Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Maker Journey, Father and Daughter: Critter Cam Part 1 (Intro)

It's the middle of the day, Memorial Day 2014, and it's hot in the little room we use for an office. I'm staring at the screen, trying to understand where it all went wrong. I'm a fit frustrated. There's a little sweat.

"It says to upload the sketch, dad," says my 12-year-old daughter. "Is there an upload button?"

We're trying to figure out how to use the arduino IDE. But I've never even seen an arduino out of its box before this weekend and while I can find my way around a few different programming languages, I'm unprepared for this part of the exercise.

Actually, let me rephrase that: I'm not prepared for any of the parts of the build.

It all started at Maker Faire 2014 in San Mateo. For some reason, I've loved Maker Faire and the make movement for a while, but I don't do any "making" -- at least, not the electronic, or creative, or robotic kinds of making. But the stuff fascinates me and also my daughters. We went to the 2012 Maker Faire and the girls learned to pick locks and solder. They had a blast looking at all of the kinetic art, and they enjoyed the Mentos and soda fountain (I think it was Diet Coke that year).

I hated the crowds, which got so bad around 1pm that I began to try to steer the family to the exits.

In 2013 we returned, despite the huge crowds, and we saw more fire, life-sized mouse trap, and lots of electronic projects. My younger daughter mostly loves the art side of the Maker Faire, but she did linger at the tables where makers showed off their stuff. Meanwhile, everyone at the Maker Faire took their opportunity to bump into me, jostle me, or step on my feet. I was unhappy and vowed to not return in 2014.

Then we returned in 2014.

My daughters found out that Maker Faire was coming and begged me to get tickets. I did, we had fun, and even the crowds seemed nicer this year. I was bruise-free at the end of the 5+ hours we spent there.

The girls did the "Learn to Solder" thing again and then we started looking at fun projects to try. There was no real discussion or deliberate decision made, we just kept saying "Maybe we could do that one?" as we walked through.

Eventually my younger daughter and I decided we would look through the Make magazines at home to look for a simple first time project.

She saw the Radio Shack ad inside the front cover of Make 38 for the Critter Cam and we decided it looked possible. We live in the suburbs, but there's a creek nearby and we get raccoons, possums, owls, squirrels, and tons of neighborhood cats roaming through the yard. It might be interesting to see if we could capture any of them in pictures.

Next time: "It's a simple list of parts, I'm sure they'll have them all..." "Why oh why did we pick this one?" "Rivets???"

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