Monthly Archives

April 2016

Sonic Boom: Our Day with Sonic Pi creator Dr. Sam Aaron

By | Astro Pi, coding, Music, Raspberry Pi, Sonic Pi, young people | No Comments

In a world that is dominated by computers, software, apps and social media, coding is king. It is a skill that will only become more desirable, especially to employers around the world, whose businesses will continue to rely more and more on software and programming. And one man has created something that will inspire the coders of the future tenfold, and that man is Dr. Sam Aaron.

A relative unknown to those not submerged in the world of coding, Dr Sam Aaron has invented a means of teaching young people about coding through the most popular medium known to man, a medium that unites people and one which I haven’t met anyone yet in life that doesn’t enjoy, and that thing is music.

Sonic Pi is a piece of software that allows users to create live music using code, more specifically Ruby, for those of you aware of coding languages. Aaron is at the forefront of this new technology and as he personally invented the concept, we thought him the best person to deliver our Sonic Pi workshops that took place on Tuesday 5th April. Aaron spent the first eleven years of his life in Stoke-on-Trent, (yes, Stoke-on-Trent! Take that you Jason Mountford Stoke-on-Trent facebook post trollers) and now calls Cambridge home. Aaron has created Sonic Pi as an educational tool to encourage young people to become more involved in coding, it is also a funded project that is free to download online. Driving an underlying belief that children need to know why they are performing certain tasks within education and through using Sonic Pi, children get an immediate response to their code, this response being live music.

Here at Wavemaker, we were thrilled when Dr. Sam agreed to come into HQ at the Mitchell Arts Centre in Hanley and deliver not one but two amazing workshops. For coding and music enthusiasts, like ourselves, we had a celebrity in the world of coding coming to visit!

The first workshop that Sam delivered was to children and young people. It was a sell out session and gave the group an introduction to Sonic Pi and time to play in the software to create their very own composition, complete with with synths, effects and samples. The workshop highlighted some great coding and musical talent among the young people in the city. I wouldn’t be surprised, in time, if another Potter became an expert Sonic Pi DJ with world-wide fame, given the number of fantastic musical pieces that were created in that workshop.  

In essence, Dr. Sam is also a DJ and travels the world performing using Sonic Pi. Wavemaker were also introduced to Alga -Raves, dance nights across the country, that specifically play live coded music….it’s safe to say Wavemaker will be making an appearance at one of these in the near future!

The second workshop was aimed at adults, teachers and coding enthusiasts who wanted to know more about Sonic Pi at a more advanced level. The group included music technology lecturers from the local universities and colleges as well as those from a coding background. In this session Aaron demonstrated the lengths to which Sonic Pi can be used, how advanced the software is and just how amazing it is to listen to live coded music. With a small performance at the end of the session, Aaron really highlighted how mind-blowing this kind of music can be and also enjoyable.

In a lot of ways it is not only a skill but a true art form, a combination of something ancient in history, universal in enjoyment, combined with new technology that transcends the now common place turntable, apple mac DJ booth. To create live music in this way is truly a meeting of traditional and modern musical minds, and one which shows no sign of stopping in its popularity and growth. Sonic Pi is available to download for free for Microsoft and Mac, there is also learning resources available online for anyone who wants to give it a go. After such a fantastic experience, we are hoping to get Dr. Sam Aaron back to his homeland once more for a proper performance, a showcase for our already music loving and musically talented city of what the future holds. Watch this space.

out-landscape-blue

Is it Easter already?!

By | coding, Laser cutting, Minecarft, Music, robot wars, robotics, Sonic Pi, young people | No Comments

It’s been a busy Easter here at Wavemaker, two weeks filled with exciting and innovative activities….if we do say so ourselves!

 

Kicking off this chocolate marathon was our first workshop on Tuesday 29th March, Make you own Charm Bracelet. This workshop gave participants the opportunity to learn how to use Illustrator software to create custom charm designs, the laser cutter and then assemble their bracelet using jewellry tools. The session included both parents and their children working side-by-side to create, which was brilliant to see and something that we wholeheartedly encourage here at Wavemaker.

The session was a real success, and it was a great way to link technology with more traditional crafting skills, which is definitely a theme we hope to continue. By the end, everybody left the workshop with a bracelet adorned with personalised charms from stars and hearts to hamsters….yes hamsters…which strangely was a recurring theme throughout the week!

 

On Wednesday 30th it was the turn of a technology that has already had meteoric growth over the last few years and is set to boom in 2016, Virtual Reality. With Google launching the Google Cardboard in 2014/15 and smartphone technology now making virtual reality more accessible to the masses, this was an area of growing technology that Wavemaker felt needed exploring by the people of Stoke-on-Trent. Leading the session was Ollie and Sam from So Visual, a commercial photography company based in Stafford who also specialise in image stitching of your workspace/gym/home.

The workshop saw an influx of both parents and children, giving them the opportunity to build their own VR cardboard device and also feature in their own virtual reality environment, which was stitched together during the workshop. Using a special 180 degree fisheye lense and tripod, So Visual took photos of the group in a circle at 90 degree intervals and then stitched the images together to make our very own virtual reality mockup of our makerspace. Information about each person in the group was also written and then added to the VR environment so that pop-ups would appear when moving through the VR space. The session also gave the group information about the best VR applications available and there was also playtime, which allowed the group time to play in Virtual Reality and see whether their new assembled VR cardboard stood the test of virtual time.

Thursday’s workshop was a personal highlight for everyone at Wavemaker, a day that few here will forget. We were lucky enough to have one of the creators of the cult TV show Robot Wars host a session building small super antweight robots. John Findlay from Roaming Robots, now travels the country and internationally hosting robot competitions, events and workshops both public and private. John even made many a Robot Wars dream come true and bought in the world-famous Matilda for a meet and greet. For those of you don’t know Matilda, I suggest you look her up, (as a girl that grew up with two older brothers she was a personal hero.)

The session saw groups divide into teams, design and build their own ‘antweight’ robots. A robotic hamster also made an appearance, boasting a string tail and whiskers. Attention to detail was definitely high in that particular animal loving team. What followed was passion to rival any football derby or sporting competition, a head-to-head robot battle. The aim was to knock the opposing robot out of the sumo circle, best of three. Teams took it in turns to remotely control their robot, testing their design to the maximum in an effort to achieve eternal robot glory. The makerspace took on the atmosphere of an amphitheatre, adults and children alike cheering for their favourite cardboard gladiator. The three sessions that ran that day were fully booked and a day which Wavemaker will always remember.

 

This weekend was split exploring new emerging technology at the NEC’s Gadget Show and also hosting another hugely successful Building in Minecraft session, run in conjunction with the BBC Get Creative Day. This allowed young people across the city to come together and share their love of Minecraft in a two-hour free play and building session. Our next session will take place at the end of April so keep an eye on our facebook page and website. After all this weekend activity Wavemaker were ready for our second easter week of workshops. The first of these was Sonic Pi, hosted by its inventor Dr. Sam Aaron. This was such a momentous occasion for music and coding enthusiasts alike that I have created a blog post just for it. Check out Sonic Boom: A Day with Sonic Pi creator Dr. Sam Aaron for a full low down on that day’s events.

Last but in no means least was Wednesday 6th April workshop on Building your own Website in Weebly. The number of young people that attended this session was amazing, and they created some interesting and varied websites for you all to enjoy from football and rugby facts and figures to information on scratch coding and how to care for hamsters….yep told you it was a recurring theme!

 

All in all the Easter holiday has been a huge success, we have had new visitors to the space and have hosted some fabulous workshops, the likes of which have not been available in the city before. We will now pore over the feedback and begin to design a new programme for half term and also the summer, both of which we promise will offer workshops and experiences that you don’t want to miss!