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2013 News Releases




Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum Maker Faire

Date : 26 / 11 / 2013
Author : Phil Wait - VK2ASD

The first Sydney maker was held at the Powerhouse Museum on Sunday the 24th November. The Manly Warringah Radio Society (MWRS) and the WIA both attended the event and were located together in an external courtyard, along with the amateur rocket society.

Rather than have a conventional amateur radio display, the intention of the WIA was to showcase some of the more unusual aspects of the hobby, so we contacted the Operation Helios high altitude balloon team from Tamworth, NSW, and the University of NSW Student BLUEsat low-earth orbit satellite project. Both activities are based on amateur radio. John Press, VK2YGV came down from
Tamworth for the weekend and, with the assistance of an LCD TV, put together a very interesting display on high altitude ballooning. John was also asked to give a presentation in the Museum theatre, something he obviously enjoys.

The Manly Warringah Radio Society display included a variety of home constructor radio projects including their “retro-style cardboard radio maker”, commercial and home brew SSB and CW transceivers, portable APRS equipment, and when the OH&S tag and test people moved away a Jacobs ladder in a large glass jar. The MWRS club have a bunch of very keen younger generation amateurs, many who work in IT, electronic design and communications.

The Uni-NSW BLUEsat team set up on the table next to John and fielded lots of questions during the day about their student satellite project, which apparently is redesigned regularly as students leave the University and new students bring new ideas. Also located outside with us was the amateur rocket association, with a collection of quite impressive toys that go woosh .. and bang. These are serious rockets with guidance control systems, telemetry, and GPS tracking for retrieval, using one Watt spread spectrum radio
data modules in the 900MHz ISM band. Because of the altitude they have no need for higher power.

Almost a hundred ‘Makers’ stands were scattered around the inside of the Museum, with robots, 3D printers, electric cars, Audrino and Raspberry-Pi computer projects, microsatellites and arts and crafts displays. The Scouts had a long table of soldering irons with people off-the-street assembling simple pc board projects.

The guys from Freetonics had one of the new ArduSat based micro-satellites. These devices,
about the size of a brick, have been funded by a worldwide funding drive and are now being
deployed in low-orbit from a spring loaded launcher on the International Space Station.
See this Link and this Link for more information.

Each of the micro-sats contains a ArduSat payload process module that can run 16 processor nodes, each connected to its own sensors such as gravitational, IR, magnetic, visual etc. Schools and hackers can develop their experimental software and sent it for testing prior to upload to the micro-sat, and then run an orbiting experiment for only $300 per week! All this uses amateur radio frequencies on 2metres and 70cm.

It was unfortunate we were placed outside as we were away from the main traffic area, and numbers were definitely down compared to inside (which was packed at times), however the quality of passes by was high.

There was little interest in the traditional aspects of amateur radio, or radio kit building, or brochures or hand-outs. As there was no interest in on-air radios, and it would have been better to forgo the antennas to be located inside the Museum closer to the action. The balloon and satellite displays were definitely the main crowd-drawers with strong interest from all ages. Some older/middle-aged people were interested in the amateur radio equipment. Being located close to the rockets was also a plus. This was certainly a successful day for the powerhouse Museum and the ‘Makers’ in general.

It was certainly a successful day for us because we did speak to a lot of people about amateur radio and were able to learn more about the market, especially in promoting amateur radio amongst the ‘Maker’ community who are prime targets. The concept of downplaying the traditional aspects of amateur radio and up-playing new technologies seems spot-on with this group. The ‘Maker’ application is very much about telecommand and telemetry, and amateur radio offers higher power (more range) and access to universal worldwide spectrum. Some ‘Makers’ already have a Foundation license but see little application because they get greater advantage from low-cost ISM radio modules, where there are no mode restrictions. They have little use for an analogue voice-only radio! A digital extension to the Foundation Licence is definitely required to attract these new tech savvy people into amateur radio.

A good day followed by a brief get together in the pub.

A recent article on the Maker event has also been published by the online publication "The Conversation" you can read the article by clicking the following

Related Files

Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum Maker Faire - Report in PDF Format with additional photographs
Powerhouse Museum Maker Faire rev2.pdf


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