Tuesday 8 March 2016

Creature in a Cup Workshop St Michaels Primary Tilehurst March 7th 2016

We were invited to St Michaels Primary by Janine Beckers the Art coordinator St Michaels Primary. She wrote to ask if we could suggest ways to make lessons more fun and exciting. We offered to run our Creature in a Cup workshop but we only had a 2 hour slot with the class so this was a new challenge to the ArtLab team. We kept the workshop idea but removed the story development about the creature for the performance. We hope the creatures might inspire some further story development. We shortened the time the pupils had to experiment with the electronics kits and build their creatures, but this didn’t stop the class making some fantastic kinetic creatures.

ArtLab team introduce the workshop
Class experiment with LittleBits
Class teacher Rachel Sims documents groups creature.
The pupils managed to get a lot done in the two hours as you can see from the following images and videos. 

Here are the five groups creatures with soundtrack created with Littlebits Synthkits.

The pupils worked together in groups to design a creature from three different animals, below are some of their drawings.

The following images show the creatures in development.

Ben with group
Anna with group
Amal with group
Sahar with group
Matthew with group

Saturday 20 February 2016

Enhancement Week 

ArtLab Session 17/2/2016

In this session Nic and Kate led an introduction to LittleBits as well as 3D scanning and printing. All that attended learnt about these emerging and increasingly domesticated products through experimentation and play.

The 3D scanner and printer are of particular interest to me as they present new sculpting possibilities. After some previous experimentation with the printing and scanning process I made a small sculpture to scan with the aid of a specially brought turntable. The turntable rotates the object being scanned very slowly while the scanner is statically mounted around 30-50cm away from the object. Once scanned the digital 3D scan is loaded into the computer to create a digital model which can then be edited in a basic way to make sure it is a sound model to be printed by the 3D printer.

Before finalising the design the correct plastic material must be chosen in accordance with the colour(s) being used to print the model. In this case we had chosen gold which is an ABS based plastic. Cartridge change is also very simple and easy: cleaner and less fiddly than an inkjet printer. Loading the digital model onto the printer is very simple and done using a memory stick with some basic instructions to follow on the printer menu screen. Once the model is loaded and the print bed adequately primed with special water soluble glue, all that can be done now is to press PRINT!

And here is the result. After 9 hours of printing we ended up with a miniature of my sculpture. Unfortunately a lot of the textures I had included (hessian/paper towel/cling-film/corrugated cardboard) did not pick up on the scan which has resulted in a very smooth, curvy print. Although considering this is the first scan and print that I have done from start to finish (obviously with a little help from Nic, Kate and the other students) it has gone reasonably well and the print itself is fairly flawless. What needs to be worked on is the scanning process itself and perhaps a more angular, decisive object to sculpt.

I did also have a quick go at using the laser cutter with ply wood. The digital design interface on the computer is basic but could be effectively utilised. 

Monday 1 February 2016

Aldryngton Primary School reports about Creature in a Cup Workshops June 2015

Here is a link to Aldryngton School website where they document the ArtLab Summer Creature in a Cup workshop.http://aldryngton.wokingham.sch.uk/2015/06/27/news-item-university-artlab-work-with-lower-school/
Here are some of the finished videos made by the children Aldryngton School.

Sunday 15 November 2015

ArtLab UROP Poster Presentation 2015

Laura Nicholson was our Undergraduate Research Opportunity Placement (UROP) 2015 student. On Wednesday 11th November Laura presented her UROP research poster.

The poster reflected the two strands to Laura’s UROP experience. Laura began UROP in the ArtLab developing ideas for Widening Participation workshops in schools to introduce children to electronics through art. The sessions were developed over the summer, trialling them in local Reading schools, discussing and refining the workshops with members of the ArtLab team. Laura also developed ideas for sessions with Reading Scholars and UNESCO’s year of Light. 

During the schools workshops Laura was able to develop a creative approach to technology for children in schools, focussing on facilitating kinetic elements in the objects using the littlebits electronics kits. 

She also developed approaches for using storytelling to help children understand how the electronics work. 

The UROP poster also displayed Laura’s work as part of the SPHEREresearch project.The project researches ideas for wearable technology to monitor health in the home. Laura was able to discuss ideas for wearable technologies with members of the team from systems engineering and worked towards developing a piece of clothing that could potentially  monitor posture. She was able to research current trends in fashion and share with the technologists ideas to create a shirt that was attractive and practical. Her experiments with silicon rubber embedding the sensors highlighted problems with durability, size and comfort of the current projects sensors.The images below show a prototype teeshirt, the shirt has sensors to show spine position and also contains vibration. There is still much more to develop with this idea.

Thursday 5 November 2015

Creature in a Cup Workshop

On Tuesday this week we took the littleBits kit from the ArtLab to the Institute of Education so that a group of (trainee) primary school teachers could experience the Creature in a Cup Workshop first hand and see how it cold potentially be used within their own teaching practice. After a short introduction about how to use the modules by Kassie and Laura, each of the group created a simple creature using basic craft materials.

Unlike the Creature in a Cup workshop we gave at the primary schools over the Summer, where children made creatures out of any materials to hand (including boxes, plastic bottles, etc.) this workshop used only paper cups and a variety of craft materials to create the creatures. We had only 1.5 hours for this workshop, so anything larger would have been difficult!

This creature has an antenna that swings to and fro on top and wheels so that it can move around on the table:

This bird-like example has a moving tail ....

... and I think this one has moving arks, powered by a servo:

Some additional photos of the workshop:

Feedback was collected at the end of the workshop using an audio recorder, and suggests that the activity could be used (possibly in a variety of modified forms) for school workshops to assist in teaching subject right across the curriculum. We have invited the group to visit the ArtLab at the Department of Art at Reading University so that they can see the facilities for Widening Participation, and to arrange future workshop sessions.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

ArtLab Introduction Enhancement Week Nov 2nd 2015

During the ArtLab Intro session we discussed a Widening Participation Workshop and The SPHERE Research Project. After introductions to the projects, we divided up in to two groups and spent 45mins brainstorming each idea then swapping. We hope to hold more sessions this term and next as there was a lot more to find our and experiment with.

Widening Participation Workshop Antonio Portas suggested we create a based on the City X Project and our Creature in a Cup workshop that would encourage creativity, invention and develop knowledge about 3D software and 3D printing. The City X design project for children aged 8-12 uses the idea of people colonising a planet, who only have a 3D printer, requesting Earth to help them create things that don't already exist to help solve their problems.

We looked at the City X project resources, including the 3D modelling software Tinkercad and the video message from the City X Mayor, as we watched this video one of the ArtLab students, Katy said “thats my brother!” Still reeling from this coincidence, we discussed how we might combine some of the ideas of the City X project with how we work with the Creature in a Cup workshop exploring more of an art based angle, with the idea to make it appeal to older students.

We had noticed that the International Space Station was reported in the news 28.10.15 to have printed ratchet wrench from the new 3-D printer aboard the International Space Station. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-30549341 
Astronaut Barry Wilmore asked for a ratcheting socket wench

"The printer completed the first phase of a NASA technology demonstration by printing a tool with a design file that was transmitted from the ground to the printer. This demonstrated that a 3D printer works normally in space. In general, a 3D printer extrudes streams of heated plastic, metal or other material, building layer on top of layer to create 3 dimensional objects. Testing a 3D printer using relatively low-temperature plastic feedstock on the International Space Station is the first step towards establishing an on-demand machine shop in space, a critical enabling component for deep-space crewed missions and in-space manufacturing.

We discussed producing items for the space station, from tooth picks to spare parts and that people would need art as well as tools if they were to inhabit space. We thought it would be interesting to propose a project where students created the first art exhibition for the International Space Station. This could entail practical design problems such as how to deal with zero gravity when exhibiting the work etc and well as great potential for creativity and invention. The workshop would encourage students to create a prototype gravity version for Earth using littleBits and various materials and a Zero gravity version to be sent as stl files for the 3D printer in the Space Station.

SPHERE Research Introduction

The group looked at the intro to fashion trends and wearable technologies that fashion designer Ella Sharp had presented to SPHERE researchers including the video of Hussein Chalayans collection from 2007. We explained that the SPHERE projects aim is to create wearables for monitoring health in the home, but that to make the idea of being monitored become desirable/acceptable the clothes needed to be inventive and appeal to people so they would want to wear them. So coming at the problem an art perspective gives another layer of potential for the researchers ideas. The issue of whether the idea of creating clothes that monitor you was ethical was also discussed and raises interesting complex issues.


The image below shows Laura and Nic working who have been working on the SPHERE with half the group exploring how sensors could be installed into clothing as part of the SPHERE research project, we had various clothes available for people to try embedding the sensors but the designer model drawings were most popular. There were some really interesting ideas, we need more time to explore how they can be embedded into clothes or into the material itself.

A few example of initial ideas for Wearable Sensors. (you can find them all on the ArtLab SPHERE page)

Sunday 1 November 2015

Introduction to ARTLAB Enhancement 

ArtLab promotes Widening Participation and Research. The Enhancement session will introduce students to two projects running as part of ArtLab, we hope students at the intro session will generate ideas and gain an understanding of the potential of the technology, and be inspired for their own practice and contribute to existing ArtLab projects. We hope to hold further sessions throughout the academic year.

Project ONE   “Life the Universe and Everything” (Adams, D., 1982) 

Developing a Widening Participation workshop for secondary schools that encourages students to think creatively designing objects that might be needed by people who are on a planet with only a 3D printer. The idea is to find out what they need on the planet and invent new objects, that don’t exist on earth, first by making a prototype using hands-on recycled materials and littleBits electronics kits, then transferring the design into a 3D modelling program and print out using the 3D printer.

We will use the following materials as a starting point:

A design project for Primary Schools http://www.cityxproject.com

An easy to use, free, 3D design software application https://www.tinkercad.com/
The idea is to take some of the ideas of the City X project and mix in with a workshop we have been doing called 'Creature in a Cup' using Littlebits. You can find out what we did here
We are hoping to develop a new version of the workshop, designing something to send off to the 3d printer, after prototyping it in a hands-on session with boxes, and tubes and tape and littlebits.
We may need to develop our own learning resources such as an alternative introductory video, or other ways of conveying the info, to set the scene?
How can we make it appeal to students at Secondary School? We hope to visit schools in the Reading area in 2016 with this workshop.

Project Two: Wearable Technologies SPHERE Research Workshop

Contributing to the EPSRC funded research project SPHERE

SPHERE is working with clinicians, engineers, designers and social care professionals as well as members of the public to develop sensor technologies that could be used to monitor health that would be acceptable for the public to use in their homes.

The technology could help in the following ways:
The sensors for health could help in a number of ways for example, predict falls and detect strokes so that help may be summoned.
Analyse eating behaviour - including whether people are taking prescribed medication.
Detect periods of depression or anxiety and intervene using a computer based therapy

SPHERE is developing a number of different sensors that will combine to build a picture of how we live in our homes. This information can then be used to spot issues that might indicate a medical or well-being problem.

ArtLab has been invited to experiment with embedding sensors in clothing and to experiment creating ideas, designs for wearable technologies in clothes, jewellery, for health, artwork, dance, instruments, etc.