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Students shine as makers

Online since 5.11.2015 • Filed under Advertorial • From Issue 16 page(s) 204-205
Students shine as makers

During August, the Cape Town Maker Faire took place at the V&A Waterfront, proving its worth as part of the legacy of the Cape Town Design Capital 2014 programme. TO BUILD interviewed UCT BSc (Construction Studies) student, BRENDAN ARDAGH, and his colleague, KEEGAN CRANKSHAW (BSc, Electrical Engineering), about their invention that’s caused quite a stir in maker circles.

The device that they invented and made is called Galileo’s Finger. Between them, they have created an opportunity for students of the built environment and engineering to give back to scholars in underprivileged communities. The device is an open-source educational tool, designed originally to be made from a recycled printer and an Arduino micro-controller, which mitigates the need for an expert or trained astronomer to be present when learning about the night sky.

Recycling proposed

‘A computer printer is a near-obsolete device that is quickly filling up electronics landfills, and our invention represents a small step forward in the recycling of e-waste,’ Brendan explains.

How it works

The user chooses a star on a laptop, which the sends the star’s coordinates to the device that points out the chosen star in the real night sky. ‘We see this as a simple way to quickly introduce people to the night sky and where points of interest are located,’ he adds. Brendan and Keegan envisage that Galileo’s Finger will be used in under-privileged areas/schools where trained individuals are not available to teach special-interest subjects such as astronomy. ‘Armed with a set of instructions, anyone can scavenge parts to create the device. The idea is that it’s accessible to everyone – an enthusiastic teacher, an avid maker, or anyone really who has any interest in learning about astronomy on a basic level.’

Putting the parts together

Galileo’s Finger consists of a wooden base and a pulley system crafter of SA Pine. The two axes of movement are driven by two stepper motors. The motors are controlled via dual stepper motor drivers that are instructed by an Intel Galileo micro-controller development board. This component can also be substituted with an Arduino, a well-known open-source device in the maker community. The laser pointer is a civilian level astronomy laser that is attached to a printer axle and bearings. The main bearing is the linear bearing from a recycled hard drive. ‘We used an open-source sky simulation program called ‘Stellarium’ to track star movement and act as an interface for the system,’ says Brendan.

How are the construction studies going?

Brendan comments that he is in his third year. ‘This is my final year for my undergraduate BSc in Construction Studies. My honours will hopefully be in Quantity Surveying. I have thoroughly enjoyed the variety of topics in the degree and my time at UCT so far. Once I finish Quantity Surveying, in 2017 I aim to do a Masters in Project Management.

Aiming for African development

According to Brendan, he has already spent much of his university career exploring different passions around electronics and entrepreneurship, which motivated him to start the UCT Maker Society. This society is going really well, considerably boosted by the attention and focus that making has received thanks to World Design Capital 2014, which resulted in a Cape Town Maker Faire. Speakers at the August 2015 event included Steve Sherman, CEO at Living Maths (Education); Daniel Shaw, community and marketing manager at Thundafund (Business); Simon Ratcliffe, the Barefoot Astronomer at SKA Africa (Science); Robyn Farah, CEO of KAT-O (Community); Pedro Espi-Sanchis, ‘the music man’ (music); Audrey Verhaeghe, chairman of SA Innovation Summit (Innovation); and Berthier Luyt, president of LeFab Shop (Making) . Brendan and Keegan’s invention was featured at the exhibition alongside an eclectic mix of other devices. ‘After many different expos and exploring different groups in Cape Town, I have found myself enjoying the more morally rewarding projects like Galileo’s Finger and various community projects. My goal at the moment is to complete my degree while exploring the humanitarian environment. ‘I believe the push for African development, now and in the future, is huge. I see a great opportunity for emerging development in Africa, especially in the built environment, and I am trying to position myself so that I am able to manage projects in developing countries and make a big difference to the future of Africa.’ TO BUILD will continue to track the progress of Brendan and his colleagues as part of our mission to promote news and information on students of the built environment.

UCT Maker Society

Brendan Ardagh


Issue 16

Issue 16

November 2015

This article was featured on page 204-205 of
To Build Magazine Issue 16.

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