Toggler – Newton Road School

Toggler is a website feature by Fermynwoods Contemporary Art allowing commissioned artists to explore, demonstrate and celebrate the potential of creativity in website design.

As websites become increasingly standardised to ensure familiarity and ease of use for online visitors, Toggler allows artists to champion the role of curiosity and creativity in exploring other possibilities for presenting content online.

Visitors are able to view our website through different lenses by toggling between styles developed by commissioned artists.

Alongside this year’s series of commissions, artist Stuart Moore has been working with students in mainstream and non-mainstream schools to develop their own Toggler styles.

The latest of these designs is by pupils from Newton Road School, a school at the heart of the community in Rushden Northamptonshire.

“I would have had to do PE, but instead I got to do this. Best day of my life!”

“It’s because technology can be like a material. Like paint.”

Student feedback from Newton Road School.

Can you explain the ideas behind your approach to your creative workshop with Newton Road?

For this Toggler session, I thought it would be interesting to take a hands-on physical-making approach. It’s pretty obvious to make a website by coding but what could it mean to make one by hand?

Responding partly to the fact that the students for this session were younger than some of the other school workshops, I wanted to keep an immediacy to the process. To show that although tech can sometimes seem intimidating it is often very simple at heart, and to keep options open so we could follow the interests of the group.

The students started by building a variety of devices including lasers, DIY motors from magnets, and LED lights. These were popular and the students were quick to come up with creative ideas, but it was the drawing robots that really captured the group’s imagination.

The students used open source software and hardware to create images that were physically drawn by a robotic device. The robot was potentially capable of quite high accuracy, but allowing accident and error was the thing that brought the process to life.

In the next stage we maximised this effect by making a very inaccurate DIY drawing robot! Assembled very simply from some wooden dowels and a few 3D printed joints, the students first practiced by operating the machine by hand. We then added servo motors driven by an Arduino to make the machine programmable and autonomous. This provided a wide range of options, but by far the most interesting and unexpected property was that it moved rather like a hand puppet. Its intrinsic inaccuracy bringing a rough, sketchy and organic quality to its drawing, along with a very funny experience!

This Toggler for me was a slightly unexpected journey that starts with hands, that make robots, that draw like hands, that take a website as a surface to doodle all over because sometimes that’s just what you feel like doing…

Stuart Moore

Toggler screen grab – students from Newton Road School, 2021

To explore our website using code that resulted from this workshop select NEWTON ROAD SCHOOL from the drop down Toggler menu above. Please note Toggler will not affect your visiting experience of the home page. To return to the standard website design, please select DEFAULT from the menu.