Art, reviews and thoughts from a young artist in Plymouth, UK.

Archive for February 1, 2017

EpicMakeTime with MESH

Tuesday nights at ThinqTanq is EpicMakeTime, a regular coding and tech event hosted by MESH.  MESH stands for “Make, Engineer, Socialise, Hack”.   I have been to EpicMakeTime twice so far.  It is a fun and creative space where people can come together and tinker around with cool stuff.  The people there are friendly and helpful and my brother and me have had support there from Marcus, Rob, Garry, and Matt from the Code Club.

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Our Shrimps

The first week me and my brother brought and built our Shrimps from the Shrimping.It kits.  A Shrimp is a buildable device which can be substituted for an Arduino Uno.  We brought all the components we needed for the first project, “Blink“, and put them together.  I enjoyed putting the components together and learning how it will work and what everything does from the project pages.  We also saw some of the other projects people were working on at MESH, including Steven, the little remote-controlled tank/crawler made by Rob (see him in the video below!) and a remote-controlled drone which flew my little sister’s toys across the room, held onto the bottom with sellotape!

The second week we went we brought our Shrimping.it kits again to program the “Blink” project onto them.  First I had to set up my mum’s laptop with the Arduino IDE, the drivers for the CP2102 UART and the Shrimping.it sketches.  I compiled and uploaded the “Blink” code onto the Shrimp and the LED started blinking!  I took a good look at the code and I edited it to make the blinking light faster and slower, then I experimented and programmed the Shrimp to transmit the S.O.S signal in Morse Code!

I was then given some advice by Marcus on how to make an LED fade.  The LED is set to flash so quickly humans can’t see it flickering, so it just looks like the LED has been dimmed because the light is on half the time.  You can also alter the interval between the light switching on and off to make it brighter or dimmer, for example if the light is on for slightly longer then when it is off, it appears brighter.  I had a go at coding the LED to fade up and down with Marcus’s help.  To just turn the LED on and off I used the code digitalWrite but to make it fade in and out I had to use the code analogWrite and give a value of between 0 and 255.

Next Marcus explained how to program an RGB LED to show and make different colours.  Before I could do it he showed me how to look up some information on the Internet to find the right pins for the three different coloured wires.  I took out the normal LED and plugged the three RGB LED wires in instead.  I made a new program file and identified the three different coloured LEDs.  I used analogWrite to control the colour of the LEDs by putting in different values for each one between 0 and 255.  For example putting 255 for the blue and 0 for green and red would make it glow blue.  If I put 100 for blue and 100 for red and 0 for green I would make it glow purple.  It is easy to make the LED flash in any colour you like for as long as you want.  It was a really cool project to play with and it also helped me think about how colours mix in the RGB system.

Marcus also gave a short talk about his own project and showed us how the Walabot 3D radar sensor works to sense objects around it, even through walls, and to sense someone’s breathing.  J (my brother) didn’t work on his own Shrimp this week but instead worked on his Raspberry Pi playing retro games and learning how to change different settings.  Garry gave me the RGB LED to keep and also a couple of other components to play with including a dimmer switch.  I will definitely go back to EpicMakeTime if I can and will be working through more of the Shrimp and Arduino Uno projects.  It is really fun and interesting making things happen using electronics and code.

USEFUL LINKS:

MESH website and YouTube channels from MESH and ThinqTanq

MESH, #EpicMakeTime and ThinqTanq on Twitter

Register for EpicMakeTime and other MESH events

Buy Shrimping.It kit and do the projects

Arduino lessons on the Adafruit site

 

 

Talk from Jack Gill at Central Library

On the 19th of January I attended a Careers talk by Jack Gill from So Good Studios in Plymouth Central Library.  So Good Studios is a games development studio based in Plymouth and Jack is the managing director.  Jack set up the company with two of his friends, technical director Sam Hession and creative director Will Hosgood.  The three of them studied Computing and Games Development at Plymouth University together.

Jack was interested in studying programming from an early age but he didn’t get to learn about it much in school.  Luckily his dad was a programmer and would talk to him about it, and bring home games which they would play together.  At sixteen Jack went to college and studied computing alongside english, chemistry, and maths.  He was also interested in and learning about cryptography and making Android apps, and made his first game, which was a text adventure.

Jack then decided to go to university to study computing and games development. He said that on his course he met many people from different backgrounds and with different skills, which is important when working together on projects.  Jack explained how his course worked at university.  Students would choose a module, study for six weeks, then be evaluated on their work.  He met Will and Sam on his course and they became best friends, and realised that their different skills worked well together, so they formed So Good Studios and made their first project, Bath Tubb Pirates.

Three days after their final exam, So Good Studios set up their business in the Formation Zone, which is an “incubator” for start-up buisinesses.  They made their first commercial product, a multiplayer game called Tap Tournament.  Jack said that there are many business and tech networking opportunities in Plymouth, including SOUP crowdfunding events.

Next, Jack talked about the Plymouth Game Devs which he described as a community to foster collaboration and cooperation and involves lots of local developers including So Good Studios, Brainy Beard, Sizeable Games and others.  Plymouth Game Devs organize game jams, and I have been able to take part in three so far; Ludum Dare 36, Games for Better, and the Global Game Jam last weekend.

Finally, Jack gave us “Jack’s Super Cool Advice for Aspiring Game Developers”:

1. Education!

  • Work hard on your studies while you are under 18
  • Studying at university or college is not a necessary route to get into games development but it can be extremely helpful!
  • Learning to find information and teach yourself new things is a vital skill for games developers.  You also need to enjoy learning new things.

2. Community!

  • Joining and building a community with other game developers allows you to show off your games and get support.
  • A community will also help you find people to collaborate with.  This is important because different people bring different skills to a project and splitting work makes it easier and faster to complete a project.
  • Being part of a community can help you to promote your work.

3. Portfolio!

  • Create a portfolio of your projects as you make them so that you can share your games, art, code etc.
  • A portfolio is crucial to your CV to show employers, colleges and clients what you can do!
  • It’s easy to make a portfolio online, for example you could share your work using WordPress, Patreon, YouTube, Tumblr, ArtStation and Scratch.

At the end of the talk Jack answered some questions from the audience.  The room was almost full and I think that the talk was really good!  I’m going to check out ArtStation and I want to get more involved with the Plymouth Game Devs and meet and work with more young games developers.

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