Science hack your way to interesting, weird creations this weekend

Periodic table made of cupcakes and rubber duck Geiger counter among creations in 2018

Participants in the Science Hack Day Dublin 2016.

Participants in the Science Hack Day Dublin 2016.

 

If you fancy making something weird and interesting this weekend, then Science Hack Day Dublin is a good place to be.

The annual two-day gathering takes place on March 9th and 10th at TOG Hackerspace in Dublin 8, and if creations from previous years are anything to go by, the results will indeed be weird and interesting.

“It’s a hackathon, an event where people come along and spend the weekend making things,” explains Dr David McKeown, co-founder of Science Hack Day Dublin and an assistant professor at University College Dublin’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.

“To take part in Science Hack Day, you register and come along on the Saturday where ideas are pitched. Then teams make those things a reality by working on them throughout the Saturday and all night if they want. On the Sunday they show what has been made. It’s about having fun and being creative with other people.”

McKeown points to some of last year’s creations as examples of what can emerge. “Last year one group made a robotic, mobile rubber duck with a sensitive Geiger counter built into it to detect radioactivity,” he says.

“There was also a periodic table of the elements made of cupcakes and there was a laser maze, a smoke-filled chamber where you had to move around and avoid breaking laser beams, in the style of Mission Impossible.”

Prosthetic arm

This year, suggestions include a prosthetic arm that is suitable for a rower, a multiplane stand for making stop-motion animations and a plan to liven up a lemon tree by creating a more Californian environment for it.

“Once you register you can come along and get involved in the ideas that are pitched on the first day, or come up with your own idea and pitch that,” says McKeown. “It’s really about having fun with science and technology and eating the free food.”

The volunteer-organised event has been running since 2012, and its organisers want to make it as inclusive as they can. “The event is free, but there may be hidden costs for some people who might need to pay for childcare or they may need to travel to and from Dublin,” says McKeown. “So for the last few years we have offered childcare and travel bursaries to help offset those costs. We want the event to be accessible for people who usually can’t go to a hackathon.”

This year, Science Hack Day Dublin is part of the Science Foundation Ireland-funded Made programme, which also includes Dublin Maker in July and a plan to enrich maker culture in other spaces such as libraries and university campuses. Prof Tomás Ward, who co-founded Dublin Maker, sees the value in encouraging more people to use their hands and imaginations to make objects.

“A lot of the time when we engage with technology it involves sitting at a computer or tapping a screen,” says Ward, who is the AIB Chair of Data Analytics in Dublin City University. “I am a big fan of building people’s confidence in reconnecting with physical living and creativity, and in making the things we need or enjoy.”

Science Hack Day Dublin runs from March 9th to 10th at TOG Hackerspace, Blackpitts, Dublin 8. Entry is free but you must be over 18 and register in advance. See sciencehackdaydublin.com