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    DIY: Workshop Weekend in Oakland

    Workshop Weekend is a stunning conglomeration of DIY workshops that was started by brothers J.D. and Gil Zamifirescu in Oakland to create the kind of learning experiences that they grew up with to help them explore their passion for technology and electronics. In the DIY and Maker spirit they've created a profoundly dynamic and welcoming community of teachers and life-long learners of every age.

    I went to my first Workshop Weekend in July. The range of classes was stunning and the entire weekend, less materials fees for some workshops was $30 - for as many classes as you wanted to take! Stunning value and great for people with kids or those explore new directions. They reported that more than 650 hours of hands-on learning took place across downtown Oakland, with 135 participants from age 6 to 69.

    In the fall you can find the Workshop Weekend moving out across the SF Bay Area. Currently there are 2 weekends scheduled: 

    • October 6 & 7, 2012, in Santa Cruz, in partnership with the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History
    • November 10 & 11, 2012, in downtown Oakland

    I'm definitely going to try more classes, volunteer and maybe even teach a class or two.


    I was only able to take 2 courses on Saturday this year because of other commitments for this weekend. I LOVED the 2 that I picked.

    Wearable Electronics: LED Wristband

    The first of the classes I picked was a wearable technology workshop taught by my old friend Grace Kim. I've interviewed Grace several times over the years for artfuture - The Soft Electric/Sessile Bag and Felted Skirt with Light Pocket. I love her mix of fashion and technology and her amazing skill at teaching you the intricacies of soft circuits and electronics step-by-step.

    When we came into the beautiful workshop room (a conference room in the Comrade building in downtown Oakland), Grace had everything we needed set up for us. She showed us some of the components and then we were off and building based on both her wonderful instructions and reassuring presence as each of us struggled with either sewing or electronic elements.

    There's nothing quite as satisfying as getting the LED to light up as Grace explains positive and negative connections and how they light up the LED.

    Now on to the sewing portion of our fun as we follow the awesome directions and dive right in.

    After sewing in a copper strip for the snaps to interact with and complete the circuit to turn on the LEDs, we then sewed in the battery, ground strip and positive strip. Then we added LED lights through the outer felt layer and used conductive thread to make the long ends connect to the correct strip.

    Once completed, it did indeed light up for me. Yea!

    Learning to Solder

    It's been awhile since I've had to solder so I decided to take an entry level soldering workshop. We had 2 great teachers - Rolf Widenfelt and Miloh Alexander to guide us through the basics of soldering.

    There were 3 possible projects we could choose - a scrolling animation, a game or a LED nametag. I chose the scrolling animation project. They threw us right in and off we went. The instructions for my project could have used pictures but overall all the teachers and TA's were right in there with us. With 12 people of all ages, we were a challenging crew. By then end though it was hugely satisfying to realize I hadn't lost my skills and that I can go on to solder to my hearts content on some of my bigger projects.

    I can't encourage you enough to go to the Workshop Weekend site and find one near you. If you have a DIY passion of your own, then definitely get in there and teach a workshop.

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