Tag Archives: workshop

Woodford Folk Festival 2018/19: impressions and experience


We hit the road once again to present a series of creative workshops for community at the annual Woodford Folk Festival.

The Honourable Leeanne Enoch, Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Minister for Science and Minister for the Arts, even dropped in for a visit.

One of our terrific volunteers who joined us for the festival, Leela Wittmer gives us her insights of Woodford. 

The Hon. Leeanne Enoch and Mick Byrne of State Library The Edge outside the workshop tent at Woodford Folk Festival


I am a librarian with State Library of Queensland’s Information and Visitor Services team.

This year I volunteered to help the Edge team run their workshops at Woodford Folk Festival. Any of my colleagues will know that I have been angling for this since about March last year. I love the festival and have worked there for many years in different capacities. I wanted to stay connected to that and still support my workplace over the Christmas break. I also wanted to introduce a family tradition to my young son and partner (my mum and I have been going for years). I like experiencing Woodford through the lens of a contributing member – volunteer, worker and presenter. It gives me a shape and a context to my days and (probably rather ‘narcissistically’) I like to feel a little special among the 100,000 other punters.

Experiencing the festival as a librarian excited by their new career, workplace and industry was particularly special and exhilarating. I have always admired the work and vision that State Library staff put in and deliver but I was overwhelmed by how dedicated they are to their overall purpose and philosophy in every part of their process…which is a lot like the organisiation that runs Woodford Folk Festival.

For example, Woodford Folk Festival (the organisation) believe strongly in their stewardship of the land and their responsibility to take care of it and enact that philosophy by putting in place strict rubbish, recycling and compost rules for vendors and punters. The Edge team is the science, creativity and technology arm of the library and – building on the community service function of a library – have an overarching philosophy of making the physical equipment that facilitates science, technology and creativity accessible for the community. They enact this by bringing equipment and ideas into spaces or communities – like Woodford Folk Festival – that would otherwise not be exposed to that.

Steam Punk LED workshop


Every workshop was booked out and we had positive responses to all of them. They were smooth and well-rehearsed everywhere except where you wouldn’t want them to be. During the Steam Punk LED workshop, where participants were asked to build a small cog mechanism attached to a circuit that powered a small LED light when the cog was turned, everyone built their mechanism using the organised information pack provided and it went like a well-oiled machine. In the Moulding Custom Icey Poles workshop there was recycled plastic from one end of the tent to the other, people collecting rocks to make iceberg shaped icy pole moulds and rock-shaped ice cube trays (get it?!). It was messy, creative and everyone loved it.

Icey Pole workshop


We had incredibly excited responses from participants and passersby. I spoke to Queenslanders excited by opportunities on offer at State Library, I spoke to Edge regulars and members happy to see us at Woodford and lots of people from interstate who were jealous that State Library of Queensland has such incredible facilities.

I believe the State Library are wonderful addition to the festival and the festival is a wonderful addition to the State Library’s program repertoire.

The Cardbaord Claw workshop


Block Battle Bots

The Block Battle Bots tournament will take place during Fun Palace on 6 October 2018 at State Library of Queensland, South Brisbane, Australia, Earth, The Solar System in the Milky Way Galaxy. The winner will be crowned the Galactic Champion and will walk away with a super awesome Battle Bot Kit worth $100.

To build a robot and test its…mettle, sign up for the three-part workshop series!

Galactic Block Battle Bot Championship Federation Laws

• Bot teams will have 2–4 members
• Battles will be 2 and 3 minutes long
• Winner determined by three judges or by knockout (disabled)
• The judges’ rulings are always final
• Block Battle Bots will be built using Lego and the equipment and components below. Limited amounts of 3D printed and laser cut parts are allowed (see below)
• Limited amounts of rubber bands, string and similar if used for energy storage, tyres, control lines or similar
• No reinforcing allowed!

List of components
• Official ‘Brick Bot’ LEGO kit, 1,274 assorted pieces
(pieces can be shared or traded with other teams at the team’s discretion)
• Official Battery Pack
(Currently: 11.1v, 450mAh LiPo, weight approx. 40g)
• Official Electronics Pack
(Pre-programmed with Open Source Code Base, weight approx. 20g)
• Choice of official motor options
• Robot Remote
(Currently clone PS3 controller)
• Limited access to laser cutter, chassis plans and one (1) A4 sheet of 3mm acrylic
• Access to 3D printers and 200g of filament
(only 100g allowed in the final build).

Kitchen Chemistry with Dr Musk

Kitchen Chemistry

You can tell that chemistry is important because of the way we use it in our everyday lives, without even knowing. Washing the clothes, putting a new battery in the remote and baking a cake in the kitchen all rely on simple chemistry to enhance our lives…

…but, what else can you do with the chemistry all around you? Come along to The Edge’s Old-School Chemistry Kit workshop to find out and take home the knowledge and equipment you need to begin your new adventures in science.

Mixing solutions to make bubbles of flammable gas, learning how to get electricity from scrap metal and salty water, or how to give something a shiny copper coating are just some of the tricks included in The Edge’s Old School Chemistry Kit.

Take a trip to the hardware and the pharmacy to find the ingredients you need, borrow a few things from that bulging third drawer in the kitchen, then add the safety knowledge you will learn at The Edge to explore the surprising variety of chemistry that is possible with stuff you pass by every day.

Wrap it all up in the retro design kit we provide and you have the perfect Christmas gift for the budding mad scientist in your family.

There is just one Kitchen Chemistry workshop session on offer, so don’t miss out!

  • Sunday 18 December
  • 1pm-5pm
  • $80
  • No skills required
  • Suitable for ages 16+


Sound Extrusions: Oh Deer! (Introduction to Porcelain)

Porcelain ceramic casting workshop in Brisbane sound experimental ceramic speakers

Porcelain Casting Workshop Brisbane

In the last blog post we went through the overall idea of the Sound Extrusions project at The Edge. Before we dive deeper into some of the more technical issues, such as MAX/MSP programming, this post is dedicated to the introduction of porcelain as an exciting material to work with. All the visible parts inspired by the organic shape of avocados and beans — the actual individual components you saw in the visualisation in the last post — will be casted in porcelain.

Anyway, how cool is that? Crafting your own porcelain shapes! But it wasn’t always as easy as that… European porcelain is a fairly young phenomenon, emerging as late as the beginning of the 18th Century in Meissen, Germany. Before that, porcelain was solely imported from China and bought by European aristocracy at the weight price of gold at times. This is the reason why the creation of porcelain was such sought after technology. The Chinese had long known the secret to making porcelain, with modern style porcelain emerging around the 12th century, thanks to a specific mix of clay readily available in China. The actual research in Europe into recreating white translucent Chinese porcelain would have been a high-tech, top secret enterprise back in 1708 (just like The Edge today!), and only few people would have known about it.

The later Meissen porcelain production was in a self contained workshop with very strict regulations from 1710, when a team lead by Johann Friedrich Böttger made the final discovery. The second wave of porcelain making in Europe started only after a few workshop members “exported” the very secret knowledge to Vienna and started to operate their own businesses.

There’s one irony in the whole search for the real porcelain in Europe — one of the main porcelain material components, the kaolin clay, was always at the fingertips of the aristocracy who were importing the pottery from China at extraordinary prices. And I mean literally — kaolin was mostly used as a facial perfecting white powder back then, in the pale make-up of aristocratic beauties, who were sipping hot drinks from expensive Chinese porcelain — imagine that!

Besides kaolin clay, the other main component is silica. That’s why after the firing, porcelain is closer in consistency to glass than to regular pottery, the most sought after feature being the translucency in the thin walls or edges. This attribute is explored in contemporary design as well — taking the technology to its limits from translucent coffee cups to innovative variations on lamp shades for example. Porcelain is also an inert and very dense material, which makes it ideal to work with sound as well. This feature hasn’t been explored to any greater extent yet and that’s also one of the surprise elements in the Sound Extrusions project at The Edge — the porcelain and sound interaction project feature!

Please stay tuned for other posts to come. The announced interview with Mick on 3D printing is ready as well (Thanks Mick!), but we’ll probably cover the actual porcelain production process next — let’s see how we go anyway. The good news is that porcelain is not a top secret, guarded behind the medieval walls of Meissen any more! We’ll get into an introduction of clay modelling, plaster casting & porcelain slip casting later. Maybe we’ll get even into the process where the porcelain magic actually happens — the kiln firing and glazing. Let the porcelain deer be with you!

DNA Workshop

Strawberry and bananas for DNA extraction.

Strawberry and bananas for DNA extraction.

What a weekend at The Edge! On Saturday I participated in the Awesome Bio-Micro-Fashion workshop and learnt a bit more about plant microscopy with Melody from QUT.

On Sunday I facilitated a DNA Jewellery workshop with Pahia – always super fun!  This time around, we had a few more samples to process – strawberries, bananas and split peas.

DNA workshop materials.

DNA workshop materials.

Before we got into the hands-on kitchen science part of the workshop, we looked at some key terms and contemporary research in the field of genetics.

DNA workshop.

DNA workshop.

We also had a look at a few art-science projects involving jewellery making, including the DNA jewellery of designer Elaine Young and the Biojewellery project by Tobie Kerridge and Nikki Stott.  After this brief introduction to the fabulous world of genetics and art-science interactions, we started getting our hands dirty in Lab 2.

Filtering the strawberry mush.

Filtering the strawberry mush.

Separating the DNA.

Separating the DNA.

Collecting the DNA.

Collecting the DNA.

Adding DNA to jewellery pieces.

Adding DNA to jewellery pieces.

DNA necklace.

DNA necklace.

DNA keyring.

DNA keyring.

Keep posted for more awesome workshops at The Edge!

Mobile Media Lab is GO!

After spending the best part of three months in The Edge’s basement, the time has come to release The Edge’s latest creation into the wild!

The Mobile Media Lab has been in development since late 2012 and has taken the combined brains of our Programming team and eaten most of  the output from our 3D printer, so I thought I’d put together a quick Q&A to introduce the project.

What is the MML?

Physically — its a box. A very strong, portable waterproof box that contains the essentials for a mobile multiuser media creation lab. The current MML spec is eight iPad minis, a macbook air, a custom charge/sync station and various other bits and bobs, software and hardware in a Pelican Storm IM2500 case.

Conceptually — to take a line from the official project outline;

The Mobile Media Lab (MML) project is run by The Edge, State Library of Queensland and aims to develop a regional model of community responsive content creation for young indigenous participants in Rockhampton, Queensland.

Practically —  it means that The Edge is outreaching to provide opportunity, expertise and equipment to do its part in fulfilling the State Library of Queensland’s mission.  Output from the MML will range from complete video and music production to digital art, storytelling, web publishing and more.

Hang on — isn’t that just a bunch of iPads in a road case? What makes it special?

While the hardware is essentially off the shelf – the key part of what makes the MML a ‘lab’ rather than just a charging box is the emphasis on multi user creation, robust media sharing, and expert devised workshops and  training programs. The lab will leave The Edge with content and workshops preloaded and expert assistance available.   And we spent a lot of design time getting everything into a carry-on size case. And printing things out on our 3D printers.

So why iPads? Why not a few laptops — surely a more productive experience? Or android tablets?

Running workshops for years on various creative subjects —  we have come to realise that a large part of almost any workshop can be thought of as ‘point and click’ time where the facilitator is going through menus, ticking boxes, opening and shutting windows. In short — dealing with the basics of a GUI and OS.   Part of the joy of small screens is that most of this has been stripped away by necessity and  the app and OS designers have thought long and hard about how best to do this. If you want to take a photo on a pad or phone device — you touch a picture that represents an camera – no mouse point, double click to open programme.  This is a trivial example — but a photo editing/retouching app like snapseed or a sound mangler like samplr make incredibly complex  manipulation of pictures and sound as close to intuitive as possible. To the point where I feel old just thinking about how hard it used to be to get these kinds of results!  It feels obvious that in a few generations time, having a screen that you can’t touch will be the unusual thing, so why buck the trend?   iOS over android was a fairly straight forward choice in the initial planning stages. Android couldn’t take the realtime audio requirements of the kind of apps we need to use. Finally, form factor and weight considerations means an iPad based lab can actively engage between 8 – 16 participants, with a carry on luggage size amount of kit.  While it is possible to carry 6 laptops and assorted support gear, or load a roadcase with a sound system into a van, lugging around so much gear is bad for our backs and eventually for the gear itself. This time we took a modular approach, built around ‘add-on packs’ that can be community sourced and provided, or even built as part of MML workshops or The Edge’s programming.

Who is it For?

The lab is part of a framework for engaging young indigenous people in media creation in regional Queensland.  Our initial engagement in Rockhampton will be based around working with Durumbal Community Youth Services, who have graciously offered their workers and facilities for us to start our workshops and training series.  Rockhampton Regional Council  and Creative Capricorn will help us put the lab into the community, supplying booking system, space to work and contact and links with existing creative types. Also ABC Open Capricornia is keen for their participants to use the lab for their various exciting projects.

Where is it going to be in use?

Currently the lab has been travelling between The Edge and Rockhampton, with a couple of excursions for testing to Stradbroke Island (working with the outstanding folk from SLQ Kuril Dhagan) and to the Mini Maker Faire in Adelaide.

What is the future?

By June this year we anticipate the MML will be in full use in the community, with all training and hand over complete, and the lab will be living in Rocky.  We will provide in-person training and continual development. At the end of the process The Edge will make freely available DIY plans to create a MML and in the process we will have moved on to Version II — stronger, faster, smarter, and maybe even smaller than before.  Along the way we will be working with other parts of SLQ

Over the next few weeks I’ll be going into details, exploring the design process, the parts, the build, the software, the apps, and the workshops – keep an eye on this space.







Slime mould madness – coming soon!


Slime mould (Physarum polycephalum).  Image credit: ABC

Slime mould (Physarum polycephalum). Image credit: ABC: Audrey Dussutour

The Fringes program is kicking off soon and we are in the process of organising/finalising workshops that respond to the cross-overs between Art, Science and Technology. As part of this organisation Mick and I had a meeting with microbiologist Dr Carrie Hauxwell from QUT the other week. Together we decided to develop a slime mould 3D printed maze workshop. The workshop is based on numerous studies that have found that slime moulds (despite lacking a central nervous system or brain) are able to solve mazes, by finding the shortest available distance to a food source.

Slime Mould solving a maze - finding the shortest distance to food source. Image source: Forgetomori

Slime Mould solving a maze – finding the shortest distance to food source. Image source: Forgetomori

You can read more about the amazing maze solving abilities in this Nature article.

Since they tend to find the shortest route to a food source they have also been used in studies of traffic systems to find the best connection between two destinations.

A BIT ABOUT SLIME MOULD: Slime moulds, despite their somewhat unfortunate name, are actually really awesome organisms that are relatively easy to culture and pretty darn fascinating to observe.  While they are often thought of as Fungi, they are in fact part of the Protista family. There are a huge variety of slime moulds. My favourite would have to be the cellular slime moulds.  They live most of their life as single celled organisms, but if nutrients run low and they receive the correct chemical signals, they clump together into a slug-like creature. Once they have moved to a new, more favourable location, they produce fruiting bodies and release new spores. Truly amazing!

For the workshop we will be using the more lab friendly variety: Physarum plycephalum. It has been used as a model organism in labs for a while now. As such, it has established culturing requirements and is a low risk organism to work with.  While it can be purchased from numerous biology supply companies including Southern Biological and Bio-Tek, it is also possible to find them lurking about in the botanical gardens or other woody and shaded places. Indeed, as part of the workshop, we will hopefully go on a field trip with Carrie to find our own ‘wild’ specimens. Super Fun!

We’ll be using Photoshop, InkScape and Tinkercad to design the maze and then we’ll print them with the cool 3D printers at The Edge.

“Making Thing Sense” workshop


At the start of May we conducted a well-attended 2-day workshop titled “Making things sense: Urban sensing and physical computing”. The focus was on how to build sensor hardware and how to share sensor information with others. Our attendants ranged from artists, over game developers to PhD students. The workshop was very well received.

The workshop program can be found here.

Stay tuned for the next installation of the workshop later this year.