Tag Archives: making


I Made Circuits with a pencil

Last weekend I had a really interesting Saturday morning.  A few days ago i found out about a workshop to be held at the Barbican as part of the hack the barbican  event.


The workshop was called Light an LED with a paper and Pencil, from the description it looked interesting as it would be using conductive inks and threads to make circuits.  I didn’t know much else but thought I would give it a go as would be really relevant to the wearables technology stuff I am working on.

After I signed up I realised that I had recently met Pollie the organiser a week or so ago at the Living Machines Conference that had been held at the Science Museum. She has developed a game called Firefly   which she was demonstrating at the conference.  I had a couple of plays and it was really fun and the ways that you had to interact with other people to play the game was really interesting.

So when I turned up a bit early on Saturday morning it was nice to talk to Pollie some more.  She is a PhD Researcher at Queen Mary University and the Workshop was really a practise for her to run similar ones aimed at introducing technology to the older generation.

We started off by colouring in with a normal pencil a rectangle on a piece of paper then using that to complete a simple battery and LED circuit.  The Graphite in the pencil Lead acts as a resistor so it was possible to vary the brightness of the LED by moving the LED along the coloured in Rectangle.

A couple of variations of this making a little torch and introducing a switch followed next.

The reminded me a lot of one of the projects in my RadioShack 200-in-1 electronics kit (Bit like this one ) that i had when i was little. So really understood the value in it.

Pollie then explained some of the basic electronics theory, Using the Water tank analogy to explain Charge,Voltage,current and resistance and using ohms law to explain how they were connected.  Already knowing this I understood what she was saying but if this was your first time trying to understand electronics I think it would need longer spent on it or be explained in stages.

Anyway on to some more making.  The next little project was to make a pop up card with a fish inside it that had a flashing light in it.


We made the pop up card and this time rather than using a pencil to create the circuit we used conductive paint made by Bare Conductive

The paint was really easy to use, a little bit thick and gloopy which helped to hold the components in.


While the paint dried we had a break.  During the break I had a bit more of a chat with Pollie and Emilie  who I was sat next to  and found out that she and Emilie also work with Codasign . It was really interesting to talk to them both and find out what they do and the technology they are interested in.


The almost finished fish card

After the break we finished off our cards and also using the conductive paints and batteries and LEDs made Codasign robot cards and badges.

Just before leaving I played around with some loose  Graphite powder to do similar things to what we had done at the start with a pencil.  The Graphite powder is more conductive than a pencil because it doesn’t have the clay in it to hold the graphite together.  The disadvantage is that it is a lot messier.



Until recently I have only ever used electronics in quite traditional ways and with quite traditional methods of building circuits and interacting with them but I’m starting to learn there is a lot more to electronics than circuits enclosed in black boxes with buttons and lights on them.

So to wrap up, it was a really interesting morning.  For me it wasn’t about the circuits or the  electronics, it was about meeting interesting people who are doing interesting things and learning about how technology can be used to help people and enrich their lives.




making technical thoughts Uncategorized

Girl Skills,who needs them?

I realised tonight that part of my wearable computing challenge is going to involve some sewing.

This could cause a few problems,if you know me in real life you’ll probably know i’m not at all a ‘girly girl’ so have mostly avoided picking what are considered to be traditional women skills. I can sew a button on and have made a few small craft projects badly. This Duck an ‘Evil Tux’ bag at a womens technology craft day and a ipod case(Very badly).

The wearable computing challenge is going to involve some sewing.  There are some ideas in my head which might mean that I may need to do quite a lot. Hopefully the sewing won’t be too complicated but I want to do it as well as possible, I’m starting to regret not learning more sewing and craft skills when I was younger. Might have been more interested if I had known it would come in useful for things like this.

Anyway a few weeks ago someone in my twitter feed posted a link to a Huffington Post article all about encouraging girls into STEM careers using their interest in fashion to spark an interest in wearable technology.  I retweeted the link and thought thats great. It was only a week or so later when I went to the London Geek Girl Dinner and listened to a talk by Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino Her opinion is pretty much the polar opposite. That by using wearable technology as the link into tech careers limits girls to only look at careers that rely on the traditional ‘womens’ skills which is limiting rather than empowering.

This made me think quite a lot about both sides of the argument.  On one hand surely any initiative that gets girls interested in tech. is a good thing right? On the other hand if women are encouraged only into one particular field of tech. there is danger of turning that field into a ghetto  and it ending up being known as a woman’s job.

The paragraph that worried me in the in that Huff. post article was

“We wanted to shatter the myths that technology is a boring ‘boys’ club’. Girls see fashion as a creative fun industry. Conversely, they see the tech industry as a dull place to work for ‘pizza guzzling nerds’. By fusing fashion with technology we were out to demonstrate just how creative technology can be and empower the girls to believe in the endless possibilities of working in tech.”

That is a quote but its not really clear who by. It worried me because it implies that they are aiming to get girls to use technology while pursuing a career in the fashion industry rather than changing stereotypes about what working in technology is actually like.

There are jobs in tech that can be seen to be dull by others and there are pizza guzzling nerds working those jobs. There are areas of tech that I find dull (printers,windows servers,back up and storage) but I’m sure there are both men and women who are fascinated by them,just not me.

What should be shouted about is that there is so much technology around now that anyone who understands it,knows how it works and knows how to get it to do things will have a much better chance of being successful in their chosen career.

A better way to approach the problem is to demonstrate the technology and the many ways it can be used to do cool, interesting and useful things. So that might be wearable technology,or social and games or other useful gadgets and gizmos .

Everybody is different so there is no one size fits all solution. Working in technology isn’t for everybody but it would be a shame for those girls who could flourish in a tech job to miss out simply because they never found that ‘in’

The other thing to remember is that sewing isn’t just for girls





Glue everywhere

When I was young something i enjoyed for a while was building airfix kits, little model planes. Think my parents bought me one because it was a wet day,I was off school and had nothing to do.  Surprisingly it was really enjoyable to make.  Following  the instructions, taking the pieces of the plastic frame in order and then glueing them together into a finished model. When I made it, I was so proud, that i had completed the entire thing from start to finish, It looked fantastic.

Later on i started painting the models, buying several tiny pots of paint for each model, painting the plastic components while they were still on the frame, then carefully assembling them.

I can’t remember how long I did this hobby for. Maybe two or three years and made around 10 - 15 models, so I wasn’t massively obsessed and it wasn’t a massive passion just a hobby.  At some point I do remember looking back at the the first model I made,  comparing it with my later ones that were neatly painted, no visible glue,decals carefully applied, it was terrible,glue smeared everywhere, parts not aligned correctly, not painted, looked awful and certainly wouldn’t fly.

Guess what I am saying is, don’t be afraid to do something, take pride in your work, make the best you can.  When you look back at it in a few years time it you may think that your early work was a stinking mess but you need to to go through that practise to be able to make the good stuff. Make stuff that is rubbish and realise that its a step on the way to making the good things.

I know that a lot of the stuff i’m doing at the moment is covered in glue and its got a long way to go but I still need to do it,