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!

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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

#MakeU reflections: using Agar Agar to make noodles

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As anyone who has planned an activity or event can tell you, it’s extremely rare when things go exactly according to plan, and it’s even more rare when things go so well that they exceed your expectations. Personally speaking, of all the activities we planned for our Make U Summer Camp at DHSI2014, making noodles using Agar Agar was my absolute favourite.

For an early age I’ve loved to cook. In recent years I’ve become quite fascinated with a sub-discipline of food science called “molecular gastronomy.” Molecular gastronomy investigates the science behind how and why we make food, examining the physical and chemical changes that occur when food is prepared. While I’m interested in the findings and techniques developed through molecular gastronomy, I’m also extremely skeptical as to whether the movement is a good thing.

Cooking should be an act of passion. Whether that passion comes from making food for people that you love or it comes from a desire to make a stunning work of art, I believe cooking to be an art, not a science. I worry that by applying scientific principles to cooking we run the risk of replacing passion with scientific objectivism.

But I digress, let me tell you about how to make noodles using Agar Agar powder. Agar is a gelatinous substance derived from algae that has been used in Japanese cuisine for centuries. In a powdered form, Agar produces a similar effect to gelatine powder. Unlike gelatine powder which is derived from animal products, Agar powder is vegan.

The process for using Agar Agar powder to make noodles is quite simple and inexpensive. You’ll need:

  • Agar Agar powder (this can be purchased online, in many Asian grocery stores, or in health food stores)
  • Food-safe plastic tubing
  • a syringe (without needle)
  • a liquid of some sort
  • a burner
  • - an ice bath

The basic goal of the Agar Agar noodle is to take a flavoured liquid of some sort (in the camp we used green sports drink, chocolate milk, mango juice, and coconut milk) and turn it into a spaghetti-like noodle.

To make the noodles take 3/4s of a cup of liquid, stir in 1 tsp of Agar Agar powder, and bring the solution to a boil. Once the solution has been brought to a boil, use your syringe to inject the solution into food-safe plastic tubing.

With the plastic tubing filled with the solution, place the tubing into an ice bath for roughly 3 minutes. The ice bath will allow the solution to set up into a firm, noodle-like final product.

Fill the syringe with air and use it to force the noodle out of the tube.

For visual learners, here’s a great video showing the entire process.

Our campers loved this activity from start to finish. There’s something about younger learners which makes them fascinated by “gross” activities. The idea that familiar liquids could be transformed into noodles really captivated them.

Of all the liquids we tried, the chocolate milk was the only that didn’t work well. Instead of setting up into a firm noodle, it developed a runny/grainy texture. I wonder if I heated the milk too quickly and caused it to separate.


We’re brainstorming some ideas for different molecular gastronomy events in London, stay tuned to learn how the MakerBus will be encouraging people to play with their food.


-Ryan Hunt

MakerBus Co-Founder

Make U reflections: building a DIY Matrix-style camera

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Shortly before starting our Make University Summer Camp, I received a GoPro camera for my birthday. Wanting to find fun projects for the camera, I started researching different GoPro projects that would be doable for our summer camp.

I ended up finding these projects which use a GoPro camera and a ceiling fan to make a homemade Matrix-style camera. The projects struck a balance of being interesting, safe, and practical within the limitations of our summer camp.

In short, the camera seeks to replicate the 360 degree panning camera from the Matrix movies by attaching a GoPro camera to the blades of a ceiling fan. The camera rotates at high speed around a stationary object. Since we’re normally used to cameras being stationary while filming moving objects, the DIY Matrix camera provides us with an unfamiliar perspective.

To build our camera we purchased a ceiling fan, a second-hand table, and some electrical cord. We drilled a hole in the centre of the table and mounted the ceiling fan facing upwards. Since our ceiling fan was made to be wired directly into a home’s wiring, we had to wire an extension cord onto the fan.

To mount the GoPro to the fan we used a bracket and attached the bracket and camera directly to one of the wooden fan blades.

Our rig may not have been the prettiest thing ever created, but it functioned well, allow the GoPro to rotate around a stationary platform in the centre of the table. If you’d like to make your own, I recommend watching this video.

Our campers enjoyed playing with the camera. We were able to stream the GoPro’s feed to a tablet, allowing the campers to watch in real-time as the camera worked. However, we found that the campers got bored before we were able to show them the final project, because the videos need a touch of editing to make them a finished product. If we were to try this activity again, we’d probably leave more time after class for video editing and then have a movie showing the following day.

Also in a Matrix camera-2.0 we’d consider making a rig that a person could stand in the centre of, similar to the one in this video. While this would add an extra element of danger (swinging cameras make for easy black eyes), I feel that the final product would be more impressive.

Here are two of the test videos we created in class. Look for more test videos on our Youtube channel. The ceiling fan is being shipped to London from Victoria, so when it arrived look for a DIY Matrix camera right here in the Forest City.

-Ryan Hunt
MakerBus Co-Founder