Meeting of great young minds at MakerDojo

8 Oct 2015

SciFest award-winner Ellie Hogan at the MakerDojo launch in Tyndall National Institute, Cork. Image: Connor McKenna

As well as connecting young people with experienced volunteer mentors, the first MakerDojo gave clever teens the chance to chat about the maker movement and award-winning science projects.

IoT Makers Week graphic

Scoil Mhuire student Ellie Hogan was invited to speak at the event, which launched the MakerDojo movement at Tyndall National Institute in Cork.

As well as local secondary-school students attending the Tyndall workshop to try their hand at building hardware in a relaxed learning environment, Hogan was joined by young scientist and entrepreneur Ciara Judge, who asked her about her award-winning science project.

Making medtech for home use

Hogan won Best Technology Project in the intermediate category at SciFest 2015 for a device she built to assist people who have difficulty swallowing food.

She was inspired to create such a product from observing her grandmother, who has motor neurone disease (MND). Patients like Hogan’s grandmother need to have food prepared at the right consistency to prevent choking, and Hogan wanted to build something that would make it possible to check the viscosity of food easily at home.

She created a circuit with a multimeter, a battery, a propeller, connecting wires and an electric motor that would do just that. Support was easy to come by, but not all of the parts were.

“My teachers in my school really, really helped me out. They gave me all the apparatus I needed,” said Hogan. “Unfortunately, finding a propeller was quite difficult. I went to a few shops, but there wasn’t really anything available.”

Luckily for Hogan, she has an inventive uncle from University College Cork who assisted her in making a custom propeller from scratch. “It worked perfectly in the end,” she said.

How MakerDojo might help young inventors

The support of friends, family and teachers proved invaluable for Hogan as she produce an award-winning project, but – had it been around at the time – a MakerDojo might have been helpful too.

“There’s a lot that I don’t know about electronics and how circuits work, and I think to have a background of information on how things work would have made it easier for me to understand,” she told Judge.

‘I think to have a background of information on how things work would have made it easier for me to understand’

Of the MakerDojo, she said, “It was great to have the facilities of Tyndall, and seeing the younger school children was really interesting as well, because they looked really interested in what was happening.”

Next year, Hogan will be competing in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in Dublin, which is where Judge came out as champ in 2013 with her teammates Émer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow.

Meanwhile, Tyndall plans to host two MakerDojos per month in its Cork workshop: one for teenage students and one for the general public.

IoT Makers Week explores the internet of things revolution and the makers driving it with reports on from 5 to 9 October 2015. Get updates by subscribing to our news alerts or following @siliconrepublic and the hashtag #IoTMakersWeek on Twitter.

Women Invent is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Intel, Open Eir (formerly Eircom Wholesale), Fidelity Investments, Accenture and CoderDojo.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.