Steve’s enthusiasm for creativity in Robotic engineering is infectious. After our brief interview, I wondered if there should be a ‘Battle Faire’ to showcase Steve’s ingenious and unconventional inventions to the public. Here is a taster of what is to come tomorrow and an insight into why making things has been a life-long passion for Steve.
Tell me about your most recent project? I have several projects I am concurrently developing. My intention is to show people how they might use computers such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino to control robots. I wanted to demonstrate physical computing, where people are controlling real things, rather than perceiving computing as a passive on-screen interaction.
I have recently updated vintage robots from the 80s with modern technology such as the mobile BBC Buggy and Edingburgh Turtle. The MicroGrasp is a small hobbyist robot arm I have had since I was 19. I’ll be demonstrating it the Maker Faire. To see a video of BrushBot click here and here.
Are you looking forward to the Bristol Mini Maker Faire? I am looking forward to it with trepidation. As the deadline approaches I am trying to complete as many projects as possible. My musical robot, MaestroGrasp has yet to produce a tune. I intend the robot to play the theremin at the event.
I am trying to come up with ideas to engage children in making their own robots and exploring the world of creative engineering. I think the Maker Faire is important as it encourages people to proactively engage with electronics and computers instead of being passive consumers.
Would you hope that what you are showing will inspire other people to get into making? Yes, that’s why I want to exhibit. I try to build my robots using materials that are available to everyone. That is why I have made my robots out of everyday objects such as lego, and even toothbrushes.
Can you remember the first thing you made? When I was younger I used to play with a Meccano set and I made a punched card logic machine. I remember using cards from the library and using a holepunch to punch holes into the cards. I was inspired to create a machine that can think. I have also been influenced by science fiction movies such as 2001 Space Odyssey. I was mesmerised by Hal 9000 as a child and have been trying to re-create him ever since through my inventions.
How did school help you develop your skills and interest as a maker, or otherwise? My school was very generous with its supply of library cards! I was largely self-taught as my school did not offer Computer Science as a subject at the time.
Is this how you make your living? By day I am a semantic engineer, which enables me to apply artificial intelligence technologies to create a global knowledge base on the web?
Can you name anyone who inspires you? Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the internet), who not only had a very clear vision of the web, but also of its future. He is still active in steering its development.
If you were able to go back and give advice to yourself at age 14 or 15, what would you say? I would encourage my younger self to do more maths. Maths is a useful tool within any field of work or play. Maths is a way of thinking and framing problems. You can never have done enough. And the advice you would offer to a young person with an interest in making in today’s world? I believe that everyone has an interest in making, whether they make jewellery, cakes or robots. I would encourage any young person with an interest in making to develop and see work as a fulfilling activity where they can use their knowledge and skills to have fun. It is possible for work to be a fun and enjoyable experience, rather than a drudge.
What do you think of the Maker Movement in the USA and UK? I see the Maker movement as defining the future of work. In the future, our economy will be based on commons-based peer production. I believe this is a way to revive our economy and emerge from the recession.
What would you like to see in Bristol over the next 5 years? I would like to see more workshops for the public to use and a space for people to share their ideas and collaboratively make things.