boulder’s first maker faire

Boulder Maker Faire banner



UPDATE: Our booth was voted “attendee favorite” in the responses to the Boulder Maker Faire survey! Woohoo!! Apparently, we aren’t the only fans of chickens and gadgets, LOL.

What a weekend! 5,000+ people attended the event and our booth was so busy that Nathan and I forgot to eat or drink anything from 10am to 5pm on Saturday. Oops. We are completely exhausted but we feel honored to have been included.

Hey Chicken! was a hit with young and old alike. Our rubber chicken assistants kept the itty bitties entertained and made great stand-ins for demo’ing the roost bar pressure sensor. We put the light sensor in a shoebox with a removable lid to create a night and day simulator. Our goal was to create an interactive exhibit where folks could modulate the sensor inputs and observe their effects on the automatic door operation. Since operating the flat panel heater wouldn’t be very exciting, I repurposed the PowerTail to control the lights, including a globe light dressed up to look like a sun. It turned on when it was “day time” and off for “night time”.

yarn and pin block diagram

One of the biggest insights we gained from our experience was that this project really bridges the gap between generations. There were young people who brought their parents and grandparents back to our booth to share it with them. We heard stories of life growing up on the farm, even a woman who used to get in trouble for spending so much time in the hen house with her beloved chicken friends that she caught lice! There is a humanity to this project to which people are drawn. It appeals to the longing many of us have for connecting with the natural world in our increasingly impersonal, digital lives. Engineering appeals more to people, especially women, when it involves other things they care about in life, and for many, this includes backyard chickens!

lots of wires

Since we only had a week and half notice that we were exhibiting, it was a mad rush to get our model done for the Faire. We pulled some late nights but thanks to my husband Nate’s mechanical prowess, the motorized door was completed just in time. Go team! 🙂



coders and crafters april meetup

Coders and Crafters meetup

Last weekend, I had a blast hanging out with a bunch of folks looking to combine their love for crafting and sewing with technology. In the photo, a member gives an interesting talk on Arduino basics. He holds the guts of his animatronic cat tail as an example project. Other members were working on a stuffed animal that giggles when you shake it but screams when dropped on the floor, crazy animated cat toys, blinky costumes, controller gloves made from conductive fabric, you name it. And the backgrounds represented there were equally diverse: sewing, programming, and electronics obviously, but also communications, acupuncture, education, music, architecture…love it! This is how tech should be.

I met some incredibly creative men and women throughout the afternoon. The conversation flowed seamlessly between topics ranging from what is missing in bicycle clothing for women to the best embedded platforms for garment based projects, to new approaches in science education that would attract more women and underrepresented groups to the discipline. So inspiring!

To top off a perfect day, towards the end of the event I met Ayori, one of the creators of Oakland’s recent Startup Weekend covered on KQED’s Newsroom, which is how I heard about it. She is an amazing, gifted technical woman who takes action in our community to include underrepresented groups in technology entrepreneurship. She totally gets it. She shares the belief that we need to provide students with context to truly engage with math and science. To that end, she is using music as a way to educate young people about math at an event she designed for Oakland’s Drop Beats Music Crawl. She spotted my MaKey MaKey Banana Piano activity when I was sharing it at the meetup and got really excited about including it in her Drop Beats program. So, we are working together on adding it! It is going to be perfect. Can’t wait to see what she comes up with!

Readers: do you have any ideas of how to increase diversity in tech? What’s missing in math and science education?

body double

Custom paper tape dress form

Custom paper tape dress form

When I left Apple in June, I turned my engineering focus to garment construction, which I’m sure is some reaction to being in front of a computer 10 hours a day for a decade plus. With plenty of enthusiasm, I dove deep into my first project, this cute linen wrap dress from a japanese pattern book. I’ve been sewing on and off since grade school – how hard could this be? Long story short: it was a total fail. The completed dress looked great on my sewing table: beautiful fabric, nice even gathers, neat topstitching, seams finished cleanly. But on my body, the neckline gaped and the bodice had too much ease for my liking. I spent no time fitting this pattern to my unique shape and style preferences and the result was a beautiful dress that I will never wear. 😦

Since then, I’ve been obsessed with garment fitting technique. I’ve read lots online and found a ton of great books out there. But honestly, nothing has helped me more in this effort than creating my own custom dress form. It is a bit shocking to see yourself exposed like that but it is the first step to learning about (and accepting) your body’s unique qualities. It has been eye opening to examine my RTW clothing on my form and clearly see the shoulder and back fitting problems that I’ve ignored forever. It is funny how you just get used to ill-fitting clothing. No more for me.

My dress form is made from gummed paper packaging tape. I’ve read that paper tape holds its form better than duct tape. Here is the blog post that inspired me.

After I took these pictures, I closed up the holes, stuffed her tightly with newspaper, mounted her on an old floor lamp base, and coated her with many layers of Mod Podge for extra strength. It has been 4 months now and she’s still holding up. Big thanks to Karen Barefield for sculpting this masterpiece on me!