empowering creative people

Meet Stephen

Meet Stephen, he has joined our team and is here to help makers and educators with their Arduino projects along with modern platforms such as Circuit Playground.

Stephen has been a lifelong maker and tinkerer, with a professional background in aircraft maintenance and avionics in the USA. He first became interested in Arduino 2011 while building UAVs using an early version of ArduPilot. He began creating Arduino wearables in 2014 to wear in his acts as a circus performer (really!). In 2016 he came to Australia and settled in Newcastle. Stephen now has an interest in wearables and interactive art, and collaborates with Newcastle artists to add interactivity to their art installations.

Next time I'll introduce you to someone else, stay tuned!

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- By Graham

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ Released!

Raspberry Pi Foundation has just released a new board, yep you read right! It's called Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ (note the plus at the end).

You can view or buy this board right now - we have stock available in Australia for dispatch. Be quick, as it'll likely sell out pretty quick during the launch.

Here's what it looks like (notable visual differences are the SoC package and wireless hardware changes):

Here are the specs and features. We have more information available on the product page (highlights include +16.6% CPU speed, Dual-Band Wireless which supports 802.11ac, and support for PoE via a HAT):

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- By Graham

Arduino Workshop 1/2/18

Last night we ran another Arduino Workshop which was a lot of fun. We covered off on all of the basic content, plus looked at a few extra challenges involving decision making and case logic.

The most notable aspect of the night was the participation of Luke who is completely blind, still in high school and was assisted by an engineer called Simon. Using software Simon has created for his laptop, Luke was able to not just follow along with the workshop, but knock it out of the park with some interesting project ideas, and a great handle of Arduino programming. It's always inspiring to see the backgrounds of our workshop participants, and last night was certainly no exception.

Arduino Workshop group 1/2/18

Remember that if you're not able to make it in for our in-house workshop, but you're interested in learning about Arduino, then I'd recommend our online Arduino course which is available for free, and covers off on almost 5x the content that we get through in a single Workshop. It's perfect for learning at home or on-the-go, and if you get stuck along the way, we're here to help!

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- By Sam

Arduino Workshop 18/1/18

What a way to kick of 2018 with our first Arduino Workshop for the year! It was a fantastic evening with the broadest range of backgrounds we've ever had. If a nurse, primary teacher, and IT developer can all come and learn about electronics and coding, then so can you. 

We kicked it off in the usual fashion by talking about what Arduino is, how you can use it, and a brief backgrounds about what it's all about. Then we got straight into the projects by developing a simple user interface using a button, potentiometer, and LED. The fascinating thing about simple projects like that is that you can easily replace the LED with a relay controlling the garden pumps, or a solar monitor. The possibilities are endless!

Arduino Workshop group 18/1/18

If you're not able to make it in for our in-house workshop, but you're interested in learning about Arduino, then I'd recommend our online Arduino course which is available for free, and covers off on almost 5x the content that we get through in a single Workshop. It's perfect for learning at home or on-the-go, and if you get stuck along the way, we're here to help!

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- By Sam

Workshops are back!

As of tomorrow (Thursday 18th Jan), we are kicking off workshops, starting with Arduino. We'll schedule more in the coming weeks, you can find all the latest updates on our Workshops page.

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- By Graham

New Product from Raspberry Pi Foundation

Raspberry Pi Foundation has released the Raspberry Pi Zero WH. It has all of the features of the Pi Zero W and now includes professionally soldered headers.

It's worth noting given it's the most asked question for PiZ; there are no quantity limitations for this product.

This allows educators, makers and first-time explorers of RPi to more quickly get started with the General Purpose Inputs and Outputs (GPIO). We highly recommend the use of a Pi Cobbler so you can easily use a breadboard for rapid electronics prototyping.

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- By Graham

2017, What a Blast!

There were so many glorious moments throughout 2017 and there are just a couple that I caught on camera.

Here we have Aidan, Royden and Gorden on the morning after Raspberry Pi Zero Wireless launch in Australia - they are waiting in anticipation for the order count after 12 hours of Raspberry Pi Zero W being available. Needless to say, Aussie makers were thrilled with the news that this "vapourware" hardware was now reliably available in this region. What happens in the video really does sum up how much work we had cut out for us!

Our Kickstarter, Infinity Mirror Kit, was a huge success thanks to makers around Australia that supported us. We've gone through another two production runs since, which have put our laser cutter through its first paces. A real team effort all round.

Throughout 2017, we held many workshops at our new location. I've been to all of them and am powered by those "ah ha" moments that new makers get all the way through these courses.

While there were many other moments throughout the year, I'll finish on Maker Faire Adelaide. It was so good to catch up with fellow makers and talk shop about the projects we had on display along with what they had been up to themselves.

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- By Graham

Arduino Workshop 30/11/17

Last night we ran our Arduino Workshop for the first time in a while, and it was a huge amount of fun. We had 2 software developers (plus a very supportive partner!) which made for a unique workshop experience. Rather than focusing on programming basics and syntax, we took a deep dive into how microcontrollers operate at a bare metal level using hardware registers, system resources, and program optimisation.

There was a shared interest in finding out about how the familiar lines of code could be compiled to interact with the Arduino hardware in the way we know and love. The biggest 'aha' moment was just for the simplicity of Arduino as a platform; the fact that in a few hours you could develop a project that could control power devices with a simple hardware and software setup.

Arduino Workshop LED 30/11/17

Finishing off with our signature data monitoring challenge using the serial port, we went an extra step and added conditions for it to only update when the incoming data changed, adding a layer of button control, and sending serial data from the computer back to the Arduino.

Arduino Workshop Group 30/11/17

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- By Sam

Raspberry Pi Workshop 22/11/17

What do you want to make? With another Raspberry Pi Beginners Workshop wrapped up there are another three Newcastle-based makers who have levelled up their Raspberry Pi, Linux, and Python skills - bringing them one step closer to completing the next project.

Over two-and-a-half hours we covered the essential skills for getting stuff done on a Raspberry Pi. As always, there was a healthy interest in retro-gaming on Raspberry Pi, and one participant had plans to build a terrarium climate-controller.


This week's Hot-Tip

Move your Python code around quickly with the indenting shortcuts: -

  • Increase Indent: Ctrl + ]
  • Decrease Indent: Ctrl + [

This is super useful for moving big sections of code in, or out, of loops and if statements.

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- By Michael

Woollahra Library Maker Expo - 25/09/2017

On Saturday Morning, Graham and Myself headed down to Double Bay, Sydney to attend the Woollahra Library Maker Expo and share the passion for making and DIY electronics with the parents, educators and students from around the community. 

Our eye-catching setup for the expo consisted of a wide range of educational tools & projects from some of our favourite innovators and makers around the world, not to mention our 2 most recent projects: The Infinity Mirror Table and the Huge LED Matrix Display.

We even took the opportunity to run a condensed version of our RoboShop for Young Engineers workshop during the day, walking a handful of young learners through the basics of coding taught with one of our favourite little robots, the Ozobot Bit. From following a simple black line to speeding up/slowing down the Ozobot right through to making timed tracks with directional control, we covered the lot. RoboShop always proves to be an engaging experience for students.


3D Printing, Ozobots, the littleBits Droid Inventor Kit, with the Infinity Mirror Table and LED Display in the background.


Graham sharing the 3D Printing love and giving this young learner his first ever Rocktopus, fresh off the print bed! 

What a fantastic day it was! Our thanks go out to the organisers from the Woollahra Library and all the other people that got together to make the day happen. 

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- By Aidan

Raspberry Pi Workshop 20/9/17

We had another cracking Raspberry Pi workshop last night! Over the course of 2.5 hours we covered enough material to help beginners get familiar with using a Raspberry Pi - a giant leap towards getting their projects done. If you're interested in attending one of these events, you can check out our workshops page to check availability.

Once you've got the LED blinking you're already half-way to the moon.


This week's hot tip:

ctrl + z will pause a command, and fg will resume it

An example: Ever been editing a text file in the shell and needed to quickly duck out of it to refer to some filename/path or other information? Rather than open another terminal session, you could pause nano with ctrl+Z. This puts nano in the background, and you're free to execute other commands in the shell. To bring nano back to the foreground, use the fg command. Give it a try!

If you live too far away to attend one of our in-house workshops, we've got you covered with our free online courses!

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- By Michael

Arduino Workshop 7/9/17

Last night we had a completely full house with a record workshop participation. It seems that everyone was keen to get some Arduino experience under their belt with educators, library staff, hobbyists, and students rounding out our crew for the night.

It was a fantastic workshop, with plenty of light bulb moments as people discovered how the simple projects and tasks they were making could be scaled into larger, more amazing creations!

Arduino workshop 7/9/17

We covered all of our regular content in the Arduino Workshop, with some extra interest in the hardware differences between input and output pins, as well as talking about how our potentiometer, button, and led circuit could be expanded upon with some more advanced code to add even more functionality.

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- By Sam

Raspberry Pi Workshop 30/8/17

Even though I have plenty of material prepared for these workshops, no two are exactly alike. That's the beauty of the in-house Raspberry Pi workshop - there's always a thought-provoking question or some hurdle (read: bugs in code) that requires us to go a little offroad to resolve. This is where the workshops truly show their value. You get to roll your sleeves up and compress an entire weekend of learning into just two hours. Along the way, if any question at all arises, there's an opportunity to ask and get an immediate answer! 

Here's a snap from last night's workshop - when your code runs just right.


Some hot-tips from this week's workshop:

  • Quickly change to your user's home directory by executing cd. That's right, just by itself.
  • You can set commands up to run sequentially with && eg try: echo The current time is  && date
  • The up/down-arrow keys scroll through your command history
  • Access your full command history with history, and re-execute an entry with !# where # is the number of that entry.
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- By Michael

Laser Cutter reporting for duty

Our laser cutter has arrived: time for some next-level projects!

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- By Graham

Raspberry Pi Workshop 9/8/17

Last week I had the pleasure of running another Raspberry Pi for Beginners Workshop in our ever-improving Knowledge Factory. While some participants had a brush with the world of retro-gaming on a Raspberry Pi, most had never interacted with one before and this workshop hopefully got them skilled-up with Bash, Python, and electronics to pursue their own projects.


Getting started with Raspberry Pi can be a bit intimidating, a great way to learn-on-the-fly is to find a project that interests you and copy it. Sometimes something goes wrong - some error occurs or some file needs to be modified. For a complete beginner, these experiences can be a real hurdle. Our free, in-house workshop aims to equip you with core skills for wielding your Pi, ultimately helping to get projects done. If you can't make it to an in-house workshop, we've got you covered with our free Online Raspberry Pi Course.

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- By Michael

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