Maker Faire 2014: Maker space race, nanosatellites and the invader challenge

Posted on April 30, 2014


Alien Binary. Maker Faire 2014, Centre For Life, Newcastle

Maker Faire UK is an open invite to participate in science, crafts and technology from the world of maker projects. In this second post on Maker Faire 2014, the bases include nanosatellite launches and teaching kids binary with an alien invader.

The Maker Space Race is on. Thanks to the Kickstarter initiative ‘Kicksat‘, pledges helped launch a crowd-funded satellite into low Earth orbit on 19 April from the SpaceX CRS-3 supply rocket. Aboard Kicksat are tiny open source ‘sprite’ satellites – only 3.5cm x 3.5cm – with a microcontroller, radio and solar cells, all carrying sensors that include thermometers, magnetometers, gyroscopes, and accelerometers.

Sensors will provide information from space to a ground station.

Sensors will provide information from space to a ground station.

When the sprites are deployed 16 days after launch they will start to communicate simultaneously with a ground station. Project leader Zac Manchester, a PhD student in aerospace engineering, wants to dramatically lower the cost of space exploration and has added details of the software and hardware used to construct the sprites to github. A Kicksat Wiki is also hosted on github. Live updates are provided from the project’s Kickstarter page.

Manchester’s Madlab has started north west England’s own space race with a Google Group for Makers In Space, Facebook page and Twitter feed (@mcrspaceprog). The group is looking at launching nanosatellite projects via a high altitude helium balloon. More information on high altitude ballooning is available from the UK High Altitude Society.

Details of a UK workshop on CubeSat, to be held on 13 May at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratories in Didcot, Oxfordshire, can be found at the CubeSat Forum online. CubeSat is a UK Space Agency and Open University initiative to launch nanosatellites.


Punchcards and Space InvadersSpace invaders
Paper Bits Challenge is a maker project with a strong identity. Fronted by a blue space invader with Red LED eyes, the idea was to teach kids about binary using punchcards and a number guessing challenge. A two-digit number had to be translated into holes on the punchcard and slotted into a reader to see if the guess was correct. A bit of frivolous fun, no doubt, but this stall was thronging with people all weekend. A fun blog gives details of how the project was put together and some great pics at