Blog Listings

An introduction to Noah Most, MadLab’s visiting DIY Biologist

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Jo Slack, MadLab’s Copywriter delves into the world of DIY Bio and asks Noah Most, our resident DIY Biologist some questions about his experience so far on his DIY Bio trip around the world. 

Jo joined MadLab in November after a stint working in London. She’s involved with the Marketing and Copywriting at MadLab and helps run the Courses programme.

 

Before I came to work at MadLab I’d not heard much about DIY Bio, in fact I knew very little about it at all. I come from a Creative Writing background and the closest I’ve gotten to Biological experiments since leaving High School is the various mould-growing exploits that went on in my eight-student Uni house.

Though I may not be an expert on all the stuff that goes on here, the thing that most attracts me about MadLab is the diversity. The vast wealth of projects satisfies my inquisitive nature. In one week, we’ll be hosting Taxidermy courses, running coding sessions and teaching children how to create circuits through electric paint. When I heard that we were getting a resident DIY Biologist, and not just any old DIY Biologist, but one that led a microfinance non-profit that was hailed as a ‘Champion of Change’ by Barack Obama, I was eager to find out more.

NOah blog 12

Noah Most hails from Iowa, the ‘Heartland’ of the US. When he arrived, he quickly excused his generic American accent by letting us know that he really does come from bang slap in the middle of the States. In fact, it’s so central and thus middle-of-the road accent-wise, that it is actually known for being the place where Newsreaders move to in order to neutralise their accents. Noah studied Biology at Grinnell College, a University just outside of his hometown. I asked him where else he’d been in the US and he admitted he hadn’t really travelled around much. Quite surprising when you hear about what brought him to the UK- a year-long round the world DIY Bio trip funded by the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, in which he’ll visit various DIY Bio spaces across numerous continents.

MadLab’s strand of DIY Bio is one element that sits in between numerous other projects. But that’s not to say that it doesn’t have it’s own voice. Since it was set up in 2012, with the help of MMU and funding from the Wellcome Trust, the DIY Bio strand at MadLab has seen people making fuel cells from car park soil, swabbing bus stops to identify the dirtiest parts of Manchester and DNA barcoding sushi. To top it off, MadLab were invited to San Francisco (by the FBI no less) to take part in a nationwide DIY Bio conference, helping official bodies keep up with what is going on in the DIY Bio world. When we were approached by Noah and learnt about his Bio activities we were quick to say a big hearty yes to his visit request, and get him on board.

Noah has already visited a few DIY Bio strands having started at Canadian maker-space in Victoria where he worked on DIY origami. His next stop will be India before travelling on to Indonesia. I asked him what the best thing he’d done so far Bio-wise was:

The best thing that I’ve gotten to do was explore whether DNA nanotechnology is something that’s feasible for do-it-yourself biologists. As a proof of concept, I made a 2D lightbulb that was less than 1/1000th the width of a human hair…out of DNA! Not too long ago it would have been crazy to think that you could build an object by using DNA as a construction material, let alone do so in a biohackerspace. This same technology has been used to create nano-robots for delivering drugs to cancer cells and not healthy cells.

Proof that DIY Bio isn’t just something for people wanting to play scientist. The whole concept of DIY Bio only really came into play in 2008, if this is what has already been achieved imagine where it could go in five or ten years time.

Noah will be working with us on a number of projects for the next few weeks. He has a dedicated lab space at the back of the bottom floor where you’ll usually find him plastic gloves on and pipette in hand. He has already been involved with a project that took place at Longsight Library, teaching women and girls how to extract DNA from strawberries, create yeast balloons and make ricotta cheese from milk and lemon. On Saturday Asa and Noah will host a ‘Mystery Meat’ workshop, encouraging participants to identify meat in ready meals using the techniques of PCR and Gel Electrophores.

 
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Having been here for a few weeks I was curious to find out what Manchester is like for a Central American on first impression. Apart from being disappointed by the lack of resemblance to Downtown Abbey (apparently Noah’s standard for everything British) he says he loves the mix of old and new in the architecture and is just about beginning to understand our lingo. When asked what he misses most about home he admits it’s probably his dog, though his family and friends are a close second. He’s not sure what’s next after this spectacular adventure but he says it’ll be hard not to set up a lab in his Kitchen, something that we fully encourage here at MadLab.

You can catch Noah this Saturday at MadLab for the Mystery Meat Workshop. You don’t need any scientific knowledge to participate, just a bit of curiosity. Tickets are £8 and can be purchased here.

 

 

 

CRITGroup’s February Meetup

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Annabeth has written another great write-up about CRITGroup, who just recently completed a collaborative project. CRIT stands for Creative Reflection and Investigation Talk Group, and is an opportunity for artists and designers to get together, discuss their work, and support each other.

Read more about their latest meetup in this blog post, and attend their next meetup on the 26th of March:

This month I was really looking forward to the opportunity for a freer session for a change, less constrained by attending to the specifics of the latest collaborative project, which we completed last month. I wasn’t disappointed! Though I have enjoyed the collaborations, both participating in them and being part of the discussions they generated, it was really refreshing to get ‘back to the roots’ of the group and just spend a couple of hours sharing and talking about recent work and ideas.

Continue reading…

Mike Glynn’s ‘Living Map of Manchester’, an Arduino-powered Internet of Things Project

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Mike Glynn attended our ‘Building the Internet of Things’ course last year, and has since created an excellent project. Mike works at HERE (a Nokia-owned mapping business) and is responsible for helping customers better understand their map data.

Mike decided to aid visualisation of expected and actual road speeds by using LEDs in a very flashy-looking installation. Read more about it on his blog:

The HERE platform publishes real time average speeds for roads belonging to the TMC (Traffic Messaging Channel) network – when these real time speeds are compared with expected free flow speeds a colour value can be calculated which indicates how freely the traffic is flowing. This technique is used by most mapping sites for displaying traffic conditions (e.g. here.com, google maps, bing maps). Here’s here.com showing traffic on the M60.

M60

M60

My aim was to replicate this in a physical form using LED’s – I chose the M60 because our office is located in Manchester.

Continue reading on Mike’s blog…

We’ll be listing a new Internet of Things course for 2014 soon. Stay tuned for updates!

Celebrate Free Software at MadLab

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Manchester Free Software Festival

Manchester Free Software Festival


We’re very excited that one of our most popular groups – Free Software Foundation Europe – has decided to put on a week of events celebrating all things free software. They’re bringing together members of other groups – including Bitcoin Manchester and Manchester WordPress User Group – and have organised a great line-up of free events:

Get ready to celebrate:
Manchester’s first Free Software festival has arrived!

Free Software is the radical tech movement behind projects like WordPress, Android, Bitcoin, Firefox, GNU/Linux, LibreOffice, and many more. It guarantees you the freedom to use, study, change, and share your computer software and has spawned a generation of creativity by empowering millions. The chances are you have been using Free Software for years – this is a great opportunity to learn more about what that means, how you can get involved and most importantly celebrate this fanatic movement with canapés, cake and company.

Read more and signup…

CRITGroup’s December Meetup

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

We missed posting this at the time, but Annabeth of CRITgroup put together a lovely write-up of their final meeting of 2013. If you’re not familiar with the group, CRIT stands for Creative Reflection and Investigation Talk Group, and is an opportunity for artists and designers to get together, discuss their work, and support each other.

If you’re interested, read Annabeth’s blog post, and attend their next meetup at MadLab on the 29th of January:

Not quite a silent night but certainly a peaceful one; we had a small meeting this evening, three familiar faces and a very welcome new guest! All the more mince pies for us!

Continue reading…