Maker Dojo: Your opportunity to get hands-on with technology

Sessions at Tyndall National Institute in Cork enable participants to roll up their sleeves and learn by making

Antonia Schultze, Jim Moloney and Cathal Mariga of Midleton College, Cork, at the launch of MakerDojo. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Antonia Schultze, Jim Moloney and Cathal Mariga of Midleton College, Cork, at the launch of MakerDojo. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

 

If you fancy getting hands-on with science, technology and engineering, then Maker Dojo could be just the thing. The new, twice-monthly sessions at Tyndall National Institute in Cork encourage participants to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in to making, and hopefully learning along the way.

Maker Dojo is an effort to make the research at Tyndall more accessible to people who want to learn the basics and start creating, according to Dr Simon Elliott, who heads the project and who leads the materials modelling group in Tyndall.

“[Maker Dojo] is about giving people a way to engage with different science and engineering experiments,” he says. “In Tyndall we make things. We make devices. We make the technology of the future. People maybe think that is quite abstract, but if we can get them into Tyndall, show them what we do and let people try it out themselves, we think that could get them quite interested in making the new technologies of the future.”

At each session, participants build devices and experiments. The inventory includes kits to make a burglar alarm and a miniature, water-powered car.

Photonics – light and electronics – are used to transmit songs across the room.

“For that one you can take a song from your mobile phone and send it as pulses of laser light across the room to a detector at the other end,” says Elliott. “We get people to put together that entire circuit and line up a laser across the room, and you can see the little bursts of light across the room. It’s really cool.”

Small groups work together on the projects, and helpers are on hand to support. It’s a format that draws inspiration from the CoderDojo model of computer clubs, where young people learn to code among peers and mentors.

“We are not a CoderDojo, but we admire their model, which started in Cork and is now a global success,” says Elliott. He says that the maker sessions at Tyndall are best suited to teenage and older participants.

“Every Maker Dojo workshop is led by a researcher from Tyndall, and it’s a good opportunity for participants to meet researchers who are doing things on the front line.”

The maker element of this model was inspired by similar initiatives in British and American universities, and more generally by the growth of the maker movement, says Elliott.

“There is a move back to basics and to getting hands-on and creative with technology,” he says. “And on the theoretical side, educationalists are realising that what you do with your hands is very important for learning. Many people learn that way, so I think it is really important that we give people the opportunity to feel engaged with technology as they are creating.”

Maker Dojo, which is supported by Science Foundation Ireland, is partnering with Cork-based Forma Labs and DesignerDojo to encourage participants to experiment with biology and 3D printing too, and Elliott hopes a community will build up around the initiative.

“Some people will come one week and have fun, and that is fine, and other people will come again and again and get to know the different kits and technologies and start creating based on their own ideas,” he says.

“We want this to be a model we can replicate all around the country if other [institutions] want to do it. It’s creative, it’s intellectual and it is good fun.”

  • To find out about upcoming Maker Dojo workshops, sign up for updates at makerdojo.ie
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