Thursday, 13 October 2016

Rocketry workshop at North Wales Tech 20th Oct 2016

Little plug for this upcoming workshop in North Wales.. there's only a few places left! I'll be bringing lots of model rockets, doing a basic rocket anatomy 101, an introduction to openrocket where people can have time to play at designing a rocket and simulating it's flight etc. We'll finish the night looking at tools and approaches to scratchbuilding rockets from lo tech solutions to 3d printing, laser cutting and CNC routing.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Speaking at Glitch Festival of Creative Disobedience

So I am speaking at this festival! "How I Accidentally Ended Up in a Space Race" is my title. I'm really looking forward to it particularly as the term "GLITCH" has made me think about the connections between where I started with things like circuit bending and glitch music and how they formed the following adventures that have led me to having CNC robots and making space parts! If you fancy coming along it's free and I am on at 2pm on the 16th October in the Mostyn gallery.. but do check out the entire festival.. PDF program here

ps it has the mighty Paul Granjon too :)


Been ages since I did some databending .... in fact I can't remember or find evidence of a period where I did a lot of it! I thought I'd blogged many moons back but apparently not (although my orange banner image across the top of this blog (which needs replacing!) is a databent image from that period! I needed to have some examples of databent images for an upcoming talk I'm doing and here are today's results.. I like them.. (would love to do some big prints and show them..) I made myself databend only images that were photo's I'd taken of things that I have made... enjoy!

Monday, 3 October 2016

Long Live Marbleism!

MarbleRUnSAtOgwENFest from concretedog on Vimeo

Had a great busy weekend with lots of things where I live as the Ogwen River festival (arts/music/poetry ++) was on. One thing we really enjoyed was hanging out in the rain with friends making marble runs from a supplied collection of scrap stuff. This marbling is part of an ongoing exploration of play and flow and marbleism (manifesto here) curated by the brilliant combo of Lisa Hudson and Lindsey Colbourne with which we have interacted with before at pontio and hope to do so again soon!

It's a really engaging activity for both young and old, in this era where everyone seems to bang on about 'STEM and STEAM' with no real passion... it is events like this that seem to me to be perfect.. a combination of arts and technology and making, intergenerational, learning through failure (marbles flying off all over the place), doing stuff, teamwork and as it's stuck in a woodland in the rain it's healthy.. outside, fresh air, exercise, climbing over stuff.. lifting bits, teamwork.... perfect.. long live marbleism I say.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Making Rulers.. and rocketry tools!

Yes.. I've been making rulers! It started because I wanted to make a tool to give away as a freebie at an upcoming Rocket Design Workshop I'm running for North Wales Tech group. One of the challenges when building small rockets is marking straight parallel lines onto the body tubes to mark fin positions or other attachments. A solution is to use a piece of angled bar as it will always lie accurately along a tube and cannot be off square. So for the workshop I thought it might be nice to knock up a small laser cut keepsake one complete with ruler markings and we'll put the workshop date and logos on etc. The two circle symbols on this one are used in rocketry to represent the centre of pressure and the centre of gravity which we'll be discussing in the workshop too so they act as a nice reminder. I cut these on the laser cutter at my nearby newly established Pontio fablab, which is excellent and its so easy to get good quick results on a laser cutter. However I can only access the space every now and again and wanted to see if I could make some rulers without a laser cutter on my cnc router. It's trickier.. the 2 small key chain rulers here are made on 3mm ply and have been engraved with a fine V bit, they are ok, but its difficult to get the resolution and clean cuts at this scale... I obviously need a laser cutter at home... feel free to send me one if you have one spare! Finally someone asked if I drew all the lines of the ruler sections by hand... there is a brilliant path effect in the mighty inkscape which allows you to create a scale along any shaped path.. brilliant!

Friday, 9 September 2016

I'm accidentally in a SPACERACE (and need your support)

Today I sent another pocketqube satellite chassis I made for Paul over to Germany, I've sent them before but this one was special, it's hopefully a flight model.

So regular readers will know that I am involved with building this for a pocketqube satellite project that's main payload is an experimental propulsion system called an EMdrive. EM drives have been discussed for a long time and have created a lot of arguments about whether they work and/or whether they break the laws of physics.. neither of these debates am I qualified or clever enough to comment on! However recently NASA eagleworks paper on their experiments with EM drives passed peer review and suddenly EM drives are less contentious and are garnering much interest academically.

Shortly after the NASA eagleworks peer review story, Cannae inc began to talk about how they are planning a cubesat launch to test their experimental EM drive system. Now.. I do wish them luck and every success... but part of me hopes that Paul and our EMdrive satellite can get there first! Part of this is ego obviously, but another part of me believes that amateurs/DIYers..MAKERS like us deserve to hold the bit of history of placing the first EM drive experiment on orbit.

The trials and tribulations of amateurs/diyers/tinkerers/mavericks is infused in the origins of EM technology all the way back to Roger Shawyer the innovative British scientist who proposed them. So.. how can you help.. well, put simply, we need funds. For testing and validation and launch we will need to raise around 25k euro.. peanuts to most space agencies but quite a lot to us. Although funding space projects is always high risk (no greater a week to know this after the spaceX rocket RUD) and there are many ways to fail you should be reassured that Paul has experience building, intergrating and launching satellites with his previous pocketqube satellite launch WREN. You can also check out our extensive blogs on this project on

If you can and want to be part of something that possibly could be a watershed moment for mankind and space propulsion please join the brilliant people who have chucked some money in the fund here.

And if you can't.. help spread the word about our project in the spirit of making, pioneering and adventure :)

Monday, 29 August 2016

Test flights! Rockets and DIY altimeter hardware.

So got a bit of time to launch this rocket. I built it ages ago (it's an Estes Star Stryker kit albeit with an adapted 3dprinted nose) as I wanted to build the smallest payload carrying model rocket and indeed build a diy altimeter to go in it. 

So the launch and recovery went really well, low wind and clear skies I fired it with a B6-4 motor as I quite wanted to get it back! It launched straight and stable, deployed the chute well and was easily recovered (avoided trees).. perfect.

The DIY altimeter (think I'm calling it SIMPalt) seems fine after a reasonable quick decent (I think the 13 gram weight is at the limit of what the star stryker is probably designed to cope with payload wise).  I was primarily interested in whether the SIMPalt hardware would hold together structurally rather than the data as the code for the altimeter is primitive (library based and not calibrated) and at some point will be replaced with some code a much more talented buddy is working on for me. 

However.. just for fun I pulled the data from the SD card and made a quick curve.. this should not be taken as accurate (can't remember how fast this code was managing SD writes on the logic analyser etc...) but I am quite pleased that despite the noise the shape of the curve is pretty representative of the flight, the apogee to chute deploy and then the change in gradient as it's descent is slowed by the chute particularly.