Make: Philly – First Meeting a Great Success – Photos and Video

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Last night was the first official meeting of Make: Philly. A Philadelphia based group for like minded Makers. Whats a Maker? Visit O’Reillys Make Magazine and take a few minutes to look around and read about it. I highly recommend you dole out the bucks for a subscription – you wont be dissappointed. Our old pal Phillip Torrone is the Associate Editor of Make and along with our other pal Natalie Zee, pump out the voluminous entries for the Make: Blog. (Many of you might know Phil and Natalie from their involvement with the Macromedia/Flash/design community over the years.)

So more about last nights meeting: It was at the Dark Horse Pub just off South Street in Philadelphia – perfect place for a meeting and to grab a beer – we had a private room in the back and it held just the right amount of people who showed up. For a first meeting it had great attendance about 17-18 people in all. (It might have been more, but the meeting had to be postponed a week ago because of the nearly two feet of snow we got hit with last week) Harris Romanoff and David Thorsrud are responsible for coming up with the idea to start a local Make group and organizing the first meeting.

On the agenda was to come up with a plan for how often the group should meet, what types of resources we have and each can contribute and where everyone envisions the group heading. We also talked about the mission statement and everyone also introduced themselves and gave a little bit of their background and interests and current projects. About 25% or more of the attendees have a background in Electrical Engineering, lot of folks with software development background, and quite a few with design and art backgrounds. It was a pretty diverse group and fairly well rounded. We got to see a couple projects that attendees had brought with them, some very cool 3D paper sculptures from CAD designs, and some Rapid Prototyped toys/sculptures, really great stuff. Everyone was there to learn more about what folks are up to in this neck of the woods and to provide peer review on projects and make friends with other who might be able to push them to complete that last 2% on a project that always takes 98% of your time on a project to finish.

There was also talk about a First Friday project that members of the group might collaborate on. We also discussed potential for a group space, and ideas for resource sharing, and information exchange through a website/wiki/forum/maillist, etc. A great deal of ground was covered. Then we got down to some fun stuff:

Harris and David had put together a great idea – a Makers challenge, just like the monthly challenges in Make Magazine, you are given a scenario and a parts list and a challenge. We were given a tupperware container full of random parts and electronics, and 30 minutes to make a musical device that we could play a few bars of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” – the scenario was “Your in a Pub with strangers”. We divided up into groups and went at it. There was a mini breadboard kit and parts and a cheat-sheet schematic for wiring up a 555 timer based wet sponge circuit. I set about trying to wire up the circuit, the other groups with the electrical engineers knocked that one out before I could, for some reason the diagram needed a slight revision and I had to bridge a resistor across a different set of pins, but then it started working (Flash video of circuit in action). Our group also went the manual wrote and used the tupperware container itself to build a cigar-box style guitar. The winning group had a great idea to get more resistance and range out of their circuit by using one of their members own bodies like a giant human potentiometer (Flash video of winning performance). This provided a greater range of resistance than the wet sponge, so they were able to play the tune pretty well in a unique way.

Overall it was an excellent first meeting and a great start for what I hope to be a wonderful group to participate in here in Philadelphia. Very cool to see and meet other like minded creative individuals in the same area. Kudos to Harris and David for getting the ball rolling on the group!

More photos from the meeting that I shot can be found here.

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