‘Blood lab’ inside a mobile phone could detect cancer

Plans to design a smart phone app that can detect leukaemia will be among the innovations presented by Northumbria University researchers at the Centre for Life this weekend.

Northumbria University

Worawut Srisukkham, a PhD student at Northumbria University, Newcastle, is in the early stages of an ‘e-health technology’ project aimed at developing a mobile phone app that can examine blood sample images and diagnose cancer.

It would work by taking a magnified image of a blood slide via a microscopic lens attached to the smart phone, which the app would then be able to screen for evidence of leukaemia – a blood cancer.

Worawut will present his idea at Maker Faire UK at Newcastle’s Centre for Life on 26 and 27 April. Fellow Northumbria colleagues will also exhibit, including demonstrations of 3D printing, targeted drug delivery and an app that helps research the effect of the Himalayan Balsam plant on British bees.

Northumbria University is a main sponsor of Maker Faire UK. Billed as the greatest show-and-tell on Earth, it is a two-day celebration across the spectrum of science, engineering, art, performance and craft.  A family-friendly gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, hobbyists, engineers, artists and more, the event aims to inspire and enthuse people of all ages.

Once created, Worawut’s smart phone app could be used for initial diagnosis of people living in remote rural areas in developing countries, enabling rural doctors to analyse blood samples and refer patients to the city hospitals for treatment or further investigation.

Worawut said: “Creating a phone app that can perform this screening role would be a low cost and efficient solution to detect leukaemia in remote and resource-poor regions.”
In 2012, approximately 352,000 children and adults around the world developed some form of leukaemia with a similar number dying from the cancer.

Once his project is complete, Worawut hopes it will help to prevent unnecessary deaths from the disease caused by delayed diagnosis and treatment due to poverty or living in remote areas far away from large hospitals and laboratories.

“Our aim is to use the high-performance and technology of smart phones to help in health care,” Worawut added. “Doctors working in remote areas could use the technology to screen patients in their community and refer those with an abnormal result to the larger medical facilities.”

More than 300 Makers will exhibit their work during the international event in front of an anticipated audience in excess of 10,000. Highlights of Maker Faire UK include RoboHand, a huge hydraulically-powered robotic hand able to crush small cars in its grip, and Roboknit – a life-sized humanoid knitting robot.

Linda Conlon, Chief Executive of the Centre for Life, which organises and runs Maker Faire UK, said: “Maker Faire is a celebration of science in all its forms and everyone will find it inspirational.  It’s imaginative and creative, and a truly innovative way to engage with science, technology and engineering – the ideal platform to show young people how exciting it is and how it can help open up a whole world of rewarding careers.  We’re thrilled that Northumbria University is involved not only as main sponsors of the event but as Makers too, showcasing some of their exciting research projects.”

Spotlight On: The Restart Project

Have you ever noticed that your electrical appliances have a habit of breaking just outside of warranty? Imagine, though, if buying new was not the only option – maybe you can fix what you already have?

The Restart Project is a community of fixers who are on a mission to get people mending and they’re coming back to Maker Faire UK in 2014!

Restart was founded in London by Ugo Vallauri and Janet Gunter to combat the fears and misconceptions many people have regarding their ‘broken’ electronics. Ugo explains, “We don’t like it when we see things that end up in a skip, or even recycled by our councils, when they could have a second or third life if only we use some basic repair skills.”

The Restart Project

With manufacturers building obsolescence into their products routinely it can seem as though the cycle of consumption is inevitable – we worry that professional repairers will leave us feeling bamboozled with jargon, or even worse, swindled. Restart believes that the best way to quell such fears is to get people involved directly in the repair process.

They do this by hosting regular ‘Restart Parties.’ Members of the public come with their damaged items and then work alongside a volunteer fixer to find solutions. An initial ‘triage’ stage aims to diagnose by describing the problem, but more often than not, the best way to learn and progress is to disassemble.  As fixer Francis Dove puts it: “the best technicians are nosy.”

The demystifying process is empowering and there’s no reason why anyone can’t be involved. 

Nearly a quarter of all electrical waste in recycling centres is repairable, Ugo suggests. If you’ve got a flat-lining phone or a troublesome toaster, why don’t you bring it along to Maker Faire UK? A Restart Party will take place on Saturday 26 April from 2-5pm in the Welcome Room on the Life Science Centre’s mezzanine floor.

Buy your tickets for Maker Faire UK in advance now.

Philip K. Dick Android Cancellation

We had some disappointing news come in today.

We’re sorry to inform you all that due to circumstances beyond our control, Hanson Robotics are no longer able to attend Maker Faire UK with their Philip K. Dick Android. We apologise for any disappointment that this may cause.

Maker Faire UK still boasts over 100 awesome attractions and promises to be a weekend of wonders for inquisitive minds of all ages. Read about our biggest spectacle yet, the car-crushing Robohand!

Headline Maker: Robohand

We’re very excited to announce that the immense crushing power of Robohand is coming to Maker Faire UK – after all, it’s not every day that you get the chance to see a car being pulverised in the vice-like grasp of a giant robotic fist!


Originally commissioned for the 2007 Robodock Festival in the Netherlands, Robohand is the brain-child of American artist Christian Ristow. It’s a gargantuan prospect, 30 times larger than an average human hand and weighing 6000kg. Hydraulically powered fingers give this hand the superhuman strength to crush almost anything put before it.

Robohand was built from recycled scrap-metal and, ironically, due to its huge size, destined only for a return to the junk yard following its festival appearance. Thankfully, a few modifications saved Robohand and now it’s a sustainable and transportable art object which tours internationally, making its Newcastle début at Maker Faire UK.

We’ve had to scour far and wide but nonetheless managed to source a great haul of ‘squeezies’ for Robohand to mangle. Think wardrobes, pianos and of course, cars! As the fantastical centrepiece of our Times Square Showground, it would be a ‘crushing’ shame to miss Robohand on April 26-27 (geddit?). We doubt you will miss it though, seeing as it’s nearly eight metres long!

Book your Maker Faire UK tickets now and make sure you get a glimpse of Robohand at work, along with over 100 other fascinating attractions.

Spotlight on: Agnes Roboknit

Agnes Roboknit is set to return to Maker Faire UK following her head-turning debut in 2013.

Agnes, for those unaware, is a humanoid robot who uses a custom-made steel loom to knit hats and scarves. Eleven electric motors and a network of 8-bit micro-controllers serve to bring her to life with positional feedback for the arms and hands provided via digital encoders and potentiometers. The result is a mesmeric blend of idiosyncratic movement and mechanised precision.

See Agnes in action:

Creator Andy Noyes explains, “I wanted her to look human from a distance, but obviously be a machine closer up, with metal parts on show.” A silicone face and latex hands formed using casts from a real person help to blur the line between woman and machine further still.

Agnes is a peculiar prospect as she stops knitting to glance up at the gathered crowd. Her behaviour is playful but almost dares us to imagine what humanoid nature would be like. Have you ever wondered: “Can a robot have a mind?”

Agnes Roboknit

The name Agnes was inspired by Andy’s grandmother, herself a prolific knitter, but also chosen to evoke the acronyms so dearly loved in the science-fiction community (think KITT from Knight Rider and our favourite, DAVE from Batman). Automated Generic Neck Embellishment Synthesizer is one of the best we’ve seen for Agnes!

Capable of completing a 2m long scarf in just 5 hours, Agnes enthralled Maker Media CEO and Maker Faire founder Dale Dougherty at last year’s festival. He said: “I could watch this captivating robot perform its repetitive sequence over and over…”

You can check out Agnes and over 100 other exhibits at Maker Faire UK 2014 – tickets are on sale now!

April Fool’s

Happy April Fool’s Day everyone!

Did anyone see through our 3D printed sandwich story?

3D Printed Sandwich

Sadly, we’re not using 3D printing technology to produce sandwiches for our cafe – printing sliced white bread, cheese and tomatoes is a bit too advanced, even for us!  However, some pioneers in the fast-growing field of 3D printing are currently developing ways to 3D print edible items.   Here’s an interesting article about current developments: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-01-28/all-the-food-thats-fit-to-3d-print-from-chocolates-to-pizza

Maybe at a future Maker Faire you’ll be able to try some real 3D printed food.

For now, you’ll have to content yourselves with other 3D printed objects – at Maker Faire UK this year you’ll be able to see some real 3D printers in action, and find out about this amazing technology.

3D Food for Maker Faire UK 2014

Living up to its reputation as the greatest show and tell on Earth, organisers of Maker Faire UK (26 & 27 April) at the Life Science Centre, Newcastle, have announced the venue will be the first in the country to serve 3D printed sandwiches to its visitors.

Maker Faire UK is a family-friendly festival of invention and creativity where Makers come together the share their projects, inventions and latest technology with an eager audience.  The two-day event at Life Science Centre will feature everything from robots and rovers to musical Theremins and theatrical performances.

Ian Simmons, Director of Science Communication at Life, said: “In the DIY spirit of Maker Faire, our tech team have been hard at work in the workshop testing the limits of our 3D printer.  After some experimentation and product development, we’re pleased to announce that we’re now able to print edible sandwiches which are fully compliant with food safety standards, using our 3D printer and edible substrate material.   Due to limitations of the printing substrate available, we’re currently only able to offer cheese, ham and tomato sandwiches, but we are hoping to expand the range in the coming months as the technology continues to improve.”

The new 3D printed sandwich range will be launched at Life for Maker Faire UK (26 – 27 April) where they will be available to buy from the Life Cafe.

Ian added: “3D printing is a great way of automating processes which would otherwise have required human input. For us, it means our cafe staff have more time to spend serving the customer, while the time-consuming process of making hundreds of sandwiches for our hungry visitors takes place in the background, with minimal need for supervision.”

“At Life we’re always looking for ways to pool our knowledge across departments, finding ways to improve and innovate wherever possible. Only last year we were able to begin offering wedding ceremonies in our planetarium, combining technical expertise and astronomical knowledge with the conference and banqueting side of the business.   Now our resourceful tech team have shifted their focus to our cafe and front of house experience to find a labour-saving way of preparing food which is bound to be a real crowd pleaser too!  I tested one of our first 3D printed sandwiches and I have to say, it was definitely 3D!”

Spotlight On: Laser Etch A Sketch

Martin Raynsford and Dominic Morrow will bring their ingenious Laser Etch A Sketch to Maker Faire UK on April 26-27. The prolific Midlands makers have combined a shared love of lasers, Arduinos and nostalgic toys to create an effortlessly cool gadget which we can’t wait to see demonstrated!

The pair, who recently founded Just Add Sharks (a business selling laser cutters for enthusiasts), built the Etch A Sketch controller to celebrate last weekend’s International Arduino Day.

Laser Etch A Sketch

So, how does it all work? Two rotary encoders housed inside Etch A Sketch style wooden knobs are connected to an Arduino Pro Mini. When patched into the exisitng wiring of a Blacknose A3 laser cutter, this interface can be used to bypass the machine’s on-board controller.

As the Arduino detects the knobs being turned, it sends a signal which fires the laser. X and Y axis information is simultaneously passed on to the stepper drivers, controlling the position of the laser beam. Two power settings are available: the first will mark a material and the second more powerful mode allows for cutting.

See the Laser Etch A Sketch in action:

It’s a fun and deceptively simple hack but with applications beyond its undoubted novelty factor; the Etch A Sketch mod is perfect for cutting straight lines without the need for extra programming, for instance.

The controller itself is custom built from six layers of lasered plywood and stained with mahogany wood dye to give a red finish. The final, wonderfully lo-fi touch is the screen, fashioned from a layer of baking paper to give the look of frosted plastic.

Buy your tickets for Maker Faire UK and seek out the Just Add Sharks stand for a hands-on demonstration of the Laser Etch A Sketch!

Headline Maker: Emergency Exit Arts

We’re very excited to announce that Emergency Exit Arts will be bringing their incredible creations Binbot and Turbo to Maker Faire UK 2014!

The London-based troupe has over 20 years’ experience in creating spectacles on a large scale and we’re sure that their mobile giants will astonish visitors young and old.

Standing at four metres tall (about the height of an average house), Binbot is a formidable prospect – a walking talking behemoth! Also known as ‘Mr Recycle More’, he is built from 33 pink wheelie-bins and tours the country encouraging everyone to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Despite his towering stature, Binbot is actually a very gentle giant and loves to interact with audiences – just don’t drop any litter when he’s around!

Binbot may seem like a robot but according to Emergency Exit Arts, he’s actually a ‘Marvellous Mechanical Puppet’. An expert crew on-board operates various levers and pedals to bring him to life – you’ll be surprised by how realistic his movements are.

We sometimes wonder whether autonomous robots as tall as double-decker buses will ever roam the streets and you probably will too once you’ve experienced Binbot!

In addition, Turbo the Disco Turtle is set to paddle into Maker Faire UK 2014. He’s a wonderfully ornate psychedelic turtle who comes complete with a bubble machine and sound-system, playing ambient beats inspired by his journey through the ocean!

At three metres high, Turbo appears to float magically above a sea of heads as he moves around on an electrically powered base; his 5.5 metre wingspan is equally impressive.

There’ll be over 100 fascinating exhibits to see inside the Life Science Centre at Maker Faire UK but don’t forget to step outside and experience Turbo’s serene brand of chill. Get up close to one of nature’s coolest creatures and feel the festival vibe!

You can buy your tickets for Maker Faire UK 2014 now!

Spotlight On: LHS Bikeshed

After a wildly successful début in 2013, London Hackspace will return to Maker Faire UK on April 26-27 with an even better LHS Bikeshed – the world’s only starship simulator… in a caravan!

Following a brief walk-through of the controls, teams of three players take up the challenge of crewing the Bikeshed as it hurtles through outer space on an unforgettable training mission.

A pilot, engineer and tactical officer must work together, solving a range of physical puzzles to keep the disaster-prone spaceship operational and on course. They receive occasional directions from a remote commander but for the most part are left to their own intuitions as they battle to stay alive. There can’t be too many Role-Playing Games as immersive as this nor many set in such a pressurised environment.

See the LHS Bikeshed in action:

The world of LHS Bikeshed is one in which the computer game has transcended familiar ideas of consoles, discs and control pads in your living room. It’s a virtual reality experience more akin to something you’d find at a theme park. Once you step inside the caravan, you have stepped inside the game and into an alternate universe!

LHS members Chris Paton, Tom Wyatt and Charles Yarnold spent well over two months converting the caravan and many more refining the complicated electronics on-board. The magnitude of the challenge the three embarked upon seems to be reflected in the game itself, which is notoriously difficult (the current success rate is around 8%).  Charles explains, tongue-in-cheek: “We wanted to build something we could explain in five minutes and then kill a crew in twenty.”

Inside LHS Bikeshed

A major inspiration was the cult ARTEMIS game for PC - unlike ARTEMIS, however, the Bikeshed comes complete with sound effects, pyrotechnics, smoke machines, joysticks, blinky lights and flicky switches.

Following its popularity at Maker Faire UK 2013, the LHS team have worked to make the queue outside the caravan just as engaging as the game inside. We think it’s worth the wait!

Buy your tickets for Maker Faire UK and see if you’re up to the challenge!