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

Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

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.

Global Game Jam 2017

 

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‘Quake Rescue gameplay screen shot

Last weekend I took part in the Global Game Jam 2017 with my brother J with support from my mum and Plymouth Game Devs.  This is the third game jam that we have done as a team, KitiJenGames.  The theme was “Waves”, it was a 48 hour jam, and our jam site was ThinqTanq.

The event started with a video about the Global Game Jam.  The video explained that the GGJ is a massive international event involving over 600 jam sites and more than 40,000 people across 90 countries!  We saw clips of people working in teams all over the world.  Most of the people in the video looked like they were in their twenties and I didn’t see anyone else around our age but I hope that there are others out there somewhere!  There was a welcome talk by the Extra Credits team.  Extra Credits is a YouTube channel that gives advice and has discussions about game development, and me and J really enjoy their videos.

The narrator explained some of the different reasons people take part in GGJ, like making prototypes for future development, to share their passion for making games, and because they love developing new games.  They then gave advice on taking part in a game jam:

  • Keep It Simple!
  • Communicate with your team and the other participants.  Being able to reach out for help from other developers is a benefit of doing a jam.
  • Keep brainstorming short and develop your ideas through the jam. A game could start with an idea that seems odd but could be well made and fun (e.g “Mario’s core concept is a jumping plumber on drugs.”)
  • Compromise with your team, and don’t dig your heels in.
  • Know what to save for next time!  Stay focused on your main idea and leave some of your other ideas for another time.  Try keeping a “For the sequel” file of ideas.
  • Get some sleep.

At the end of the video there were lots of short clips to introduce the waves theme.  We weren’t allowed to talk about the theme on social media until the next day because everyone has to wait until the last timezone (Hawaii) is told the theme!  It was just after 5pm on Friday when we found out the theme.

Me, J and our mum had a short brainstorming session together, and we talked about different kinds of waves e.g. sea waves, waves of monsters, sound waves, seismic waves…  We talked about what ideas we had related to them and about different game genres, and decided to make a game where you had to save as many people as possible from an earthquake using a giant claw to take them to a safe zone before the timer runs out.  We planned it out on paper and made a short video with our little sister.  We would only have until Saturday evening to make the game because we had plans for Sunday (visiting the Eden Project with friends), also we couldn’t work on Saturday morning because me and J both have regular Clubs then.  We knew that we had very little time so we worked for a couple of hours from home that night, I worked on the art for the main character and J started to code for the shaking background and the people to rescue.

 

 

In the morning we couldn’t do any work because J had his Code Club and I had my NatSatClub.  I had a workshop on using Photoshop to make animations.  I got back to ThinqTanq just after 1pm to start work on our game again, but my mum had lost the stylus for my drawing tablet!  Luckily Viki (ALittleRedPanda) had one spare and lent it to me.  J was responsible for the coding and music, I was in charge of making the art assets, and our mum supervised us to make sure we were on track.

The art assets I had to make included the character in peril, the claw to pick them up with, and the safe zone to drop them in.  I made all of them in Manga Studio 5 in a pixel art style.  The character has their hands in the air, and has a little animation which makes them look left then right, to give the impression they are running around screaming.  The animation only uses two frames.  I designed the first sprite, then for the second frame I flipped my design and edited the t-shirt on the flipped version so that it was correctly aligned.  I only had time to design one character, which my family all say looks like me!

 

Next I worked on the claw, which has an “open” design while empty (and looks a bit like a propeller), and a “closed” design when holding a character.  I did the “open” design first, inspired by the claw machines in arcades.  This was another two frame/costume animation, for the second frame I erased the outer joints of the claw.  I am happy with my design which does look like a mechanical claw from a birds-eye view.

I designed the “safe zone” as a white square with rounded edges and a big red cross on it like a cartoon ambulance.  I also hand-lettered “SAFE ZONE” on the digital image using my stylus and big, black and blocky letters, to make it easy for the player to identify.

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By then J had got most of the game code sorted out, so I sent him my finished sprites so he could add them into the game (he was using plain rectangles which my sprites had to replace).  I still had to make the background and the start screen, but my hand had started hurting after making the first few sprites so I took a short break and tested the game.  J had managed to also make the game music in BeepBox which he said he wanted to sound like an earthquake.  We were laughing over the music and the little screaming characters running about because it was quite comical and ridiculous.

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I got back to work and started making the background.  We had decided to use a road and pavement setting and I dotted rocks and rubble all over it to give the impression of an earthquake.  These small elements are also necessary so that when the background shakes or a character moves around it you can imagine the movement and it seems like a real space rather than a flat background.  I learned about doing this when we made our last game, Infection!  I designed one pile of rocks and rubble and I cloned it to dot around because I was short of time to make lots of different piles of rubble.

The last thing I had to design was the Start Screen.  A Start Screen is important to explain what the point of the game is and what the player has to do.  I chose a colour scheme that made me think of dirt/earth to go with the game theme.  I chose not to use a ready made font but instead I hand-lettered the game title and instructions using my stylus.  I didn’t want to use a font that someone else had made as I wanted our game to have its own original look to it.  I tried to give the letters a messy but simple look.  I wanted to also make a Game Over screen but my hand was hurting too much to do any more drawing and we were running out of time.  Finally, my dad, my mum, me and Jenson all recorded voice clips for the game for when the player saves the little people.  We used an Android phone to make these wav files (and the Hertz app) and we tried to make funny silly voices to fit with the feel of our game.

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It was really fun making ‘Quake Rescue and being part of the Global Game Jam.  It felt like I was part of something giant with all the other jammers around the world.  The other teams at our site and Jack (SoGoodStudios) the organiser were all friendly and supportive.  I think our final game works well and I would describe it as a fun minigame.  I think we have definitely improved our skills since our first game jam and our teamwork is better too but it did get hard later on Saturday when we were tired and J wanted to finish up before I did.  I am looking forward to doing more game jams through this year!

Links:

‘Quake Rescue page on the Global Game Jam 2017 site

‘Quake Rescue on itch.io

‘Quake Rescue on Scratch

ThinqTanq jam site page on the Global Game Jam 2017 site

All games from the teams at our jam site

 

 

 

 

The Science and Technology Showcase at Plymouth University

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Freebies! My Explore Discover Achieve lanyard, my Event pass, a Plymouth University notepad, and our 3D printed tags from the Electronics stand

Yesterday I went with my brother to a Science and Technology Showcase for secondary school students which was held at Plymouth University.  When we arrived we were given our Event Passes and after a short wait we were shown to a lecture theatre for careers talks from four different speakers.

First was a talk from Grant Cole (Twitter) to talk about the work of being a Geologist.  His work involves studying rocks and fossils, and he has been all over the world, including Iceland, Death Valley, and a salt mine in Sicily.  Grant said that he does lots of field work on his own and he has done his research from the air and off-road.  Parts of his job sounded really exciting – lots of travelling, glacial walking and making new discoveries.

Next was Kathy Redfern (Twitter), who is a nutritionist.  Her work is researching the “impacts of food and nutrition on the health and wellbeing of humans (or animals)” to give advice for the prevention of illness.  She specifically works with pregnant women, and she says some of the benefits of her job is that no two days are the same and she gets to travel around the UK and to Portugal.

The third speaker was Jon Waters who is studying Mathematics and is part of the Theoretical Physics Group.  His current research is in lasers and he explained that normal torches contain a wide band from the visible light spectrum but lasers only contain a narrow band and can concentrate energy to a fine point.  Jon said that his work involves getting used to not knowing the answer.  His work involves coming up with mathematical models and performing theoretical tests and he learns new things every day.

The last talk was from a psychologist called Leonie Cooper.  She has worked at the National Marine Aquarium and now is working with an intelligent robot called Snap.  Her research is in using mental imagery to train people to have healthier behaviours.  She says that people seem to find that robots are less judgemental to talk to than other people.  Leonie is also interested in how games and apps could be used to reach thousands.

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The Basic code I tried out on the BBC Microcomputer

After the talks were finished we went to a big marquee filled with stands from different university departments.  It was split into three sections, and we were given thirty minutes in each section.  First I went to a stand where I took my thumbprint and compared it to one from an imaginary suspect that I lifted with powder and tape.  There was a psychology stand where I did a lie detector test.  I had wires attached to the finger on my left hand and my left ear, and I had to pick a card out of five.  They were shuffled and I had to lie about which card I had as they were turned over one by one. The wires measured skin response (sweat increases conductivity) and heart rate.  The lie detector didn’t pick up my lie I think because I was nervous throughout the whole test!  I also had a quick look at other chemistry and biology stands.

In the next section was a stand for the South West Retro Computing Archive, where I did some coding in Basic on a BBC Microcomputer from the 80’s, and J got the hi-score on Pac-man.  I have been to one of their events before and they have a huge range of retro consoles to play and learn about.  On the BBC computer there is a “return” key instead of an enter key, a “break” key to reset the whole computer, and you have to write your code in numbered lines for the system to read in order.

We then went to the Computing and Games Development stand where me and my brother played Pirate Panic, a game written by some of the students at the stand.  Pirate Panic is a multiplayer game where the players have to work together to keep a ship afloat and moving until it reaches land.  It’s a really fast paced game which encourages you to panic, just like the pirates!  I thought it was exciting and good for teamwork.  I also tried a VR game using a headset and I had to shoot lasers at robots.  It was a lot of fun to play but my arm was aching after a few minutes because the shoot button was on the headset.  We also met and spoke to Nicholas Wade who is in his final year and is working to launch his own games studio called Nikomus Games.

Next I went to the Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Robotics stand.  I watched people play with some of the university’s robots and J used a red ball and a sensor to control LED lights that were on the stand.  There was a challenge to find the right frequency on one machine by turning a knob and getting a turning circle on a small screen to stay still. We were told that the shape the green light was making was a visual representation of the frequency it was on.  J was able to do it but I ran out of time, and we were both given 3D printed tags for taking part.

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Some flyers I picked up to learn more about the courses and events at Plymouth University

In the last section there was a Geography stand where I got to try an HTC Vive VR Headset to explore London using Google Earth.  It was brilliant and I loved using the handheld controller and that you could still see it in the virtual space!  We then went to the i-DAT stand where they had a small black dome which we entered.  Inside there was a film projected onto the dome ceiling about being an astronaut. A voiceover explained that there were different levels of G-Force as we watched a CGI representation of a G-Force training machine.  We heard how astronauts need to keep exercising while they are in space so they aren’t too weak when they get back to Earth and we saw an astronaut using an exercise bike.  We also met Luke Christison who works in the Immersive Vision Theatre (in the Planetarium) which we have tickets to visit in a couple of weeks.

The last stand we visited was about meteorites and the Solar System.  I looked at a rock from Mars and compared it to a rock from Earth under a microscope.  A woman working on the stand explained to me that the Earth rock had formed in a volcano, and I could observe that both rocks had been made the same way, so at some point there must have been volcanoes on Mars as well!  There were some pieces of meteorite on the table and a few of them looked alien.  A man from the stand talked to us about the scale of the solar system.  He said if we used a scale of 1 metre to 1 Astronomical Unit (AU), and imagined the Sun was right in front of us, the edge of our Solar System would be in Taunton and our nearest star would be in London!

I really enjoyed going around the marquee and the talks in the beginning were interesting.  My favourite parts were the Retro Games area and the Games Development area, and I really want to try out more VR gaming and exploration technology and learn more about how it works.  I would also like to do more study in electronics and robotics, geology and geography, and psychology, and find out more about Leonie Cooper’s research.

 

Plymouth Cubed Talk at Central Library

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Plymouth Hoe in Plymouth Cubed

(The screenshots in this post were all taken by me on November 9th 2016)

On Thursday 27th of October I attended a talk about Plymouth Cubed at Central Library.  The speaker was Neil Argue, who created the project.  Neil started his talk explaining the origins of Plymouth Cubed. He had downloaded the Ordnance Survey Minecraft map of Plymouth and he thought that it was too blocky, the scale was wrong and the colours were unrealistic.  He said “I think we can do much better”.  Neil undertook a four-month process of building the territory using LIDAR (information collected by planes flying overhead), MicroDEM (which turns the data into a Minecraft map), and WorldPainter (which builds the map in Minecraft).  The LIDAR data gave information about the height of every part of Plymouth in a one-meter grid, and each meter translates to one block in Minecraft.

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My painting of Plymouth Cubed inside Plymouth Cubed

However, the LIDAR data does have a few drawbacks.  The data is rounded up or down so the landscape can seem quite flat, spaces under bridges are filled because the overhead laser could not pick them up, and objects such as cars and people are scanned and used as land data too, but it did give Neil the basic terrain of Plymouth mapped out to scale in grass and dirt blocks.  One of the fans of the project pointed out that Neil had “created a big colouring book shaped like Plymouth”.

It took Neil around a month on his own to build Plymouth Hoe, and by that point he realised that he wouldn’t be able to build all of Plymouth by himself!  He showed us a video of how Plymouth Cubed looked at that stage.  The audience were in awe and gave plenty of “ooo’s” and “aaa’s”.  You can watch Neil’s videos on the Plymouth Cubed YouTube channel.

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The Life Centre in Plymouth Cubed

Neil told us that there are around 30 builders now and he launched the game to show us what the up to date version looks like.  As it was loading Neil chuckled and said “Plymouth Cubed is always sunny – It never rains, unless i want it to!”.  We were given a look around Derriford Hospital and the Life Centre, which has a working water slide!  Neil also showed us that some of the bus stops actually work, and will teleport you to different parts of Plymouth.  Some of the builders are also trying to get the Torpoint Ferry working and Neil is hoping to use NPCs at specific destinations to give travellers information about Plymouth.

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Working bus stops in Plymouth Cubed

To join Plymouth Cubed a Minecraft player needs to contact Neil via Facebook (if they are under 16 a parent should contact him).  The server will allow twenty players on at a time and it is free to use, and there are some simple rules.

  •  Use the landscape as your guide, don’t straighten stuff out.
  • You can add new builds, but don’t take anything away.
  • Don’t touch other people’s builds.
  • Under sixteens need parent’s permission.
  • Keep it realistic by using the closest colour blocks to reality

Neil also encourages that people shouldn’t just build their house, but build their whole street or area.  He said the builders use a 100-foot rule, “if it looks okay from 100 feet away, then it’s good.” (you can get a distorted view by just looking up close).

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Charles Cross church in Plymouth Cubed

The talk went very well and the audience were really excited by it.  I’ve been a fan of Plymouth Cubed from when I first heard about it earlier this year (I wrote about it here) and it’s great to see how much has been added since then, and i’m going to make some time to help build Plymouth in Minecraft.  Neil has raised some funding to keep the server running with a Crowdfunder and printed some awesome t-shirts which have a lovely photo of Plymouth Cubed on the front and my own watercolour art of Plymouth Cubed (sketch, painting, screenshot inside Plymouth Cubed by Neil) on the back which makes me feel so proud!  Here I am with Neil and my brother wearing them:

After the talk I went downstairs to Central Library‘s Hello World club where Laura from the library had brought in some Halloween projects.  Hello World is a weekly kid’s tech and coding club which my brother J goes to and the room is usually busy with cool projects on Raspberry Pi, BBC MicroBits and Scratch.  I used a BBC MicroBit to code flashing green LED eyes inside a pumpkin (see it in action on the left in this video).  It’s pretty easy to programme the MicroBit and it’s really fun.  Hello World is on Thursday afternoons and you can click the link for more information.

 

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Pumpkin with flashing LED eyes

 

 

 

On Shaky Ground at At-Bristol

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The schedule for the On Shaky Ground event at At-Bristol

Last week me and my brother attended the On Shaky Ground event at the At-Bristol Science Centre (Twitter).  It was an event for home-educated young people led by a woman called Kathy about earthquakes, how they are caused and how engineers and architects design earthquake-resistant buildings.

We began the day with Kathy explaining to us how earthquakes can happen, the consequences of earthquakes and how engineering can help.  First she explained how the Earth is made from a central core surrounded by a layer of liquid magma, and above that floats the top layer called the crust, which is made up of several tectonic plates.  When the plates move against each other or the pressure is released from below it creates a seismic wave, which we also call an earthquake.  Kathy explained that earthquakes can be measured using a seismograph and that there are three different kinds of seismic waves: P-waves, S-waves and surface waves.

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This demonstrated the movement of the earth’s crust on the magma layer.

Next Kathy talked about the consequences of earthquakes.  One of the most interesting facts she told us was that around a million earthquakes happen every year but most are not felt by humans.  However, some earthquakes are strong enough to cause landslides, liquification, tsunamis and land ruptures.  Kathy explained that everything has a resonating frequency and if an earthquake has the same frequency as a building the building can be damaged or even fall completely.  She told us that ‘brown sound’ is a frequency that resonates with a human’s bowels and can make them poo themselves!

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This demonstrated liquification caused by earthquakes where some things rise to the surface from below and other things sink into the ground.

Kathy said we can’t predict or prevent earthquakes but we can design earthquake-resistant buildings with clever engineering.  We split into teams to plan and build earthquake-resistant water towers.  We were given a budget of £100 (fake!) to spend on materials for our towers, such as paper straws and string, and we had one and a half hours to finish our buildings.  Our buildings also had to be a certain height and as water towers had to be able to hold some weight, and we had to plan them out before trying to build them.  Kathy gave us this advice:

  • Keep it simple (e.g symmetrical)
  • Avoid changes in stiffness (changes in material)
  • Avoid local weak points (changes in load transfer plants)
  • Keep mass central (if mass is on one side it can cause twisting or falling)
  • Reinforce joints
  • Strong columns and weak beams
  • Use horizontal load bearing shapes (triangles are strong shapes)
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A close up of the earthquake simulator.

My team was called ‘Igloo’ and was made of me, my brother J, and a friend we made that morning, L.  We talked about the tips Kathy gave us.  At first we thought about a pyramid shaped building but decided against it because it wouldn’t be able to support the weight at the top.  Instead we chose to design a building with a cylindrical external shape with a square core support inside.  We chose this because one of the tips on the cards we were given said that if something had less sides it would have stronger earthquake resistance.  Next we talked about what materials we would build from.  We decided to use large paper straws as scaffolding stuck upright onto the plastic base we were given with hot glue, and smaller straws taped at the top of the long ones to increase the building height, since the large straws on their own weren’t tall enough.  We arranged our straws in a circle and wrapped sheets of paper around the outside for the outer wall.  To make it all stay together we used a hot glue gun, and reinforced it with tape.

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A closer look at our water tower.

We did have a few problems during the challenge.  It was difficult to get the straws to stand up straight because the glue was slow to dry.  We didn’t budget for straws for crossbracing so our structure was weak.  Some of the straws bent, which created some weak points as well.  Lastly, we didn’t manage our time well, so we weren’t finished when our time ran out, but we were given an extra five minutes.

Then we stopped for lunch and had a quick look around some of the science centre.  When we came back each table had a slinky to use to demonstrate seismic waves.  We learnt that a Seisometer measures the pulse given off by an earthquake and picks up where it came from.  Volunteers popped balloons of different sizes to demonstrate the different magnitudes on the Richter Scale.  Each number on the Richter Scale indicates an earthquake which has 30 times the energy of the number before it on the scale.  A very small balloon didn’t make a noise when it was popped but when a very large balloon was popped it was deafening and I felt it under my feet.

In the next talk Kathy spoke about how ground tremors can have unnatural causes, for example they can be a consequence of fracking, underground railway development, or quarrying.  Quarrying is digging into the ground to collect materials (e.g. rocks) and fracking is injecting water at a high pressure into rocks to release gas for people to use as energy.  Fracking is extremely controversial because of concerns it could cause tremors and pollution.  In the UK, fracking has only started to be used recently and is being monitored.  The UK doesn’t get a lot of big earthquakes and the only earthquake-resistant buildings here are nuclear power plants.  This is because engineers have to consider the likelihood and the consequences of an earthquake on the buildings they are designing.

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Our water tower about to be tested on the earthquake simulator.

Finally we tested our water towers on the earthquake simulator which is a table that shakes and has different settings for magnitude using the G scale (engineers prefer to use the gravity scale to the Richter scale).  Our team managed to pass the first two levels but fell on the third (0.3G).  Another team managed to get past the conditions of a typical Japanese earthquake.  Their tower was built similarly to the Eiffel Tower with a wide base coming to a point and had lots of crossbracing.  Instead of resting their weight on the top they had it hanging down the centre.

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Me in the hamster wheel at At-Bristol.

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J using a machine which shows how energy is used in the human body.

I really enjoyed the On Shaky Ground event and we learned a lot.  Afterwards we had two hours to spare so we had a better look around At-Bristol.  I went on a giant hamster wheel that generated power to lift water in buckets.  We played games to test our reflexes, measured our heart rates and tested our startle reflex.  J had a long talk about the chemical structure of water and about antibiotic resistance with Lisa from the Live science team (team Twitter).  Our wristbands had barcodes on them that allowed us to save our results.  There was a lot more that we looked at and more we didn’t see because we had so little time left but we are planning to go back again soon.  At the end we went through the gift shop and J got a pot of Thinking Putty and I got a couple of Banksy postcards.  We also looked at the statues and saw a small amount of a fireworks display in Millennium Square.

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The children’s picture books in Bristol Central Library are kept in this boat structure.

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There was an image of a person in the wood of the boat.

Before we came back to Plymouth we paid a visit to Bristol Central Library which was huge and had a large kids and young adult’s section, and while we were there I read some of the manga Nisekoi.  We walked through College Green and visited Park Street where I bought some Posca markers, Promarkers and Essdee Softcut (for lino printing) from Cass Art.  Cass Art is a huge art shop with two floors and a big selection of pens and other equipment.  I have started trying lino printing recently and it is quite good timing because this half term we are doing printing at NA&DSC and at one of my home ed groups.

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Some of my uncle’s custom painted shoes.

We also visited some of my cousins for dinner and to catch up.  My uncle in Bristol is a graphic designer and we looked at some of each other’s recent work.  I showed him all my Inktober drawings and he showed me his custom painted shoes and a mural he has painted on my cousin’s bedroom wall.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go to Bristol Museum or any galleries because I got sick, but I did get to see a lot of graffiti from the car window and one of our friends has promised to take me to see more next time I’m in Bristol, which hopefully will be soon!

Plymouth Art Weekender Day 3

The 25th of September was Day 3 of the Plymouth Art Weekender.  Here are links to my earlier posts about the event: Day 1 and Day 2 (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

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My little sister on the merry-go-round at Union Street Party 2016

Day 3 was a Sunday so we relaxed in the morning then headed to the Union Street Party, where last year I took part in my first public participation art project “Painter Pitcher” (organised by Amy Whittingham), with my brother and my dad.  That was a lot of fun and I was looking forward to seeing what was happening at the party this year.  The flyer for the Weekender said there would be a print workshop from Double Elephant and I really wanted to give that a try as I have seen their workshop leaflets at PCA in the past and they look really interesting.

We arrived as a band was setting up on the main stage and a woman from the We Are Plymouth booth asked if we wanted to take part in their photo project to celebrate Plymouth’s people and communities.  Me and my brother were given a small whiteboard to write “We are Plymouth” on (I added a doodle of my own!) and a badge each to wear for our photo.  Unfortunately we didn’t take a photo of our own because we thought they would be posted online but their Instagram account is empty!

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Instructions and ticket for Marcella Finazzi’s installation at Sloggett and Son, and my We Are Plymouth badge

We carried on walking around and had fun messing about on a bouncy castle and a rodeo bull.  Next to the bouncy castle were two men playing music with a guitar and drums and they were encouraging members of the public to join in. We watched a woman singing an Elvis song and a few young boys taking turns on the mic and drums, and there was a really great atmosphere around this part of the Party.  Right next door was Sloggett and Son, a shop that sells vintage furniture and they were hosting an installation of instant photos and sound recordings called “What we talk about when we talk about love” by Marcella Finazzi.  We got into line to participate and Marcella gave us a ticket and instructions on what to do.  We wrote about what love means to us on slips of paper and she took our photo for her album.  Being around all the vintage furniture while listening to to the conversations through the headphones made me feel like I was inside someone’s house and part of their family.  When we left we were given another slip of paper each with a ‘love thought’ printed on it.   Mine read “You look good today” and my brother’s read “I believe in you”.

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Instant photo of my family by Marcella Finazzi

We heard music and saw people dancing and went to watch for a few minutes then went into the Camper Obscura.  This is a camper van that has been converted into a Camera Obscura that you can sit inside!  We all went in and the man running the van closed the door to shut out the light.  We sat opposite each other on benches and he gave us a big whiteboard to hold flat on our laps.  He opened a hole in the roof with mirrors inside and the reflections of outside the van came in and were shown on the whiteboard.  We had to raise and lower it to get the picture in focus.  I loved this, it was a great experiment and I want to build my own camera obscura at home to better understand how they work.  After we came out the man took a polaroid of us to put on the door alongside pictures of all the other people who had visited that day.  I have my own Instant 1000 Polaroid Land Camera which I used last year for my Max Caulfield cosplay, I don’t know if it works but I am going to save up and get some film (there is a shop on the Barbican called So Perfect Images that sells it) to try out because I really like the way they work and the photos they make, and I’ve been really inspired by the different artists using instant film throughout the Weekender.

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Polaroid in development of my family by the man with the Camper Obscura

 

We looked up and down Union Street again and ate some delicious apples which we hand-turned into long spirals with a little machine, but we couldn’t find the Double Elephant workshop.  We were a little disappointed about that but otherwise we did have a really good time at this years Union Street Party, and I really liked all the different ways there were to get involved in the artworks happening there, however it was time to move on to our next destination.

We drove over to Devonport Guildhall for the Chrysalis exhibition of work by the artists from Flameworks.  All of the artists are making different things, from illustrations to metalwork and jewellery.  One of my favourite displays was “Teapotty” by Peter Heywood which was a selection of teapots made from different materials, including tea leaves, cubes of beech wood, lead, cocktail sticks, and chocolate.  The teapot made of cubes of wood made me think of 3D pixel art brought to life and there was something quite humorous about the collection.  I also liked “Resurrection” by Ati Charlesworth, a mixed media drawing of an old tree trunk with fresh branches and leaves growing from it.  The trunk was drawn with ink dots but Ati used watercolour and gold paint on the leaves and the new wood to bring it to life.  Another drawing I liked was “Shadow of a Previous Life” by Louise Rabey.  This was quite a sad picture based on a memory Louise had of a beloved pet who passed away when she was young.  There were lots more pieces of art on display here, my brother and sister’s favourite was “Salix II” by Piers Edsall which is a big steel musical sculpture with rods that the two of them made a lot of noise with!

Before we left the Guildhall we went downstairs to the cafe and I had a piece of treacle tart that had a layer of jam in it, and looked around Lynsey Johnstone’s exhibition “Floral Abundance”.  Lynsey works with acrylic paints, metallic paints, and glitter to make vibrant and colourful paintings which are full of life.

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Close up on “Summertime Magic” by Lynsey Johnstone

Our next stop was Devonport Live at 56 George Street but unfortunately it was closed, so we carried on to the Royal William Yard and the “Being Human” exhibition.  As soon as we entered we saw the “Participate” installation by Alain Pezard.  This was a collection of porcelain figurines which were quite unsettling, and some of them had been broken and stuck back together in creepy ways.  This has given me some ideas for things I would like to (un)make and it reminded me of Sid’s experiments from Toy Story!  I wish we had known about this piece beforehand because Alain had invited members of the public to bring in their own figurine and I would have liked to do that.

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“Participate” by Alain Pezard

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Creepy figurine holding her own head in Alain Pezard’s “Participate”

I found a lot of this exhibition quite alien to me because I haven’t experienced much fine art before.  Every piece of artwork was different to the other works on display, and there was photography, video, installations, collections, oil paintings, even performance works. I enjoyed another of Alain Pezard’s installations called “Water of the World”, which is a range of bottles of water collected and sent to him over 32 years by participants from all over the world.

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“Water of the World” by Alain Pezard

Another one of my favourites was “Devon Words” by Caitlin Hennessy.  Caitlin is interested in old words that are disappearing from our language as it evolves.  Caitlin talked to us about her research and the meanings of the words she had chosen were sometimes quite funny but sometimes there wasn’t a better word for what was being described, for example we found out that a ‘griggle’ is a small apple left on it’s tree!  I liked this piece so much I bought a small book of words hand-printed (and signed for me!) by Caitlin.

 

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“Devon Words” collected by Caitlin Hennessy

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A page from one of Caitlin Hennessy’s printed books of old words

Before we left RWY we popped into Martin Bush’s gallery of oil paintings.  Martin creates huge bright and warmly coloured abstract art inspired by jazz music and landscapes, and influenced by Matisse and Jackson Pollock.  Martin’s paintings are really beautiful and full of energy and we all really enjoyed our visit to his gallery.

And that was the end of my Art Weekender! I got to see such a wide variety of art but there were still exhibitions I couldn’t fit in, in particular I was sad that I didn’t make it to the Plymouth Arts Centre or the Karst Gallery.  I’m really looking forward to seeing more exhibitions by local artists at the next Plymouth Art Weekender in 2017 and especially finding out what opportunities there are for members of the public and young artists like me to experience being part of the creation of different artworks for the festival.

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