2016 in Review

Where I was

I began 2016 as a freelance developer. I built banners for advertising agencies. I’d made the move from Flash to HTML5 very slowly but banners in HTML5 were pretty easy and I had a few core clients that gave me to the opportunity to learn on the job. While this was a fairly comfortable existence I was feeling done with development. I’ve been coding since 1999 and I didn’t see myself growing beyond where I was. Not that I couldn’t but my heart wasn’t in it.

In mid 2014 and into 2015, I was experimenting with long exposure photography and light. I was also playing with electronics in the form of Arduino. I’d built an infinity mirror and managed to teach a couple of workshops in making them. I was making. I really enjoyed it.

Family Context

For context, my grandfather on my dad’s side was a handy-man and plumber. My dad is a carpenter. My grandfather on my mom’s side was a farmer and knew how to fix a lot of stuff. My mom is a retired nurse and has shown an incredible aptitude for “getting shit done” in her retirement. As in, she demoed and built installed her own kitchen. These people, that helped to make me who I am, proved you could do stuff for yourself with the right tools and a little know-how.

Back to making, I was getting by doing development and tinkering on stuff in my basement when a friend pointed me to a job posting at a company I’d never heard of called ‘wonderMakr‘. The posting was for a Producer. While I am not a Producer, I justified applying by figuring it would all work out.

It’s difficult to say how it all went down. It was quickly decided I was no Producer but they had some space for a Creative Technologist and would I be into that role?

Yes. Yes, I would.

wonderMakr

So I started at wonderMakr in Mid-March. My first project, officially, was to make flowers grow for the theatrical release of the Jungle Book. I started out doing what I knew. I took the concept of a lead screw and a motor and attached a flower to the nut moving on the screw.

And that worked fine. but my task was three flowers and some ferns. All capable of moving in and out of a movie sign. My coworker, Garrett, said “well, you’ve made a linear actuator”. To which I replied “A WHAT?!” and that was the first of many times my mind was blown at wonderMakr. What follows is a flower attached to a linear actuator.

So smooth. The rest of it went well and I was happy with the results.

The work was coming at us fast but, for the most part, we succeeded. We did a huge car-karoake project for Chevy Cruze where we took over Yonge Dundas Square in Toronto for a day.

For a month and a half, we planned, built, engineered, designed, developed, constructed and it all came down to one hot Wednesday at the end of June in Canada's busiest square. Cruze Karaoke ran for 8 hours and despite some early hiccups, I couldn't be prouder of what the @wondermakr team accomplished. The results were obvious as people lined up and waited for almost 40 minutes at times to sit in a car listen to a song on the awesome sound system through an Android app while they sang lyrics being projected onto the windshield while being recorded. That recording later was broadcast on two of Yonge Dundas Square's huge LED displays with sound! We made hundreds of stars for one brief moment and they loved it. The laughter and cheering was incredible to hear and the excitement was gratifying to watch. Super stoked to have been part of the #matureish event!

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Our Red Door to Rio project was super fun. And won an award!

Declan chats with Ryan in Rio! #stepupstandtall

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I built a drawing robot (2-axis plotter). Like the one I built for myself but much, much nicer.

 

We did a number of pieces for the Quantum exhibit where I built a gantry system with a magnetic ball and played with waveform generators and lasers.

Joystick motor action. Swizz.

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I built a CNC machine from OpenBuilds and used it to make a big key for a Santa installation for kids.

 

I made a throwing wall for Grey Cup.

The @wondermakr football throwing wall is running at the Grey Cup festival today!

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I CNC’d shelves containing LEDs and an RFID receiver for a Molson fridge.

 

During this whole thing, I started building my own BB-8!

 

I’m not even close to finished but I like where it’s going.

And to be honest, there are a ton of other projects I either only dealt with peripherally; the cucumber organ for Hendricks gin. Built by our intern, Russell!

Love lights, primarily designed by Garrett, the other creative technologist.

I specced out an LED wall and that was cool. We played a little with drones. We built a 180° bullet-time system. Some of our staff went to Hawaii to support our project for WestJet where a vine comedian and his family were toured around by their suitcases.

We did a thing with Heineken.

Setting a new RFID system up at the #underpasspark

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Synopsis

I learned a lot, succeeded a lot, failed a lot, made a lot, worked a lot, didn’t get a lot of time off but loved my job. If you’re looking for me, I can be found in the shop getting dirty and building cool shit. I’m looking forward to 2017.

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