Meet the Makers – Bryan Cera

Bryan Cera

Tell us about yourself.
I grew up here, in Milwaukee, and was always interested in art – particularly animation – and in the early 2000s the increasing accessibility of animation software was what really got me interested in technology early on. From there, I began to explore the world of programming – I started making a lot of weird generative animations and interactive video installations. It was when I realized that I could use that same programming knowledge to animate robots and interface with machines that I fell deeply in love with making physical objects. I went to grad school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and studied Art and Technology for three years. That is where I created works like Glove One – a functional 3D-printed cell phone that you wear on your hand, or ARAI (Arm Robot for Artistic Inquiry) – an industrial style robot who’s soul purpose is to procrastinate. And during my graduate studies I also fell in love with teaching. I am now Assistant Professor in Digital Media at Cardinal Stritch University – and I teach in subjects ranging from digital illustration, animation and video production, to computer programming, creative coding and digital fabrication.

Glove One

What are you presenting at Maker Faire Milwaukee?
I am presenting a gigantic retro video game controller I am tentatively calling Entertainment System – where it will take a whole team of people to operate single “player” in a classic video game. This is a prototype for a larger (and more expensive!) project – and I thought what better testing grounds for the proof-of-concept than Maker Faire Milwaukee!

Entertainment System

Why is making important to you?
My life and practice both reflect a process of learning, making, sharing and teaching. I think this process is one that, if adopted by many people, has potential to inspire youth, to make meaningful and innovative changes to the way we see the world, and to empower entire communities to take charge of the technologies that surround us.

Robots and Art

What was the first thing you remember making?
In forth grade my entire class – along with our teachers – collaborated on building a giant inflatable sperm whale using only garbage bags and tape. It was kept inflated with an industrial blower, and was large enough that a whole classroom of kids could crawl inside (through its mouth). This project stands out to me because it is obvious now how huge an impact some of my teachers have had on me. Like many others, I am an experiential learner – we don’t retain information from completing problem sets or cramming for exams. It is the hands-on experience that informs us. I am a firm believer that making is a mode of thinking, and I am grateful to this day that my forth grade teacher truly challenged me to think.

What have you made that you are most proud of?
This summer I built a new lab at my University which I am calling The Atelier – this is a fancy french word that basically means Maker’s Studio. It is stocked with all kinds of hand tools, power tools, homebrew 3D printers and CNC machines, and lots of hardware and raw materials for making just about anything you can come up with. At the moment I am most proud of – and excited about – The Atelier and the potential impact it will have on my students at Cardinal Stritch University.

Given an unlimited budget, what would you make?
I am really fascinated by the idea of tiny, modular robots that can cooperate to complete complex tasks. With an unlimited budget I would build a swarm of programmable robots and program them to make art.