Category Archives: Art

Robot World

Build your own robot and a magical world in this after-school activity for grades 4-5. These fun little creatures can roam around, shake their heads and flap their wings, at the touch of a button. 

Create your own artistic robot! You will learn how to make your robot move in a variety of ways, as well as play sounds and light up, using a programmable Arduino board. You will then decorate your animated character, give it a story, and create a magical world for it to live in. All materials are included in this course: you can take your robot home when the class ends.

This Maker Art class for grades 4-5 will take place at the Lycée Français in Sausalito. We will meet every Tuesday for 12 weeks, from 3:30 to 5pm, between September and December 2017.

Students will develop new skills in playful ways: science, technology, engineering, art and math skills (STEAM), as well as creativity, problem-solving and communication skills.

Teachers are multimedia innovator Fabrice Florin and software designer Edward Janne. To learn more, visit our course page, watch our video or view our photo album.

Who is it for?

This program is for lower school children in grades 4 and 5 (ages 8-10). We expect between 6 and 10 students to participate in our afternoon class in Sausalito this fall.

Parents of Lycée students can sign up here for this class: bit.ly/maker-art-fall-2017

 

Where and when is it?

This class will take place at Lycée Français in Sausalito, in the Innovation Lab (Room #340). The school entrance is 660 Coloma Street, Sausalito, CA 94945.

We will meet every Tuesday for 12 weeks, from September 12 to December 5, 2017, from 3:30pm to 5:00pm, at the Lycée Français in Sausalito.

Here is our course schedule:

  • Sep-12: Plan the robot world
  • Sep-19: Learn about robots
  • Sep-26: Build your robot 1
  • Oct-3: Build your robot 2
  • Oct-10: Program your robot 1
  • Oct-17: Program your robot 2
  • Oct-24: Break: No Class
  • Oct-31: Create the robot world
  • Nov-7: Create your home
  • Nov-14: Create your feature
  • Nov-21: Rehearse your show
  • Nov-28: Shoot videos
  • Dec-5: Show & Tell

What will students learn?

Students will create their own robot and interactive art, in a playful way that makes learning more fun. Working collaboratively, they will make their bots move, lights blink, sounds play — bringing characters to life in their ‘wonderbox’ home and interacting with others in their new ‘robot world.’

This unique combination of art and technology will help them develop a range of new skills:

  • critical thinking and problem solving
  • Arduino, robotics and programming
  • science, technology, engineering, art and math skills (STEAM)
  • creative expression, communication & collaboration skills

 

Do you also teach this class for adults?

Yes! We are teaching a Create a Robot class for adults and teens at Tam Makers in Mill Valley.

In just two evenings, we’ll show you how to build your own artistic robot with Arduino, make it move around, shake its head and wave at you. And you get to take your animated creature home with you, to impress friends and family. 🙂 Adults and teens are all welcome, no experience required.

The classes are on two separate Thursdays, September 21 and 28, from 6 to 9pm.
Sign up here for this two-part evening course for adults and teens.

 

What materials are included?

Each student will receive a robot kit, which they will learn to assemble, control and program.

For this class, we have created our own robot kit, using an Arduino Feather M0 for the robot, an RF remote, a custom chassis, plus three additional servos and more parts. Our robot kit is similar to Adafruit’s Mini Race Car Robot, but with a lot more features at a lower cost. This robot kit will be decorated by the students to create an interesting animated character.

This robot kit can support these features:
Roaming – the bot can move around under user control
Moving – the bot can move some body parts (turn its head, wave its arms, using servos)
Inputs – the bot has a variety of buttons (on/off button, buttons for different gestures, etc.)
Remote – the bot can be controlled remotely (using a remote control or desktop app)
Lights – the bot can have lights in its body (LEDs that blink, glow, or fade on and off)
Sounds – the bot can play audio (using piezo buzzer to play simple beeps and tunes)
Programming – the bot is easy to code (with visual programming tool like Snap4Arduino)
Flexibility – the bot can be expanded (with extra parts to be ordered separately)
Pricing – the bot is affordable (we’re aiming for a maximum of $75 per robot)

We plan to use the school’s Macs to program the robots, using the Arduino software and a visual programming tool like Snap4Arduino. Arduino code will be shared with parents when class ends, if students want to continue to program their robot at home.

 

What will the robot world look like?

We will invite students to create a magical world for their robots, as well as decorate it.

The world could be set in any location, as long as it has flat terrain that the robots can easily roam on. The mockup above shows what our robots might look like on Mars, for example.

We will ask students to decorate their robots so they look like characters in that fantasy world. For a closer look, watch our video or see our photo album for this course.

 

What will the robots look like?

To see what our robots will look like, watch our video, featuring our first prototypes.

Here are a few more photos of those prototypes, made with laser-cut wood figures servo motors. The photo above shows a Bamboodu spirit from a fictional world called Inspiration Island, who likes to shake his head and flap his wings back and forth.

The photos below show our prototypes of a Baby Angel and an Alien Dude, in different stages of construction. Students will design their own characters during the first classes, and we will laser cut wooden figures based on their designs.

For more pictures of this course, see our photo album.

 

Who are the teachers?

Multimedia innovator Fabrice Florin and software designer Edward Janne are teaching this course.

Fabrice Florin

Fabrice is an art maker and social entrepreneur who creates unique experiences to inform and engage communities through digital and physical media. He has led the development of many pioneering products in education, news and entertainment, working with innovators such as Apple, Macromedia and Wikipedia. He is now a teacher and artist at Tam Makers in Mill Valley, where he teaches maker art to adults and kids. Learn more at fabriceflorin.com .

 

Edward Janne

Edward is a software developer and teacher at Tam Makers. He has an extensive background in interactive design and engineering. Prior to joining us, he was a technical animator at Bonfire Labs, a creative content agency. He also studied at the Academy of Art University and the University of San Francisco. Edward has taught several Maker Art classes with us, and will lead more classes for adults and teens at Tam Makers this fall.

 

How can I learn more?

To learn more, visit our course page and see our photo album.

Also read this overview of our Maker Art classes, and visit our site for Tam Makers, our community makerspace in Mill Valley.

For more info, email Fabrice at fabriceflorin-at-gmail-dot-com.

Time Machine at the Lycée

Travel through time and meet characters from the past, present and future!

Our Maker Art class at the Lycée Français created a Time Machine with animated scenes and characters from the age of dinosaurs to the 50th century. This interactive art exhibit integrates physical and digital media, combining art, technology and storytelling.

Our 4th and 5th graders created their own scenes from the past, present or future, and brought them to life with motion, lights and sounds. Then also worked in teams to build interactive features to showcase their scenes: keypad, spinner and doors.

See also: video, slides, photos and design spec.

What does it look like?

Watch the video above to see the Time Machine in action. Some photos are also included below. See more in our slides.

Students

This program was designed for lower school children in grades 4 and 5 (ages 8-10). Nine students participated in this class: Tilo Allexandre, Esther Bomse, Theodore Carman, Louise Eddy, Nathanial Jenkins, Lena Jessen, Eugene Maeght, Yann Menard and Marshall Patron.

Here’s a survey report on what students thought of this class: they found it very good, liked learning about Arduino, and most would recommend this class to a friend.

What did students create?

Students created their own interactive ‘wonderboxes’ for these time periods:

  • Age of Dinosaurs
  • French Revolution
  • World War 2
  • World War 3
  • New York 2092
  • Alien Invasion
  • 25th Century
  • 50th Century

They brought their characters to life inside their cardboard ‘wonderboxes’ by making lights blink, sounds play and things move.

Working collaboratively, they also created these Arduino-powered features:

  • Dashboard with keypad
  • Spinner
  • Doors with lights

 

What did students learn?

Students learned to design a miniature world, build it with a variety of tools, animate it with electronics, and tell its story in presentations at the Lycée in Sausalito — and at Marinovators at the College of Marin on April 22 (see photos). We also showed them how to program the popular Arduino board to create a cool interactive art experience.

This unique combination of art and technology helped them develop a range of new skills:

  • critical and logical thinking;
  • science, technology, engineering and math skills;
  • electronics, circuits, lights, motors and soldering;
  • Arduino and computer programming;
  • creative expression and storytelling skills;
  • communication, collaboration and social skills.

See also: video, slides, photos and design spec.

 

Location

This class took place at Lycée Français in Sausalito, in the Innovation Lab (Room #340). The school entrance is 660 Coloma Street, Sausalito, CA 94945 (see Google Map).

 

Schedule

We met every Thursdays for 12 weeks, from January 5 to March 30, from 3:30pm to 5:00pm, at the Lycée Français in Sausalito.

Here is our course schedule:

  1. Plan our time machine (Jan. 5, 2017)
  2. Design the time machine (Jan. 12)
  3. Create your time scene (Jan. 19)
  4. Create a character (Jan. 26)
  5. Light up your scene (Feb. 2)
  6. Build your time machine (Feb. 9)
  7. Create a feature (Feb. 16)
  8. Paint your feature (March 2)
  9. Program your feature (March 9)
  10. Finish the time machine (March 16)
  11. Write your story (March 23)
  12. Show & Tell (March 30)

(There was no class on Feb. 23.)

 

Who were the teachers?

Multimedia innovators Fabrice Florin and Edward Janne taught this course, with the help of our Tam Makers community.

Fabrice Florin – Teacher

Fabrice is an art maker and social entrepreneur who creates unique experiences to inform and engage communities through digital and physical media. He has led the development of many pioneering products in education, news and entertainment, working with innovators such as Apple, Macromedia and Wikipedia. He is now a teacher and founder at Tam Makers in Mill Valley, where he teaches maker art to adults and teens.

Learn more at fabriceflorin.com .

Edward Janne – Associate Teacher

Edward is a software engineer, teacher and active member at Tam Makers. He has an extensive background in interactive design and engineering, and a personal interest in maker education. He is teaching other classes for adults and teens at Tam Makers this spring.

Learn more about Maker Art classes here: fabriceflorin.com/teaching-maker-art/

Fabrice and Edward are both part of Tam Makers, a new makerspace in Mill Valley, CA. To learn more, visit our site at tammakers.org .

 

Ubu’s Dreams

Ubu’s Dreams is a shadow puppet show featuring Père Ubu and surreal characters from his unconscious. This play was created by Mark Petrakis and Fabrice Florin, with Edward Janne, Dan Cantrell, Phyllis Florin, Jean Bolte and our friends at Pataphysical Studios.

We premiered Ubu’s Dreams at the Canessa Gallery in North Beach, San Francisco on November 3, 5 and 12, 2016. Watch the video here. The show was part of the ‘Pataphysics of Dada exhibit for the Dada World Faire hosted by City Lights Books.

What’s it about?

Ubu’s Dreams stars Père Ubu, the protagonist of Alfred Jarry’s plays at the turn of the 19th century. This shadow puppet show features many surreal characters from his unconscious: big faces, talking ravens, exploding cows and other creatures from the wild ubu-beyond.

Ubu’s Dreams explores new ways of telling stories with shadows, combining laser-cut wood figures, mechanical automata, a rich musical soundtrack as well as video and multimedia scenery. This 12-minute show consists of three separate plays with music interludes.

Watch the video below. For more details about this first show, check out this scripts page.

Where was it shown?

We premiered Ubu’s Dreams on November 3rd, 5th and 12th, 2016, 6-8pm, during our ’Pataphysics of Dada exhibit at the Canessa Gallery in North Beach, for the Dada World Faire.

We may perform Ubu’s Dreams again in 2017. Please contact us at info@pataphysics.us with any questions or suggestions of possible venues for our next show.

In the meantime, you can watch the video of our first performance here on Vimeo.

And here is our photo album from recent shows, including the ‘making of’ Ubu’s Dreams.

How are the characters made?

The shadow puppets in Ubu’s Dreams are made of wooden figures and shapes created in Adobe Illustrator and laser cut onto ⅛” birch plywood. We animate these puppets by hand from behind the screen, holding them on thin vertical sticks planted on animation stands. A few of the characters have moving parts, such as arms or mouths — and some of the parts light up.

We plan to bring some of these figures to life by making them move with small motors. We’re also experimenting with spotlights and other forms of automation. Some long-term aspirations for this experiment are outlined in this Theatre Mécanique blog post.   

 

What does the show look like?

Here are photos for each scene in the show.

See more pictures in this photo album — including the ‘making of’ Ubu’s Dreams.

What is going on behind the screen?

Here are photos of the performers and their puppets.

How does it work?

This shadow puppet show takes place inside the Magic Theater, a mobile stage for interactive storytelling we created for this project.

The Magic Theater is based on a wooden cart with a PVC framework. It includes a powerful projector over the performers’ heads, which illuminate the top of the screen, so the show can be seen even in a crowded room.

 

Who created this?

Here are the fine folks who created this project:

Created by Mark Petrakis and Fabrice Florin

Written, Performed and Directed by Mark Petrakis

Designed and Produced by Fabrice Florin

Animated and Engineered by Edward Janne

Music by Dan Cantrell

Stage Design and Construction by Fabrice Florin, Phyllis Florin, Edward Janne, Mark Petrakis and Jean Bolte

Special Thanks to our friends at Pataphysical Studios

 

How can I learn more?

Watch the video here. See also: photo album, scripts page and timeline.

 

Bamboodu Float at the Parade

People loved our Bamboodu Float at the 2017 Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade!

I created this political art performance with the Mill Valley Community Action Network (MVCAN), to express our frustration with the Trump regime.

Our puppet theater on wheels stars Lady Liberty and Tiny Trump: each time Trump tweets fake news, Liberty bonks him on his thick bobble head.

Here’s a video of our parade with dozens of artists and MVCAN members:

Thousands of spectators cheered and sang along with us: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses …” This lovely poem by Emma Lazarus was turned into song by Gareth Loy and performed by local singers, including members of the Shady Ladies.

Veteran journalist Paul Liberatore wrote this fine cover story for the Independent Journal, the largest newspaper in the North Bay. ABC 7 News featured our political art throughout their Memorial Day coverage (a clip from their news report is included in the above video). Our video also includes footage from a wonderful parade montage by Gary Yost, with a moving guitar solo by young musician Matt Jaffe.

This Memorial Day Parade was organized by Larry “the Hat” Lautzker, Mill Valley’s colorful clothier. The parade judges gave us the “Best Community Spirit Award.” One judge, Eric Christensen, explained why he voted for our entry: “I thought it was a very appropriate message to send on Memorial Day: if people don’t stand up to Trump and his policies, our future will be filled with many more war dead to memorialize.” 

Our friends at MVCAN invited me to give a talk about this project and the importance of art in politics at their monthly MVCAN meeting. Here are my takeaways:

  • Art engages us at a deeper level
  • It unites us around shared emotions
  • We identify with the characters of our stories
  • We spread our message to a wider audience
  • It invites people of all ages to participate
  • It sparks our imagination to invent the future
  • Making art together is fun and inspiring
  • It encourages playful collaborations
  • It builds community and strengthens our bonds

Here’s the video of my talk. See our slides for more info.

I’m very grateful to all the MVCAN friends and neighbors who helped build this float in our front yard: Danny Altman, Laura Boles, Phyllis Florin, David Glad, Peter Graumann, Edward Janne, Suz Lipman, Charlene Lundgren, Jean Marie Murphy, Mark Petrakis and Martha Roush, to name but a few. See the team in action in our photo album.

Special thanks to my amazing friend and associate Edward Janne, who designed and engineered the technology behind this float, using an Arduino, an MP3 shield and NeoPixel matrices. He coded the Bamboodu Player, the custom software which allowed me to choreograph our live performance, using this simple script. If you’d like to learn how to build systems like these, we’ll teach another Arduino class together this fall at Tam Makers.

Many thanks as well to our friends at Pataphysical Studios, our art collective, who marched ahead of us holding a large Traffic Jam sign, from an earlier caper memorialized in this video. We all wore our purple lab coats and funny hats, to set the tone for this new political art march.

I’m really happy that so many people enjoyed our Bamboodu Theater — and that our performance helped promote the Mill Valley Community Action Network — a grassroots political group that helps us coordinate our resistance to right-wing attacks on our liberties. 

Through this interactive art experience, we hope to engage people of all ages to get engaged in political action. If you live in the North Bay, sign up here on the MVCAN site — and join your neighbors to keep democracy alive!

Vive la liberté!

Fabrice

Learn more about the Bamboodu Float:

#art #bamboodu #indivisible #mvcan #politics #puppets #resist #theater

Bamboodu Theater

Behold the Bamboodu Theater, my new puppet stage for civic events and art shows.

This interactive theater experience features the Bamboodu spirit, a mythical creature rising from the earth to expose the troubles facing America and the world. Above his head are some of the characters that haunt his dreams, playing out the eternal fight between fear and hope.

Our first scene stars Lady Liberty and Mr. Trump. As surreal music plays, Mr. Trump’s recent tweets and alternative facts scroll by on a news ticker below the stage. Each time Trump says something wrong, Liberty hits him on his thick, bobbing head — until his oversize jacket falls off, revealing that the emperor truly has no clothes.

At the end of this short play, we invite our guests to sing along the inspiring words of Emma Lazarus’s poem about the Statue of Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor …”). Through this interactive experience, we hope to engage people of all ages to think about the values we share — and help change the world through civic action.

Bamboodu Theater is a work-in-progress, combining mixed-media art with radical puppetry, along with electronic text, lights and sounds powered by Arduino. We customize the experience for each public appearance, whether it is shown as a stand-alone exhibit, a parade float or a street theater performance.

We premiered this interactive theater experience at Signs of Hope, an inspiring exhibit of political art that ran from April 14th to 29th at Art Works Downtown in San Rafael. See photos of our theater in that exhibit. Learn more on our project page.

We are now building a special float to feature the Bamboodu Theater at the Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 29, 2017. To create this float, I am working with a wonderful team at the Mill Valley Community Action Network (MVCAN), a local political group which I recently joined to resist the conservative takeover of our country.

Our new Bamboodu Float is coming along very nicely, as shown in this photo album. Learn more on our project page. In coming months, we plan to show it at other civic events and political rallies.

Bamboodu Theater was created by Fabrice Florin, in collaboration with Phyllis Florin, Edward Janne, Mark Petrakis, Geo Monley, Jean Bolte, Howard Rheingold and our friends at Pataphysical Studios and Tam Makers. Special thanks to Gareth Loy for permission to use his Mother of Exiles song, and to all the MVCAN members who are helping build our parade float: Danny Altman, Laura Boles, David Glad, Peter Graumann, Suz Lipman and Jean Marie Murphy, to name but a few. I’m deeply grateful to you all.

It’s been a true pleasure to work with so many friends and neighbors to keep democracy alive through art and theater.
Vive la liberté!

Teaching Maker Art

Students show off their Halloween Wonderbox at our first 'maker art' workshop at the Mill Valley Library.

Students show off their Halloween Wonderbox at our first ‘maker art’ workshop at the Mill Valley Library.

For the past couple years, I have been teaching ‘maker art’ to lower and middle school children, to help them create interactive art with electronics and storytelling.

In our after-school classes, we build magical worlds together: a city of the future, a haunted house, a time machine or a halloween wonderbox. We show students how to bring them to life with animated characters, light them up, make them move, play sounds and tell their stories.

This hands-on, project-based activity invites children to learn by doing, in a playful way that engages all their senses and puts them in charge of their own learning.

Here’s an overview of our first  classes for elementary and middle school students ages 6 to 14, in four different Bay Area schools and libraries (see list below).

Watch the video below for an overview on Maker Art. See also our separate report on the Time Machine, which we created with our 4th and 5th graders at the Lycée Français in 2017. Later this year, I will post more reports on our other projects (Haunted House, City of the Future).

Watch this video of Fabrice’s talk about our Maker Art classes at the 2017 Maker Faire.

 

What is Maker Art?

In our Maker Art classes, we invite children to create magical worlds together, combining art, technology and storytelling. Our students get really engaged in the process, which helps them develop their creative, problem-solving and social skills.

Here’s what we have learned so far from these Maker Art classes:

  • Maker art is deeply engaging
  • Art + tech + stories appeal to more learners
  • They identify with their characters
  • Creative freedom gives them license to play
  • Student-driven projects build their confidence
  • Collaborations are fun and productive
  • Family activities level the age gap
  • Wonderboxes help frame our imagination

This is what school should be like: project-based, hands-on, student-driven and collaborative.

To learn more, watch the above video of my talk on Maker Art at the 2017 Maker Faire. This 20 min. presentation gives a good overview of this promising new way to encourage children to develop their creative, problem-solving and collaborative skills (see slides).

I will give another talk about our Maker Art classes at the ReMake Education Summit in August 2017. In the meantime, check the above videos and slides, as well as these photos of our classes. I plan to write a more in-depth blog post about these findings in coming weeks. For now, here are more lessons learned, written by our team during our first experiments.

Update: In winter 2017, our Maker Art class built a Time Machine, a new time travel experience created by 4th and 5th graders at the Lycée Français. As shown in this video, our interactive art exhibit invites you to travel through time and meet characters from the past, present and future: participants created nine diorama scenes, from the age of dinosaurs to the 50th century. Read our full report on this class.

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, we invite you to come visit us at Tam Makers, our new makerspace in Mill Valley. We offer a range of maker classes for adults and teens. Join one of our free meetups on the First Thursday of every month, starting in September. Making art together is fun and educational!

 

Young art maker Josephine Maeght shows off the Chinese New Year Wonderbox she is creating with another student at the Lycée Français.

Young art maker Josephine Maeght shows off the Chinese New Year Wonderbox she created with another student at the Lycée Français in Sausalito.

Create Your Own Wonderbox

In our workshops, we give each student a small cardboard ‘wonderbox’ and ask them to create an interesting scene in that box, on a given theme (e.g. Chinese New Year, see below). They learn to design and build their artworks, then bring them to life with lights, motion and sound. At the end of the course, we assemble all their boxes together and ask students to tell their stories for a short video ‘show and tell’. We provide all the materials for this course and students can take their wonderbox home at the end.

This educational program invites children to develop a wide range of new skills, across multiple disciplines: from creative expression to science and engineering. They seem really engaged by the freedom to create their own interactive art, which gives them more control over their learning experience. And working collaboratively, they get to experiment together and help each other create something greater than any of them could do on their own.

Learn more about our Wonderbox workshops here. For more info, read about our first Wonderbox workshop at the Mill Valley Library, then view this video and photo album, as well as the workshop instructions. This program was developed by artists and educators at Pataphysical Studios, creators of the ‘Pataphysical Slot Machine.

 

Maker art students are creating Chinese New Year Wonderboxes with different animals from the Chinese Zodiac at the Lycée Français in Sausalito.

Maker art students created Chinese New Year Wonderboxes with different animals from the Chinese Zodiac at the Lycée Français in Sausalito.

Chinese New Year Wonderbox

Celebrate the Chinese New Year by making an art wonderbox with a paper lantern and animated character.

In this course, students get to pick an animal from the Chinese Zodiac (e.g.: dragon, horse, tiger, snake). We give them a laser-cut wood figure as a framework to build on, as well as lots of art & crafts supplies and electronic parts. Kids bring them to life by making their characters move, light up, play sound — then coloring and decorating them with markers, fabric, feathers and jewels (see photo).

Children learn to:
• Light up a paper lantern
• Make a button and circuit
• Make their animal move
• Decorate their box
• Play sounds
• Tell their story

To learn more, watch this prototype video of the Chinese New Year Wonderbox — as well as this video of our first experiments with making animals move. You’ll also find more details in our course overview.

Our lower school students seem to love this fun and educational activity. They enjoy lighting up their lanterns and making their art move — and they gain a deeper understanding of electrical and mechanical engineering, as well as creative design and innovation.

Young art maker Theodore Carman built a cardboard propeller to move his flying dragon for the Chinese New Year Wonderbox he is making at the Lycée Français.

Young art maker Theodore Carman built a cardboard propeller to move his flying dragon for the Chinese New Year Wonderbox he is making at the Lycée Français.

For example, to make their animals move, they had to explore different ways to animate their creatures: using glue sticks to make them vibrate, or hand-made paper propellers to push them forward and make other objects move (see photo). In the process, we’re all learning to create simple ‘poetic robots’ — with just a few affordable parts that anyone can assemble together.

The Chinese New Year is our theme for January and February 2016. Our next theme from March to July 2016 will be to build a City of the Future, as outlined below.

 

What will life be like in the 22nd century? Help dream up a better world and build a City of the Future. Art by Boombastik3 via Deviant Art.

What will life be like in the 22nd century? Help dream up a better world and build a City of the Future.
Future City Art by Boombastik3 via Deviant Art, freely licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA.

City of the Future

Create a city of the future with arts and electronics!

In this course, children will imagine what the world will be like in 100 years, then build a futuristic model together.

This spring, I am teaming up with teacher and builder Geo Monley to teach this cool after-school maker course for middle-school students, held in his fabulous wood shop at Tam High. We will invite kids to invent the future by building it with art and electronics, making models of what life might be like in the next century. Starting March 30, we will meet every Wednesday from 3:30pm to 5:30pm at Tam High School in Mill Valley.

Students will first make a futuristic home with a cardboard ‘wonderbox’ and a small character, featuring a new invention that might change our lives in the 22nd century. They will then bring them to life by making their characters move, lights blink and sounds play. Next, they will work with other students to assemble their boxes into a small city of the future. At the end of the course, we will make a short video of their creations — which they get to keep.

Here is a first example of what our city of the future could look like.

The City of the Future will include a row of 'wonderbox' homes in the foreground, and a city landscape in the background. It will be about 6 feet wide, 3 feet deep and up to 4 feet high, and be placed on a rolling 'maker art cart.'

This 3D model shows a first visualization for our city of the future, to be designed with our students.
Created by Fabrice Florin with Sketchup, CC-BY-SA.

Our city of the future will include a row of ‘wonderbox’ homes in the foreground, and a city landscape in the background. The model will be about 6 feet wide, 3 feet deep and up to 4 feet high, and be showcased on a ‘maker art cart’.

Learn more about this City of the Future course here.

 

2016 Courses

We taught 5 different ‘maker art’ courses and workshops in 2016, in Marin and the Bay Area:

(Update: courses grayed out below are either full or have already occurred)

Maker Art Class
Lycée Français in Sausalito – Jan. to June 2016
Weekly after-school class for children ages 6-10
Themes: Chinese New Year | City of the Future
Thursday afternoons for 90 minutes
For enrolled students of the Lycée only
Learn more

Wonderbox Workshop
Lycée Français in San Francisco – Feb. 15, 17 and 19
Special workshop for children ages 7-10
Theme: Chinese New Year
Three classes of 90 minutes each during ski week
For enrolled students of the Lycée only
Learn more

Create Your Own Wonderbox
Mill Valley Public Library – Feb 16 and 18
FREE workshop for children ages 8-10
Theme: Chinese New Year
Two classes of 2 hours each during ski week.
No experience required. Grades 3-5 only. Parents welcome.
Learn more

City of the Future
Tamalpais High School – March to May 2016
Weekly after-school class for children ages 10-14
Wednesdays at 3:30pm, for 2 hours
No experience required. Parents welcome.
With Geo Monley at Tam Makers
Learn more

Create a Haunted House
Lycée Français in Sausalito – Sep. to Dec. 2016
After-school class for ages 7-10 (grades 4-5)

Thursdays at 3:30pm, for 90 minutes
For enrolled students of the Lycée only
Learn more

 

Learn more about the maker art program in this project overview — and follow our progress in this photo album.

Next steps

Overall, this ‘maker art’ program seems like a great way to teach art and technology to school children, in a playful way that makes their learning experience more fun. So far, the students are responding well to this hands-on, project-based activity: they seem engaged by the freedom to create their own interactive art, which is music to my ears. And their parents also seem to really appreciate this fun and educational program.

To experiment with this vision, I am leading these pilot courses in 2016, with the help of my maker art community. We will determine next steps for this program after evaluating our first pilot results. Possible outcomes might include more Wonderbox workshops, a public maker space in Marin, a full line of Wonderbox kits, an online Wonderbox site for videos — and/or training programs for educators. We also hope that this program can help grow an ‘art maker movement’ over time.

For now, I am really enjoying this new chapter of my life as a maker art teacher. Designing and leading this program has been very fulfilling so far — even if it can be exhausting at times. In a sense, this is a culmination of all the work I’ve done in my career, from education to entertainment and technology, bringing together the physical and digital worlds to support better collaborations and deeper understandings.

Every decade or so, I try to re-invent myself and take a new challenge. My last decade was focused on facts and how to tell them apart from fiction — first with our NewsTrust experiment, then on a much wider scale with Wikipedia. It’s very likely that my next decade will be all about art, learning and community.

 

Art makers from Pataphysical Studios help prototype different ways to make animals move for the Chinese New Year Wonderbox course.

Art makers from Pataphysical Studios help prototype different ways to make animals move for the Chinese New Year Wonderbox course.

Thank you

I would like to thank my art and learning communities and the great team of friends who are working with me to offer these classes.

First off, I’m very grateful to the schools and libraries who are hosting this program: Andrew Sobol, Marjolaine Debord and Wladymir Wladymir Paiva and everyone at the Lycée Français; Anji Brenner and Karen Clarke at the Mill Valley Library — and Chris McCune and Betty Sue Johnson at the Tam High Union District. This classes would not be possible without their wonderful support of our cause.

I’m particularly grateful to my partners in the classroom: Cynthia Gilbert at the Lycée Français; and Geo Monley at Tam High School. Heartfelt thanks as well to my wife Phyllis for preparing the art supplies for this class, and to my art friends from Pataphysical Studios: Howard Rheingold, Jean Bolte and her daughter Natalina for their advice, creative prototypes, art supplies and help assembling the kits. Kudos as well to Tara Brown at Kithub for supplying the electronic parts.

Last but not least, it’s a real pleasure to meet parents of our students, and getting them engaged in the process. And it’s a real pleasure to be teaching their children, whose curiosity, creativity and enthusiasm are an inspiration to me.

I’m so happy to see a little community grow around our first maker art courses: I hope that over time we can turn this initiative into a vibrant community learning network.

Onwards!

Fabrice

Maker Art: Build a City of the Future

What will life be like in the 22nd century? Help dream up a better world and build a City of the Future. Art by Boombastik3 via Deviant Art.

Create a city of the future in this cool after-school activity.
Future Art by Boombastik3, CC-BY-NC-SA.

Update: This spring, we created a city of the future with lower and middle school children, ages 7-14.

We invited them to imagine what the world will be like in 100 years, combining art, technology and storytelling to express themselves and develop new skills.

We taught this after-school ‘maker art’ class in two different schools:

Children were deeply engaged by this hands-on, project-based, student-driven, collaborative activity. We think this ‘maker art’ program is a great way to learn by doing, and we would like to offer it to more children and educational partners.

Here’s our original overview for this fun and educational after-school activity.

What is it?

Create a city of the future with arts and electronics!

In this maker art course, you will build a cool model of what our world could be like in 100 years. You will first make a futuristic home with a cardboard ‘wonderbox’ and an animated character. You will then bring it to life by making your character move, lights blink and sounds play.

Next, you will assemble your boxes into a small city of the future, and landscape it together. At the end of the course, we will make a short video of your creations — and you get to keep your box when the course ends.

Who is it for?

This after-school course is for middle-school students, ages 10 to 14 (6th to 9th grades). No experience necessary!

What will students learn?

Our classes combine art and technology to help you develop a range of skills: science, technology, engineering, art and math skills (STEAM); creative expression and communication skills.

You will create your own interactive art, in a playful way that makes learning more fun. You will also collaborate with other students to build something greater than you could do on your own.

When is it?

During our spring course, we meet every Wednesday from 3:30 to 5:30pm at Tam High School’s wood shop in Mill Valley. This 2-hour class runs for 8 weeks, from March 30 to May 25, 2016.

What will it look like?

Here is a first example of what our city of the future could look like.

The City of the Future will include a row of 'wonderbox' homes in the foreground, and a city landscape in the background. It will be about 6 feet wide, 3 feet deep and up to 4 feet high, and be placed on a rolling 'maker art cart.'

This 3D model shows a first visualization for our city of the future, to be designed with our students.
Created by Fabrice Florin with Sketchup, CC-BY-SA.

Our city of the future will include a row of ‘wonderbox’ homes in the foreground, and a city landscape in the background. The model will be about 6 feet wide, 3 feet deep and up to 4 feet high, and be showcased on a ‘maker art cart’. See our course slides for more images.

Who is teaching this?

Fabrice Florin is teaching this course with Geo Monley, Cynthia Gilbert and other art makers.

As a multimedia innovator, Fabrice has led the development of many pioneering products in education, news and entertainment, working with Apple, Macromedia, Wikipedia and other digital media groups. He is a lead designer at Pataphysical Studios and is teaching several maker art courses in the Bay Area.

The Tam High course for middle school children is hosted by Chris McCune and Betty Sue Johnson at Tam District Community Education. Advisors include Jean Bolte, Tara Brown, Donald Day, Dale Dougherty, Phyllis Florin, Natalina Frederick, Cynthia Gilbert, Howard Rheingold and our art maker community. We’re grateful to them all for making this course possible!

Will you teach more courses?

Yes! We will also teach a week-long ‘maker camp’ the week of July 11, every weekday from 9am to 1pm: in this camp, we will learn to program Arduino boards to build our city of the future.

Sign up here for this summer camp.
Tuition: $325 per student. Materials and Arduino board included.

How can I learn more?

You can learn more about this project in this course overview — and read about our other ‘maker art‘ courses in 2016.

For our spring courses, you can track our progress in each school here:

If you have any questions, you’re welcome to email me — and we invite you to spread the word in your community.

We look forward to coaching more children to become art makers!

Fabrice

The Pataphysical Slot Machine

PP Flyer - landscape

Behold The Pataphysical Slot Machine, our community-created poetic oracle.

This unique art exhibit engages people of all ages to inquire about their future and act on it. It encourages creative exploration by combining visual arts and new technology, the ‘maker spirit’ and ‘combinatorial poetics’.

Here’s a short video of the Pataphysical Slot Machine in action.

Visitors are invited to sit on the Pataphysical throne, facing three mysterious cabinets of curiosity. You can ask Ubu, our patron saint, for “instructions from the future”: he shares surreal and whimsical words of advice (e.g.: “Embrace purple sky”), which are printed on your receipt — and spoken with a thick french accent. 

For more inspiration, guests can then open one of 20 “wonderboxes”. Each box contains a different art scene: a singing flower, an alien invader, a red devil, a happy buddha or a native shaman, for example. Some of them sparkle with lights, some speak to you, others are animated robots — and an ‘olfactory clock’ tells the time with scents of cinnamon buns or blueberry pie. 

These slides show what the art exhibit looks like. To see the many ways in which people interact with the Pataphysical Slot Machine, check our photo stream on Flickr.

The art is inspired by many world cultures, the steam-punk movement — and by Alfred Jarry, founder of ‘Pataphysics, the “science of imaginary solutions.” The technology is based on Arduino and Raspberry Pi platforms, networked together — and soon to be connected to the Internet. See our interactive specs.

We are a team of artists, technologists and educators based in Mill Valley, California. Our members include Fabrice Florin (@fabriceflorin), Howard Rheingold (@hrheingold), Freddy Hahne (@arewereally), Stephanie LeveneDonald DayTim PozarJaney Fritsche, Mark Petrakis, Jean Bolte and many other friends, family and neighbors. Meet our crew in this ‘day in the life’ video.

We work together as a ‘peer learning network’: we teach each other what we know, across all levels of expertise. To share what we’ve learned, we teach ‘maker art’ workshops to show students of all ages how to create their own interactive art with electronics. We also maintain an extensive online documentation, and sometimes host online hangouts, to show you how to build your own interactive art — like this ‘geekout’ on motors and Arduino, held by video conference last fall.

We unveiled the Pataphysical Slot Machine at the Mill Valley Library in October 2015, when hundreds of visitors got a chance to interact with Ubu and friends. Read more about the events we hosted and what we discovered together.

Collaborative art is a wonderful thing. We invite you to create your own interactive art, wherever you are. Join the movement and start a maker art group in your neighborhood. And remember to have fun with it: ‘pataphysics is the art of not taking yourself too seriously’ 🙂

Fire in the hole!

Video, photos and narration by Fabrice Florin. Recorded at the Rheingold Room in Mill Valley, California, in February 2014. Music by Erik Satie and others.

Maker Faire 2015: bringing together art, tech and education

Maker Faire 2015 gathered many hobbyists, artists and innovators from the growing “maker movement”.

The Maker Media tent showed visitors how to create their own projects. Photos by Fabrice Florin, CC-BY-SA-3.0.]

Maker Faire 2015 gathered many hobbyists, artists and innovators on May 16-17 at the San Mateo Fairgrounds in California. Empowered by new technologies such as 3D printing, Arduino and Raspberry Pi micro-computers, these creative enthusiasts have triggered a cultural revolution that is transforming the way we work, play, learn — and express ourselves. This growing “maker movement” just celebrated its 10th anniversary and keeps getting more interesting every year.

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

I visited the Faire with Jean Bolte, a.k.a. Dr. Figurine, one of our art collaborators at Pataphysical Studios. Along with a dozen of other doctors, we are building the Pataphysical Slot Machine — a community-created poetic oracle, that’s powered by Arduino. We were there to check out the scene, on behalf of our other art friends who couldn’t come this year.

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

As soon as we walked in, we were greeted with fire art from Burning Man, which always gets me inspired. Makers and burners have a lot in common, and it’s nice to see these two cultures overlap in this annual gathering. In our own work, we also try to blend art and technology, to grow an ‘art maker movement’ that draws on these diverse cultures.

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

The most appealing art experiences for us were in the dark Fiesta Hall, where a wide range of light sculptures and interactive exhibits caught our eye, wherever we turned (see photos). We loved the illuminated tree of changes …

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

… the flying dragon and the synchronized pods …

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

… the giant giraffe …

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

… the glowing cubes …

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

… and the touch-sensitive mandalas.

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

I loved seeing so many children getting their hands dirty and making things together in workshops throughout the show. I think this maker movement has a huge educational potential, because it encourages young people to learn with their hands, through trial and error, to solve problems in ways that can’t be taught with books and lectures. The maker mindset invites this kind of “experimental play”, and as Maker Media founder Dale Dougherty points out: “out of that process emerge new ideas, which may lead to real-world applications or new business ventures. Making is a source of innovation.”

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

Robots were everywhere, in all shapes and sizes. They seemed both easier to build and more sophisticated than previous years. It’s worth noting that many of the hundreds of robots I saw were made from 3D printed parts.

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

Which brings us to 3D printers. That technology has matured well — and is becoming mainstream. This year, there were more 3D printers at the Faire than ever before — and some of them were a lot more affordable for regular folks like us. Dremel now sells a reliable ‘idea printer’ for under $1,000, which is getting within our reach (see photos). With a 3D printer, I think I could make the parts we need for our Pataphysical Slot Machine a lot faster, with a better fit and higher quality.

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

We had a great chat with Maker Media Lab director Marty Marfin and his crew (see group photo): we are discussing a possible installation of the Slot Machine in their new location at the Palace of Fine Arts. They greeted us warmly and gave us great tips for what software and hardware to use for 3D printing. Rhinoceros is their recommended software for creating the 3D models, and we got a nice demo of how it works.

Marty is a former sculptor and model builder and is interested in working together to create robots that look and behave more like sophisticated puppets — taking this tech-centric medium up a notch on the artistic scale. This is very much in line with what we are proposing to do with Théâtre Méchanique, so stay tuned …

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

We also joined a talk with Arduino founder Massimo Banzi, who gave us a good update on how this open micro-processor platform keeps growing, enabling millions around the world to create new and interesting things. I bought my first Arduino at the 2010 Maker Faire, then had a chance to chat with Massimo in 2013 — and I can honestly say that Arduino has changed my life, giving me the ability to express myself through interactive art in ways I never thought possible.

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

It’s a real pleasure to see so many hobbyists, artists and innovators join this ‘maker culture’, which is changing the way we learn and express ourselves . Over time, I’d like to help grow an ‘art maker movement’ to merge the sensibilities of artists and technologists, making our collective creations more meaningful to more people — and maybe even touching their souls.

Maker Faire 2015 Photo by Fabrice Florin, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

For more photos of this and previous events, check out my Maker Faire album.

And if you have any stories or links to share about Maker Faire or your own experience as a maker, feel free to share them here. That’s how we learn from each other. 🙂

Onward …

Théatre Mécanique

Theatre Mécanique is a proposed interactive storytelling system for recreating a wide range of stories with animated puppets.

Theatre Mécanique is a proposed interactive storytelling system featuring animated puppets and computer-controlled multimedia.

I propose to create a Théatre Mécanique — a project which I would like to work on in coming years, in collaboration with others. (For a visual overview, check out these slides.)

The idea is to build an interactive storytelling system that would let you experience and remix some of the great myths and legends shared by all cultures around the world. It would enable small groups of people to collaboratively reenact some of these universal stories, connect them with their daily lives — and better understand each other as a result.

This theater cart would enable small groups of people to experience some of the universal myths we all share.

This theater cart would enable small groups of people to experience universal myths, and select plot elements.

This mini theater would be mobile, like a hot dog stand, so it could be located anywhere, from birthday parties to street fairs or even on the Playa. It would feature animated puppets, which could either be controlled manually by live performers, or automatically by small computers like Arduino: the puppets could slide in and out of the stage, face one another and/or move their heads and limbs, as shown in the prototype we’re now developing for a balinese cuckoo clock.

Animated puppets would act out short stories selected by participants, set against colorful images on a rear-projected screen.

Animated puppets would act out short stories against colorful images, rear-projected on a background screen.

This mixed media system would include a good sound system for amplifying background music, sound effects and character voices, either live or pre-recorded. A rear-projection screen would set the mood by displaying a wide range of images for each scene, from landscapes from around the world to historical or futuristic scenes. An interactive controller at the front of the stage would let visitors and performers select different types of stories, characters, images and sounds.

Participants would be invited to approach the theater and pick a topic, place or time on the controller. The puppets would then act out a short 1-3 minute scene based on your selection. At the end of each scene, they would ask you for more plot ideas, to guide what happens next. The performance would be recorded on video, which could be emailed to you afterwards, as shown in this first example.

This is an ambitious project, but it appeals to me deeply, because it has the potential to support a wide range of applications: from simple party entertainment to more creative uses, like a time machine simulation — or even scenario planning for group discussions.

In coming months, I would like to explore this idea with friends and collaborators, starting with simple low-tech theatrical experiments and eventually building small prototypes for key parts of the system. I am quite aware this is a large, multi-year project, so I am proposing to start small, and spread research and development over time, with actual fabrication starting a year later. This process is inspired by our collaborative work on the Pataphysical Slot Machine, which we aim to exhibit in public this year.

For this Theatre Mécanique, I hope we can find the right balance between existing storytelling traditions and new interactive technologies — so that the human qualities that make great performances possible are supported by these tools, rather than supplanted by them. Interestingly, this also ties in with the larger challenge we all face as a species, as we look for the right interplay between human and machine intelligence. To that end, I hope that we can tap diverse communities of artists and engineers to participate in this creative experiment.

Fortunately for us, there is a large community of puppeteers already practicing around the world, from Guignol to ‘toy theaters’ to Wayang — and these creative artists have already paved the way for this art form to evolve in a computer-assisted setting! I look forward to discussing these ideas with interested collaborators later this year. For now, I have included below a variety of links that might inspire us in planning this project.

Onward!