Technology and knowledge connecting university and business
Issue 18 | Year 8 | MARCH 2018

Photo from the Photograph Collection of Maker Faire Rome.



UniTrento participates in the Maker Faire Rome with two innovative projects: Level Up and StudioBliquo

Versione stampabile
Lino Giusti
works in the Scientific Research and Technology Transfer Division of the University of Trento.
Participating in the event, the maker world, the creative process, the new products: we talk about all these with Zeno Menestrina, StudioBliquo project manager and programmer, and Adriano Siesser, StudioBliquo product manager and visual artist.

This year the University of Trento has again participated in the Maker Faire Rome, held in December. The event, which brings together the Italian community of ‘makers’, is a non-stop display of projects and ideas. It covers a wide range of topics: inventions in science and technology, biomedical engineering, digital manufacturing, the Internet of Things, food, climate, and automation, as well as new forms of art, entertainment, music and craft. It’s an exhibition that was set up to cater to an audience of people of all ages who are curious to see and to try out the inventions that the makers have produced. Ideas to solve everyday problems, both small and large, or simply for fun and entertainment.

Maker Faire originated in San Francisco in 2006 as a Make: magazine project and has since spread around the world, becoming a network of increasingly popular and important events. This year in Rome over 110,000 people attended the Educational Day (the free preview day reserved for students) to see the 600 projects on show and the hundreds of events including conferences, live talks and workshops. The University of Trento participated in the Faire with several educational projects aimed at students and developed in the laboratories of the University. Level Up, the academic startup of the Department of Physics that deals with science communication and teaching, presented a mobile digital crafts workshop. Designed to help students at secondary schools learn about maker culture and scientific experimentation, this laboratory has all the technology needed for rapid prototyping.

BugBits is the system developed by the interdepartmental working group StudioBliquo, which combines the skills of the Department of Information Engineering and Computer Science with those of the Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science. StudioBliquo has created an interactive system designed to be used in museums to guide the user in a fun ‘treasure hunt’. Another product developed by this group is Skies of Manawak, a videogame and cognitive gymnasium that trains the mind through mental exercises integrated into an adventure set in a fantasy world.

We talked about the Maker Faire experience with two members of StudioBliquo: Zeno Menestrina, project manager and programmer, and Adriano Siesser, product manager and visual artist.

Zeno, what was the response to your projects? What were visitors most interested in at your stand?
We had a very positive response from the visitors to the Maker Faire, who appreciated our game-based approach to education. Dozens of people played and asked us about our projects and everyone was very enthusiastic. What struck them most was the research behind our work; in the case of Skies of Manawak, a lot of parents and teachers were pleasantly surprised that a normal videogame could also be a cognitive training tool. It wasn’t only our target audience who liked our games. Our products were designed for players of primary and middle school age, but during the Maker Faire we had older teenagers and adults stopping to play.

Adriano, what did you learn from this event and how do you plan to develop your project now? In what direction will you take StudioBliquo?
One thing that has become clear in the last few months, and particularly at the Maker Faire, is that promotion is an essential part of our work. The project started as university research and so was very focused on its scientific validity. This meant that we took particular care with the design and development of the work, but even the best product has no value if users don’t know about it. We will continue to promote BugBits and Skies of Manawak so that we become more widely known.
Participating in the event helped us think and develop a new perspective. Skies of Manawak was designed as a tool for working with children with specific learning difficulties. We have always thought that even though it was designed for children with dyslexia, it was a videogame that was suitable for anyone. The positive feedback of the visitors to the Maker Faire confirms that, and we believe that this is a key strength of our work.

Zeno, let’s talk about the world of makers. Which sectors do you think that this community’s culture and approach to the creative process will be most successful in over the next few years?
My first answer is interactive art. I’m obviously influenced by my working environment (I have a computer science background and Adrian is an artist), but it’s clear that makers are having a positive influence on simplifying the use of technologies. Things like the Arduino platform are making the digital world more and more accessible, allowing a continuous artistic exploration towards new ways of interacting.
In general, I think that this community is enabling a lot of people to take ownership of technologies, taking them off the pedestal they are very often placed on. This will undoubtedly lead to changes in society; the Maker Faire is one of the best places to observe these changes.