Palo Altonale

Being a nerd has never been more fun! I reported about the Good School of Simone Ashoff and Christian Gast already. And two weeks ago, I was finally attending my first class. The name was “Palo Altonale”, which is a paronomasia of the term Palo Alto, the “central economic focal point of the Silicon Valley”, the place where all the magic happens (at least for nerds)!

The Good School offered a tinkering class for creatives. Which means that everyone of our class (approx. 15 students) got a Arduino board and a lot of supplies and we were asked to do something with it.

“Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.” (via

Basically Arduino is an interface (hardware and software) between technical stuff (like lamps, light barriers, mini engines) and digital stuff (like tweets, flash, processing). And the things you can do with it are endless. We thought of so much crazy stuff, and our teachers (Alex, Marcus, Fabian and Christian) told us, that it was all possible.

Day 1

I should better start explaining one after the other. On friday morning we met at the Good School. And after the (digital) school bell rang the day started with an introduction of Christian Gast. Then we received our school bags. All you needed for a day at school. A pencil, a sketch book, stickers, balloons, and a Arduino board!

Then we heard talks of the teachers Alex and Marcus from the Palo Altona, a tinker drinkup in Hamburg. They showed us how to get started and after installing the software, we got our hands on the boards. We tried different things to understand the procedure. We tweeted things via pressing on a button or scanned tweets for certain words and which were read out by the software and so a little LED lighted up.

After tinkering, programming and lunch breaksĀ Fabian Hemmert of the Deutsche Telekom Laboratories gave a talk about their innovation work at the T-Labs. It was really interesting to see what is going on over there. And they also use a lot of Arduino to see what can be done. Take a look at his TED talk to get an impression.

After the school bell rang and the school was out, we started a competition with the mind interface emotiv.

Day 2

The second day was all about realizing a project. Some of us teamed up and started to brainstorm. The whole saturday we were doing actually some real stuff with the boards and some of us did serious crazy developing.

Our group came up with the idea to recreate the financial system with the help of some piggy banks. We had three pigs which were connected to a Arduino board. Each was programmed to do something when you put money into one of the other pigs. We had three characters: the consumption pig, the anti-capitalist pig, and the abundance pig.

When you gave money to the consumption pig, the anti-capitalist pig destroyed the money it had inside. When you gave money to the anti-capitalist pig, the abundance pig ejected the money. When you gave the abundance pig money, the cunsumption pig went on amazon and bought something for the money it owned! It was totally crazy but fun! The most difficult part was to design the structure. What happened when one pig gets money and so on.

It took us a whole day to build such a thing. But in the end we saw how it is possible to get different Arduino boards communicating with each other.

All in all it was a fun thing but also very educational. I learned about the connection between digital and analog/technical. I got an impression of how coding and processing sticks together. And the combination of – being creative, having ideas, design the procedure, get your hands on some technical/electronic devices, cut open a pig and screw and glue – was amazing. I love the combination of imagining, designing, coding and craftsmanship!

And this was all in a prefect surrounding. It was cool that the one who was responsable for the workshop (Christian) as well as the teachers were as playful and excited as the students. (I really missed that during school or university time) And by the way Christian shot photos and videosĀ of the class and we watched them at the end of the class. Another great idea was to record the whole work (photos, code, videos) and our private impressions in a closed posterous!

If you ever think about taking a class at the Good School, go for it! Learning (and being a nerd) was rarely so much fun and educational at the same time! Thank you, Good School!

Here you get an impression why:

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Palo Altonale