Constructing Modern Knowledge returned to Manchester, New Hampshire this summer and it was awesome! I posted a Twitter thread but Gary badgered me to expand upon it, so here we are!

It is always a pleasure to work with the faculty that Gary and Sylvia assemble! Rather than teaching assembled groups of people, our jobs are to ask questions; provide prompts that help people get over, around, or under obstacles; provide technical support on a variety of hardware and software platforms; goof off; dine; and befriend participants.

As always there was a variety of hardware available for participants to use in their projects but this year the Microbit was the one that really outpaced the others in terms of a low floor to being able to incorporate it into a project and learn to program it; the expandability that hardware like the Hummingbird Robotics Kit provide by adding servos, sensors, and LEDs, give this microcontroller a high ceiling of use.

We were joined by Gareth Stockdale and Jonny Austin with an insightful speech with some cool glimpses of what is to come. They were super down to earth, spoke great with one another, trading off to give a full picture of the project's origins, goals and ideals, and one of its possible future applications.

They showed this wonderfully labeled graphic of the Microbit:

I really liked this early collection of Microbits that they took to different events and captivated crowds that wanted to program them.

They showed a demonstration of a Smart Hat that interfaced with a website to train AI models on movement, for example, nodding yes or shaking your head no, and then having the AI predict what you were doing once the model was fleshed out a bit with examples. It was pretty cool to see in action.

The microbit was the brains in some of the grandest projects yet from participants. Here’s a Roomba for the stairs. After prototyping with cardboard and Makedo they used a Shaper Tools Origin to fabricate its chassis from 1/4 ply. It was really cool to see the ease with which these people were able to transform their designs from bits to atoms with very little setup.

This interactive sculpture was amazing and powered by a Hummingbird Kit. I helped with the design of a stable turntable for it to use. I hand cut a piece of cardboard to form a channel in which the marbles fit. The design worked well once they cut additional layers: very little friction!

I really enjoyed getting to know Gil and shared a meal with him down the street at Main Street Cafe, which I highly recommend for all your sandwich, panini, and wrap needs.

I met Louis last summer at CMK22 in Chattanooga. He is awesome and it was great to see him back for more hard fun.

His group worked on a massive Rube Goldberg machine that also incorporated Microbits and Hummingbird kits. I met Emma when we needed to debug the Makecode blocks to get her servo going. I also ran into her at the grocery store! She was awesome.

The project grew in size and complexity.

I met Colette when she needed help debugging her servos for the conveyor belt and later a banner!

I also swung back to help Emma get her machine working!

This machine was super complex! It is a testimony to their collaboration, debugging, and patience. By the end they were able to get it working right. I caught a rehearsal!

We also did a fair amount of eating. After working on setup when the New England Reptile Exhibition vacated the premises, Gary took us to Red Arrow Diner Sunday evening.

The faculty went to Cremeland the night before CMK. I had a black raspberry frappe that was incredible and a haddock sandwich that was messy and amazing.

Gyro Spot is a perennial favorite, I went with the gyro bowl this time (twice lol) and it was amazing.

We went to Puritan Backroom, which is more than an euphemism, and where chicken tenders were invented, so the legend goes. Tasty spicy tenders. We ran into a Gary, Sylvia, and some special guests!

The fuelings gave us the energy needed to continue with such an amazingly diverse group of projects. Whether incorporating 3D Printed elements, LEGO bricks, organic materials, or ubiquitous cardboard, participants made use of bricolage, or making use of what was available and facile to work with, to realize their projects.

Most of all, projects built off ideas people were passionate about. Casey’s Haunted Room used a Pepper’s Ghost effect and the Hummingbird to create its awesome effects that he demonstrates here. Casey is an English teacher and found the tech easy to use!


During the dinner break on Thursday Tracy and I walked over to Arms Park where our friend Jyl was painting some amazing murals on the "legs" of a bridge! 

My side project was using TurtleArt to program the carpet patterns at the Doubletree Manchester, our gracious hosts. I tried to use the pen size to capture the textures of the rug. The code ended up a little unwieldy and I thought of a way to optimize it on the drive home, but it was hard fun and I like the way it turned out. I am working on building out the website I built for the project, so check it out, too.

Here’s a video I took Thursday night to capture the projects that were being worked on until almost midnight! Such variety, whimsy, and personalization.


All of this would not have been possible without & having the chutzpah to invite world famous guest speakers, schlepp countless boxes cross country, and offer the constructionist provocations, materials, support, and memory making experiences.

Make a point to join us all at CMK24: it will be life changing, I assure you!