Maker Faire Thoughts

ercoerco Posts: 19,601
edited 2017-12-03 - 15:33:27 in Robotics
Had a blast at Maker Faire. I had initial doubts, but it turned out fine. Tons of kids. I took way too much stuff to show. Next time I need 3 tables and 6 more of me. (Wait, strike that...)

On my feet for 6 hours straight, never sat down, only left the table once for a potty break. Only took one pic, hopefully I'll get more from friends who came. Nearly lost my voice talking. Dead tired at the end, loved every minute. Plenty of interest from educators & STEM people in LA, I have lots of followup work to do there. I was in a corridor, which I initially thought sucked, but it was a high traffic area and EVERYONE came by. My area was bottlenecked many times and several times the organizers had to tell people to keep moving and come back later. Nonstop good feedback from kids & adults, woohoo.

Much of my time was babysitting fragile prototypes, so it was nice to have some bulletproof robots in the lineup to shoulder the load. The S3 was busy drawing spirograph-style flowers all day. Kids picked a marker color, stuck it in and pushed the button. Worked every time, and they could take it home with them. PERFECT! The other steady hit was the line following robots (LFRs). I had a variety of them, and there was LOTS on interest from adults & kids. Those $5 Ebay China LFRs worked great and everyone wanted to buy them. It's a shame that soldering is required, that was the only negative comment. China needs to solder them and make modular kits that snap together...

I made a wavy line around the perimeter of the table and kept 1-2 cars running much of the day. Only changed the 2xAAA alkaline batteries once. I used electrical tape for a line, but many people thought it was magnetic tape. They were AMAZED that a robot could detect a black line. Seriously. People with an iPhone in their pocket are amazed by 1950s-era CdS photocells, in 2017... ? Anyway, kids loved fooling the robot, changing the line, putting white paper over it and drawing their own lines to follow. Note to self, add a guardrail around the table next time.

Anyhow, I was amazed how popular these little, slow LFRs were. Not even a microcontroller, just analog circuitry. I think a cool exhibit/project would be to turn kids loose in a big area with a white floor, give them tape and cardboard ramps to make a track. The stock LFRs go so slow, they could almost run ahead of the robot, laying tape down on the fly. Make it a contest. Let them race and redirect their LFRs. Let them add extra batteries and bigger wheels. Voltage = speed, give them a pile of new/used batteries and a DVM and let them pick the best batteries.

Long story short, I think almost anyone could put on a very popular robot display/show with nothing but an S3 and some LFRs. Both get the kids engaged. If you have an opportunity to get involved at a fair/school/church/scout event, it doesn't take a ridiculous amount of work and preparation. People LOVE to push a button and see something happen. What's old hat to you and me is AMAZING to the masses. Face it, most people still think blinking an LED is black magic, so if you enable them to do something with a robot, it's a fantastic experience for them.

MMF.jpg

Comments

  • Congrats! Sounds like a fruitful, and tiring day.
  • Nice work! Lucky kids :) I wish I could have made it.

    Moving tape around and pressing a button to line follow, then watching the results sounds perfect. Things that look simple, and are hands on is the way to go. The kids that I worked with heads were already spinning just walking in the door. They didn't need Raspberry Pi IoT lectures, not yet anyway.

    No mention of the snowball launcher. Did DHS show up or something?

  • ercoerco Posts: 19,601
    Oh, yeah, the snowball launcher was def a smash hit, forgot to mention that. That was also pretty self-sustaining, kids could reset that themselves. Way too loud to hear the beeper but that didn't matter. There was often a line of kids ready to get a snowball in the face! The flag waver (minus the flamethrower!) also had' em lined up to push the button. Also too loud to hear the music, but everyone loved the "flag dancer" as kids called it.



  • We absolutely love Maker Faire. We do the one in Detroit and have for the past 3 years.

    We had a student program a Scribbler to draw Creeper faces.

    I know it's tempting to make things that are very interesting from a technical aspect but I've learned not to. Once 100 kids come through at least one will be rough on your stuff. Plus most people don't understand this stuff deep enough to appreciate the technical complexity.

    I'm thinking about bringing a mini PA system I can tape on or something. Your throat ends up raw. Especially if they put you next to anything loud.
  • ercoerco Posts: 19,601
    edited 2017-12-03 - 17:19:44
    Dangit, I should have taken my Useless box too. Have to throw it in the box for next time. It's a small footprint item would have easily fit on the table. Speaking of which, that's why I built the slide flute in a vertical orientation. It's all about space management. :)





  • ercoerco Posts: 19,601
    I know it's tempting to make things that are very interesting from a technical aspect but I've learned not to. Once 100 kids come through at least one will be rough on your stuff. Plus most people don't understand this stuff deep enough to appreciate the technical complexity.

    The voice of experience! Agree 100%.

    I had wondered if anyone would steal anything (downtown Los Angeles) but nobody did. Good peeps. I had a box of SERVO & N&V magazines to give out. I just put them under the table with a paper marked "free, one per family" and those actually lasted for a while. Nobody grabbed the pile for resale!

    This was a free event at the central LA library, some attendees probably weren't even aware of it before going. The organizers had discreetly warned us about homeless people bothering us (and that they would be quick to respond), but I didn't notice any. I may have been the scruffiest person there...!

  • Erco, Sounds like it was a nice day. Was this a B&N Mini Faire?

    Note for you for a toy idea: How about a line-following robot that comes with a special roll-up white board. Toy comes with special smudge-free wet erase markers. Yeah, not new, but how about a switch on the robot that allows it to track black or red marker? Two bots, two colors, two independent tracks, same play mat. Kids love to race and crash. You may have heard of this thing called "Hot Wheels."
  • ercoerco Posts: 19,601
    No B&N, just the library: http://dtla.makerfaire.com/

    Love the black/red lines & mat. Of course that's more expensive to sell, compared to posterboard (or paper) and a roll of electrical tape for a dollar. Gotta be a way to get these more mainstream. Happy to discuss!
  • GordonMcCombGordonMcComb Posts: 3,366
    edited 2017-12-03 - 18:40:58
    The mat is two-sided of course: pre-printed on one side with cartoon roads, trees, and houses, and white on the other side.

    Agree Dollar Tree is the better source for cheap (poster board is 50 cents, tape is $1), but I think a commercial product with mat and markers would only add maybe $2 at retail. The bigger issue is package size (which also affects container shipping costs from China), but I'm thinking small robots less than 2x2 inches, and a mat that when rolled is under 14" in length.

    For consumers, electrical tape isn't a great solution if they've never used it for this. The cheap tape puckers up in the curves (especially by the next day), folks get lazy replacing it, then become frustrated when the robot mistracks. Gotta improve the success rate. It's not that a straight-commercial solution is better, it's just more reproducible.

    I wonder if there's a way to add "programming blocks" to the top of the robot. These are color-coded paper tiles that are read by a simple sensor (tiny tri-color LED with photodiode). Sort of like the concept of Blockly, but much simpler in execution. It's just a single column of blocks that tell the robot the options in following the track (go to end and stop, go to end and return, speed, etc.). Playtime interactivity is key to holding the child's interest. Just watching it follow a line is good for about 20 minutes.
  • This is a great example of “simple is best.” You want to have something interactive and accessible. In these big public events, put something out that people can grasp quickly and have fun with.
  • ercoerco Posts: 19,601
    ... but I'm thinking small robots less than 2x2 inches...

    The Edison robot sets the standard for packaging efficiency. 3" x 3.5" x1.75". A zero-clearance net fit, the corrugated cardboard package sleeve wraps around the robot and is secured by a label. The programming (audio) cable comes packed inside the empty battery compartment. https://www.educents.com/edison-robot-2-0.html

    I like all your thoughts, you're talking like a robot and toy guy! AND you know your Dollar Tree prices. We're overdue for a lunch chat with Jon, huh?

  • Congrats, erco! You're doing a great service in rewarding the innate curiosity of the younger set. Keep it up!

    -Phil
  • In all the events we've done we've only had a little baggy of $5.00 worth of 555 Timers vanish. We were giving them to people and someone must have grabbed the little baggy.

    Even 3D Printed Fidget Spinners etc stay at the booth. You'd think out of thousands of kids that one would forget they have it or something.
  • That sounds so awesome, Erco. I was bummed we were so busy or I would have driven down there just to see it all and say hi. Maybe next year...and I should figure out a neat Parallax demo for next year's Ventura mini B&N faire too.
  • ercoerco Posts: 19,601
    We'll all meet up at Parallax's 2018 event, right @Ken_Gracey ?
  • ercoerco Posts: 19,601
    edited 2017-12-05 - 05:52:11
    The pattern drawn by the S3 was a flower, molecule, or sun, based on the user's perspective. :)
    768 x 576 - 134K
  • erco wrote: »
    Dangit, I should have taken my Useless box too. Have to throw it in the box for next time. It's a small footprint item would have easily fit on the table. Speaking of which, that's why I built the slide flute in a vertical orientation. It's all about space management. :)




    I want to make one of those Useless Boxes still, i've seen a couple of them that are hilarious tha have a little animal that pops out. I didn't know it could be done so easily and all mechanically. Great job
  • I just Loooooove that useless box.
  • ercoerco Posts: 19,601
    edited 2017-12-05 - 19:34:05
    JD wrote: »
    I want to make one of those Useless Boxes still, i've seen a couple of them that are hilarious that have a little animal that pops out. I didn't know it could be done so easily and all mechanically.

    Go for it! It's pretty simple just using the DPDT toggle switch which reverses the motor when flipped. Then add a limit switch & diode at the stop end. A lot of people use an Arduino, which is...

    A great use for an Arduino. (Say something nice or say nothing at all!)

  • Great write up for the event Erco. I would love to see more detailed summaries of events like yours. Written to be read as if we were standing next to each other having a casual conversation. More power to the Scribblers and LFR! Those are two avenues that really make it simple to show simplicity with a very capable robot. I have a Scribbler related project that is on the back burner, but I think I need to gather my notes and pass it on to the forums so the idea can flourish with the help of those who can allocate time towards it.

    As for the Useless Box, I still need to make mine. I have had the parts set aside out of my project bins for about 3 years. I have always thought that a fun contest would be "the most complicated useless box". Maybe even a contest category for Rube Goldberg machine versions.
  • Heater.Heater. Posts: 21,233
    edited 2017-12-05 - 19:54:23
    Arduino? What? Why?

    Back in 1968 I had a "Dracular Money Box". I was a black plastic box with a slot where you could place a coin. When you did that the thing would shake ominously, then a creepy green hand would push open the lid, grab the coin and quickly snatch it inside. Lot's of fun for us kids.

    No micro-controllers or even transistors. Just contacts that were shorted out by the coin and a motor or two.

    Pretty much like this one from 1972:



  • ercoerco Posts: 19,601
    This is one of my favorites. I bought mine in Japan in 1985.

  • Wow,

    ROBOTIC BANKER

    "TAKES YOUR MONEY AND GIVES YOU ADVICE"

    Sounds like the human bankers. Nothing changes.




  • PublisonPublison Posts: 11,221
    edited 2017-12-05 - 23:47:51
    erco wrote: »
    This is one of my favorites. I bought mine in Japan in 1985.


    Reminds me of my Armitrons I had in the 80's. Wife sold them at tag sale for a buck when I was out of town. :(

  • ercoerco Posts: 19,601
    Publison wrote: »

    Reminds me of my Armitrons I had in the 80's. Wife sold them at tag sale for a buck when I was out of town. :(

    Grounds for divorce! JK, but she had a lot of esplaining to do...

  • ercoerco Posts: 19,601
    Two of my Bots are shown the Library's Maker Faire promo video (0:19-0:24) and also the thumbnail image. Nice video recap, I didn't get to see ANY of that other stuff.

  • ercoerco Posts: 19,601
    A working view of my table. Thanks Trish!

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