MakeFest Liverpool is a family-friendly event celebrating low level technologies, hardware, hacking and making! We had a stand at the 2016 event and built two interesting prototypes to try and engage those attending and learn more about the hardware space for ourselves. Here we review what we did and what we learnt.
Five of us attended from Novoda, it’s a crazy busy day and having a group of us allowed 2–3 to man the stand whilst the others could explore or just take a breather from all the conversations. Most attendees of MakeFest are families with children 7–17. This year was even more unique, since the same venue was running ComicCon on another floor and so every now and then a Darth Vader, Naruto or Superwoman would attend our stand.
MakeFest for Novoda has two aims: We love helping the community, and seeing young people so engaged with technology is a real inspiration. Helping spark creative ideas and showing that technology is easy to get into is a target for what we demonstrate. Secondly, we ourselves are always learning and trying to push the boundaries of our knowledge. Working with hardware is not a daily occurrence yet for the mainstay of Novoda and so MakeFest really pushes us to learn new things.
Our first project was based on the idea of bringing technology into an every-day, not-so-smart object, so we created a smart mirror. Turned off, it just reflects the image of the person in front of it, but when turned on, more information can be seen as an overlay on the reflected image.
In a typical domestic environment, a smart mirror would display useful information, like the weather forecast or the agenda for the day, but for MakeFest we considered the expected audience, especially the youngest part of it. For MakeFest we used face recognition to detect when someone was looking at the mirror and displayed different animations and smiling images depending on the happiness of the person in front of it. More details about how to build your own Smart Mirror will come in a future blog post, so stay tuned.
Our other idea for MakeFest was based around interactivity. We wanted people to come and engage with the stand but also we wanted to give away prizes! Nothing is better for winning a prize than a game. We made a Simon Says game that would display a sequence of colors on the screen and then this had to repeated on the attached otg usb cable retro game controller. We had high bar ideas for making all the hardware ourselves and connecting the controller to the game via the cloud, but time caught up with us and we went with our minimal viable product approach.
One big learning from MakeFest was color blindness. Every now and then a child couldn’t play the game because they couldn’t distinguish the colors. For the future, and if we were to do this again, adding a color blind mode that switched the colors to something with more contrast would really help. We do this for our client apps in our day job and I feel bad that we forgot to consider it. Here is a great reference website for selecting contrasting colors.
Our game winners got a SparkFun Inventors Kit each, which has everything needed to get started programming and hacking hardware bits together. We hope you enjoy them and let us know when you make something awesome.
Yet more proof that creativity and science go hand in hand! It was an interesting and exciting day and it was refreshing to see so many children and families taking part. Best lesson learned: do not challenge an 8 year old at ‘Simon Says’!
MakeFest was a fun experience. All the stands were displaying some very interesting and especially motivating projects, and ours created a lot of interest as well. It was very nice to see children playing hard with our game in order to win one of the prizes and our smart mirror aroused interest from both kids and adults, playing with funny faces in front of it.
I loved it. Science, comics, and children all gathered in same place. Our magic mirror was so amazing; ‘Can I see a slim version of myself?’ asked one dad. :-) We met parents and children that competed against each other on our game and were extremely surprised to notice that their children were better than them! The vivacity and learning ability of children is inspiring. As Steve Jobs said: Stay hungry, stay foolish!
Events like MakeFest are great fun. They are full of passionate people being proud of their work and ideas, which is really inspiring. We had a chance to chat with other Makers about their inventions and play with their amazing gizmos. I am really glad that people enjoyed our inventions as well and hopefully inspired some of them to start playing with hardware too! Looking forward to next year’s MakeFest!
It was a great day and I was really impressed how all of the children enjoyed playing our Simon Says game. It was interesting to see how different age ranges approached the game in terms of speed of learning, rule comprehension and the average score per group. If I was doing it again I would add analytics to the game so that we could get further insights!
We cannot wait for 2017, so many ideas! The interactivity of our creations this year went down really well. Next year we want to go bigger and better, until then. In brightest day … in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight! Let those who worship evil’s might beware my power—Green Lantern's light!
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