We spoke with Matthew MacMillan, age 15 (going on 16), who is leading our Creative Robotics workshops as part of our HIT PLAY Summer Programme for Kids and Young People in Stirling. We wanted to hear more about how he got into robotics and coding from a young age, his experience of being the youngest ever member of our Made in Stirling collective, and his recent placement with us.
Hi Matthew. We wanted to know more about how you got into coding?
I got a computer when I was 5 but I don’t think I got into coding until I was at least 7 or 8. That’s when I started at CoderDojo – a coding club for young people at Stirling’s Old Town Jail, run by Creative Stirling (now being run at CodeBase Stirling).
I didn’t get into serious robotics until high school. In first year, I built a robot and a 3D printer in school. It was an extracurricular activity I just decided to do because I was bored.
Was it your idea to build this?
I was quite close to the computing & tech teachers due to my interest in coding, and they had equipment that didn’t work so I rebuilt them. I would fix the machines or build new things from the parts.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve done or creating with robotics/coding?
During lockdown I built a robot that would walk like a human. I thought since I was going to be stuck inside for three weeks, it was time to start building some robots.
What did you make this out of?
I used five servos and 3D printed the rest of the parts. I just did it for fun. I just take things apart and build new things. As stuff never sticks around for long, I just recycle the pieces and make something new from it.
When did you start as a Made in Stirling artist?
I started putting stuff in Made in Stirling around New Year of 2019/2020. I’ve sold a few of my big pieces, and it’s great that I can sell my work in the space it was made in.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve done from being a part of Creative Stirling/what do you like about the space?
I think creating the mural with Mia McGregor from The Cube as part of the Stirling City heritage trust exhibition was one of my favourites. It was a really cool opportunity.
I like the size of the space, the people, and the fact I have a space to work and create (and get messy with paint).
Tell us about your placement? What did you do?
As part of my work experience, I set up all of our new computers as part of the Creative Recovery fund (and named them all), created the storage system for all our tech, planned my robotics workshops and was given responsibility and budget to purchase robotics equipment (shiny new toys).
Tell us about your workshops?
Kids Workshops (ages 5-12): This started in lockdown when I was messing around with one of Mia’s cubes and I painted it as a monster and wondered if I could put a servo in it and make the mouth move like a monster – and that’s how I came up with monster munch. The kids will programme the micro bit using a choice between a blocky based coding programme or a higher-level programming language such as Java Script or Python to make the action/motion of the mouth on the robot/animation style.
Young People Workshops (ages 13-25): We will be building some robots using different stem education kits, including Move Mini buggys, robotic arms and remote operated robots. The people attending will learn about intermediate level of robotics – advancing from basics into high level programming languages and have fun using and learning about programming software such as Python.
What do you like about Stirling?
I like Creative Stirling & Made in Stirling.
University, but I’m still deciding on what path to take.
Where would you like the robotics project to go if you had unlimited budget?
I would like to have a shot of the Boston Dynamics robots & get to bring some people from high level robotics to come and talk to our robotics club.