Neil's News

Maker Faire 2008

4 May 2008

This weekend I was exhibiting my computerized Etch A Sketch and wooden brain at the Maker Faire. The combination drew a heavy crowd.

The Etch A Sketch behaved itself reasonably well. The only issue was that the laptop Google provided for me had a much more energetic parallel port than any computer I'd previously encountered. My 2.2KΩ pull-down resistors to ground were not capable of dropping the 5 volt float to a zero bit. Some 220Ω resistors would have done the trick. But I was never able to install them. Every time I heated up my soldering iron and started unmounting the circuit board, another TV crew would appear and shove a microphone up my shirt. Fortunately I had been able to reprogram the controller to run fairly well even in the absence of orientation feedback.

The computerized Etch A Sketch is the silliest, most useless robot I've ever built. But it is by far the most popular robot with the public. Everyone recognises the Etch A Sketch and remembers their childhood hatred of the user interface. When they see a joystick connected to some motors on an Etch A Sketch, they know exactly what it's all about and burst out laughing.

Here are some photos of a young girl drawing a rather nice camel at closing time on the first day.

[Young girl drawing on the Etch A Sketch] [Drawing of a camel on the Etch A Sketch]

And finally, a big shout-out to Tom Sgouros and his one-man/one-robot Cognitive Science play Judy. Brilliant stuff. Three years ago I'd narrowly missed his show in Aberdeen, but was fortunate to see it on Saturday at the Maker Faire.

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