Animated Faces Workshop With Hanoch PIven

Last week we were happy to be able to welcome visiting artist Hanoch Piven back to the Tinkering Studio for a quick workshop on making faces out of everyday objects. Hanoch is an Israeli illustrator, author, and television host who plays with familiar materials to make amazing collages of famous faces. The last time he was here, he showed a clip from his show that used a stop motion video to demonstrate the prototyping process of building faces and I though about our animation stations. This time, we decided to bring the exhibits into the workshop and see if that would be an interesting addition to the activity.


The workshop started with a quick talk by Hanoch about his process and the context for the activity. While the Tinkering Studio is not the ideal venue for this kind of interaction, I thought we did a better job setting up the space and had a nice transition from the presentation to the activity.


Once again we brought our a bunch of 'shop scraps' that we collected a few years ago from the exhibit development shop. It's amazing how people can take mismatched hardware, laser cutter scraps and other odds and ends and create evocative sculptures of themselves and friends.


After people experimented with materials, Hanoch worked with some of them to create stop motion animations of their faces.

This one turned out really nice! I liked how the stop motion animation added an element of testing and remaking into the activity. Instead of gluing down the parts, visitors were constantly tweaking, changing, and re-evaulating their creations. I also see the value of deciding on the sculpture and committing to it, but in the drop in setting of the tinkering studio, the framing of making an animation seemed to open up more possibilities for playful prototyping.

I also thought it was cool that the shared aim of the activity encouraged different people to continue working on a shared animation. Instead of always starting from scratch, I'd like to see if we can experiment with offering the possibility for people to collaborate on animations instead of always starting a new story. Maybe we could experiment with some sort of 'exquisite corpse' stop motion, having each visitor tell part of the same story.

It was great to have Hanoch back at the Exploratorium. His playful attitude towards materials, emphasis on the process instead of the product, and generous facilitation style is a great fit with the Tinkering Studio. We are already looking forward to our next opportunity to collaborate with him!


Automata (and then some...)

You may have noticed the radio silence on our end, as witnessed by a serious lack of blog posts. This was because our website was hacked, not that we didn't have lots of things to share with you.  We're happy to be back in business now and I'll kick things off with what should end up being a barrage of blog posts from the team, showing you what we’ve been up to for the last month or so.

Things like R&D work around chain reactions, a tinkering social club featuring scratch film, an animation workshop with Hanoch Piven, workshops with 826 Valencia, a pre conference workshop for the ASTC CoP (Community of Practice), along with special treats like a riff on Light Play that Maz created for a children's hospital and Dana Schloss was a tinkerer-in-residence with us for a few weeks.  I know there are other things I'm forgetting, but you get the idea....we have lots to talk about!

I'll share something related to a CoP hangout we did last Friday called Let's Talk Automata.  A few of us on the hangout referred to these mechanism examples, but you didn't get to see them in motion, so here they are -- all in one place (thanks to Ryoko)!

    Automata Round and round from The Tinkering Studio on Vimeo.

    Automata Up down and round from The Tinkering Studio on Vimeo.

    Automata Back and forth from The Tinkering Studio on Vimeo.

    Automata Up and down from The Tinkering Studio on Vimeo.


    Automata Side to side from The Tinkering Studio on Vimeo. 



We also created this PDF a while back, during the PIE project, but it has a little more information about automata.


Lastly, if you're looking for something to tinker with over the upcoming holidays...
Consider bringing automata to the table.  I can only imagine the wide and wild variety of possible narratives you'll come up with.  Send us a photo if you make something!


Getting ready for Hack-O-Lantern tomorrow!

It's Halloween time again! Every year in the Tinkering Studio, we hold an event "Hack-O-Lantern" to celebrate Halloween where people use power tools, traditional carving tools, and LEDs to create their own lanterns!

We've got 80 pumpkins this year!

What would you create when you have hole saws, power drills, dremels, traditional carving tools, and LEDs?

This year, we are trying EggBot machine on mini pumpkins! We saw Evil Mad Scientist was doing this at the East Bay Maker Faire last weekend, and we definitely wanted to try it out as a demonstration on the floor. Figuring out the proper EggBot machine setting was a little bit tricky, but after several trials, we finally got the pen drawing on the pumpkin.

Yes! We've got jack-o-lantern on a white mini pumpkin! It's kind of mesmerizing to see how the pen runs so smoothly on the bumpy pumpkin surface.

Death Star from Star Wars. This was one of the template designs from the EggBot machine kit that you can download. Amazing to see how intricate patterns the EggBot can draw.

Come and join us tomorrow night to create amazing Halloween lanterns!
We will be starting at 7 in the Tinkering Studio and the event will be going as long as the pumpkins last!

An Exploratorium Halloween: All Hallows Evening
Thursday, October 30, 2014 • 6:00–10:00 p.m.


EB Mini Maker Faire

We are always running around full steam during Maker Faire, preparing and manning the Exploratorium booth, so most of the time it's hard to take in much of the rest of the event. Also considering the massive crowds that descend on San Mateo each year, when I get a spare moment at the faire I tend to just veg out on whatever shady patch of grass I can find.


So a couple weeks ago when Ryoko, Andrea and I went to the East Bay Mini Maker Faire solely as attendees, it was especially nice to get to explore the event at a leisurely pace and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. I wanted to share a few of the cool ideas, makers, and inspirations that caught our eye.


I've been working on a 'knot-tying' station so it was pretty cool to see an old timey tool for twisting rope. I could imagine that there could be a not-so-hard way to make a version of this machine.


Our collaborators at Light House Community Charter School had a really cool booth with lots of activities to try. I especially liked this mural where people could add their paper circuits to a collaborative creation. This would be something nice to add to the activity the next time we try it in our workshop.


Lenore and Wendell of Evil Mad Scientist were there showing off the EggBot but switched out the eggs with mini-pumpkins. Maybe something to experiment with for hack-o-lanterns in the TS this thursday night.


We've thought about glass blowing as a possible activity for an adult program but have been a little concerned about the open flame and safety issues. Maybe something as simple as this three sided acrylic enclosure could provide a helpful barrier.

image I was inspired by this young maker's resettable chain reaction machine. I liked how the two walls in the corner provided the possibility to work with height and the whole contraption had a good mix of dominoes, ball runs, and circuits in a relative compact space. Definitely something to keep in mind for when we start prototyping chain reaction workstations on the floor.


Another great find was the conductive pen and printer cartridges made by agIC. These were epecially nice because they don't need time to dry and are instantly conductive. They also showed a prototype of a pen that could erase the line to correct short circuits. It would be awesome to run a workshop in the tinkering studio with them at some point.


Overall, I really enjoyed the relaxed pace and less crowded atmosphere versus the big event in San Mateo. There were lots of beautiful gardens, places to sit under trees, and casual places to have conversations. It felt a less commercial, more personal and more reflective of the community. While I do love the energy and excitement of the big event, it was great to participate at the EB mini maker faire and get some ideas and inspirations for our tinkering space.


Moving Toy Inspired Clothespin Automata

Over the past few months we've been working out the kinks of our cardboard automata workshop in the Tinkering Studio. But before we transition to our next activity, there are a few more explorations of motions and mechanisms that we are interested in prototyping. In that spirit, we had a couple days of trying out a different take on automata inspired by former artist-in-residence Noga Elhassid and her moving toys workshop.


The contraptions are made with a clothespin and wire to create simple linkages to animate a small character or scene. It took a little bit of doing to remember how to create the movements, but after messing around a bit we got the hang of the basics.


One thing that we noticed right away was that the changing the placement of the attachment point of the wire made a big difference in how much the pieces moved.


We made a couple examples, gathered the materials and prepared to try out the activity on the floor. Taking some halloween inspiration, I made a black widow automata that I thought turned out appropriately creepy.


The next day, we brought out the stuff and opened the gates to the workshop. Immediately the space filled with third graders wanting to try the activity. Nicole and I had a little trouble getting them started. We showed them the examples and explained the concept, but it was a tricky to know what starting point would illicit the highest amount of prototyping and testing.


As the day went on we found that although many people were happy with their creations, because the formula for making the character move required following the steps precisely, many participants didn't quite get all the way to experimenting with linkages. Also because it's a fairly consistent but idiosyncratic motion, some people had a hard time to imagine a personalized creation that would fit with the mechanism.

There were a few cool experiments that visitors tried during the day. I was especially interested in how some people incorporated pop-ups into their creations. While not everyone got the linkages to move, a couple people made a pop-out animation in the mouth of the clothespin, which could possible add another layer to the engineering.


The next day, I wanted to try to expand the possibilities for the motions so I made a face that incorporated multiple linkages based on the examples that we saw from Gautham and Vanya at the Shristi School. I though it turned out pretty cool, but it still presented the same problem of how to get people started with an idea and allow them to experiment.


I'd like to prototyping this idea more and adjust the materials to support more investigations and tinkering. I like the fact that the clothespin gives each participant the same "starting motion" to work with but I wonder if the small potential motion limits creativity. A next step may be to detach the linkages activity from the clothespin so that we can learn more about the basic mechanism behind the activity and do something more basic with strips of cardboard and brads. Hopefully we can do a couple more mini-workshops before switching over to our next major activity.