How to make a LED throwie

What is a LED throwie? LED throwies were developed by the Graffiti Research Lab as a form of removable, reusable interactive art. By combining LEDs, batteries, and rare earth magnets, you can make brightly coloured lights that will stick to any ferromagnetic surface. 

Western Fair has invited the MakerBus to sell throwies at the 2014 Western Fair to help raise money to support our goal of building Canada’s first mobile makerspace and technology education classroom. Join us in the Progress Building September 5th-14th and for $2 you can learn how to make your own LED throwie that you can take home with you.

Together we can light up London.

To learn more about making your own LED throwies, check out this Youtube video or our own infographic.



How-to make a Minecraft Arcade Cabinet (Part I)

We’re excited to announce a new on-going feature for our blog – a how-to guide to building a Minecraft arcade cabinet. We’ll be documenting the entire process from beginning to end, warts and all. Since we’re big believers in learning from failure here at the MakerBus, we’ll be documenting every success, every failure, and every lesson we learn along the way.

Let’s get started by looking at what will be the heart of our Minecraft arcade cabinet, a Raspberry Pi computer. If you’re unfamiliar with a Rasberry Pi, it’s an open-source miniature computer no bigger than a tin of mints. These versatile computers were developed in the UK in 2006 and in a few years have sold more than 2.5 million units world-wide. I’m using a Raspberry Pi as the core of our arcade cabinet for two reasons:


1. It’s incredibly cheap! Websites like Newark Canada sell Rasberry Pi starter kits for $43. These kits come with everything you need to get your computer up and running. I’ll be installing the open-source operating system Raspbian (an offshoot of the open source operating system Debian) on our Raspberry Pi. This is a free OS that is extremely versatile and is a great introductory tool for getting people started learning about computer programming. What’s more, the Raspbian version of Minecraft is available for free download.

2. Both the Raspberry Pi and the Raspbian version of Minecraft are great learning and teaching tools: People around the world are embracing Minecraft as an educational tool. From building detailed replicas of ancient cities, to constructing world physical computers in the Minecraft world, Minecraft blends video games and learning in an exciting way. The Raspberry Pi version of Minecraft can also provide a great introduction to learning the Python coding language. By using Python players can hack the Raspberry Pi version of Minecraft, allowing players to alter how the physics of the game-world work or even setting up sophisticated programs to build massive structures. Mojang, the company that created Minecraft, encourages players to hack the Raspberry Pi version of the game, viewing it as a great introduction to Python. More about hacking the Raspberry Pi version of Minecraft can be found here

That’s about it for the first instalment in our project to build a custom Minecraft arcade cabinet. In our next post we’ll examine how to get Minecraft up and running on a Raspberry Pi. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions please let us know.

If you’re interested in building your own Minecraft arcade cabinet, we’ll be collecting a list of potential resources that will help get you started with your project.

This week’s resources:

Where to buy a Raspberry Pi

Learn more about the Raspbian version of Minecraft

Learn more about Raspbian

Hacking Raspbian Minecraft



Reflections on the Summer Library Roadtrip 2014

Roadtrip thanksYesterday we made our 15th and final stop on our Summer Library Roadtrip 2014. For the past month we’ve been holding pop-up maker experiences and MakerBus visits in partnership with the London Public Library – bringing fun projects to every corner of our fair city.

The entire experience has been an extremely fun blur of people, projects, and great memories. This year the TD Summer Reading Program has selected “Eureka” as its theme, encouraging people across Ontario to build, create, and play. The London Public Libraries and Western Fair graciously invited the MakerBus to be part of London’s Summer Reading Program this year.

While the MakerBus has been around for nearly a year and a half, the actual MakerBus has only been up and running for about the past four months. Our Summer Library Roadtrip has been a great experience to not only try out some fun new projects, but also to see how people react to the idea of a classroom on wheels.

Even though the MakerBus is a long way from finished (though we may have an exciting announcement about the interior of the bus in this fall), people have really gotten on board (pun intended) with our project.

People just love buses. It’s amazing how many people, old and young, are so excited about transforming buses for new purposes. And if you’re one of the people who came out to see the MakerBus at your local library, I promise you this – what you’ve seen is only the beginning. We have grand plans for the MakerBus and it’s only getting cooler from here.

The entire MakerBus team would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has made our Summer Roadtrip a reality. From our amazing partners at the London Public Library (there are way too many inspiring librarians to mention in this post) to our wonderful supporters at Western Fair – thank you for your trust and support.

Infinite thanks to the many people who volunteered their time helping us make the visits a reality – James, Herta, Tony, Sinead, and Alan you are all too amazing for words.

And finally thanks to our two extremely flexible drivers Paul Graham of Alpine Systems Engineering and Titus Ferguson of UnLondon – the bus would (literally) be nowhere without you.

The MakerBus team is having a fantastic summer sharing our project with the city – look for a busy fall full of maker fun. If you missed seeing the MakerBus or would like to show your support for expanding access to technology education in our city, the MakerBus will be at the Western Fair from September 4-15th showcasing a bunch of exciting projects – come #getonthebus!


The MakerBus team

-Ryan, Kim, and Beth


Summer Library Roadtrip Mega Post

Library Roadtrip logoThis summer as part of the TD Summer Reading Program, the MakerBus will be visiting nearly every library in London offering 90 minute pop-up maker activities. In this post you’ll find more information about these activities.

Here is a schedule of our upcoming visits:

Children’s: July 28, 2:30 p.m.

Crouch: July 29, 2:30 p.m.

Beacock: July 30, 2:30 p.m.

Lambeth: July 31, 2:30 p.m.

Jalna: Aug. 6, 2:30 p.m.

E. London: Aug. 7, 10 a.m.

Westmount: Aug. 8, 2:30 p.m.

Stoney Creek: Aug. 12, 2:30 p.m.

Carson: Aug. 14, 1:30 p.m.


Want to learn more? Follow the links…

How to make brushbots 

Making medieval books

Making a DIY lightsaber

How to make a DIY macro lens

How does a MaKey MaKey work?

If you’ve enjoyed our library visits and would like to support the MakerBus, please take a look at our supplies wish-list. Our bus runs on community support!

An easy way to make a brushbot

There are plenty of fantastic tutorials on the internet showing how to make tiny robots called “brushbots” out of toothbrushes (this one is quite good). But we’ve noticed that a lot of the tutorials require soldering – something that not everyone feels comfortable with since it involves molten lead. This tutorial will show how you can make a quick and easy solder-less brushbot.

You’ll need:

  • 1 electric toothbrush (look for the cheapest toothbrush possible)
  • 1 brush (kitchen scrub brushes often work well)
  • some electrical tape
  • hot glue (optional)

Step 1: Take apart electric toothbrush

Every electric toothbrush is going to be slightly different, so inspect your electric toothbrush and see if you can figure out how to take it apart. Many brushes aren’t even held together with screws and can just be pulled apart from either end.

You’re going to want to remove all the parts from the inside of the toothbrush. When you’ve gotten it apart, it will look something like this:


To build your brushbot you’ll need the motor and the battery casing.


If most electric toothbrushes come with batteries, if so keep these because they will power your brushbot.

Put the batteries in the battery casing and using tape, tape the battery casing and the motor together so that the batteries are in contact with the motor. When everything is taped together the motor should turn on (this step can be slightly tricky so look for our video tutorial in a couple days).

Now that you have a working motor, it’s just a matter of attaching your motor to the top of your brush. You can do this using more tape or hot glue, whichever you feel the most comfortable with.

Now you should have a working brushbot – congratulations! Look for our video tutorial in the coming days. We’d love for you to send us a picture of your amazing robotic creations!

MakeU banner 4


History Makers: How the medieval book was made

Our society is built upon the work of the inventive makers who lived before us. In this semi-regular feature we’re going to examine how certain technologies were made in the past and see what lessons we can learn from them.

The book is an amazing piece of technology. It stores information in a portable, easy-to-use format that can last for hundreds (if not thousands) of years in the right condition. Before the book (or as book-historians would call it, “the codex”) was invented, the scroll was the primary technology used to store the written word.

An example of a scroll

These scrolls were often made from sheets of papyrus (an aquatic reed) – if you wanted to read from a scroll, you would roll the pages from the beginning of the text to the end. If, for example, you wanted to check something on page 32 of the scroll, you would have to roll through all the pages that came before it.

Starting around the 5th Century CE historians start to see examples of the codex emerge. One of the main technological advantages of the codex is that it allows users to search for information faster than in a scroll. Instead of having to move linearly through the entire scroll to find a specific passage, users could open a codex to any page of their choosing.

An early book, the Codex Aureus

An early book, the Codex Aureus

While the earliest codices were seen in the 5th Century, the book as we know it today was born in the Middle Ages. Early codices lacked many of the features that we now associate with books – things like page numbers, title pages, author credits, and even spacing between words were not found in early books.

Until the invention of the moveable type printing press in the 16th Century CE, nearly all books were made entirely by hand. Every page, every drawing, and every letter had to be individually crafted by a book maker.

For most of the Middle Ages animal hide (called parchment or vellum) was used to make the pages of books. Animal skins (generally cow, goat, or sheep) would taken to an artisan called a tanner who would remove its hair and fat and begin the long process of preparing it for writing. The BBC has produced an excellent video showing how parchment is made.

Once the hide had been cleaned and dried it could be cut into sheets and sold to book makers. Book makers would then fold and cut these larger sheets into smaller groupings of pages called quires – each quire generally contained either 4, 6, or 8 pages (called folia).



Groups of quires would then been sewn together to form the body of the book. In the Middle Ages it was also common to use pieces of wood to make the front and back cover of the book. These wooden covers could then be decorated with a number of materials ranging from leather, to gold, to jewels.

Groups of quires being sewn together to form a book

Groups of quires being sewn together to form a book

This is a very quick overview of how book were made in the Middle Ages, to learn more about this fascinating subject, visit this article by the JP Getty Museum about making a medieval book.

At our upcoming TD Summer Reading Program library visits we’ll be showing book lovers how to make their own books in the style of medieval books. Stop by, learn how to make a book, and chat with the MakerBus’s resident medievalist Ryan Hunt.

A calendar of our stops can be found on our Facebook page.


ReMAKE, Reuse, Recycle


At the end of our Make University summer camp we received a very happy surprise from the parents of two of our campers. Brian Thom visited our website and noticed that we had a big list of supplies that we were looking for and donated a big awesome box of stuff to us!

In the big awesome box of stuff we found such treasures as a vacuum cleaner (perfect for making DIY hovercrafts), a number of hand tools (always useful), a dremel (a tool of infinite utility), and a partially dismantled digital camera (something that I’m sure will yield all sorts of interesting treasures).

We wanted to take a second to thank Brian Thom for everything he donated to us – we will do our best to put it to good use in London.

If you have anything kicking around your house that you would like to give a second life on the MakerBus, please have a look at our list of needed supplies. Or, if you have something awesome that you think we’d like that isn’t on our list, send us an email to

Currently MakerBus team member Ryan is busy in the planning stages of a building a custom Minecraft arcade cabinet. He’ll be using a Raspberry Pi computer that has been generously donated to us, but he’ll need a lot of carpentry equipment like plywood, wood stain, and wood glue. If you know of anyone who would like to donate some equipment to this project, please let us know.

Finally a massive thank you to everyone who helps support the MakerBus in our community and beyond – our bus truly runs on community support.

-MakerBus team