Brushbot Creepers Attack!

Gentle Islanders may not be aware that there are librarians in our midst this week, converging on Charlottetown from all across the Atlantic provinces for the annual conference of the Atlantic Provinces Library Association. Yesterday, under the aegis of my Hacker in Residence posting I presented a pre-conference workshop called DIY Mapping for Librarians and then, in the afternoon, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a workshop presented by Don Moses and Krista Godfrey called Playing in the Technology Garden, a session that, to my surprise and delight, focused on the possibilities of building makerspaces and fablabs inside libraries.

Krista and Don started off the workshop with a fun “making” activity, passing out Brush Bot kits to everyone in the hall. Essentially you strap a battery and a mobile phone vibrator into a toothbrush head and then watch it dance around the table. The activity was a good tone-setting, and helped convey that you don’t need soldering irons or 3D printers to do “maker” activities inside a library.

Of course if you do have a 3D printer, well then you don’t necessarily need a toothbrush anymore. A few weeks ago, as part of Open Minecraft Lab, Don printed me up some Minecraft “creepers” on his 3D printer and I decided to hack my Brush Bot and remove the gear from the toothbrush and paste it into a creeper I’d been carrying around in my bag. The result was quite delightful:

Despite only having 3 hours for their session, Don and Krista managed to cover an impressive amount of ground, from Brush Bots to Arduinos to 3D printing to the logistics of makerspaces in library spaces. It was terrific to see the “maker ethic” spreading into the library world, and especially encouraging to see efforts like the one in Nova Scotia to equip every public library with a 3D printer.

An especially encouraging side-effect of the workshop was learning that Andy Trivett, chair of the Engineering Department at UPEI (wait, UPEI has an Engineering Department!?), has secured funding and space for a Fablab at the university, and that this will be a community facility that we’ll all be able to use. This is a great an unexpected development and I look forward to seeing what develops.