Maker Faire 2014: Supermaterials, sensors and restarting technology

Posted on May 6, 2014


Hexayurt at Burning Man

Maker Faire 2014 was a treasure trove of information on hacked lifestyles. Sustainable living expert Vinay Gupta showed how the latest in materials technology could house and provide fuel for the world in ways that protect our environment.

Vinay Gupta’s entrance to the stage at Maker Faire UK’s science theatre had an apocalyptic feel to it. He shuffled on clothed head to toe in survivalist gear (a hooded coat, backpack, torch) and then lit a fire in his portable stove. Smoke swirled upwards as flames consumed the wooden sticks fed into it.

Behind him the screen showed shiny yurts and geodesic domes based on Vinay’s incredible invention – the Hexayurt. Built from lightweight uniform panels and using common building materials such as cardboard, plywood and plastic, the Hexayurt has proven itself an excellent tool in disaster relief, serving as temporary housing in United Nations operations around the world.

There are now 13 Hexayurt models which have been built and tested for a variety of purposes.

There are now 13 Hexayurt models which have been built and tested for a variety of purposes.

Vinay is an associate fellow at University College London and has worked with both the UN and the Pentagon to provide housing for people in desperate situations, but his Hexayurt is also a mainstay of the extreme Burning Man festival held in the Black Rock desert of Nevada.

Builder, designer, materials expert and an authority on disaster relief and resilience, Vinay’s CV is impressive. He publishes an enlightening (and sometimes scary) blog called ‘how to live wiki‘ and a collection of his works, presentations and interviews at that includes an excellent interview with London Real (below). Vinay will be taking part in Rewired State’s ‘End of the World Hack‘, where a very real scenario will be played out – the Earth’s satellite communications have been destroyed by solar flares, sending us all back to the mid-twentieth century. Will the geeks inherit the Earth? Sounds intriguing.

Restart logo

Restart that tech
Slightly less apocalyptic was the Restart Project from London. Restart is aiming to fix our relationship with technology by hosting parties where people get together and fix their own gadgets. There is also an initiative for workplace restart events and team building, focusing on useful things like restarting your own IT rather than relying on third-party support. There are a host of excellent links to reports and manuals for both repairers and consumers of technology. Cut down on waste and learn new skills at the same time. It’s a win-win.


Smart and green Smart green house
Finally, the Smart Green House organisation sells a number of products and hosts project plans to help people interested in remote monitoring and control for greenhouses, aquariums and apiaries (beehives to you and me), as well as for domestic appliances, ventilation and lighting. They are big fans of Arduino, Raspberry Pi, modular building and open source code, so their systems can be adapted and built for home or larger commercial uses.