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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Maker Faire 2010 • San Mateo, CA

Have you heard of the Maker Faire? It's an annual event created by Make Magazine that celebrates arts, crafts, engineering, science projects and the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset. I read in a news story that estimates were that 95,000 people would attend the two day event. WOW!

I was invited by my friends Keith and Loretta who have and work on public access tv shows (Keith Explains and What's Up Wit' That?) at KMVT in Mountain View, California to attend as "media" to take pictures and create a blog post, mainly so that Loretta wouldn't have to. LOL

There were a lot of sculptures and even vehicles that were lit by fire. There were so many I couldn't possibly show you all of them in this blog post. Apparently a lot of the items displayed here are also shown at Burning Man which explains the pyrotechnics. There were also a lot of "kinetic" sculptures which means the sculptures include movement.

It was truly a challenge narrowing down the 374 pictures I took that day to present the best of them here for you in this post to try to show the uninitiated what the Maker Faire is all about.

I expected the Maker Faire to be predominately super high tech and geeky exhibits. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there really is great diversity at the fair that included cool art items like these one-of-a-kind, lit, water filled, kinetic, UFO abduction sculptures by Santa Cruz artist Jason Dietz.

There were all kinds of whimsical vehicles and sculptures... So many I couldn't possibly include them all. The snail car threw flames from it's eyeballs!

There were many robots, some familiar like these R2-D2 robots built by Astromech.net.

I was really looking forward to seeing Greg Solberg's electric, motorized, cupcake and muffin cars. And I wasn't disappointed. I saw them almost as soon as I arrived. They were on display near the front gate and I saw them zipping around the fairgrounds all day long.

And boy was I surprised when I saw a wedding cake at the Maker Faire! Turns out the crafting company Cricut has introduced a cake decorating machine that basically die cuts designs out of fondant or sheets of frosting. You then apply the decorative elements to your cakes or cupcakes. So cute right? The cutter isn't inexpensive listed at $399 on the Cricut website. The pattern cartridges run an additional $69.99 and there are other accessories you would need including cutting blades and mats

There were just so many things to see from a traveling Pinball collection in a trailer to remote controlled "Creepy Crawly Robots" and telepresence robots by Anybot. Basically the Anybot is a robot that allows you to have a clone of yourself in a remote location. It allows you to see and be seen, talk, listen, and basically allows you to collaborate with others, say in a remote office, from the comfort of your own office or home. Cool right?

Also way cool were the 3D printers. This one was built by Eddy Vromen (of MakerBot.com) and prints out 3D models made of plastic. Truly amazing! The interior of the model is hollow so it's very lightweight. The model is comprised of very fine strands of plastic with a honeycomb effect in the interior. Some 3D printers even create models out of various mediums like cheese, ice, chocolate, stainless steel, clay, and cement.

Some of the items I saw that day made me ask "Why?" By the end of the day I realized the only answer was "because someone could." The Egg Bot was one of those items.

Queston: Why would you want to decorate an eggshell with intricate designs created by a robot?

Answer: Because you can and it makes them pretty!

The Egg Bot is an art robot that also decorates spherical and egg shaped objects including ping pong and gold balls and light bulbs.

There were many interactive stations that allowed both kids and grown ups to go hands on to learn techniques and create take home items.

For Lego lovers the Bay Area Lego Train Club and I think some other Lego organizations were there. Kids and adults had a great time checking out the moving Lego Train that circled a city made of Lego buildings. The coliseum and apple lego computer were also really cool.

There were also cool companies like Fabmo, a company that repurposes fabric and is currently removing 25 tons of fabric from waste streams where they would otherwise be discarded making them available to students, teachers, artisans and craft people.

RentalIC is a company where you can rent items for a day or week for a nominal fee. It's cheaper than purchasing an item that you may only need to use once. You can also make money by renting your items to others. Their philosophy is "Rent | Share | Be Green."

There were cute stuffed animals from the Etsy Plush Street Team.

Going to a "fair" I expected the usual deep fried fair food for lunch. Man was I wrong! I was thrilled to spot Tru Gourment Organic Dim Sum amongst the food booths. For lunch I had two kinds of dumplings: Kale and Pea Shoots. They were so fresh and yummy tasting that I want to go have them again. Only bummer is that they are only offered in San Rafael, Tam Valley, Fairfax, Mill Valley and Sausalito. Quite a drive from San Jose but I may have to make it every now and then. Their menu is extensive offering all kinds of dumplings and steamed buns as well as other items.

From the outside where all of the giant sculptures were located (like this T-rex about to eat a woman) I stepped inside the Homegrown Village tent. Though it wasn't very techy or large it was my favorite part of the entire faire. I purchased some locally produced honey and learned about LocalDirt.com a place to buy, sell and feature local food online.

And this was my favorite vendor in the entire Maker Faire "Just Fine Design Build." Their tagline is "Small Scale Projects from Conception to Completion." Their website portfolio showcases some of the various projects they have created.

They designed and built this backyard chicken coop for those who want to own and care for their own laying hens. Definitely a great way to insure that the eggs you eat are humane raised. Turns out most cities allow you to keep 3-4 chickens in your backyard provided they are all female. No roosters allowed.

A major consideration in backyard poultry keeping is the safety of your chickens. If you live where there are raccoons, you have to lock the chickens into a sturdy hutch at night that is screened not with chicken wire but with a stronger galvanized wire mesh as the raccoons will tear or reach through chicken wire to kill and eat your chickens.

Another point to consider. Hens will lay eggs for up to 3-4 years. But they can live for 10 years. Once they are past laying age do you keep them as pets or *cringe* slaughter and cook them? I could never bring myself to cook chickens that I have cared for for 3-4 years. They would most certainly be pets to me by then. But I don't really want chickens as pets, I would want them for the eggs they lay. For now I will refrain from keeping them because this dilemma is beyond me to solve as I don't know that I will be living on a farm 4 years from now so that I can get 3 more younger egg producing chickens to replace my retiring non-laying hens.

And Far West Fungi was there with their fresh, organically grown, specialty mushroom "minifarms" that I've seen at their retail shop in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Personally I don't care for mushrooms to eat because I just don't like their flavor. But I am fascinated by the mushroom minifarms and always make time to go gaze upon them when I visit the Ferry Building.

And this was a new find for me: CMB Sweets. Made from organic, in season, California fruits, sugar and lemon. I was so tempted by the label for the "Very Vanilla Pear Butter." Doesn't that sound delicious? I haven't tried it yet because I haven't had any bread or crackers in the house. I should go buy some today. I also grabbed their last jar of Olallieberry Jam. I thought their branding was adorable and love to support small businesses like CMB Sweets any day over larger mass produced products full of preservatives at mainstream grocery stores.

What began as a day project to use up some leftover strawberries has turned into a thriving business for founder Carolina Braunschweig. You can read the story about how she created her sweet and successful company by CLICKING HERE.

If you don't live in the Bay Area you can order online or sign up for her Jam of the Month Club.

Odd yes. Kind of creepy cool? Definitely! I really liked this Fishbug "Chimera Sententia" sculpture both in its miniature and walk-in sizes. To be honest, I didn't get the symbolism so I had to go online when I got home to visit the Fishbug website to understand what it was all about...

"Chimera is a symbol of hope for our next step in the evolutionary time line. By creating a sculpture that includes participatory elements within an enticing form we create a space for participants to be, think, play and imagine. "

This only made me like it even more. Now I wish I had bought a Fishbug T-shirt while I was there.

One of the big highlights of the Maker Faire was the tesla coil demonstration by ArcAttack. Seen here the mushroom shaped DRSSTC's (Dual-Resonant Solid State Tesla Coils) acted as separate synchronized instruments, each shooting out lightening bolts in time to the music.

ArcAttack came all the way from Texas to create their 'electrifying' audio visual performance.

The huge coils produce an electrical arc similar to a continuous lightning bolt that would flit toward centerstage striking the metal cage that held random audience members who had volunteered to be inside during each performance.

I wish I had been able to get a better picture of the "Mondo Spider," a 1700 lb, walking, rideable electric vehicle. I was torn. I didn't want to use a flash because I wanted you to see the glowing lit legs...

This daylight image is from the MondoSpider website and shows the form of this bizarre walking, ridable robot.

This sculpture was just WOW! It was huge, elegant and on fire. The piece titled "Soma" is described on The Flaming Lotus Girl's website this way:

"Soma captures the essence of a neuron, and the sensory experience of flowing electricity and energy through a microscopic molecular experience on a monumental scale."

And the group itself is described this way:

"The Flaming Lotus Girls are a female-driven, volunteer-based group of artists who have been making kinetic, mechanical fire art since 2000. Our work stands at the intersection of sculpture, kinetics, robotics, pyrotechnics, and electronic technology. We create interactive large-scale fire installations that engage viewers and invite them to become part of the art. Flaming Lotus Girls’ work is a collaborative process that empowers participants to learn new skills and become experienced, talented and active artists." Click Here to read more...

I don't know who designed this large, burning sculpture but it was difficult to get a photo of it without people posing with it for snapshots of their own. I waited a bit and seized the moment when I was able to take this unobstructed photo.

The sign on his chest directed you to go to Facebook.com/GiantCardboardRobots. This was a real crowd pleaser with lots of people wanting to jump in and have their picture taken with the giant cardboard man. When I first spotted him he was trying to convince a little boy to shake his big hand. LOL. As it turns out the arms can be purchased on Etsy.

There were lots of decorated cars and trucks on display. All were whimsical and laden with sculptural decor.

There was a DIY building where you could purchase books and kits of things to make yourself at home. Having spent the day surrounded by so much unbridled creativity it made me want to "make" something. But what kind of kit to purchase? Many like this one, the Arduino Kit Maker, were simply over my head. Even if I made it I had no idea what to do with it. Others required soldering and I don't have a solder gun. Finally I spotted a project that I had been wanting to take on...

Yup, felted wool, miniature animals. I am going to make this little penguin, someday. The kit comes with everything you need except some foam that is the base that you build the wool around. Why that isn't included in the kit is kind of beyond me. For procrastinators or people too busy to rush out to find some foam that could be the missing crucial kernel that spells doom. But I am inspired and will find some foam and will report back here on the blog no matter how pitifully my first felted wool project turns out. It will be fun and I will be hoping to master the technique so that I may someday make a felted wool sculpture of my dog Kitai.

To summarize there is something for everyone at the Maker Faire. I think it is an especially valuable experience for kids who are still open to new ideas and whose imaginations haven't been squashed by well meaning adults. The faire is full of possibilities that have evolved beyond an idea and have been brought to life.

Read more about the Maker Faire in the San Jose Mercury News by CLICKING HERE

1 comment:

  1. Now that was a fun event! Very unusual but very cool!


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