Our friendly journalist Gareth Halfacree recently attended the first Liverpool MakeFest event on our behalf, talking to the thronging crowds find out what's hot in the maker world at the minute. This series of Focus On features takes a look at some of the event's exhibitors, finding out what they're up to and what makes them tick.
Finding DoES Liverpool's stand at maker events is typically easy: listen out for videogame sound effects, squeals of delight, and the thunk of foam darts impacting on cardboard boxes. If that wasn't enough, simply look for the queue. "The big thing under the marquee is our Nerf gun firing range, which basically has a bunch of sensors, little piezo sensors, on cardboard boxes, that can detect when they've been hit," explains Adrian McEwan of his makerspace's most popular creation and the centre of its exhibit at the first Liverpool MakeFest. "You get Nerf guns, and you have a 30-second countdown timer to see how high a score you can get by hitting the boxes with Nerf darts. There are Arduinos involved in there, measuring the actual sensors, then a Raspberry Pi is doing a little registration station where you can type in your Twitter handle or your name and register on RFID. When you get to the front of the queue you exchange that for your gun so that we know who it is who is running the range, and then at the end of it when you work out what your score is for the 30 seconds, the Raspberry Pi will then tweet that out to you to tell you how good you are at running Nerf darts."
As always at these maker events the shooting gallery is the star attraction, but that's not all Adrian and his friends are showing off. "The other big showpiece that we've just unveiled today is the DoES Liverpool Tower," Adrian explains. "Given that we've got a tall 3D printer at the moment and out of our window you can see St. John's Beacon, which is a big radio city tower in the middle of Liverpool, we've made a model of that. It's got Arduinos again and Raspberry Pi involved: Arduinos running RGB LED strips around it to run some little lights and stuff like that, then there are nice little downlights. The Pi can send commands to the Arduino via MQTT to change the colour of the downlights, so if you tweet '@DoEStower' and tell it a colour, any of the HTML5 colour set, it will change the downlights to that colour, then five seconds later the Pi will take a picture of it and tweet it back to you."
But what is DoES Liverpool? "It's a space where you can make all kinds of crazy things! It's a space with kit and a community of people who can help you play around with stuff, and we've got laser cutters and 3D printers and a vinyl cutter and oscilloscopes and soldering irons and loads of stuff I've probably forgotten... Oh, a CNC mill and all sorts of crazy things," Adrian recites from memory, aided by his renting of desk space at the makespace which doubles as a co-working space for Merseyside creatives. As for the name? Adrian laughs as he explains: "We're called Do Epic... Um, is this a family friendly... Do Epic 'Stuff,' that's what DoES stands for, and basically we do epic stuff and then we tell people about epic stuff and show them epic stuff."
Events like the Liverpool MakeFest are ideal for Adrian and the DoES gang, and the setting of Liverpool Central Library especially interesting. "It's great just to bring it into the library and expose all this stuff, all this making, it's great, seeing amid all the books just all these makers and kind of crazy stuff going on, it's awesome to see, it's always great showing stuff off and playing around, showing more people what can be done and hopefully inspiring them to come and have a play around and make things themselves.
"We have maker nights and maker days where it's just open access to the workshop, so if you want to learn about laser cutting, 3D printing, Arduino, electronics, stuff like that, you just turn up on any of those," Adrian concludes. "If you go to doesliverpool.com you'll find out full details and stuff including that."