Microworld OSE, 2019

Learn how to make moving structures and code creatively whilst exploring the realms of ‘Microworlds’ with interactive digital artists Genetic Moo and Matt Mapleston. This 6-part course will teach you the basics of how to move pixels on a screen, build kinetic prototype art works and make simple moving circuits.

We will be looking at how different living things interact within an ecosystem, and how to design our own living art works that interact with each other.

This is a free workshop, but as places are limited we need you to book with Louis at: louis@openschooleast.org or by phone on 07511 159 644.

Interested in coming to some and not all of the days? Please get in touch with Louis and we can talk to you further about what can work for you.

Full details below.


Session 1: Monday 1 and Tuesday 2 July, 11am – 5pm
We will be learning how to code creatively, and build living, interactive installations in pixels and light.

Session 2: Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 July, 11am – 5pm
We will be ‘hacking’ charity shop wind-up toys with LED lights, motors and buttons, and learning how to control the movement of these objects through the use of basic electronics, using arduino technology.

Session 3: Tuesday 16, 11am – 5pm, Thursday 18 and Sunday 21 July, 2-5pm
We will be using an array of toys, sensors, novel interfaces, electronic parts and machine bits and pieces, working individually or in teams using all the techniques we’ve learnt during the course to feed into a public ‘Hackerthon’ and exhibition to show what we’ve made!

Topics covered

  • Creative coding – Understanding coding lies behind many of these ideas. How do you move pixels around a screen? How do you create rules of behaviour which change over time?
  • Sensors – controlling data. converting data. Physical inputs, sound, motion, lights. How to mix these inputs. Webcams, microphones and kinects.
  • Ecosystems – how does your artwork respond to the world? What happens when it lacks input. Does it die? HIbernate? Does it ask for help?
  • Sensing the world – Arduino workshop using a wide range of sensors and actuators. Temperature, Humidity, Accelerometers, Speed, Motors, Relays.
  • Circuit Bending – hacking second-hand electronics – subverting machines through simple electronic manipulations, especially audio and motion. Controlling these hacks though arduino.

Building the Microworld. Putting it all together. How does A affect B? B affect C in the physical world? And, so on – can we create feedback loops where all associate works affect each other? Adapting individual pieces so they are open to change. Creating an emergent space which the audience can engage with.

Reading list / materials list

Have a look at the Processing website and download the program for your laptop. It is a free download –  you can ignore the donation page. Processing Books are listed on their website too.
We like all these books and own several. Our favourite is The Nature of Code by Daniel Shiffman which is free here.
Daniel also creates lots of enthusiastic videos on all aspects of Processing and P5JS (which is the javascript version of Processing to run stuff in browsers).

Arduino is a circuit board that makes using a microprocessor very easy. It is very good at getting values from sensors and controlling lights, motors, solenoids, servos and other actuators. It needs a computer programme that is written on a laptop and uploaded to the microprocessor. The code is written in an Integrated Development Environment or IDE that is free to download here. We also need to download a serial driver here. We will go through these during the workshop, but you can get a head start looking at the many example programmes that come with the IDE (Menu: File > Examples…).

The course will not assume any previous knowledge about electronics, however participants are encouraged to look into basic electronics before the course. Google search brings up many sources of information to suit all learning styles – here is a good example to start with.

Books by Make are good : Getting Started with Arduino: The Open Source Electronics Prototyping Platform

Make : Making Things Talk
Makezine, Hackaday and Instructables are good for ideas.

Bring a laptop if you have one. We have netbooks to use but they are small.
If you have any electronics components / tools bring those.
Bring along any materials you’d like to work with.

Buy any battery operated toys you can find that move / dance / make sound. We can hack these into the project. You can buy these things at charity shops – don’t pay more than a few quid and try to avoid things that use mains power. We will be providing lots of wind-up toys and some battery ones to chop up.

Extension activities
The course will necessarily be a brief introduction to coding, electronics, hacking techniques. There will be opportunities for associates to learn more by joining the coding club run by Genetic Moo. Also Matt will be running Thanet Technology sessions in the future.