It all started, as these things often do, with a conversation in the pub.

“Do you know the pipe organ upstairs in the Forest Café?”

“Yes.”

“We should build a robotic organist to play it.”

“Of course we should!”

And with that casual exchange, so began Project Waldflöte.

My day job is a design manager in the IP group at Xilinx Scotland, but in my spare time, I’m also part of an informal movement called “dorkbot,” which promotes grassroots collaborations between the engineering-and-scientific community and the artistic community; its tongue-in-cheek motto is “people doing strange things with electricity.” I belong to the Edinburgh-based chapter (named either “dorkbot alba” or “dorkbot Edinburgh,” depending on who you are talking to). Members have, in the past, built a pixelmapped LED top hat, a self-propelled toothbrush, a persistence-of-vision poi juggling device, a barely electromagnetic screwdriver and various noise-generating boxes. Injuries are surprisingly rare.

Reprinted with permission from Xcell Journal / First Quarter 2009. Article © Xcell Journal.