Makerspaces are giving creative people access to the tools that make their ideas come to life. Makerspaces are community labs that bring those with diverse backgrounds together so they can share and build on each other's projects. Stepping into a makerspace is like entering a maelstrom of creativity: You'll find yourself swept over by feelings of inspiration and awe. From art to architecture, engineering to engraving, and sewing to soldering, every creative field is represented as makers come together to build something awesome at makerspaces.
An autonomous combat robot controlled by a program written in Simulink, running on an Arduino board.
MakerZone: Inspiring creation
When you think of the tools available at a makerspace, you might picture band saws, welding torches, CNC milling machines, and 3D printers. These big physical tools are pivotal, but just as important are software tools to control these machines, to design your ideas, and to embed intelligence into your creation. To support the momentum of makerspaces, MathWorks is launching MakerZone: a web site to share the creation process of projects accelerated by MATLAB and Simulink. Every project has a story to be told and an audience who can learn from it. At MakerZone, we'll feature inspiring accomplishments, show you how they were created, and give you code and designs that help you pick up where they left off. We'll be offering a place for you and other makers to showcase your projects, challenging you with online design contests, throwing live design challenges at makerspaces, and visiting maker faires. If you build it, we will come. Necessity is the mother of invention, but creativity also springs forth from competition under constraint, which is why we'll be hosting online and live design challenges. We have already seen inspired projects from the Simulink Student Challenge and two live design challenges this year. MakerZone will explore the projects that emerged from these competitions such as wireless communication networks between multiple LEGO NXT robots, autonomously controlled quadcopters, traveling salesman robots, autonomous sumobots, and lots more.
MathWorks is full of tinkerers, but even we don't have access to lots of modern machine tools. So we joined one of the largest makerspaces in the world: Artisan's Asylum, in Somerville, Massachusetts. As the first corporate sponsor for Artisan's Asylum, MathWorks set up studio space for a team of MathWorks makers and equipped the computer lab with MATLAB and Simulink for every member to use. This is just the beginning of our connection to makerspaces. The combination of manufacturing tools with MATLAB and Simulink makes almost any project possible. Simulink lets you write programs visually on an Arduino, Raspberry Pi, or LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT, among other platforms. Programming this way lets you and others easily see what your code does because its visual form is closely tied to its functional purpose. Before deploying your code onto hardware, you can simulate it within Simulink to quickly go through design iterations. Some things are hard to simulate completely in software: In these cases, you can run your code on hardware while it is still tethered to Simulink, test out different values of parameters, and instantly see the change in behavior on your hardware. Once you've got your code acting the way you want, you can deploy onto any hardware you want, with only minor changes needed to go from running on an Arduino one day, to running on a LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT the next. In upcoming posts on MakerZone, we'll show you how these tools can be used together to bridge digital and physical design.
In a future post on MakerZone, we'll show you how to use MATLAB to make 3D prints from equations or any matrix of data.