Maker Assembly Manchester | 12th November

Maker AssemblyMaker Assembly Manchester is just a couple of weeks away; If you’re interested in making contacts within the Manchester maker community – or simply finding out more about making in and around Manchester, then this is definitely for you.

In particular, if you are interested in how makers and schools can work together – please come along and join the conversation.

Further information

Maker Assembly – produced in association with V&A Digital Programmes and Lighthouse – is a critical gathering about maker cultures, which launched a year ago at the V&A.

makerassembly_1_b48283887c11a8faa67e341c71a1af0cSessions have taken place in Belfast, Sheffield and coming up next is Maker Assembly Manchester, which will take place Saturday, 12th November at MadLab, in conjunction with the Crafts Council’s Make:Shift innovation conference.

The event will explore international maker cultures and what the UK can learn from them; the relationship between making and manufacturing in the UK and the role of makerspaces within the sector; as well as making and humanitarian relief, discussing the role making can play within responses to humanitarian challenges. We have some great speakers joining us, including; Justyna SwatFelipe FonsecaAdrian McEwen, and Paul Sohi.


The Incomplete and Crowdsourced History of UK Maker Culture. 
Maker Assembly Sheffield 31 August 2016. Photo by Dan Sumption

Maker Assembly brings people together to have critical conversations about cultures of making – their meanings, politics, histories and futures. We encourage everyone to participate by combining short talks with contributions from the attendees. The event is peer-to-peer, informal and conversational.

What do we mean by “making”?

We’re talking about people who craft, design, manufacture, tinker with, engineer, fabricate, and repair physical things. Art, craft, electronics, textiles, products, robots. Hi-tech and low-tech, amateur and professional, young and old, with digital tools or by hand. Historical perspectives, what’s happening here and now, and how things might change in the future.

Tickets for Maker Assembly Manchester can be booked here:

Maker Assembly is supported by the Comino Foundation.

Humble Bundle deal on Make: titles

humble-bundle-10-16Humble Bundle is currently offering a wide range of books from the Make: catalogue. At the moment over $300 worth of books is on offer.

The offer expires in 7 days.

The deal is you pay what you want, over a very low limit, some of the money goes to charity, some to Make: and some to Humble Bundle; you can choose these ratios.

What you get is DRM-free e-versions of the books in pdf, epub (Apple iBook) and mobi (Amazon Kindle) versions.

There is a number of (IMHO…) highly recommendable books in the offer. What more can I say?

D&T for the Next Generation

coverThe book Design & Technology for the next generation was published in 2007 through funding from the Technology Enhancement Project with the intention that a copy should be given free of charge to every qualifying design & technology teacher for the following three years. For various reasons this intention was not met. The result was a very limited print run and despite the fact that the book was well received and found its way on many Initial Teacher Training and Masters Courses reading lists it became difficult to obtain and is now virtually unobtainable. To our mind this is a shame as the authors contributing to the book were, and still are, at the forefront of scholarship concerning the purpose, teaching and learning of design & technology education. Hence we are making available free to download PDFs of all the chapters in the book as we believe that they will provide useful reading for all design & technology teachers at a time when the subject is being challenged to modernise particularly in response the introduction of a new single subject GCSE being first taught in September 2017.
The chapters in the book are as follows:
At a time when all creative subjects are being marginalised in the structure of GCSE option choices, it is particularly important that design & technology teachers are able to argue convincingly for the place of their subject in the education for ALL young people up to the age of 16+. Not in terms of a narrow vocational argument centred on the economic necessity of skills required by industry, which will inevitably only apply to a minority of young people, but in terms of an induction to a culturally significant area of human activity that has shaped successive civilisations across history.

MIT has developed some Chooser Charts!

Christopher Polhem

Christopher Polhem

Chooser Charts were a key tool developed by the Nuffield D&T project that David led. Nuffield cannot claim that it was their idea. David Layton pointed out that Christopher Polhem had this idea in Sweden in the 17th Century. He developed a Mechanical Alphabet which was used in teaching at the Laboratorium mechanicum – Sweden´s first school of technology – and later also at the Institute of Technology, the predecessor of the Royal Institute of Technology of Sweden.

The aim of the Nuffield Chooser Charts was to provide young people studying design & technology with easy to use sources of information to help them make design decisions across all the focus areas. The Nuffield materials are now collected together on this website under Resources and contain a wide range of chooser charts for both KS3 and KS4 – in the latter case grouped by material area [electronics products, food technologygraphics, product design, and textiles], reflecting the way GCSE D&T was organised when they were produced. These materials can be freely used and adapted for classroom use but permission needs to be sought for any other purposes.

And we’ve just noticed that MIT’s D-Lab has made available, as high-resolution PDFs, three ‘Learn-IT Boards’ that are, in essence, Chooser Charts of a high graphic quality; one each on Fasteners, Adhesives and Material Selection.

Measuring 2 feet tall by 3 feet wide, Learn-It boards are designed to be hung on a workshop wall.  There, the Learn-Its act as self-serve references for workshop users making prototyping decisions.

Learn-It: Fasteners

Note that, though free, these materials are provided under the Attribution-Non-Commercial 3.0 Creative Commons License, which essentially means that if you use them you need to attribute MIT, include the same licence and not use them for commercial purposes.

We think it’s especially interesting that these are designed to be hung on the workshop wall to enable good design decisions to be made on the hoof!

The Learn-Its are more detailed than the Chooser Charts. They are self-guiding resources that provide an integrated introduction to basic mechanical design elements; they bridge the gap between superficial how-tos and super-detailed technical guides. They give people the right vocabulary to ask targeted questions in the workshop and online, while outlining detailed tips and explanations of physical phenomena driving how different mechanisms, tools, materials, and fasteners work. People are provided with enough information to critically select the right material, adhesive, or tool for their project.

ChooserIn comparison, the Chooser Charts are really designed to support design decision conversations between pupils and teachers, as opposed to providing all the information necessary to make and enact a design decision. So we see the pupils in schools having their own copies of chooser charts which they can annotate as they discuss possibilities with their teachers. We believe this would be very helpful in evidencing the design decisions the pupils make in the new GCSE contextual challenge. You might consider blowing up the Nuffield Chooser charts to A3  size and laminating them so that the teacher and pupil could annotate together using a white board marker. Of course the pupil would need to photograph the result for evidence of designerly thinking.

Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware| WIRED video series

You may have heard of Shenzhen, the hardware capital of China. Famously, this was a small market town and fishing village, just north of Hong Kong, with a population of around 30,000 in 1980, when it was designated as China’s first Special Economic Zone. As a result it has mushroomed into a city with an estimated population of around 15 million (cf London, around 9 million), that is rated as the 19th largest world financial centre and has one of the world’s busiest container ports (thank you Wikipedia…). Shenzhen also has a degree of notoriety, representing, to many, the worst of China’s lax attitudes to Intellectual Property (but more of that below).

There are (at least) two reasons why those of us involved in teaching D&T should be interested in what is happening in Shenzhen. Firstly it is now the goto place for anyone wanting to develop product ideas including electronics into actual products; more prosaically if you have PCBs that you want professionally made it is here that you’ll find many companies offering a very high quality manufacturing service at an amazingly cheap price (I have the PCBs for the soldering workshop badges that we use at Manchester MakeFest made by a company there and even with shipping costs this is far cheaper than I can find in the UK).

Secondly, as a result of all of the above, it has become an important hub in maker culture, providing cheap and rapid access to manufacturing and assembly know-how along with access to a vast range of components. Just as importantly there is a kind of intellectual symbiosis with the maker culture of openness and sharing (which is the other side of the coin of lax attitudes to IP…).

Wired has just released a series of (at the time of writing) three films exploring Shenzhen that give a really good insight into the culture of making and manufacturing there, describing well and sympathetically the approach to IP that many take and examining how maker culture resonates with this.

The three films together are less than an hour long and I think will be really useful in helping D&T teachers understand the new directions that hardware development is taking. The films as they stand are probably too long for most use in schools, but I think there are lots of snippets that could be creatively interspersed into lessons.

‘The Silicon Valley of hardware’: part one of WIRED’s Shenzhen documentary

‘The maker movement of technology’: part two of WIRED’s Shenzhen documentary

‘A new breed of intellectual property’: part three of WIRED’s Shenzhen documentary

Wear It: Explore wearable technology at Manchester Museum of Science and Industry

wear-itWear It is an event exploring the world of wearable technology, running from 10th – 13th March at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry.

And I’ll be there running a free soldering workshop for the full four days with Mark Gilbert and a team of STEM Ambassadors. So, drop by, learn how to solder and take away a cool electronic badge.

Children are very welcome; as a general rule we’ll let anyone 8 or older solder with a responsible adult and young people from 12 can come along unaccompanied.

And of course there are lots of other fun things to do once you’ve got your flashing badge on.

Stuff we like: A catch up

It’s always been our intention to use the Stuff we like… pages to share things we’ve been reading, watching and listening to. So this is the first in what I hope will become a rather more frequent series of ‘catch up’ posts – bringing the site up to date with some of the things I’ve been reading over the past few months. These are listed in about the order I read them – but I’ve also linked them (‘Filed under’) to the sections of the website where the permanent references are.

The Second Machine Age iconThe Second Machine Age – Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew Mcafee, published in 2015 by Norton. This provides a really good overview of the range of (largely digital) technologies that are starting to impact all areas of life. The authors discuss both the opportunities that these technological revolutions offer and also the risks to people from the scale of the changes they predict. They also provide recommendations for individuals and policy that they think will help ensure the smoothest possible transition to the technological age they predict. Interestingly they put quite a high priority on the importance of education to prepare both individuals and society for the second machine age and note the need to reform education for such a purpose. Although their brief overview of the (US) educational landscape does no more than skim the surface, I do think they are right that education needs to change in the face of the immense social challenges that digital technologies are bringing. This book won’t tell you much about how education should change – but it lays a foundation for understanding what such changes need to achieve. Filed under …about Technology

Learning Reimagined iconLearning Reimagined by Graham Brown-Martin, published in 2014 by Bloomsbury  is a beautifully produced book – full of gorgeous photos – through which the author explores radical approaches to education from around the world that have been facilitated by digital technologies. Organised by country, the book contains interviews with leading thinkers along with case studies of schools and learning communities. These are interspersed with ‘Thought Pieces’ from the author in which he reflects on some of the wider and overarching educational issues that his visits and conversations prompt. True to its focus on new technologies the book makes good use of augmented reality, in particular linking from the written interviews to videos of those being interviewed. If The Second Machine Age outlines why education needs to change, the wealth of examples in this book will inspire thinking about how it might change. Filed under …about Education

Girl genius 3 iconGirl Genius – Agatha H and the Voice of the Castle by Phil and Kaja Foglio, published in 2014 by Titan. This is the third novelisation of the wonderful series of Girl Genius steampunk comics. These comics are first published online (for free) in three instalments a week, then bound up and sold as comic books. Every now and then a series of the comics is published in novel form. All the incarnations are excellent; a strong and intelligent female lead, lots of good technology humour and great story lines. What’s not to like…..? Filed under …that is Just Cool

I Think You'll Find It's a Bit More Complicated Than That iconI Think You’ll Find It’s a Bit More Complicated Than That by Ben Goldacre, published in 2014 by Fourth Estate. This is a collection of articles by Goldacre previously published elsewhere – many of them in The Guardian’s bad science column and on the Bad Science website. The merit of the collection is that the articles are grouped into themes and thus allow a line of thought to develop. Goldacre has a laser-like focus on identifying the bad use of science and, in particular, on how data is used and misused. He’s an entertaining writer and this is an accessible and well-grounded introduction to a lot of ideas in statistics and data handling. The book includes a section on education; Goldacre has made something of a name for himself in advocating for education the use of these kinds of large scale randomised control trials that have transformed medicine. Not all education researchers are convinced that these ideas will transfer to education as well as Goldacre claims, but this book is a good place to read Goldacre’s argument. Filed under Big Data

Hot to Cold iconHot to Cold: An Odyssey of Architectural Adaptation by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) published by Taschen in 2015. I’m a huge fan of  Bjarke Ingels’ architecture – the fact that he’s Danish is, of course, immaterial…. This book (produced for an exhibition of the same name at the National Building Museum in Washington DC earlier this year) provides an overview of around 60 of BIG’s projects, some built, others in progress and some speculative, ordered by the temperature of the climate where the work is set. What I like about this is that it provides really clear descriptions of the design thinking that led the group to some really very radical building designs.  I think these could be used as design case studies with pupils as a well as the book being a great D&T design reference. For those who prefer their information in comic book forms, an earlier work by BIG, Yes is More: An Archicomic on Architectural Evolution, covers some of the same territory. Filed under …about Design

The Language of Things iconThe Language of Things by Deyan Sudjic published in 2009 by Penguin. SuDjic is the Director of the design Museum in London, and in this book provides a great popular introduction to a number of ideas in design, looking not only at the language of design (as indicated by the title) but also design archetypes and the relationship of design with luxury, fashion and art. He’s a clear and often witty writer and I think this is nice overview of some interesting idea in design that D&T teachers would find valuable. Filed under …about Design

Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth iconOperating Manual for Spaceship Earth by R. Buckminster Fuller, published 2008 by Lars Muller. This book was originally published in 1968; one the one hand this shows very clearly in the style of writing – which was probably very relaxed for its time but can come across as a bit stilted in places by today’s standards. On the other hand, many of the ideas it in seem almost prophetic when read with hindsight. Buckminster Fuller is probably best known for the design of geodesic domes, but this book clearly shows him as a polymath with very wide interests and a knack for binging together seemingly unrelated ideas. His writing is motivated by a strong belief that social inequity is unacceptable and that design and technology should be a tool for equalisation, he is concerned about the consequences of rapid population growth, about the implications of automation and about   our unsustainable use of ‘Spaceship Earth’s’ resources. All of which continue to be live issues. However he is an optimist; he believes that humans can work together to produce a fair and sustainable world. He argues that humanity needs to bring range of tools to bear on the planet’s problems, including systems thinking and synergistic thinking, and that by doing so we have the capacity to ensure  a good future for all of Spaceship Earth’s passengers. Filed under …about Technology

Saturn's Children iconSaturn’s Children by Charles Stross published in 2009 by Orbit. Stross is among my favourite SF authors and this book has his trademark dark humour. Set in a future where humans have engineered advanced robots to look after them – and then become so lazy that they slip into extinction, the story follows the adventures of one of these robots. This is a great exploration of what happens when ‘our’ machines try to sustain a human society that is bereft of humans. Filed under …about Science Fiction

The Art of Critical Making iconThe Art of Critical Making: Rhode Island School of Design on Creative Practice by John Maeda, Rosanne Somerson and Mara Hermano, published in 2013 by John Wiley. This collection of essays by and interviews with members of the staff teaching at the highly regarded Rhode Island School of Design (RSID) ranges widely across material contexts and approaches to teaching design and making. But running through the book is the idea that making should be a critical activity and that design education should encourage deep thoughtfulness and a questioning attitude to such things as the materials being used, the purposes of this use, the needs of people impacted by the designing and making and social and environmental impacts. It shouldn’t be a surprise that these are seen as important in design education, but the value of this book lies in the descriptions of the learning experiences enjoyed by students at RSID, many of which, it seems to me could be applied to school-level education as well. Also of interest is the broad emphasis on the importance of the embodied learning that arise from physical interaction with materials; computers certainly don’t seem to be banned at RSID, but neither is their use privileged.Filed under …about Design

The Scientist As Rebel icon

The Scientist As Rebel by Freeman Dyson published in 2008 by New York Review Books. Dyson is one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists but applies his considerable intellect well beyond the confines of physics. This collection of essays is arranged in four groups; Contemporary Issues in Science, War and Peace, History of Science and Scientists and Personal and Philosophical Essays. It is compassionate, human and very readable. The first section contains the material most directly relevant to D&T education and includes an exploration of the implications of the mass adoption of novel technologies such as neurotechnology and synthetic biology, speculating, for example, that:

Instead of CAD-CAM we may have CAS-CAR, computer-aided selection and computer-aided reproduction.

But the essays are of interest beyond this; he provides unfashionable views on climate science, thoughtful observations of the relationship between religion and science, and insights into a range of contemporary issues such as environmental protection and genetic engineering. Filed under …about Technology

Teaching- Notes from the Front Line iconTeaching: Notes from the Front Line by Dr Debra Kidd, published in 2014 by Independent Thinking Press. A thoughtful and bang-up-to-the-minute exploration of the some of the significant contemporary issues facing teaching and teachers. Kidd writes as both a teacher and a senior leader in schools, she is passionate about high quality education and, equally,  clear that much of the political and administrative activity around schools undermines quality education. This will not be a surprise to most working in schools. What marks this book out as more than just another teacher’s whine about how hard teaching is, is that this a handbook of ‘pedagogical activism’. The cover of the book claims that “We are … in need of a revolution in education” and most chapters end with a series of  bulleted action points of things ‘you can do now’. Kidd  does not think there is time to wait around and hope things improve, she want teachers to “take control of the direction of education and policy”. You may not agree with all her views or prescriptions, but I think most teachers will find inspiration in her proactive attitude. Filed under …about Education

Design as Art iconDesign as Art by Bruno Munari, this edition published 2008 by Penguin (original published in 1966). Munari was an influential Italian designer of the 20th century and in this series of short pieces he explores not only the relationship of Design to Art but also the place of design in society under the broad areas of Stylists, Visual Design, Graphic Design, Industrial Design and Research Design. He is a thoughtful and humourous writer and a number of his chapters (along with the copious drawings that accompany them) could form the basis for activities that will get pupils in D&T thinking more deeply about design. Filed under …about Design