Drone is a fascinating product and an engineering achievement, though limited by some issues such as its battery life and weight. Fabian and Anton aimed to solve these problems to open the platform up to many more uses.

They will also showcase a device called the Makey-Makey, originally showcased at the Maker Faire in the United States. This device can turn literally anything into a functioning keyboard.

If you have seen any video on how the Makey-Makey works, you will probably be as excited as me right now. Google Makey-Makey online and you will have a better idea what it is, or if not, just come for the Singapore Mini Maker Faire 2012. Fabian informed us through our email interview that this is believed to be the only set in Singapore as of now! Their mentor from Intel Mobile Communications, Mr Kwok Lih, was the one who got it for them.

About Fabian and Anton

They are Secondary 4 students from Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) and according to them, they specialise in mobile microarchitecture design and modification (e.g. desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones). I am not sure how you feel right now, but when I first read those words from our email interview, I felt a sense of admiration. I suspect it is uncommon for students of this age to confidently use the words “specialise”, not to mention to use them on complicated subjects. I sincerely admire them for their confidence and am looking forward to meet them!

The two of them have recently started to explore the field of (reverse) engineering, starting with the Arduino and Parrot AR.Drone.

Maker Faire

When asked if they have heard of the Maker Faire before this, Fabian and Anton shared that they have heard of it from their Intel mentor, Mr Kwok who took part in the San Francisco Maker Faire this June and felt that the projects are eye-opening. Hence, they are excited that it is coming to Singapore!

Challenges they faced

As mentioned earlier, things will never be too difficult when you set your mind to do it. I suppose the driving force behind Fabian and Anton was their passion. Their teacher, Mrs Eileen Tan-Tay, testified to this statement. She shared that Anton and Fabian are a source of inspiration for both teachers and students, and that it is difficult nowadays to come across students who are intrinsically motivated so it has been her great pleasure to be given the opportunity to work with them.

From their video above, as well as another video here, we learnt that they faced various challenges along the way but they have faced them undeterred. Of course, they are also blessed with the support from school with funding, the availability of facilities and supportive teachers, whom according to Fabian and Anton had persevered with them through their “numerous jokes, pranks, our general uncooperativeness”. I guess joy and sweat almost always come together in a package.

Fabian and Anton also humbly acknowledged the support from various sponsors and institutes, which they felt made their project possible, and the support from another group of students who worked on the Ardrone using the Labview software by National Instruments.

Their words of advice

Fabian and Anton are of view that making should be expanded and seen as a hobby that is as useful as a formal education. They feel that making is highly underrated as an experience or hobby here -many people have not discovered the benefits and intellectual stimulation from inventing. They advocate less studying and more making. They believe that if the rigid education mindset of Singaporeans could be changed, the Maker scene here could truly flourish.

One final word from the two inspiring boys – Never give up on what you truly like to do.

Make your own portable handphone microscope

Next in line, the Singapore Mini Maker Faire 2012 would like to introduce another workshop “Make your own portable handphone microscope”.

In this workshop, participants will be presented with a number of simple and cheap lens-bearing tools such as door-viewers and loupe, as well as small mirrors, LED torch lights, etc. Some of these could be taken apart and put together to create a new optical toy. According to the workshop facilitators, the main goal of this workshop is to create a microscope that could be easily fixed to your handphone. There will be handphones and webcams for use at the workshop but participants are strongly encouraged to bring your own camera phones that you would like to transform as you will be able to take your device home.

Food for thought: – How much can we enlarge our image? How good is the image? How do we use light? If the magnification is big, how do we hold the microscope?

Camera microscope

So, who are the brains behind this workshop?

There are a total of three persons behind this workshop:- Isabelle Desjeux, Marlou Jasmin Madrio and Leonardus Adi Prasetya Suherlan. Interestingly, the three of them got to know each other only during the briefing session for the Singapore Mini Maker Faire 2012 and the idea to conduct this combined workshop came out of this session! Leonardus even shared a pretty animated (though short) account of how it happened. :P

About Isabelle Desjeux

Isabelle Desjeux: artist (Masters in Fine Arts), scientist (PhD in Molecular Biology) and arts educator (Isadora’s Workshop).

Isabelle is a full-time artist whose art deals with the reality of working in a lab, blurring the boundary between the two fields. In her spare time, Isabelle also runs an art workshop that teaches kids to draw realistically, and observe the world around them. Her ultimate goal is to make children naturally enquire and ask questions.  

What inspired her?

Isabelle was exploring making portable microscopes for her new “Art and Science” space (L ‘Observatoire) and found that there are many things that one could learn from playing with lenses and cheap cameras. Hence, she thought it would be fun for children to have a go at making their own microscopes too! Besides making microscopes, she is also exploring projecting the images for participants to be able to share what they see down the microscope, in a simple and affordable manner. With the recent craze about the transit of Venus, she also started playing around with lucida-type of camera devices to explore better way of seeing and recording the world around us.

Her word of advice

For makers, Isabelle advised that it is good to be ready to adapt any “recipe” you find according to what you have. She found it useful to seek resources from the internet, to find other people who might have the solution to your question, and improvise from there.

For “teachers”, Isabelle felt that one need not give specific instructions. On the other hand, she felt that it would be better to present your “students” with an open problem, some materials and tools. She highlighted the importance to be open about the outcome, and not to be fixated at getting a specific end-product. That way, people have the necessary “play space” and “play time” to come up with interesting stuffs!

On the maker scene in Singapore, Isabelle encourages everyone to keep an open eye on what people throw away as there is always a way to transform what other people do not want!

What’s next?

Isabelle shared that this workshop will probably be incorporated into the activities for her new “Art and Science” space, where tinkering will happen once a month.

About Marlou Jasmin Madrio

Marlou (better known as Marl) is a Systems Engineer working for NCS Pte Ltd, and had a myriad of career experience before moving to Singapore.

What inspired him?

Marl’s account of his life is a testimonial to his in-born maker spirit. Like Ken, the previous maker we introduced, Marl attributed his building passion to the encouragement of his father, whom he proudly shared was a talented automotive mechanic.

Marl reminisced fondly about his High School days when he built things when he couldn’t afford one. In Secondary School, Marl was already an electronics hobbyist. It was then when he already built his first Stereo Audio Power Amplifier which gave him and his family years of enjoyment. He also recalled his College days when he had the time of his life building a Jalopy of a Race Car which was a thrill to drive in. It also brought him fond memories of his late father building this car with him and attending races with him.

Making things in Singapore

In Singapore, he is avidly pursuing IT and open source.

Last year, he built a Lab Bench Power Supply for the Arduino, Phidgets and Beaglebone microcontroller platform. He also has an Arduino Mega microcontroller which he intended to use to build a trans esterification system for converting waste vegetable oil to bio-diesel because he love working on cars.

Marl also shared that he would like to start a “HomeBrew Club” in Singapore one day.

However, Marl said he had recently sidetracked to IT innovations both for his personal pursuits and for his work. For example, he is keen on Internet of Things (IoT) where everyday devices meet internet connectivity. He cited the example of modifying a washing machine to recover grey water which could then be used for flushing the toilet and to make the machine tweet you “your wash is done, Sir”. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

However, because he is pursuing these as a hobby, finances would be a hindrance. Marl wish to eventually own his own lab or workshop, which I guess would be the dream of most Makers.

His word of advice

Marl’s sense is that there is not much Maker culture here in Singapore. He is saddened by the fact that youths he met have no interest in making (including those who were taking Design & Technology programme) despite having access to tools and machineries.

Marl would like to advise all budding Makers to pursue their hobby with passion and a purpose. He felt that if a hobby can help to make this world a better place, it would be good for everyone.

Read more about Marl here.

About Leonardus Adi Prasetya Suherlan

Leo is an NUS Electrical Engineering student from Indonesia. His favourite tools are penknives and cellotapes (which he said can fix half of the problems around the block :P).

What inspired him?

Leo mentioned that he was inspired to do DIY work from his frequent trips to his Uncle’s place where he would be invited to build stuffs, from a telescope to a wooden gun to a clock that ran backwards. He grew up with the belief that one can make anything that one can imagine.

Leo joined the Mini Maker Faire with the intention to meet other Makers. He felt that since he shifted to Singapore, he had not been making. Hence, he seemed pleased to share that NUS has now started a Tinkering Club for student makers to meet, discuss and help each other with their projects.

Leo felt that there are many creative people in Singapore but there are not much platforms for these people to showcase their work. He felt there could be more competitions or Maker Faires to facilitate the Maker movement.

His word of advice

Leo’s word of advice to other budding Makers is to just start making. He suggested the website http://www.instructables.com for those with less confidence.

Isabelle, Marl and Leo are all looking forward to see the first Singapore Mini Maker Faire and meet other Makers.You may also check out Isabelle’s blog which also talked about the workshop. The workshop is chargeable at a fee of $5 per participant, payable on the spot as you register for the workshop. There are limited places for up to 10 participants for each day, so do register early when you are there!

Are you up to her Challenge?

Evon Tay, a graphic designer who has just graduated from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) School of Art, Design and Media started a DIY Lifestyle Challenge as her final year project. But even after graduation, Evon has not put the project to rest. Find out why.

Evon Tay

About DIY Lifestyle Challenge

DIY Lifestyle Challenge is a project looking at a series of alternative and sustainable lifestyle choices that urban dwellers can do on a daily basis.

Evon hopes to encourage people to be mindful and take responsibility about the way we live, and to cultivate a culture of self-reliance and creativity, so that our city can become greener, more vibrant and awesome.

She shared that she observed how Singaporeans live in a capitalistic and consumption-driven city, where people slog long hours to earn money, but eventually splurge them away by buying stuffs (that they might not necessarily need) in the name of “retail therapy”. To Evon, this is a vicious cycle which is both wasteful and depressing. Hence, she wanted to introduce an alternative way of living.

She started this project about a year ago and she hopes to be able to continue doing it for as long as she can, and that more Singaporeans can join in the fun and be part of a growing DIY community in Singapore.

The project has a website and a Facebook page.

More about Evon

Evon shared that she started making things purely because she did not have much money to buy things. She shared that whenever her best friends had their birthdays, she would jokingly make a paper mache version of whatever expensive items on their wishlist. The habit had since grown on her and she realised she enjoyed doing it as there is a satisfaction of seeing simple everyday materials being transformed into something cool/weird/funny.

Her view on the Maker scene in Singapore

Evon felt that there is a recent revival of appreciation for artisanal handcrafted work in general but she was not sure if that translates to an increase in the trend to make things. She felt that Singaporeans are practical people who would not like to waste time on things which they deemed to be not “productive” or useful. Making things from scratch is unfortunately one of them. She felt that in Singapore, the focus in life had always been on academic success, so making things or other creative activity would only be counted as a hobby. She felt this should be relooked at.

Her advice

To budding Makers, her word of advice is to keep learning and experimenting with new techniques and materials, and if the by-products turn out wrong, they could always be given away in the next Secret Santa gift exchange. Hohoho…

[Evon invites contributions and collaborations from anyone who wants their stuffs to be seen in the next issue of her zine, Adventures in DIY #2. If you are interested, email to hello@DIY-lifestyle.org. Do not forget to catch Evon at her Singapore Mini Maker Faire 2012 booth on 4 & 5 August and her presentation on 5 August. She would be showcasing her zines, hand-printed linocut stickers, hand-sewn and silkscreened bags and more!]

Do you know what is IKEA hacking?

Jules Ikeahacker – Yes, you are right. This is someone who hacks IKEA stuffs.

Singapore Mini Maker Faire 2012 is proud to introduce this exciting presentation that will take place on 4 Aug 2012. This is also her first live presentation on the topic of IKEA hacking.

Who is Jules Ikeahacker?

We were quite amused that she goes by Jules. Jules is the name of one of IKEA’s chair series. She said she chose it on a whim, when browsing through an IKEA catalogue and visualising herself sitting on an IKEA Jules Chair blogging (though she apparently didn’t have one!).

Jules Ikeahacker

 On a more serious note, we learnt that Jules is a copywriter from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As per our request, she sent us a photo for this blog. [What a contrast. I actually had a visual of Mr Phua Chu Kang (well-known local sitcom character – a building contractor with bright yellow boots) before this. Oh well, I blame the influence of local television programmes.]

How did she get started and what inspired her?

Jules started IKEAHackers.net (http://www.ikeahackers.net) in 2006, an act inspired from her internet finds of a few IKEA hacks while surfing for ideas for her apartment. She was intrigued and elated to be able to find these resources and decided to create a portal to gather all these ideas together. To date, she has posted over 3,000 hacks! Do check out the photos at her website.

 About the Maker Culture

Jules is of the opinion that there are still room to grow for the Maker culture in her country, but observed that there had been growth in the interest and trend among some Makers towards modifying their IKEA buys. She was excited to be part of the Singapore Mini Maker Faire to meet other Makers and IKEA Hackers, to get the word out and to inspire people to see the potential in their Billy bookshelves and Pax wardrobes and not settle for the same-as-everyone-else-IKEA.

Jules joked that one way to encourage people to make things would be to give people less money, but she felt there is a shade of truth in it because necessity is the mother of invention. She felt that the Faire would be a good start to encourage the Maker culture, or there could be regular small Maker groups to brainstorm and share stuffs they have made to keep the fire going. She pondered over possibilities of having common spaces at residential areas so that they could bring their stuffs over to tinker and DIY.

How about you? What do you think could improve the Maker culture in your country?

What is a tangible programming toolkit?

Kan Tai-Wei – New media art researcher cum artist. Research Intern at the NUS Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Lab. PhD student at the Mobile Phone and HCI Research Lab at the National Taiwan University.

Kan Tai-wei with his prototypes

We met Tai-wei briefly at the NUS-HCI Lab where he explained to us the project that his team was working on. He also showed us the few prototypes the team had came up with. So, what is the purpose of their project and who is it made for?

 Read on to find out more about the “Tangible Programming Toolkit” that his project team at NUS-HCI Lab is working on.

Close-up shots of the prototypes

Tai-wei’s team comrprises Professor Zhao Shengdong and four research members (Tai-wei, Chuan Leng Li, Yong Leong Kin, Zhou Biyan).

According to Tai-wei, the toolkit was designed with the intention to help street artists include interactive components into their artwork.

There will be an INPUT component which can detect physical quantity from environment with sensors such as IR sensor, light sensor, range finder, and an OUTPUT component which will provide feedback based on the users’ interactions with the device.

For example, a Light Emitting Diode (LED) will give visual feedback while a speaker will facilitate audio feedback. The purpose of the device is to create a user-friendly graphic user interface for street artists.

 A glimpse into Tai-Wei’s background might give a better appreciation of why he is working on this research project. Tai-wei is a designer of electronic arts which have been exhibited at several international events. More information on Tai-Wei could be found at his website.

 Although Tai-wei had initiated for this project to be showcased at the Singapore Mini Maker Faire, he might have to return to Taiwan during that period.

Nonetheless, we are still looking forward to see this toolkit. Hope you can join us then as well.

About Adrian Koh and “Art and Kits”

Adrian Koh

Our next Maker, Adrian Koh, is an engineer in the factory automation sector who recently discovered the joy of incorporating art into his electronic toys, despite his disdain for art during his school days.

At his Singapore Mini Maker Faire 2012 booth “Art and Kits”, Adrian will showcase interesting artistic projects made with electronic stuffs and off-the-shelf DIY kits.  

How his passion grew

Adrian shared that he has always been fascinated by visual display using lights.

Through our interview, Adrian revealed that the growth of his passion for electronics could be traced to an electronic kit making class that he attended at the Science Centre Singapore in 1986. He was only in Primary 6.

Adrian’s workspace

Since then, electronics became both his hobby and his study discipline. During his Polytechnic Final Year Project, he created a 96 by 96 LED matrix board to display graphics via a self developed PC software.

Three years ago, his hobby moved to the next level when his cousin in the advertising line invited him to use his electronics knowledge to create some visual displays for his client.

PIC micro-controller that can create light animation effects

The PIC micro-controller art piece shown in the picture above is Adrian’s pride. He shared that the PIC was used popularly by hobbyists before Arduino came along. The LED bars can be lighted up speedily column by column and the intensity can make it appear like a full screen displaying an animation. Adrian had plotted the animation graphics on an excel sheet which was subsequently converted to meaningful data for the PIC micro-controller, an activity which he strongly advocated for the training of both the left and right brain. To Adrian, there is a great sense of satisfaction doing this despite it being mind-boggling as well!

While he pursues this passion largely on his own, he has a friend who shared the same interest. That is the same friend who introduced Adrian to take part in the Singapore Mini Maker Faire, so that they can promote the learning of electronics via DIY kits.

Fun with Arduino

Besides the PIC micro-controller, Adrian also plays with the Arduino. His first project was a 1-minute count-down device to allow his niece and nephew to monitor the time when playing games! Isn’t that cool?

1-minute count-down device

It turns out that Adrian also try to cultivate the interest of his niece and nephew in electronics by getting their help with simple tasks such as placing of components and even simple soldering of some of the DIY kits he puts together. Adrian’s niece and nephew must be the envy of many. Not many Singaporean children have the chance to have customised toys, not to mention having the chance to make them!

 Adrian’s belief

 According to Adrian, relearning art gave him a new perspective to things. Contrary to his early belief, he now feels that it is equally important to develop the left and right brain, to allow creative thinking to dream and create ideas and to develop logical thinking to plan and execute those ideas. With this, Adrian began to put together hobby kits to help people develop themselves in these two aspects.

Check out Adrian’s booth if you would like to find out more about his projects and his hobby kits.

Make Your Own Electronic Gadgets

“Wouldn’t it be great if I could create and make my own electronic gadgets.”

If the above thought has ever crossed your mind, visit Wai Him’s booth and experience for yourself how you can translate that dream into reality. It is easy to get the Arduino hardware, download and setup the necessary software on a computer and start tinkering. You could be the next great inventor. Take that ‘One small step’ and make your way to his booth. It might just turn out to be a ‘Giant leap’. (for better or worse…)

 About Him

Wai Him is a hobbyist who has been interested in electronics since secondary school. In those days, he built his own electronic gadgets to give his class-mates harmless electric shocks or make simple blinking bulb circuits (flip-flop) out of curiosity.

His other hobbies include building and flying remote-control (RC) aircrafts as well as building and programming robots.

Wai Him’s workspace

These hobbies involves electrical, electronics and mechanical parts. His work space at home resembles a mini-workshop with tools and  parts and lots of drawers.

Coupled with an interest in these ‘technology hobbies’ and being the father of two sons, he looks for interesting way to share concepts of maths, science and technology with them so that they don’t merely see the topics as curriculum that are to be learned in school for passing examinations but as an integral part of daily lives.

He wishes to share, support and promote the Maker movement in the hope that more people will become interested in technology and in turn would be motivated to ‘Learn rather than to be Taught’.

His view on The Maker Movement

Advancement in electronics has lead to a reduction in the cost and size of electronic devices. The open source movement and the Maker movement coupled with the internet has resulted in ease, convenience and relative low-cost for the average person to create and make ‘stuff’ as a hobby.

Unfortunately information overload makes it difficult for the average person, especially those not familiar with electronics, to take the first step in building their own electronic gadget. Wai Him will be showing what is needed to start ‘playing’ with the Arduino platform from scratch and how to progress to make your own gadgets. He hopes that the presence of the physical items as well as someone to demonstrate and share right in front of your very own eyes would motivate you to start on your own journey of discovery.

A Glimpse of the Possibilities

Arduino Circuit boards

The Arduino circuit board comes in various shapes and sizes to perform different functions. Some of the Arduino boards are as shown.

The Arduino can be used as the ‘brain’ of a simple robot like the one shown.

Arduino Robot

This robot is capable of detecting the presence or absence of a (Black) line and would follow or ‘track’ the line as it moves forward.

The robot consists of 2 motors for propulsion. It has an LED for emitting light and a light sensor to detect the amount of reflected light.

You could probably think of more tasks for your robot to execute.

3 x 3 x 3 LED Cube

This picture shows a 3 x 3 x 3 LED cube. The stand-alone unit when powered up provides many hours of mesmerising non-stop blinking.

You can see the electronic components at the base of the transparent casing. A small battery secured beneath the (black) base powers the unit. 

Would this serve as an interesting birthday gift ?  

Wai Him is currently working on a 4-digit 7-segment LED display.

LED Display Counter

This display can be used to show numeric information. It could serve as a clock to show the time or as a calendar to show the date. According to Wai Him, he will be using this as a counter to show the number of ‘Likes’ his booth gets. But please do not confuse this with the internet version that you are familiar with. In this version, you will have to be physically at the event to activate the ‘Like’.

The possibilities are endless. But would you be starting on this journey?

[Note: This write-up was contributed in full by Wai Him himself. Thank you, Wai Him. :) ]