Geek chat with Clinton Freeman

To follow on from the DIY tech theme currently happening at The Edge, we are excited to welcome a new Catalyst to the crew.

Clinton Freeman is a bit of a buff when it comes to software engineering. He will bring his experience in developing open-source resource research programs and love of 3D printers to his new home at The Edge. Clinton is helping lead Hack the Evening and hopes that people will come along to help code and build blimps designed for battle action in The Edge Auditorium.

We asked Clinton some questions about his background, work and what makes his brain tick:

Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do.                                                                                                                                  I am a software engineer by trade. I work at a place called NICTA that does ICT, innovation, engineering and those kinds of things. I work in a couple of different projects, one of which is an open source tool that is geared around trying make research more efficient and more accessible, and cut down a lot of the errors that occur in research. Statistical research can be a really painstaking process and the tool that I am working on makes it easier and faster.

I’m a serial tinkerer basically; I’ve always got some sort of project on the go. I built my first robot when I was 14 or 15, which was pretty cool; it was a robotic crane.  I’ve been coming to The Edge for a little while, about 6 or 7 months, being involved in Hack the Evening and working on The Room which was an interactive installation. I also helped out late last year with the 48-hour game making competition and that was tracking people as they moved around the space via Bluetooth.

How did you become interested in your field of practice?
It was probably when my parents got me a Lego kit that started the path of building things of different descriptions. You start building Lego kits, get a few electric motors and then all of a sudden you’re writing software.

Why did you choose to bring your skills to The Edge?
It sounded fun, it was a case of being able to build things and work with people that you typically wouldn’t get to on a day-to-day basis. Also, to be in a different context then you would generally find in software engineering and to get more involved in the physical side of computing, where computers are manipulating the environment and working with the environment as opposed to being solely trapped in a screen.

What will you be doing during your time at The Edge?
Working on a couple of different things: playing with 3D printers and maybe down the track building a scanning element. One of the other projects is building blimps, which comprises of building around 40 remote-controlled blimps and having either a mass battle in auditorium or having an installation where they react to people moving around them. We’ve been working on that project as part of Hack the Evening.

How can Edge users get involved?
People can come along to Hack the Evening to be involved with the blimp project by participating in the prototyping phase; helping to build and figure out how the blimps will move about in the auditorium. Additionally, we are hoping to do some sort of 3D printing course, basically learning how to turn a 3D model in a computer into an actual bit of plastic.

Do Edge users need any special skills to be a part of Hack the Evening?
No, not really. There is a really diverse mix of people, everyone can come along and bring their own skills.

If those playing along at home want to know more about the sort of things that you do, where should they go to learn?
Make magazine – that’s a really good introduction, it’s got a whole heap of projects to get you started building different pieces of technology. It caters for a huge range of skills so the projects range from simple to quite complicated.

Hackaday blog also has some great stuff.

Finally, a quick few questions:

What are the first three tabs you open in a new browser window? Gmail, whatever I’m working on, so probably some reference material or a tutorial or guide that I’m working from, and the Make magazine blog.

The first mobile phone you ever owned? I don’t actually own a mobile phone.

The one piece of technology you couldn’t live without? My laptop.

Your geekiest habit or hobby? It would have to be vegetable gardening, it’s probably geeky not in the sense of computer games, but it’s geeky to geeks.

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