Smart Juggling Balls

Norway Maker Roger Antonsen

Roger Antonsen and his smart juggling balls at Maker Faire Bay Area in 2017 (photo by Roger Antonsen on Facebook)

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Roger Antonsen, Skaper

Skaper is Nordic for “maker” and it appeared on the name tag of makers at the first Maker Faire Oslo in 2014. Roger Antonsen along with Jon Haavie were the producers of Maker Faire Oslo. The founder of Norway Makers, Roger was also a mathematician who published several books and taught at the University of Oslo. The project that I know him for is “Smart Juggling Balls,” which he worked on in various iterations for many years.  His project won the Pitch Your Prototype competition in 2014 at MFBA and returned in 2016 and 2017. Roger passed away April 8 after a long bout with cancer. (Thanks to Miguel Valenzuela of PancakeBot for letting me know.) He was a skaper, maker, computer scientist, mathematician, science communicator and artist.

Maker Badge from Maker Faire Oslo

Maker Faire Oslo

In 2014, I was happy to visit Oslo and its Maker Faire in the middle of January on the grounds of the Museum of Science and Technology covered in snow. It was the first big snow of the season, and people were outside on skis and sleds, enjoying it. We also took the train from the city center out to the science center.

The train from the city dropped us off next to the science center.

Jon Haavie and Roger Antonsen at Maker Faire Oslo (photo by Dale Dougherty)

The producers of Maker Faire Oslo designed a cool t-shirt with Makey made out of Norweigian words relating to making. Stephen Voltz and Fritz Groebe of Eepybird (Diet Coke and Mentos) were there to give a talk on creativity and how they come up with new ideas for their shows.

Stephen and Fritz of Eepybird

Demonstration at Maker Faire Oslo in 2014 (photo by Dale Dougherty)

Roger fostered the maker community in Norway. In 2014, Roger cofounded the organization Norway Makers, “whose purpose is to cultivate the joy of making and innovation at the intersection of art, technology and science, by building up under the maker movement in Norway.” The group facilitated the establishment of up to ten public makerspaces in Norway.

Roger’s “Smart Juggling Balls” demonstrated his playful side along with his interest in computer science and mathematics. Each ball contained an Arduino and they were programmed talk to each other, detect juggling patterns and activate LEDs. I knew that Roger hoped that his prototype could be turned into a product but that didn’t happen. Jon Haavie wrote me that Roger helped others build his juggling balls, and one Norweigian made a version with micro:bit. Roger used his juggling balls as a prop for some of his presentations.

Logical Methods

Roger was the author of several books but most notably, “Logical Methods: The Art of Thinking Abstractly and Mathematically.” He summarized it as follows:

Mathematics is about discovering patterns, uncovering hidden structures, finding counterexamples, and thinking logically. Mathematics is a way of thinking. It is an activity that is both highly creative and challenging.

Roger’s book

He also gave a TedX talk on “Metaphors, Mathematics and the Imagination.” He believed that mathematics can give us new perspectives to help us understand the world. You might say Roger was more than a maker or that his making was so broad that his curiosity and intelligence connected additional fields to creativity and making.

Remembering Roger

Some of his colleagues from Norway Makers wrote about Roger on Facebook, calling him “one of the most knowledgeable, playful and inclusive individuals we’ve ever met.” They added:

Thank you for always generously sharing your knowledge and infectious energy. You engaged both adults and children to take programming off the screen and see what possibilities programming provides as a creative tool. We kept seeing you at festivals, conferences and amusement parks with weird helmets or juggling balls while you were explaining the connection between patterns, mathematics, programming and algorithmic art. After all, you became at least as much an artist as a realist.

Norway Maker

“I enjoy making things that both have mathematical content and that are satisfying to watch,” wrote Roger on his website. Like smart juggling balls.

Roger Antonsen will be missed in part because his life as a maker had impact on so many others.

I’d love to hear from you if you have ideas, projects or news items about the maker community. Email me - [email protected].