Klackerlaken Workshop (2011)

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A special kind of vermin was identified in the summer of 2011. Due to the fact that initially mainly bottle caps, especially CLUB MATE caps, were infested, the new pest was at first called MATErlaken. Other popular names include Drinken Lights, or in German, Kronemänner.

The Klackerlake (clanking bug) is an invasive species, and a pest indeed:
A mobile LED-Throwie, equipped with poisonous button cells, whose remains might outlive us.

A basic version of a solderless glowing vibrobot

The first specimens were sighted at the Chaos Communication Camp in Finowfurt in August 2011. Only months later, the glowing bugs could be found in Kulturhaus Abraxas during the lab.30 festival. Within few days, they had invaded their new habitat, clanking and buzzing around.

MATErlaken at Chaos Communication Camp 2011
MATErlaken at Chaos Communication Camp 2011

During the workshop kids and grown-ups learned how to build their own solderless glowing vibrobots, using only a vibration motor (the sort that can be found in cell phones), a battery, an LED, some sticky tape and a bottle cap.
The workshop was first held at the Chaos Communication Camp 2011, where astonishingly young nerds' kids, but also full-sized hackers had great fun trying out the most bizarre designs, and later at the lab.30 Media Art Festival 2011.

Solderless Glowing Vibrobots

I also ran a 2-hour-long workshop with a school class in Augsburg. The kids were in their first year at a comprehensive school. They were around ten years old and had diverse backgrounds.
The kids were instantly excited about building something that glows, and moves. In the beginning it was impossible to quiet them, but after a while they were all absorbed with their task.

kids from comprehensive school, tinkering

I noticed that even though they were still rather young, the kids were expecting proper instructions. They were not used to tinkering, especially not in the school context.
Some of the kids found it quite tricky to fiddle with the small parts. One boy with little fine motor skills was ready to give up after ten minutes and needed encouragement. Another boy had a working bug within five minutes, so I asked him to show the others how he had done it. In the end, everybody had a working Klackerlake and we had a big presentation.

I found it remarkable that all the girls took part in the "Beauty Contest" (who builds the prettiest bug), while the boys came up with their own category: Combat. Most girls had built bugs that resembled paradise birds, cats, or other furry creatures, while many (but not all) boys built tanks with lasers, or battleships.

Klackerlaken Beauty Contest
Klackerlaken Combat Mode
"Beauty Contest" and "Combat Mode"

The second workshop during lab.30 was severely overbooked. Mainly kids with their parents came, but also some adults, teenagers and kids without their parents.
I tried to give as little instructions as possible, but encouraged the participants to find out themselves how LED and motor work, and try out their own designs. "Do you know what a switch does? A switch breaks a circuit. So think of a way to build one, and if you don't come up with an idea within 15 minutes, I will come and help you." Before the quarter was over, they had all come up with an own solution. (In fact, one of the younger kids even came up with a solution for a switch for the LED, after I had confided in her that I had not.)
An electronics engineer was there with his offspring, and while I was convinced that the exercise would be a child's play for him, he was intrigued by the task of building a switch with only sticky tape and found material. "You know, I normally work with printed circuit boards and complicated layouts, and of course we use manufactured switches, but building one using only cardboard, sellotape and a piece of wire is something completely new for me."

Many participants were interested in building more, and more complicated bugs. One kid was crying, because she was not allowed to build a third bug. After the workshop, even the specimen that were on display in the exhibition area were gone.

Here are some of the workshop outcomes:

Klackerlaken examples
Klackerlaken examples
Klackerlaken examples
Klackerlaken examples
Klackerlaken examples

Jan 30, 2012 dorkbot, transmediale.11 satellite event, c-base, Berlin, de

previous workshops:
May 20, 2012 c-base, Berlin, de
(walk in, no registration)
Mar 24, 2012 b4ckspace, Hackerspace Bamberg, de
(registration required)
Oct 29, 2011 Lab30 Media Art Festival, Augsburg, de
(registration required)
Oct 28, 2011 Lab30 Media Art Festival, Augsburg, de
(special workshop for school class)
Aug 10-13, 2011 Chaos Communication Camp, Finowfurt, de
(walk in, no registration)
upcoming workshops:
May 24, 2012 LiWoLi, Linz, at
(registration required)