Open Make at The Tech

Open Make @ The Tech logoWe’ll be at The Tech museum in San Jose this Saturday, April 26, for an Open Make session with the theme of “Flow.” The event is in collaboration with the Maker Education Initiative.

Open Make activities run from 10 am to 2 pm and are free with museum admission.

Previous Open Make posts:

Interactive art at Helix

Romy Randev of Looma is installing his latest piece, Penumbra at the Helix museum in Los Altos.

Penumbra is an interactive installation that responds to movement in its environment. Without any human interaction, Penumbra is disguised as a decorative glass wall. However, each colored glass tile illuminates individually as sensors that respond to movements control LEDs behind the glass.

Penumbra makes use of our Octolively modules, and we’ll be at Helix with Romy on Saturday March 29th, starting at 2:00 PM to talk about the art and tech behind Penumbra. Event information is available from Helix.

Peek-O-Book

The Peek-O-Book is a close relative of the Snap-O-Lantern. The book occasionally opens and peeks out with its LED eyes before snapping shut again to look like a normal book on a shelf.

Peeking

A compartment is cut into the pages of the book and the circuitry is hidden inside.

What's inside

The orange LED eyes are affixed to a small piece of wood which is then glued to the cover of the book so that they just fit inside the compartment. The rest of the electronics are nestled inside the compartment.

Exploratorium Art of Tinkering

We made the Peek-O-Book for The Art of Tinkering book release party at the Exploratorium Afterdark event last week. Many of the tinkerers featured in the book were invited to hack a copy of the book. The cabinets in the Tinkering studio were packed full of hacked books and projects from the book. You can see pictures of some of the other hacked books in our photo set.

The Exploratorium on the Bay

Exploratorium Banners on the Embarcadero

We have been visiting the Exploratorium in San Francisco again and again since we were teenagers in the early ’90s.  And with good cause: The Exploratorium is an unparalleled museum of hands-on science, art, perception, and exploration.  It’s not a children’s museum (although it is an amazing place to take children), nor is it a place where you admire giant fossilized skeletons, nor one of those museums that always seems to have a traveling exhibit with a name like “The Science of Jersey Shore.”

Instead, it’s a place full of simple, often-amazing yet not-too-flashy exhibits that (for the most part) you play with to learn about various phenomena.  For example, at the Floating in Copper exhibit, you can get a feel for the un-earthly effects that strong magnets have in the presence of a large block of nonmagnetic, highly-conductive material.  It’s one thing to read about eddy currents in an article; it’s quite another to release a chunk of metal in mid-air, only to find that it floats down to rest, more gently than a dandelion seed.  You may have seen this exact exhibit at other museums (here, for example)— and if so, that’s quite likely because the Exploratorium makes many copies of its exhibits for other museums and publishes plans for others to make their own.

Since moving to the Bay Area in 2005 and starting the Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories blog, we’ve also been honored to present some of our own projects at Exploratorium events over the past few years, including the CandyFab, a Bristlebot workshop at the first Young Makers event, and some of our clock projects at the Open Make event on the theme of “Time.”

Palace of Fine Arts

Exterior of the Exploratorium, at the Palace of Fine Arts (2010).
Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid under CC BY-NC-ND license.

Reconsidered Materials

Interior of the Exploratorium, at the Palace of Fine Arts (2006).
Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid under CC BY-NC license

The Exploratorium has, since its founding in 1969, been located in the exhibit hall of the the Palace of Fine Arts— a huge arc of a building left over from the 1915 Worlds Fair, located in the Marina district of San Francisco, as pictured above. As the name implies, the building was designed to be a museum and was a remarkably suitable home for the Exploratorium. However, a few years ago, it came out in the news that they would be moving out of the Palace of Fine Arts, and into a space on one of the San Francisco Piers.  Of course, our hearts sank at hearing this, as we could not imagine any more perfect place for the Exploratorium. Nor could we imagine that they could possibly find a place as large and welcoming anywhere else in San Francisco. We were also worried about parking, as the Palace of Fine Arts was blessed with its own parking lots, a rarity in San Francisco.

We were wrong.

Pair of Vintage Street cars in front of the Exploratorium

Amazing space and lighting on the bay
On Saturday, we went to a member preview at their new location at Pier 15, which will be opening on April 17. We took a number of pictures as we explored, and in addition to sharing some of the highlights here, we have put up a flickr set from our visit.

The new location at Piers 15 and 17 on the San Francisco Embarcadero is right between the Ferry Building and Fisherman’s Wharf, in the shadow of the Bay Bridge.   A huge advantage of the new location is that it is much easier to get to by public transport than the Palace of Fine Arts was. There’s a MUNI train stop, and it’s just a few blocks from BART and the other public transportation that already comes to the Ferry Building.

There are also plenty of nearby parking garages and lots. We had no problem finding an inexpensive lot to park in for the day, and now taking the train is an option for us.

Looking down on plants and water exhibits

And it turned out beautifully. Here at the end of the pier, there are a number of new exhibits, many about biology and the bay.

Hall by the bio labs

The new location is much bigger: there is three times as much space. This view is looking down one of the corridors, from the location pictured previously. The museum is packed with exhibits as far as the eye can see.

So many exhibits!

All of the spaces are well designed, and extremely good looking, taking advantage of the abundant natural light.

Open areas between exhibits

There are many large open areas, as well as cozy corners and nooks. The Tactile Dome is being rebuilt on a larger scale (in a space with a higher ceiling than this) and will be opening this summer.

Carnivorous plants

Activity in the new bio labs is visible through large windows. In neighboring spaces, we saw them growing continuous replacement plants for the touchable plant exhibits and various organisms for people to look at under the microscopes.

 

The workshop at the Exploratorium

The new location has the same spirit, and despite our expectations, still feels like the Exploratorium. The workshop is just as prominent as before, and still out in the open so that visitors can see new exhibits in progress and old ones being repaired.

Playing with electricity

Our old favorites on electricity and magnetism (like Daisy Dyno) felt right at home, and were as popular as ever.

Generations exploring together

The acoustics are much more friendly, making conversations and discussions much more enjoyable.

Tidal exhibit

The one new building on the pier is the Bay Observatory, which has stunning views as well as brand new exhibits on bay topics such as geology, geography and tides. Above is a 3D tide table with the tides for each day represented by a the shape of each piece of plastic marked with the time and lunar information.

View of the city

Since this was an early preview, many exhibits are still in progress or yet to be installed. This outdoor space between Piers 15 and 17 will be opening soon and the museum plans to eventually develop additional space on Pier 17.

Bay Bridge

Congratulations to the Exploratorium on such a successful move and wonderful new home!

The museum will be opening to the public on April 17, and tickets will be available online soon. There are additional member previews coming up on April 6 and 9 as well— check the calendar for details and other upcoming events.

Curiosity closes in on Mars

On Sunday night, the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity (the one on the right; the biggest, baddest, most awesomest Mars rover ever) will attempt to land on Mars. Curiosity is a nuclear powered Mini Cooper sized robotic geologist, much bigger and more capable than previous rovers. It’s going to be a moment of great excitement when Curiosity touches down, and there are a number of ways that you can watch.

If you have the opportunity (Mars rover pun intended) check with your local science museum, planetarium or hackerspace to find out if they’re hosting a viewing party.

Curiosity model at Exploratorium

Here in California, the Exploratorium currently hasa special exhibition up, including the simplified full-scale model of the rover in the picture above. They will be airing a live webcast of the landing on Sunday night.  And, NASA Ames Exploration Center in Mountain View, is hosting a live broadcast on-site with over 5000 people. The free tickets for the event went very quickly.

And, if you can only watch on the internet, NASA TV is NASA’s official video channel.  Star Talk Radio has a list of places to watch online. Space Industry News has a similar lineup, which includes a link to a google map of events.

Return of the Peggy Projects

One of the great things about building electronics projects is seeing what they inspire other people to do, and the 625 LEDs of the Peggy 2 can be pretty inspiring:

Mark at awe.com did some awesome scrolling text on Peggy 2 and has even shared his sketch for others to use. His video is embedded above or you can click on over to YouTube.

Phillip at peilipu’s posterous hooked up a Peggy 2LE and a Danger Shield to play Pong, a game we’re rather fond of.

Nick over at NJS Shredding wired up an off-board Peggy 2, neatly built into a wooden box and mounted to the ceiling. He also posted a video which shows the scale of it quite well.

Another ceiling mounted Peggy 2 installation was recently posted on the Make blog. This one, with an amazing array of ribbon cables connecting strips of LEDs, is entertaining visitors at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and was created by the late artist Rick Gribenas. Thanks to Matt Mets for sending us the picture!

Also at a museum in Pittsburgh, Deren Guler used a Peggy 2 in a kid-powered generator exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center. Thanks for sending the picture, Deren!

You can read more about Peggy 2 on our store here, and full documentation is available on our wiki here and links to more projects are posted there as well.

Playtime – Videogame mythologies

Game of Life 15

The Maison d’Ailleurs (translated as “House of Elsewhere”), is a museum of science fiction, utopia and extraordinary journeys in Switzerland.

A new version of our Interactive Game of Life exhibit, shown above, is part of their new show, Playtime – Videogame mythologies. The show is devoted to the culture of video games, and exploring how the relationship between play, the various manners of gaming, and technology interrelate.

Playtime – Videogame mythologies runs through December 9, 2012 at Maison d’Ailleurs.

Here is a short video (YouYube link here) showing off the new museum display:

We’ve also just posted an extended introduction to this project here in our post about our new Interactive Game of Life kits.

Interactive Game of Life Kit

Game of Life 6

Game of Life 4

Game of Life 12

Two years ago we designed an interactive exhibit of Conway’s Game of Life for the San Jose Museum of Art. The hardware that we used for that project eventually became the basis for our Octolively interactive LED kits.

We’ve recently had occasion to revisit our Game of Life project, and to build an all-new version of the museum exhibit. Along the way, we’ve rewritten the firmware from scratch and added a number of features. And today we’re pleased to announce the result: our new Interactive Game of Life Kit.

Continue reading

Open Make at the Exploratorium: Time

555 Footstool   IMG_5331Nixie Clock   Apha Clock Five

This Saturday, we’ll be at the Exploratorium participating in the Open Make event focused on the theme “Time.” We had a great time when we participated in the very first Open Make event, and are glad to see the program continuing with a great lineup of themes this year. This time, we’ll be bringing several clock and time related projects.

The event runs from 10 am to 2 pm, Saturday, February 18, and will feature workshops, maker displays, and Dale Dougherty interviewing several makers on their time related projects. We hope to see you there!