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Maker Challenge

Find out about the 'smart city' prototype projects developed by the teams

Smart LED data responsive lighting, Minecraft Cambridge, a reimagined market square and bus stops pods that inform you about social events nearby ...

As part of Collusion's Maker Challenge 2015, four multi disciplinary teams worked together over three Saturdays, with a budget of £250 each, to develop a smart city project in response to Cambridge's wicked (hard to solve) problems. The projects demonstrate creative ways to transform our engagement with the city. Watch the film and then click the tabs to find out how the teams developed the ideas.


Tell us what you think of the prototypes #MakerChallenge2015 

Maker Challenge 2015 challenged four small multi-disciplinary teams to develop an Internet of Things type idea in response to Cambridge’s ‘wicked’ problems, aka, problems that are difficult or seemingly impossible to solve, e.g. congestion, pollution, lack of night time economy, energy use, bring the city's disparate communities together. 


Each team of five had a small budget of £250 to realise and present their prototype idea. The teams were lead artists with experience of working nationally on similar types of projects and they are joined by Makespace members, who have a wealth of skills and knowledge about how to make stuff, and volunteers who wanted to get involved and have something to offer a team, bringing together a variety of skills/experience. We provided a brief for the lead artists and a brief for team members

The challenge took place across three Saturdays - Dec 6th, Jan 17th and Feb 28th. 

Day 1 - Dec 6th: teams were introduced to the wicked problems by officers from Cambridge City and Cambridgeshire County Councils and spent the rest of the day getting to know each other and discussing what their projects should be. 

Day 2 - Jan 17th: on arrival teams were presented with a surprise task - they had two hours to prepare a pitch on their project, presenting it at 12 noon to a small panel of invited guests from the tech, public and arts sectors, who would give them vital feedback on how to sharpen their ideas. The rest of the day was spent planning and making. 

Day 3 - Feb 28th: today was all about getting the job done so everyone was heads down, working away. There was a lot of making going on - programming, soldering, modelling - in paper/board as well as digital - and 3D printing.  The final prototypes were coming together and the exhibition on 21st March promised to be excellent! 

Follow us @in_collusion to get in the loop.  #makerchallenge2015

Our Colluders

Collusion worked with Mark Cheverton and Makespace and Nicky Buckley from the University of Cambridge's Public Engagement team on the development and delivery of Maker Challenge.

It was fantastic to be receiving financial support for this project from




Team 1's project - Smart LED data responsive lighting

Team 1 developed ​a​ prototype for a new concept around public lighting in Cambridge, re-imagining the traditional "Richardson Candles"  (​) ​as a mixture of light source, information source and art installation​. The idea is that ​the light would have a main street light section and, towards the bottom, a section that would light up in response to data inputs, e.g. to show that routes out of the city were congested, giving people the opportunity to decide to stay where they are to let the traffic die down, or, for more fun purposes, the lights could be programmed for special events, e.g. green on St Patricks Day, yellow for Tour De France, etc.  


Updates from Day 3 by lead artist Holly Gramazio

Our third day was by far the most make-y of our Maker Challenge. All the equipment had arrived - foam board for a big map, a mini-Arduino, perspex tubes, an awful lot of LEDs, so very many wires. Our plan: to get as far as we humanly could into our prototype streetlamp, a reimagined version of the classic Cambridge-specific Richardson's Candle. While we were at it we figured we might as well put a load of LEDs in a great big map of Cambridge as well to help give an idea of where the streetlamps might go.

At the beginning of the day we had an LED-soldering production line going...


The aim was to link together lots of separate LEDs in a few big loops that we could put inside the lamp. 


We had to cut a few inches off our perspex tube, to make the proportions closer to the original Richardson's Candles. Luckily we'd found a page that went into their history, proportions, provenance and so on in huge detail [ link: ] so we were able to make a decent enough approximation. We veeeeery slooooowly printed out a big map of Cambridge on the A0 printer - unfortunately we'd run low on time and budget so skipped the spray mount, and attached it to the foam board using double-sided carpet tape that happened to be lying around. And then the boring of holes to poke LEDs through started...


Meanwhile we'd frosted our perspex tube, and were trying to find a top and bottom that would make it look more... Richardsonian. In the end we went for tiny pie tins, which we sprayed brown and then smudged with bronze and gold stamp pads. We also used a strange metal disc that was lying around in the amazing Makespace store cupboard of stuff-people-weren't-using-for-anything-in-particular, which is a vast and staggering thing.

For some of us, this was all pretty normal - but for others, actually using our hands to build things and put them together was really unusual, a step away from ordinary life. And it was great: everything from trying to cover the perspex tube in frosted sticky-backed plastic without leaving any air bubbles, to getting the right pins and wires to connect to each other. There was room to mess up and still fix it, and there was a satisfying physicality to the project as it began to take shape, crystallising from our previous days of discussion and planning.

At the end of the day, we weren't quite done - there's a bit more lamp assembly to do, a bit of programming, a bit of writing up our intent, even a bit more boring holes in the map. But we're close. Between now and the 20th, we'll put it all together and fill in the gaps...

Want to catch up Days 1&2? Read Team 1's reports here

Team 2's project - Minecraft Cambridge

Team 2​ focused on​ future Cambridge​, creating a tool to allow people of the city to enter the virtual city and start to shape the future ​themselves. Using a Minecraft recreation of ​Cambridge, ​people could ​find out how population rise, floods/climate change and the greening of the city could impact in Cambridge up in 2030 and beyond. ​This project is intended as a planning and consultation tool, to help ​communities and particularly young people to engage with the growth of the city. 

Note: You need to have your Java plug-in enabled to view the above Minecraft map.

Data used: LIDAR data from the Environment Agency available via with "Use limitation depending on license". Very straightforward process to get the data. The Minecraft model uses the 1m Digital Surface Map (DSM) and Digital Terrain Map (DTM) Roads paths and building data from OpenStreetMap

To download Minecraft Cambridge and for more information, including ways to get involved, visit

Want to catch up how the project came together? Read Team 2's report here.

Team 3's project - a reimagining of the market square -

Team 3 decided to remarke​t​ the market​ to help address issues around lack of use & anti social behaviour after 5pm. They look​ed​ anew at the Market Square with a view to creating some new stall option ideas, new layout possibilities and new configurations to allow a multi-purpose space for a range of evening and night time activities - including film screenings on the guildhall, and early evening participatory events. ​They even put together a website 


Updates from Day 3 by lead artist Marcus Romer

Marcus Romer - Lead artist ­ creative producer/director; writer; film & theatre maker; end user experience; emergent tech ideas; creative thinking; trained scientist.  Steven Ogbourne - Makespace deputy ­ mechanical engineer with 3D design skills, workshop and making skills Nicola Buckley - Public engagement, University of Cambridge; science festival & festival of ideas; voluntary sector; team and networks to achieve shared goals Michelle Law - Electronics project engineer on new product development; hardware & software skills; art. Jeremy Aird - Creative director/designer, 3D animation, audio composition; across variety of industries. 

So here we are - having spent the last 24 hours building the foam board models of the market square. Thanks to Steve for the photos and scaling of the images. We worked out our narrative and what we needed to. To create 4 base models that we can use on the day -


Story: If market square were renovated what improvements could be made. Over 3 days we have explored a range of ideas with varying ambition. We have presented some of these ideas here.

  • Model 0: The original.
  • Model 1: Stalls rearranged. Story: even a small change can have a big impact. Paths of desire.
  • Model 2: Stalls rearranged such that the central space can be used for evening events. Story: with a slightly bigger change then the space can also have additional utility.
  • Model 3: Stalls replaced with folding versions to create a larger space when cleared away. Story: With a modern approach to the design of the stalls more of the space can be made available without hindering the existing market stall owners.
  • Model 4: Complete architectural renovation that enables a modular space in a simpler fashion. Story: Given a completely blank slate. Swappable models. Design your own square!

So we set about tasking and creating To-do list. 

  • Foamboard market stalls for rearranging. Steve, Marcus, Nicky 
  • Graphical model of the market. Jeremy 
  • Website. Jeremy - we bought and Jeremy has been populating it with designs and images that will go live for the launch day 
  • Text to explain the concepts. 
  • Nicky Concept model for folding stall. 
  • Michelle Swappable market squares.

Our Stand: Table (6’x2’), black cloth. 5 Models Backing graphic with explanation new graphic link from Jeremy here

Want to catch up Day 1? Read Team 3's report here.

Team 4's project - Just Around the Corner - bus stops pods that inform you about social events nearby

Team 4​ were concerned with the city's imminent and long-range concerns about social isolation in the ageing population of Cambridge​ and sought to enhanc​e​ the capacity of existing social technologies to welcome and encourage new participation across social divide​s. Their project 'Just Around the Corner' was to develop a basic pod that could be installed at bus stops - or indeed anywhere in the city - with a screen that showed social acitvities and meetups happening along that bus line. The pod incorporates a button and a small printer so that people cna press the button when they see and activity they like the sound of. The printed ticket provides details of the activity, a map showing how to get there and a QR code to access the original event page. 


Updates from Day 3 by lead artist Karen Guthrie

Mark Cheverton, Jane Wilson and myself reported in for our last Saturday with barely a clue where the day would take us. Once again we'd all been a bit too busy since the last session to develop our 'thing' and there was even talk of abandoning our challenge and joining other teams! We were without the design skills of Emil Mnisko (sadly ill) but we were joined by the programming brilliance of Geraint Luff once more and suddenly we got into gear.


Our Team had wanted to address the risks of social isolation in the ageing population of Cambridge, and during our research we'd found The New Economic Foundation's 5 ways to safeguard wellbeing as we age: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give. These informed all our thinking and we'd had many exciting conversations spanning our life experiences and relating these to the challenge. A lot of vague notions of toolkits and apps and ways to supersize existing social activities to enhance their accessibility and visibility had all been thrown around, but none had really stuck.

So as we sat on our last day like rabbits in the headlights, I unfurled my chaotic notes from our last session I alighted at the words 'bus stop' and suggested we get very very focused and develop a sketchy thought we'd had about embedding some kind of smart noticeboard in a bus stop shelter, a thing on which local activities could be advertised to local people at just the moment when they may be at their most receptive, that rare limbo moment of waiting for a bus.

We quickly got to work and started reducing lots of our earlier notions of the interactivity such a thing would require to be effective. We realised this 'screen' was not meant to offer what the internet could offer, it could just be a 'nudge', highlighting something specific and interesting happening just down the road. If anything, if the thing looked and felt like a paper-based community notice board, or the local newspaper, it wouldn't work. We all know how to ignore these, along with all the other visual clutter of the public space. No, our thing would instead be a rather quiet way to raise awareness of one's locale.

Our ambition is that this bus stop 'screen' shows only a local activity that is reachable by you on the next bus to arrive at the very stop you stand in. Simple. When it's too late to get to that activity - for example, it's 7.05 pm and Beginner's Yoga started at 7pm - the screen simply brings up the next local activity you could make it to by bus. And so on. All activities will be within a 5 minute walk from the bus route, so few directions etc are required to be shown on screen. We jettisoned initial ideas about users being able to select 'Family friendly' or 'Free' and realised that the more dynamic the information feed is the more likely it is to appeal to the widest possible cross section of bus stop users. All that matters is that you could make it in time, and the screen knows this better than you do.

If you wish, you can press a button under the screen and a receipt printer will print out the basic detail of the event on the screen, so you can tear if off and take it with you if you like. We talked about the simple, toy-like quality the thing could have.

Mark and Geraint quickly began coding and 'data scraping' in a language so techy it may as well have been Maori to my ears. We were buying a component LCD screen, a receipt printer and a Raspberry Pi in minutes, in order to build our prototype for the exhibition. Jane and I kept to sugar paper, rulers and pens and drew out design ideas, and Jane also squeezed in a quick visit to the Cambridge Volunteers Fair to test out initial reactions to the concept. These - I'm glad to report - were all glowing.

We had a quick brainstorm at the end of the day for a title for this, and with Marcus Romer's help we came up with 'Just Round the Corner' which I like a lot -  unassuming and un-techy, as it is.

Want to catch up Day 1? Read Team 4's report here.