My early memories of being a maker
I figured it might be fun to talk about some of my earliest memories of being a maker.
I think my current interest started with issue 40 of MagPi magazine in December 2015, famous for being the first magazine to give a computer (the Raspberry Pi Zero) for free as a cover gift. I’d picked up a couple of the original Raspberry Pi models in 2012, but it wasn’t until the Zero that my imagination took off, and lead me down this path.
But from an early age, I think I was always destined to be a maker, as I think some of these memories will highlight.
I remember having a fascination with robots from an early age. Back when we lived in Hoo (near Rochester), I used to talk with my friend about making robot substitutes that we could send to school in our place. They’d look exactly like us, and be powered by control panels in our bedroom, letting us skip school.
When we moved to Bexleyheath this fascination continued, as I recall checking out and reading various books about robots from the primary school library. I also remember being fascinated by a programmable robot the school had, which could be programmed to move forward and backward, as well as turning in either direction, and could draw images with a pencil placed in it’s body. I have no idea what it was called, but I’m sure there’s someone out there that knows what I’m talking about.
Interestingly, robotics isn’t currently as much of an interest to me as you might imagine. I have a couple of beginner robotics kits which Lucy got for me, including a really cool robotic arm which I built one Christmas, but I’m currently lacking the interest in exploring any further than this, I think partly because of the reliance on computers for robotics, and the fact I’m trying to get away from using computers all the time.
Also while in primary school, I remember making a whirlpool experiment I’d seen on a TV program (it might have been How 2) and taking it to show my teacher (I think his name was Mr March). The experiment consisted of two plastic cola bottles, joined at the lid with the screw facing out, and a hole melted through the middle of the join. The idea was to fill one of the bottles with water, then screw both bottles into either side of the joined cap. As the water filtered from the upper bottle down into the lower one, you could rapidly shake the bottle in a round motion, which would cause the water in the upper bottle to form into a whirlpool.
Beyond looking pretty, I’m sure there was a lesson in among the explanation featured on thee TV show, but I probably didn’t pay much attention to that, I just thought it would be fun to make.
When moving to secondary school (age 11-16), I had the opportunity to apply for a technical collage, but had to make and present a project as part of the application interview. At the time, the best I could come up with was the classic tin-can telephone, which I’m sure would have been fine, if I had been able to explain why it works, but as I wasn’t really able to, I failed the application.
What I should have done instead is make another project that I’d seen on TV, an electronic quiz game. This was a simple exercise in circuitry which featured a number of metallic contact points running down either side of a sheet of box cardboard, which were connected one side to the other in a random order on the back via jump wires. The player of the game had two metallic probes connected to a small battery and an LED, and would play by using the two probes to connect the question contact with the appropriate answer contact, thus completing the circuit and illuminating the LED. This something I understood well, and I’m sure I’d have been able to explain it fully.
I’m not sure why I didn’t make this, but I do remember talking with my parents about it shortly after the interview (it was definitely something I’d seen before the interview), and them asking me why I hadn’t done that instead, but I guess 11-year-old Daniel was being a typical 11-year-old.
As an adult, electronics has some interest to me, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time learning the basics, but I don’t think I’m very good at it. I know enough to wire up some LEDs and other basic circuits to an Arduino, which is more than enough for now.
Ornamental display box
The last thing I remember is a woodworking project I made for CDT (Craft, Design, and Technology) while at secondary school. I had an interest in collecting miniature figures and wanted something I could store and display them on.
The design was a simple plywood box with removable lid, maybe around 20cm wide and tall. Sticking out the top of the lid was a thick dowel, onto which another sheet of plywood was attached, cut into an interesting shape, and designed to act as a platform to display the figures. I remember having plans to cover it with fake grass (the type used on miniature train sets) but I don’t think this ever happened.
In any case, anyone that’s read even a few pages of this blog know that I’m very much into woodworking, and have the great fortune of having my very own workshop for this very purpose.
What about you?
I’ve shared some of my memories, what are your earliest memories of being a maker? Post a comment below and let me know.