What a (last) weekend! The MakerSpace at Digilent traveled all the way down to San Mateo for the Bay Area Maker Faire 2015, our first Maker Faire as a MakerSpace. This is the first post in a series recapping what we saw and did. We had an amazing turnout at our booth, which you’ll hear about in a later post. To start us off, we each wrote a bit about our first impressions of Maker Faire as a whole. I’ll keep my part short as this is going to be a long post already!
Last September I had the opportunity to go to the New York Maker Faire. As overwhelming as that was, San Mateo was even bigger. I noticed that New York seemed to be more companies and fewer makers, making it feel more like a trade show than a show-and-tell. San Mateo seemed to be more individual makers, small companies with just a few people, and makerspaces. There is also more room in San Mateo for bigger projects and things, like art cars and fire breathing sculptures. Attendees were driving their home-made vehicles around, some of which had a show to put on.
I loved meeting all of the people that share the same passion for art, engineering, and DIY projects. Everyone there has something interesting to show. I saw a ton of projects that I backed on Kickstarter, and I found a few new ones that already had campaigns going or were launching just after Maker Faire. One of the ones I already backed was Ply90, a bracket system that allows you to build things from plywood. Unfortunately, they didn’t meet their goal, but they were able to go to a smaller level of production, release their product, and they were selling them at Maker Faire! So I was still able to support them and pick up some of the brackets that I’ll use for a project soon.
Since Maker Faire is the biggest show-and-tell on earth, it is a place where a bunch of very intelligent people go to display what they have been making. The most amazing characteristic feature of Maker Faire was the creativity and ingenuity from people who make these things in their free time. For example, who would have ever thought, “I’m going to make a giant fire breathing snail”? Well, someone at Maker Faire not only thought it, but they also made it, and it was incredible.
Currently, I am studying electrical engineering, but when I started my collegiate education, I set out to study art, and then music. With my background in art, going to Maker Faire opened my mind to the possibilities of combining art and engineering, or even music and engineering. It also showed me the amazing things that can be done with a lot of time and determination. Basically, I’ve been reminded of how important creativity is in engineering, and was reminded of how much more I have to learn.
One of the most surprising things I saw was the booth of kinetic art. The art pieces in this booth primarily combined aspects of mechanical engineering. The main piece that was still in progress was made of the whistles from cuckoo clocks. I also met someone from the California College of Arts who was involved in a program for engineering in arts, much like the kinetic art project. Another interesting facet of Maker Faire is that you get to see projects ranging from experimental maker projects to professional programs or companies, and often the transition happens at Maker Faire.
Maker Faire was an absolute blast! Everywhere we looked, there was a new and exciting project being showcased. From flaming robot statues to origami using tape, projects of all shapes and sizes were visible around the event center. There was no way to experience everything in one weekend. All I could do during my time away from the booth was to walk around absorbing all that I could. Over the weekend, I also learned a lot and met some great people. I walked away inspired and I would definitely want to go to Maker Faire again in the future.
As mentioned earlier, a number of us went down to Maker Faire in San Mateo, California, to represent our MakerSpace. To make a long story short, it was a lot of fun, but that’s not really a description of the atmosphere.
Imagine you are at a local (or larger) street fair or at the Expedition Hall of the San Diego Comic Con; there are booths in every direction with a wide variety of wares that are available for purchase. But at Maker Faire, all of these booths are not selling items, but excitedly showing them off. You could think of it like a giant “show-and-tell”, hence Maker Faire’s tag line of “The Greatest Show-and-Tell on Earth”. But that isn’t quite right either, since it’s not only the makers and sponsors of Maker Faire that are excited to be there, but all of the attendees as well. Everybody that I saw (presuming they weren’t dehydrated) was having a good time and happy to be there, which isn’t what I remember of show-and-tells from elementary school. When you also take into account that there are over 40 acres of Maker Faire festivities, making it about four times larger than the Expo hall at the San Diego Comic Con. It’s a boatload of fun to attend.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to learn a lot about everybody’s project that was present a Maker Faire, but there were a couple of projects that especially captured my attention. One was a line-following robot, much like Susan, with proximity sensors lining the front of the robot so that it could set to either follow or shy away from objects placed in front of it. It also included an accelerometer, much like the PmodACL, so that the little robot could be placed on top of a ball and maintain its balance while the ball was rolling around, which is pretty sweet.
I also couldn’t resist spending a lot of time in what was known as the “Dark Room”. As the name suggests, not a lot of projects could be shown in this hall…except for LED projects. One maker, Christopher Schardt, had a couple of LED displays interfaced with a camera so that whatever the camera captured was projected onto the LED display board. People could also choose on a tablet what sort of pattern should be overlaid on top of whatever image the camera was capturing. Since the board had over 23,000 LEDs, it was a perfect opportunity for people to take the largest selfie ever. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to wait in line to do so, but I was able to find a video from Mr. Schardt showing off the board.
If you ever get the opportunity to go to a Maker Faire, I would definitely recommend going; it’s a lot of fun and a cool experience to see and feel the excitement that everyone has.
Maker Faire was, in a word, amazing. Every person I met was open for a conversation. I found myself talking to more new people in two days than I have all month. They were all just so excited to be there and learn about what the Maker Faire had to offer. The amount of creativity that people put into their projects was astounding as well. I saw a man walk around in a wooden robot suit that had operational fingers, and another guy operating a giant mech robot that shot huge paintballs out of its cannons!
I also tried out a prototype for a self-balancing segway-type device with Sam Logan. It was a lot harder than it looks.
All in all, I had a fantastic time at the Maker Faire and was seriously inspired by a number of the cool projects that I saw there.
The maker community is comprised of people from different facets of life that all come together to share their skills with others. Being a tech-head, I brought a fedora covered in addressable LEDs with a couple patterns. Although I was one of the many technology related demos at Maker Faire, there were an impressive number of people showing off their feats of mechanical engineering, cosplaying and musical talent. It is stunning to see the great diversity of skills that are literally everywhere I looked. An example, I met a great guy cosplaying in a very intricate costume who wanted to take some pictures with my hat. I let him borrow wear my hat for a bit then we posed for some silly pictures that all turned out blurry. It is this kind of experience that shows how the mix of unique makers create the experience of the Bay area Maker Faire and it is marvelous.