Light Play at a Pop-Up Makerspace, Sheffield Children’s Library

By Mark Shillitoe, Maker Educator (see:

I recently joined the MakEY project for an event at Sheffield Children’s Library organised as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences.

Joining various making oriented explorations, we took over the space of the children’s library inviting participants to play, hack and engage with both digital and analog experiments as diverse as 3D printing and drawing to squishy circuits.

Here’s an overview of the station I facilitated.

Pixels & Emojis: Draw – Light – Explore

38330914666_526f1151ab_kThese experiments with light, featured a range of DIY approaches to building light boxes and exploring light in a playful ways, traveling between digital and analog media.

Overhead projectors were dusted out of retirement and repurposed, projecting artefacts on to the walls and ceiling of the library.

Many elements were combined together leaving lots of space for participants to make their own meaning out of the materials through tactile exploration. Here’s an overview of some of the ‘lab’ tools:

Laser cut objects, 8×8 pixel screens were used to mask light creating a variety of sometimes unexpected events. Cardboard circuit boards – made with conductive tape, cardboard and colour changing led with battery pack became an interactive dance light with a cardboard switch.


Arduino boards were programmed to control neopixels which were housed in different containers from jam jars to cardboard boxes with light diffused by recycled white plastic Ikea drawer fronts. I used a BBC MicroBit to control some neopixels.


I love the effect created by a simple grid and colour changing led (see above)

Gifs – inspired by Mozfest were created as short stop motion animations using iMotion introducing participants to ways of capturing processes with moving images.

_DB_8655In one of the MakEY project’s Next Practice labs, Kjetil Sandvik, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen and Assistant Professor Klaus Thestrup of Aarhus University explore the notion of an ‘experimenting community’, where participants co-create knowledge and narratives through a common practice. The library space in Sheffield embodied this idea. Inviting communities to explore open ended engagements with mixed media led to new, transforming ways of creating, socialising and interacting with different materials and media.

All these engagements can be replicated with low budget, primarily offline materials.

A few ideas that grew out of this particular experimenting community:

  • What if… a 3D drawn artefact was projected?
  • How can you create analog/digital ‘Instagram’ style filters?
  • What ways can stop motion animation teach programming concepts?
  • How can we introduce concepts of open source and creative commons licensing into these events?
  • What are the best ways to capture these learning processes?
  • How can these approaches of interaction with digital/ analogue media and new literacies become embedded in teacher training programmes?

This blog post first appeared at the url below and is republished with permission:


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