Cadiz

On the edge of Europe, Cadiz is famous for looking much like Havana and this is not surprising given its history as a seafaring centre from which many ships sailed to the Americas over the years. Cadiz is as old as Europe, some say the oldest city in this ancient continent, with Phoenicians, Roman, Muslim and Christian roots going back for centuries. And it is still a beautiful, vibrant city with a fish market to die for and atmospheric alleys, cafes, bars and restaurants, as well as, museums and concert halls. One of Spain’s most famous composers Manuel de Falla is from here and the city is known as the site of the yearly carnival where laughter and music mingle on the streets. 20141221_123457When we visited, at the end of December, the weather was chilly but fresh and pregnant with sea breeze. Our modest hotel was near the famed Cathedral and around the corner from the Gypsy area and an atmospheric ancient sherry bar full of wooden barrels and old men. The best part of a first visit to Cadiz is getting lost in the atmospheric streets and putting your head in small local bakeries, restaurants and shops to try the local fare and talk to the friendly folk. The Cadiz Museum is also nice to visit with classic and modern art and archaeological pieces that somehow help put things in perspective.     20141221_135934      But the best history is the living one: the mix of faces you see on the street, reflecting the complex line of men and women who have choose this place as home, the tradition you taste when you try the local cheese and olives and the laughter and joyful talk you hear when you walk into a random bar on a Sunday afternoon where there is a large communal paella is placed on the counter where you can buy a small, tapa portion and eat knowing for a day you are part of a large family of all the people who have passed through here. And walking beside the harbour, looking at the men with fishing rods in the water, you know that they stand where many stood over time.

20141220_132651So for a few days in December, we laugh and talk and are silent and dream, in these streets and under this sky, oblivious and yet knowing that Cadiz will be here much longer after we are gone.20141220_113429

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Ronda

“Impulsive! Randomly impulsive!”, that’s what I think when I suddenly decide to take the bus to a small town directly after work on Friday. I have no plans, no toothbrush, no hiking booths, no extra clothes, but the weekend had started and to get to my own village from Seville is about 1 hour, while getting to this apparently amazing town, Ronda, is two hours. … and I am in Spain and healthy and have enough money to get me there and no plans for the evening, so who cares if I don’t have a toothbrush!

I get on the last bus for the 2 hour ride. The bus takes off into the night and 2 hours later, I’m in Ronda. I manage to find a nice and affordable hotel in the middle of the city and rent a small room, walk down the street to a spectacular bridge and then head back to the hotel feeling tired and a bit confused about my decision, it is too dark to see anything and the bus ride was also in darkness, maybe I should have stayed back in Seville! But I managed to find a toothbrush and I sleep early.

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The next morning, it is raining! Damn, I was planning to go for a hike or at least a walk around town. I decide to get up and out anyway, and as I do a beautiful thing happens: the clouds start parting for a short bit. The streets are empty and I walk to one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen: two towns built on huge boulders and connected by a massive bridge. It is unbelievable and the sun shines for a moment too and I am in heaven!

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Ronda is an ancient town: it was occupied by the Romans and then over time became an important Muslim stronghold before being retaken by Christians. Over time, it has attracted many writers and artists including Ernst Hemingway. When I was reading the description of the town in the guidebook, suddenly, I remembered a shocking passage in “For Whom the Bell Tolls” where in a small Spanish town (Ronda, as it turns out), during the Spanish Civil War, the fascists of a small village were rounded up in a town square which was close to a cliff. They were beaten and then had to walk between two lines of villagers to their fall into the valley below. This shocking story is unfortunately true and it did happen in Ronda, in the same square that I am sitting in now (Plaza de Espania).

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Looking down the cliff from Puente Nuevo is terrifying and also fantastic. When I cross it, I enter the beautiful old town. My running shoes are slippery and dangerous for walking on the wet road here, so I slow down but in the end manage to take a short historic walk (based on one recommended by the tourist office and beautiful described in relation to trees and the landscape) around and outside town. I first visit an abandoned palace (Casa del Rey Moro) with beautiful gardens and a long (again wet and dangerous) staircase to the very bottom of the cliff. It is a fantastic view from down here and legend has it that this was a hidden bathing spot for the sultan’s wives in the past.

Up on the cliff again, I walk down to the ancient Banos Arab (Arab baths) and the ruins of two windmills. Walking on a smaller bridge, I get to ancient farmhouses where pomegranate trees are growing and time seems to have stood still. I walk back to the city and head to the final spot to see before departure: the private Museo Lara (www.meuseolara.com).

Witches tools, Museo Lara

Witches tools, Museo Lara

Collecting interesting objects from clocks to guns to pipes to microscopes to Medieval torture instruments to witches tools, it the passion (and obsession) of the owner of this collection. It’s fun and quirky museum that I enjoy very much. The ride back to Seville is fantastic: what I had missed on the previous evening because of darkness, I see now: expanses of mountainous scenery dotted with farmhouses and ruins. I get back to the same station I impulsively took off the previous day, grateful for the adventurous pushing spirit in me that sometimes takes over when I am indecisive!

Picking Oranges

My first weekend in Seville was full of kindness from the family of my friend and colleague who has arranged my stay here. In addition to helping me with every arrangement of the trip she also invited me to lunch and a very pleasant afternoon with her family. We had a nice lunch that included different kinds of cheeses (one matured in a cave) and large tasty shrimp and two courses, including my favourite chilled soup, Salmorejo, and Andalusian rice and chicken. After lunch we went for a walk around Seville and my friend and her husband showed me several interesting areas famous because of Sacred Week or Semana Santa when sacred statues are paraded in the streets and worshipped. This is a special festival in Seville and the most famous virgin that is celebrated is Macarena. We visited the church where the statue of the saint is housed. Fragrant incense was in the air and a small nativity scene was created in small detailed statues in a corner. 20141207_184129 These days, close to Christmas, there are many places where items to setup one’s own nativity scene are sold. Most shops have cute and sometimes very detailed nativity scenes and also interesting dances (for example, the ancient Seises in the Seville Cathedral) take place.

Small objects for nativity scenes

Small objects for nativity scenes

After visiting the church, we walked out to see the surviving part of Seville’s 12th century city wall. Walking along the wall we reached the centre again and finished in the city’s oldest bar called El Rinconcillo. It was packed and a small number of vigilant and expert servers attended to a large number of customers. They used the wooden bar as a tab to keep track of what people had ordered with chalk and would wipe it off later with a wet cloth! Big Jamon Iberico legs hanged from the ceiling.

My friends invited me to a family gathering in the countryside the next day. The next day was a beautiful holiday and the sun was shining in the sky. We drove to a village close to the place I’m staying and then on to the countryside where my friend’s parents live. It was fantastic to meet this kind and generous family. After a glass of pure orange juice from the fields, we snacked on olives from their fields and my friend’s father shared some stories from the time he was a diplomat in Indonesia. He had brought many beautiful folk art pieces with him that adorned their beautiful house. He also had painted interesting and detailed scenes and pictures. It was a delight exploring their home and seeing all the objects. In addition to collecting the objects, he had designed and built the house himself and was taking care of the large field with a small tractor. I was very inspired by my friend’s parents who kept serving me fresh oranges, sweets and food. For lunch, we had a beautiful Paella with seafood and a cabbage salad that reminded me of sauerkraut. My friend’s mother is a very kind and pleasant lady with many jokes. I enjoyed her energy and the translations of my friend and missed my grandmother in Iran. 20141208_152449 After lunch and a short break, we went  into the field and collected many oranges and lemons that I look forward to eat in the next few days. In my experience, one of the joys of travelling is experiencing people’s kindness, something that gives us hope and strength to carry on and be sources of joy ourselves. The best part of travelling is meeting new friends and today I am very grateful and honoured for that. The Mediterranean Diet is recognized by the UNESCO as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity and I feel the goodness of the sun, earth and sea really adds magic to the food here. I think the most important and “intangible” ingredient in this diet is the family love that runs through people’s veins. 20141213_170026

Cordoba

I met a Portuguese archaeologist over Salmorejo (chilled tomato and olive oil soup) in an atmospheric bar with lots of bullfighting paraphernalia in Cordoba. His expertise was in making sure building renovation projects did not destroy national heritage, a job with much possibility in Europe (especially in Iberia) where layer upon layer of history are laid on top of each other! In the last few days, I have been immersed in this history and learn something new each day. 20141206_112729 I arrived in Spain last week to start a two month visiting researcher residency in the University of Seville. I have been in Seville once before (in the middle of the summer!), but I stayed just for a night before going to Portugal. I left intrigued and eager to spend more time here. So I’m very grateful for this chance to be able to live and research here for this time.

Marcel Duchamp's famous piece

Marcel Duchamp’s famous piece

I arrived in Madrid on the weekend and stayed at a nice hostel in the middle of the city. It was rainy and I was jet lagged and decided to grab a coffee and hit a museum. I wanted to the save the world famous Prado for when I was more focused and decided to visit the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. In the last year, I’ve become obsessed with museums and as usual I spent about 6 hours of none-stop exploration at the thought-provoking galleries. I’ve been recently reading Paulo Frier’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” and the surprisingly a series of exhibits were about revolutionary teaching methods and revolution and its relationship to knowledge. Of course, the most famous piece at the museum (and justifiably so) is Picasso’s Guernica, a magnificent work. After hanging out with Miro, Duchamp and Picasso, I went for a walk around Madrid and went through a couple of small markets where families and the young party crowd share space on communal tapa-tasteing tables. The next day, I took the fast train from Madrid to Seville and met with my colleague and friend who has kindly arranged my stay and even picked up groceries for me so that I wouldn’t be hungry over the sunday (when a lot of grocery stores close). I will be staying at a nice, spacious villa in a village near Seville. These villages were built by Romans to escape Seville’s heat in the summer and have higher elevations. The village I’m staying at, La Valencina de la Concepcion, which is about 6 kilometres from Sevilla, is deliciously non-touristy and authentic. The streets are full of orange trees and there’s a large lemon tree in my backyard. In the evening, I went for a short walk and saw local boys on horseback going to pick up groceries! 20141201_104648 In the mornings, I take a bus to Seville’s main station from where it’s a pleasant bicycle ride along the river to the university. At the university, everybody is very friendly and welcoming. I eat lunch at the school cafeteria where nice two course meals can be had for less than 5 euros (the cafeteria also has the best cafe con leche which is served by an energetic and humours barrister). Seville is an amazing city with a long history and a lot of character. One day when I was walking back from work, I decided to cross the river and visit the historic Triana, a famous neighbourhood known as the birthplace of flamenco, and walking through its narrow streets suddenly passed a window where the beautiful voice of a singer was accompanied by guitars and claps. I stood there transfixed and listened to the beautiful song they were rehearsing. I love flamenco, it’s passion, it’s raw energy, it’s simultaneous restraint and expression! I can’t wait to hear more of this music of “hope and despair” (in Lorca’s words). Here and here are a few of my favourite songs at the moment! (I’m planning to write more on Seville in future posts). 20141201_111432 So back to Cordoba! I decided to visit this historic city over a weekend. It is very close to Seville with the train and once there, the best way to see it is to get lost in the neighbourhoods. If you close your eyes, you almost feel like you are in medieval times! As I arrived at the hostel, which was very close to the famous mosque-cathedral Mesquite, suddenly there was the sound of Muslim call to prayers. It was beautiful to hear and reminded me of visiting Morocco last year. The arts and crafts in Andalusia have a lot in common with Moroccan art and the cultural interchange can be felt in everything from food to music. 20141206_110839 My favourite activity in Cordoba is getting lost in the varied and atmospheric barrios (neighbourhoods) and imagine myself in a different world of many centuries ago. This is easy to do as many restaurants and shops play atmospheric flamenco, Sephardic (Jewish) and Andalusian music that adds a lot to the atmosphere. The jewel of Cordoba is the Mezquita (Great Mosque), one of the largest mosques in the world, that was transformed into a cathedral in the 16th century after the Christian reconquest. I arrived there early in the chilly morning to avoid tour groups that are not allowed in until 10:30. As I entered, through the beautiful Patio de Los Naranjos, a small courtyard full of orange trees, I felt myself transported to many centuries ago, when Muslims, Christians and Jews lived here together. The Mosque/Cathedral was dimly lit with many small candle-like lights and an organ was playing beautiful atmospheric music. This building is very large and I could imagine large mass prayers being held here. The structure is supported by a large number (856 to be exact) of pillars that are coloured in a unique pattern that has become famous in postcards and posters of Cordoba. I believe the pillars are meant to resemble palm trees in a promised land. The site of Mezquita has been home to Roman and early Christian temples before being turned into the mosque in 785. Cordoba was the first stronghold of the Moor (Muslim) rulers, before their centre of power moved to Seville in the 11th century and finally to Granada before being defeated completely in 1492 by Christian forces from the north. The Mezquita building was so magnificent that the Christian rulers, despite converting it back to church when they captured Cordoba in 1236, did not destroy it. In 1271, however, they decided to modify it and built a church in the middle of the mosque destroying the central area in the process. King Carlos I, who gave the order of building the cathedral, was remorseful when construction was finished and famously said, “You have built what you or others might have built anywhere, but you have destroyed something that was unique in the world”. 20141206_093726 I spent some time walking around the building in a meditative mood and thinking of all the persecuted people of the world. I was especially moved when I saw that a lot of the work was done by Syrian artists. I felt pain in the thought that still in many parts of the world persecution and murder because of differences in belief or ways of life goes on; something that has been with us since time immemorial. The Mihrab, which is the main prayer point and faces Mecca, is especially impressive. It is made of detailed mosaics inlaid with floral patterns and Koranic inscriptions laid in gold by Syrian masters who were sent to the Sultan Hakim II by the emperor of Byzantium, in the 10th century. Upon exiting the mosque-cathedral, I went up the bell-tower (former minaret or prayer call tower) for a fabulous view of the city including the Roman bridge that connects the two sides of the river. I continued exploring Cordoba further, visiting the famed Plaza de la Corredera, which was the sight of gladiator fights and inquisition burnings before turning into a peaceful square with cafes and restaurant (including one called Ali Kebab, I guess the Muslim influence is coming back!), the Muse de Bellas Arte and Plaza del Potro, a former horse trading plaza. Another highlight of Cordoba for me was the fantastic Posada del Potro, a former inn turned flamenco museum, made famous by Cervantes in Don Quixote. Here, you can imagine the scene from the amazing Spanish novel where Sancho Panza is being thrown up and down by playful and mischievous travellers on a big sheet! The flamenco museum is very nice with historical short films being shown and interactive systems where you can try your hand at keeping rhythm with different flamenco forms. 20141206_114848 After visiting these sights, I went to grab a bite to eat in a tavern where old servers poured house made wine from barrels and this is where I met the Portuguese archeologist. With him we decided to explore the former Jewish area. After the reconquest both Muslims and Jews had a hard time in Cordoba and many had to convert (or pretend to convert) to Christianity. This conversion, however, was a temporary solution as eventually all Muslims and Jews (converted or otherwise) were expelled. This sad history gave context to visiting the old Synagogue and Jewish area where a small museum describes the history of the Jewish people in Cordoba, with focus on famous Jewish women, Maimonides (an important and controversial Jewish polymath) and the Inquisition. I tried to practice my Spanish by joining a Spanish tour, eventually giving up and almost wanting to leave, when suddenly the young and charismatic tour guide started to sing heartfelt Jewish songs in the small courtyard of the museum. This was a beautiful, magical and sad moment as many of these songs are songs of loneliness and exile. I feel in the end it is not about who did what but about what we do now: remembering our collective past should make us more loving, tolerant and compassionate beings (rather than revengeful or angry). With those haunting melodies in my head, I left Cordoba appreciating of life, its joyful moments, its moments of peace, moments of love and compassion.

Toronto Mini Maker Faire 2014

As we put the final touches on our two tables, I can hear people entering the main hall of Toronto Reference Library on this November Saturday morning for the first day of Toronto Mini Maker Faire. Yes, people are up early and ready to explore and get the latest news on local Makers, most recent 3D printers and scanners, wearable computers, crafts augmented with electronics (or not) and many other fun and crazy ideas!

Toronto Mini Maker Faire 2014

Toronto Mini Maker Faire 2014

This is the second time we are at the Toronto Mini Maker Faire and we have come a long way since last year when we were mainly spectators. Granted, on one of the days last year, I (with my collaborator, Natalie Comeau) demoed an early version of our wearable computing design, HugBug, at the Faire, but other than that we were observing and getting acquainted with the Toronto Maker scene. Last year, I visited with participants from an experimental MakeShop I was facilitating at York. This year, several of the participants from the MakeShop were also at the Faire but in a different capacity: as Makers presenting their work.

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Our tables at Maker Faire

“Making” in this context, refers to a specific way of fabricating custom prototypes and designs using hands-on methods that can range from using embedded electronics and 3D printing to using craft materials and methods, usually with an emphasis on open-source and Do-it-Yourself (DIY) designs and with a view to share knowledge and experience with fellow “Makers”. This attitude has become widely popular in the last decade through publications such as the Make Magazine and events such as Maker Faire, as well as, the proliferation of thousands of fabrication and Maker spaces, hack labs, and online forums and communities around the world. Making, with roots in older notions of “Hacking” and “Tinkering”, has gained such recognition as to be dubbed as the “new industrial revolution” and a “movement” that promises to democratize design and fabrication (see Chris Andersons, Makers: the New Industrial Revolution). Our Making activities have grown much over the last year and our presence at the Faire reflects this: in addition to two tables, we are also running an ambitious workshop for Makers with disabilities and their parents and caregivers. We are showcasing several projects that are examples of cross disciplinary collaborations. In this post, I will briefly describe these projects but before that I would like to briefly describe my experience at Maker Faire in general. This year, I mainly stay at our tables, describing and demoing our projects and meeting a lot of amazing people. While we have a great team of knowledgable and energetic volunteers at the table who would cover me if I want to take a break, I am having such a great time sharing experiences with visitors that it is difficult to leave! Also, I have worked on all the projects that we have on the table in some capacity and it is such a pleasure to present them to an open-minded audience. Because of this (and sadly!), I haven’t seen many projects other than our own. However, my brief detours around the Faire made me realize the range of projects from the usual embedded computing platforms (mainly Arduinos in many shapes and sizes, as well as, Raspberry Pis), to many shades of 3D scanning and printing, to hacked toys (in the creative sense of the word!), to non-digital puppets and even a hitchhiking robot that has crossed Canada!

Fun Projects at Maker Faire: (clockwise from top left) mixMotion, Puppets Cool, Cyberpunk/homemade mechanical nut cracker

Fun Projects at Maker Faire: (clockwise from top left) mixMotion, Puppets Cool, Cyberpunk/homemade mechanical nut cracker

The free and public location of the Faire at the Toronto Reference Library is fantastic: accessible and inviting to the general public (as Making should be)! Over the weekend, a whopping 10’000 people were estimated to visit the Faire! In my experience, I talked to so many interesting people that at the end of the Faire, I had an information overload and had to take a couple of days completely off to reflect and digest all the input! As I mentioned, this year we have two tables, one showcasing a range of projects from our lab, Graphics and Media at York (GaMaY), and the other, showing our colleague and collaborator, Ray Feraday‘s work, with especial focus on our collaboration on DIY open-source assistive technology. On his table, Ray has set up a pong game developed using the Scratch programming language, running on Raspberry Pi and controlled using home-made cardboard controllers using Makey Makey, all put into a cut kitchen table top surface. It is a hit with children! Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 8.35.13 AM TalkBox TalkBox is an open-source DIY communication board for children or adults with no voice. This is truly a classic Maker project: the idea was first conceived by Ray, an inspiring and inventive special education teacher working with the TCSDB, who I met last year at Maker Faire. He had created a customizable communication board using the Makey Makey and conductive tape and was interested in improving the design and making it more mobile and affordable by replacing the Makey Makey and attached computer with a touch sensor and Raspberry Pi (an embedded computer). We formed a team with Toni Kunic, a great programmer and a computer engineering student at York and Melanie, my supervisor, and met over many weekends to work out and implement a new design for TalkBox. The result is a DIY communication board that can be used to store voice samples and associate them with touch buttons that play them back once touched. TalkBox costs less than $80 and is open-source (both hardware instructions and software code are shared freely with users). For more information please see this link.

Ray demoing TalkBox at Maker Faire

Ray demoing TalkBox at Maker Faire

Unexpectedly, we won an award for TalkBox at MakerFaire! Bridgable, an innovative design firm in Toronto, awarded us with the Bridging the Gap Award. This award was given to a team that demonstrated “a clear connection between a user need and product benefit; an extraordinary translation between research and design, concept and prototype or material/technology and execution; and an appropriately accessible and well communicated presentation”. We are very happy to accept this award as it provides us with further recognition of the idea of making “Making” accessible that we have had in mind with this project.

The Bridging the Gap Award

Bridging the Gap Award

MakeTalk Workshop Since the beginning of our collaboration on the TalkBox project, we had envisioned a process through which children with disabilities, their teachers and caregivers could put together the kits themselves. We wanted to make the design available and the process of Making accessible. The vision of making Making accessible has been discussed before  by inspiring assistive technology advocates and digital activists, Amy Hurst and Shaun Kane (see their paper here).  Additionally, we wanted to make a process in which we explored alternative ways to fund and deploy the technology to the people who need it most. To these ends we partnered with the Tetra Society of North America which is a volunteer-based organization that brings together student volunteers, retired engineers and inventive users with disabilities and their families together to modify, create and deploy assistive technology solutions. Tetra has a chapter at York University with many student volunteers. We decided to ask for their help in running a workshop at Maker Faire and also getting funding to create a series of TalkBoxes. The president of the York chapter, Brandon, is also a graduate student at our lab and along with another volunteer coordinator, Zareen, helped with recruiting, coordinating and training volunteers. (Brandon is also great at soldering, so he helped prepare the soldering part of the TalkBox kits too!)

Pre-workshop preparations

Pre-workshop preparations

In preparation of the workshop, we ran a series of dry runs at our lab in the weeks preceding the Faire. We recruited the help of Yana Boeva, a graduate student in Science and Technology Studies at York who has experience in Making and creating instructibles. Our amazing Tetra volunteers helped with every stage of the process: from preparing the material to running the workshops. Melanie designed a customized case for the Raspberry Pi which she miraculously (read, through many hours spent in the lab!) managed to print in time for the participants at the Faire.

3D printed modified Raspberry Pi cases

3D printed modified Raspberry Pi cases

At the Faire, we provided a kit consisting of all the parts and instructions to 7 groups of users with disabilities and their parents/guardians/care givers. I decided to stay the tables while most of the rest of the team were busy at the 2-hour workshop, so I could only tell from their elated faces and happy expressions how rewarding the process was.

MakeTalk Workshop: Kit, process, outcome

MakeTalk Workshop: Kit, process, outcome

Putting the kits together is not trivial and yet everyone at the workshop managed to put them together and get them working. I was reminded that one of the joys of working with people with disabilities is that they have a lot of patience and see value in process rather than just wanting quick outcomes.

HugBug HugBug is a playful wearable interface designed to teach children about digital design. I developed it with Natalie Comeau. I used it in a workshop in Mexico (described here) and presented it at the Design and Emotion Conference in Bogota. I have simplified the design and made it more robust and straightforward. HugBug is very successful at Maker Faire with many children and adults trying it out.

Colin trying out HugBug

Colin trying out HugBug

The next step for this project is to connect HugBug to biosignals (I am currently working on this project with our colleague, Manuel, from University of Seville) so that it would externalize various states onto its LED lights (e.g., stressed vs. relaxed).

Manuel connecting HugBug to Biosignals

Manuel connecting HugBug to biosignals

Rafigh Rafigh is a living media interface to encourage children to engage in learning and therapeutic activities. It consists of a real mushroom colony connected to a micro controller that controls the amount of water administered to it. At Maker Faire I have an early prototype of Rafigh with dried mushrooms for demonstration purposes. I am currently conducting a study with the working prototypes in situ at participants’ homes. For more information on Rafigh please see this link.

Magic Wand Magic Wand is a project of the Wandmakers, a team of three engineering students, Sonal Ranjit, Chitiiran Krishna Moorthy and Kajendra Seevananthan, designed and fabricated their own Harry Potter-inspired wand after attending the MakeShop sessions I facilitated last year. The Wandmakers created a custom 3D model of the wand, which they printed and outfitted with a microcontroller, accelerometer and laser light, such that specific movements of the wand would be translated into “spells” that would cast a laser light.

Magic Wand

Magic Wand

Magic Wand was first presented at the TEI’14 student design competition earlier this year and Sonal joined us at Maker Faire to present the Wand to many interested children (and adults). They had printed the instructions on beautiful rice paper that people took home as a souvenir. Their 3D model is open-source and available for free download on Thingiverse. It has been quite popular with fans and since last February when it was uploaded has been downloaded more than 1500 times!

Children trying Magic Wand

Children trying Magic Wand

Synchrum Synchrum is a tangible interface to facilitate audience participation through rhythmic collaboration. It was inspired by the Tibetan prayer wheel and aims to capture its physicality and performativity. A light source is attached to the top of the object and a weight rotates under the light. By detecting the number of blocks in the light by a sensor we calculate and communicate the rotation speed of the device wirelessly to a computer that can then coordinate its speed with other Synchrum units. Using Synchrum, members of an audience can synch with each other and collaborate to bring about a change in a performance or environmental factor (such as ambient sound, music or light). In a previous performance, members of an audience collaborated together to remove virtual chains from a performer. Synchrum was designed in collaboration with Alexander Moakler and Assaf Gadot and was presented at TEI’12 and UIST’12 conferences. Please see this document  for more information.

7Synchrum

Our Team This year our team consisted of Melanie Baljko (my supervisor and co-director of GaMaY), Ray Feraday (our community partner, a special education teacher and an inventor), Brandon Haworth (a PhD candidate at our lab with focus on serious games and Making), Toni Kunic (software and design developer for TalkBox), Sonal Ranjit (co-designer of the Magic Wand), Yana Boeva (instrcutible designer for the TalkMake workshop), Manuel Merino Monge (visiting researcher from University of Seville, working on HugBug), Natalie Comeau (co-designer of HugBug), Catherine Duchastel de Montrouge (Science and Technology Studies), Colin Ruan (Computer Science) and myself. Additionally, we got a lot of help from the York University Chapter of Tetra Society volunteers who tirelessly helped run the MakeTalk workshop, as well as, helping present at the tables. These included: Zareen, Steven, Syed, Nina, Laura, Vassil, Greene and Nitzi. Additionally, Jeannette Da Luz from TCDSB helped create digital content during the Faire, and Glenn Barnes and Hamed Dar from Tetra Society of North America, helped with setting up and running the tables. Thanks so much everyone and great job!