2012 The Steampunk Academy

March 2012
This page was part of our application for the Bay Area Maker Faire.

Tanenbaum Fabrications is teaming up with a bunch of other talented and inspiring makers to put together a booth for the 2012 Bay Area Maker Faire!  We are calling ourselves the Steampunk Academy, in honor of our shared interest in the hacker ethos and aesthetic of Steampunk and our various academic and scholarly roots.

The Steampunk Academy

The Steampunk Academy is an international making collective specializing in Steampunk art, design fiction, interactive storytelling, tangible computing, antique and rare bookbinding and restoration, game design, and other projects at the bleeding edge of DIY culture and human computer interaction.  As our name suggests, we are both makers and scholars, using crafting and DIY to explore and design our way to a better understanding of technology and culture.  The Steampunk Academy operates in collaboration with Intel’s Vintage Tomorrows project.  We run a series of Steampunk themed workshops and interactive technology demos intended to engage makers of all ages.  Our members include

Joshua and Karen Tanenbaum – Tanenbaum Fabrications: Josh and Karen are the founders of Tanenbaum Fabrications.

Josh combines his passion for storytelling and game design with electronics, propmaking and costuming to create interactive tangible narrative systems, and Steampunk inflected kinetic artwork.


Karen is an expert in adaptive and ubiquitous computing systems and digital cultural heritage.  Under the umbrella of Tanenbaum Fabrications they use costume design and storytelling to create design fictions: diegetic prototypes that bring a piece of the future into the present.

Both Josh and Karen are finishing their PhDs at Simon Fraser University in the School of Interactive Arts + Technology, and Karen is also a graduate intern in Intel’s IXR research group.

Daniela K. Rosner

Daniela Rosner is a designer, researcher and craft enthusiast. Her work examines the opportunities afforded by new materials and tools for creative practice. She is currently finishing her PhD at the School of Information at UC Berkeley where her research focuses on the interplay between technology, handcraft, and the creative communities around them. Before coming to Berkeley, she worked at museums for three years as a digital media and exhibit designer. She holds a B.F.A in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design and a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Chicago.

Kate Compton:

 Kate Compton is an inventor, game-designer, artist, and hardware hacker, whose favorite toy is a laser-cutter.  She believes that rapid prototyping and playful software will be the key to bringing the personal factory revolution to everyday people who never knew they wanted to be product designers.    She is a PhD candidate at the Expressive Intelligence Studio in UC Santa Cruz.

Amanda Williams and Bruno Nadau – Wyld Collective LTD.:

 Amanda Williams is a co-founder of Wyld Collective Ltd, an independent interaction design and research consultancy based in Montréal. She received her PhD in 2009 from UC Irvine’s School of Information and Computer Sciences, advised by Paul Dourish. Her research currently centers on mobility, tactile interaction, design ethnography, and DIY. Methodologically omnivorous, she engages in ethnography, design, and both software and hardware hacking. Previously, she wandered Silicon Valley designing icons and user interfaces.

Bruno Nadeau is a co-founder of Wyld Collective Ltd and an interdisciplinary researcher with experience in combining arts and computation for the design of physical and tangible interfaces, software applications, graphical visualizations and interactive installations; he is a computer scientist with experience in programming and electronics to prototype, implement and evaluate ideas in both software and hardware. He received his M.S. in 2008 in Arts, Computation and Engineering at UC Irvine.

Wyld Collective Ltd is an independent design/research consultancy founded by people who are passionate about designing novel interactive systems. Endlessly curious about how their designs can mesh with human practice, they pursue their curiosity “in the wild” by conceiving, creating and evaluating technologies for real-world situations.

Brian David Johnson, James Carrott, Byrd McDonald and Joe Zawadsky – The  Tomorrow Project / Vintage Tomorrows:

“Vintage Tomorrows” is a new documentary about what Steampunk culture can teach us about the future. Steampunk has ignited an amazing amount of cultural activity: comics, art, stories, fashion – with a pioneering spirit applied to technology innovation. Vintage Tomorrows explores Steampunk culture and asks what do we want from the future of technology? What do we want from the future of society? What are our hopes and dreams for the future? Vintage Tomorrows is part of the Tomorrow Project at Intel Labs.  A short screener of the documentary will be available for viewing at Maker Faire.

The Steampunk Academy is what happens when you put all of these people in a room and ask them to build projects and activities and demos designed to share their expertise and research with an all-ages audience.  For the Maker Faire we will be running a rotating schedule of hands on workshops and interactive demos led by members of the Steampunk Academy.  These include hands-on making activities as well as discussion oriented workshops.  While we are still developing the curriculum, here is an initial list of offerings from our makers:

  • Hands-On Steampunk Propmaking:
  •  Joshua Tanenbaum will lead a workshop on Steampunk art and prototyping in which participants will have an opportunity to participate in the creation of devices to fit into the fictional world of Captain Chronomek: a Steampunk superhero recently featured in Intel’s Powered by Fiction Exhibit at the ASU Emerge 2012 conference.  Using the time traveling adventures of Captain Chronomek as a narrative frame for design, participants are invited to get their hands dirty taking apart old technology and antiques and creating Steampunk sculptures to become part of Chronomek’s fictional world.  Joshua will provide materials, including a big box of raw parts, and instruction on how to transform old objects into fun Steampunk art.  Participants will get a chance to work with glue, paint, hand tools, and simple electronics in this workshop.
  • Listening to Old Postcards:  Daniela Rosner will lead a workshop that lets people create speakers on old postcards by tracing their illustrated and photographic imagery.  Participants will be introduced to conductive thread and wire, and basic programming using Processing and Arduino.
  • Circuit Bending Antiques: In this workshop, Daniela Rosner will teach people how to use analogue devices as digital inputs, transforming typewriters, doorbells, and old computer mice and keyboards into new and playful input devices.  This worshop will introduce participants to the basics of soldering, as well as programming using Processing and Arduino.
  • Victorian (and earlier!Stage Tricks: Kate Compton will teach participants how to create Steampunk’d dollhouse style cabinets that show off classic optical tricks.  Participants will learn how Pepper’s Ghost works, and the secret behind the singing head trick from the Haunted Mansion.  She will also demonstrate how Arduino can be used to augment and enhance the classic stage effects.
  • Flexible Tactile Touch Screen:  In this ongoing interactive demo by Kate Compton, participants are invited to touch, flex, stretch, and pet an interactive spandex screen.  This installation is comprised of a large sheet of spandex, a projector, and a Kinect.
  • “luciole” Workshop: Led by Amanda Williams and Bruno Nadau of Wyld Collective LTD, this workshop leads participants through the process of creating their own luciole lights in whatever form factor they can imagine.  luciole  (done in partnership with HDF Mercy Centre) is a modular rechargeable lighting kit designed for individual and community production intended to replace candles as a source of lighting in slum communities.  It’s a great first time project for someone who wants to learn about simple electronics.  The luciole kit is designed to be assembled and reassembled into a wide variety of shapes and form factors, using many different materials for the body.  This workshop will teach basic electronics and circuit assembly skills, as well as some fun industrial design making techniques as participants design and build personalized bodies for their lamps.
  • Design Fiction Discussion:  An informal conversation led by Josh and Karen Tanenbaum about the ways in which fiction and fictional prototypes can be used to open up windows into the future and bring it closer to the present.
  • Vintage Tomorrows Screening:                                                               A special sneak peek at the upcoming Vintage Tomorrows film and book, investigating the rise of Steampunk and its implications.  Visitors to the booth will also have an opportunity to contribute their perspectives on the future of Steampunk to the Vintage Tomorrows film. 
  • Props, Costumes, Comics and More: In addition to the demos and workshops, the Steampunk Academy will be showing off their various creations including Steampunk props and costumes, the Captain Chronomek comic, and whatever other fun stuff that we are able to fit into the space.




We are excited to bring the Steampunk Academy to Maker Faire!