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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Recap of Maker Faire 2012: This is why I go!

Ah Maker Faire. I love attending this once a year event held at the San Mateo fairgrounds each May. Keep in mind what you see here is the tip of the iceberg. I couldn't possibly feature every exhibit I saw. Well I guess I could if I featured nothing but Maker Faire posts for a week. LOL

Maker Faire was created by Make Magazine to "celebrate arts, crafts, engineering, science projects and the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset". It's a place to see inventions, artistic creations, flaming sculptures, robots, electronics, engineering projects, science, crafts, music, eco-friendly, recyclable and sustainable ideas, fashion and more jaw dropping things than I usually see the entire rest of the year.


This year I opted to park in one of the free parking lots with free shuttle service instead of paying $20 to park in the fairgrounds' lot. (You can also take Caltrain and a free shuttle.)


All in all I have to say the time I lost by doing this wasn't worth the money I saved. It took almost an hour to be picked up and driven the mile to the fairgrounds at which point we were dropped off not at an entrance, but at a corner of the main parking lot meaning we then had to walk a short distance to get to the entrance. I could have arrived faster by walking the entire way but by the time I realized it I didn't want to leave because a shuttle could come at any moment. Once it arrived it was a traffic jam trying to get from the lot to the drop-off point. With approximately 100,000 attendees over two days there simply isn't enough room for all of the cars or the traffic they create at peak arrival times.

So while the free parking is a great and generous idea in concept, I have to say if you arrive early enough to be able to get a paid spot it's worth the money if you can fit it in your budget.


This year I'm kicking off my recap with my three most favorite exhibits. I'm doing this because my favorite exhibit was one of the last ones I saw and I can't wait until the end of the post to share it with you.

It had been a very long day. It was 6:00 PM and my feet were tired when I happened to notice this short hallway. It looked so non-descript I almost skipped it. I actually walked past it. But, wanting to give full event coverage, I went back and made my way through the doors.


As I walked down the hallway I was completely unprepared for what I was about to see. The room opened to this! My jaw literally dropped. "OH NO WAY!" I exclaimed aloud to no one in particular. At first I was just wowed by the colors and scope of the 25' x 30' installation.


Upon closer inspection I realized it was a cityscape with tiny buildings, a river, green grass and blooming flowers.


And it was all made out of tape! Mostly masking tape. Yes way! (That's for those of you who just thought or said "No way!" LOL. Artist Danny Scheible has been creating art from tape and making the individual elements you see in this installation for seven years!

The flowers, water and grass are made of different kinds of colored tapes. Each piece, whether masking or colored tape, is finished with an acrylic coating to protect and give it longevity.


Can you even imagine making all of these little forms or transporting and setting them up for that matter?

The Tapigami Gardenscape

As I viewed the the flowers I couldn't help but think they looked Japanese, like the colorful print you'd see on a child's kimono or the handmade, silk, and fabric flowers used to make kanzashi, the hair ornaments worn by geisha. I love kanzashi flowers so much I used them to embellish the back of my wedding gown. Danny's flowers were colorful and lovely and I could have sat there and stared at them for hours.

Artist Danny Scheible taught Maker Faire attendee how to create with tape.

Also on display and available to purchase were these lampshades. They cast a warm glow as the light passes through the tape flowers. Lovely!

I suspect where many people see a maddening or mind numbing amount of effort and detail, for me, seeing Danny's work made me feel peaceful and calm. Having made over 14,000 origami cranes (most of them miniature) I kind of understand the commitment it takes to create small objects over and over again. In my experiences precision becomes more important the smaller an object is so I immediately recognized and appreciated the fine finishing details in the work that stood before me.

The magnitude of Danny's installation was awe inspiring and was made even more so by the thousands of hangers covered in recycled fabric (repurposed from his "Leviathan" installation) placed behind the city as a colorful backdrop.


I was thrilled and feel very fortunate to have made that turn down the hallway to meet Danny. I'm really looking forward to seeing more of his work in the future. Be sure to check out his website www.Tapigami.com and like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/Tapigami.

500,000 volts of electricity will make your hair stand on end!

I also got a real kick watching the Jack SparX (and friends) booth at work. Using Van de Graff (electrostatic) generators Nannette only needed to rest his hand on the metal globe to make his long hair stand on end. Try to touch his outstretched fist, and you could see a small, glowing arc of white electricity that would shock the recipient. I watched as person after person stepped over to receive a small shock that they could feel, and the rest of us could hear and see. The crackle of the *zap* as they were shocked was quite entertaining.

SAM Academy teaches kids through hands on experiences.

As soon as I understood the mission of the SAM Academy on Wheels bringing Music, Art and Science to school kids in California's Central Valley I had to feature it here on The Flirty Blog. In this day and age of budget cuts many schools are now going without art and music programs so this struck me as a vital resource to help keep them in a school's curriculum even if only on a part-time basis.

Their website describes the SAM Academy this way:

"SAM Academy is a fully self-contained mobile classroom that can drive into any community in the Central Valley of California. Our educational program is staffed with highly qualified educators and paraprofessionals that are caring, passionate and have extensive experience in classrooms and with informal Science, Art and Music institutions. SAM Academy makes learning fun and exciting, very different from the traditional classroom setting. Our classroom includes: Internet; Large Screen TV-Visual inside and outside of the vehicle; Sound System, and much, much more."

It isn't hard to imagine how excited the kids must be when they see the SAM Academy on Wheels pull into their schoolyard. After chatting with Executive Director Jerry Valadez and Science Director Manual Hernandez I came away wishing every community that needs one could have a SAM Academy.

Thank you to San Francisco's Exploratorium and Maker Faire for making it possible for SAM Academy to be an exhibitor at Maker Faire 2012.


In the West Lot there was a 69 foot fire breathing dragon putting on quite a show! Gon KiRin was made by co-creators Ryan Doyle and Teddy Lo.

Just behind it was a flaming, spiral, volcano shaped sculpture called the Cochlea Fountain created by The Flaming Lotus Girls.

Another favorite piece was The Museum of Unnatural Selection a large collaborative piece made by 15 local artists. In particular I liked the little skeleton-dinosauer-thing with the flaming mouth.


This year when I went to the Bazaar Bizaare almost immediately I found something I'd been looking for for over a year! I'd wanted a black belt but didn't want to buy leather. Faux leather belts fall apart after a few months and the one nylon belt I bought a few months ago always felt too flimsy.

Thin, thick, heavy and light tread, bike tire belts for men and women.

But at Maker Faire I found belts by the Rebicylist. They're super cool and made out of bike tires. Some are even used tires that have been recycled from garbage into fashion. They have the weight of leather and designer Julien Jaborska told me the one he had on he's been wearing for six years. And it still looked new! I'll show you mine after I get a picture of me wearing it. I have several bike riding friends who I think will LOVE the Rebicylist belts.


In the Homegrown Village I learned about bee keeping chatting with Gabrielle at the G&M Honey booth. Here are the key points of what I learned if want to keep bees in my backyard:
  1. You have to collect the honey. Setting up a bee hive isn't like hanging a birdhouse. The bees need you to take care of them.
  2. To purchase a hive kit, a colony of bees, a bee suit and necessary equipment you can expect to invest around $300 as an entry level investment.
  3. On average you need to be willing to commit approximately 40 hours a year to care for your bees.
  4. Bee's and hives can become infested with Varroa Mites. They will sicken the bees and can collapse a colony if left untreated. Eradication of the mites can be done through chemical and non-chemical means but if your bees have them they do need to be addressed or you can lose your colony.

Thank you to Mike Harrel at G&M Honey for allowing me to use this photo he took of his bees. It's such a beautiful image, the bees look so healthy and busy, I just had to share it with you!


At the University of California Cooperative Extension booth I learned cool ideas of how to create garden friendly designs that give beneficial bugs places to live and nest in your yard. It's called integrated pest management when you don't have to use pesticides to control pests.


In the Make Pavilion there was plenty to see in the Expo Hall. 

From pros to dads and daughters anyone can be a maker.

Microsoft Robotics was there with winners from their Robotics @Home competition. While the Grand Prize Winner invented a really incredible Smart Tripod that gives non-professional videographers, professional capabilities, it was the Team Elderly Assistant that caught my eye. Designed to allow seniors to live independently it also allows them to be carefully monitored so that if they are in distress whoever is listed as the contact person will receive notification and the ability to almost immediately interact with their loved one through a Skype video connection.

Autodesk® 123D was there with a large cardboard horse. The Autodesk® family of free, 3D, design apps work with each other to help you bring your ideas to fruition. They include 123D, 123D Catch, 123D Sculpt, and 123D Make.

I also saw the Zevrino, an automated cat feeder designed and constructed by Ella, a fourth grader, and Roger, her dad, who I met just a few weeks ago. There's a great article on the Makezine Blog that details the process Ella and Roger used to make the Zevrino.

And there were people in funny hats! Skallops makes small wood, construction toys that allow you to connect and build playing cards into a multitude of creations. From structures to spheres, spirals and hats the possibilities seem endless.


The Tinkering Studio, part of San Francisco's Exploratorium at the Palace of Fine Arts, was packed with kids working on "curiosity driven" ideas. It focuses on using art, science, and technology in experiments that help visitors explore ideas in a setting they liken to "an artist's studio, science lab and a neighborhood garage."


There were also retail products that makers had made. A few that caught my eye were the Combat Garden Gnomes holding tiny M16 and AK-47 assault rifles, cute crocheted octopus and kittens by Dorklandia and beautiful blown glass fish by Nightside Studios.


Instructables, a site for anyone looking for great tutorials of how to make things, was there offering educators free pro memberships Their site says:

"Instructables supports teachers by providing free pro memberships and awesome project ideas for your classroom. We provide plug and play hands-on projects to let you supplement your curriculum with the best projects that other teachers have to offer. You don’t need to be a traditional classroom teacher to participate, either. If you are an after-school teacher, a scouting leader, a librarian who runs programs, or anyone whose job is explicitly educational, you are invited to participate." Click Here to Read More. . .

The trains were running.

And the Bay Area LEGO User Group's Lego city was up and running. In the past it was really hard to photograph because you have to get close up to avoid the protective plexi-glass walls, but it's so wide I could never fit the whole thing in a single picture frame. I knew my Photojojo Fisheye Lens would do the trick!


TechShop was there with all of the equipment I featured in last year's Maker Faire recap. This year I watched Brent Thorne working on one of his Fractal Clockwork pieces. They're really beautiful and he has a blog you can visit full of images of his work and cat.


TechShop is running Maker Faire specials through June 17, 2012. It's a great time to get a discounted membership with free classes all rolled into one. CLICK HERE for the details.

Disclosure: Hubby and I are both members and investors in TechShop San Jose


I didn't notice as many robots this year. I'm not sure if I missed them or if there just weren't as many as the previous year. Above are: The Hexapod by ArcBotics and two unnamed robots I saw just wandering around. The one on the right played music which explains the little boy who couldn't stop dancing with it. So cute!

The Beignets looked delicious but I don't like donuts :(

While technology and creativity abound everywhere the one thing I wish Maker Faire would make more innovative is the food. If you love traditional fair food you'll probably be happy with the offerings.

But for me, this was my last year trying to eat the food at Maker Faire. As a health conscious vegetarian the past two years have been so disappointing I'm giving up. Next year I'm eating a big breakfast and bringing my own lunch and snacks to enjoy while I'm there.


Out on the Midway there were three really great interactive sculptures.

The Zome Builder by Rob Bell was literally covered with kids the entire day.

Across from it was Face Forward a 2011 Burning Man project by Christian Ristow. It's a 12 foot high, animatronic face whose individual features are controlled by joysticks. Anyone could take a turn at one of the 12 joysticks and help bring the face to life. Watch a video here.

And you couldn't miss the BrollyFlock sculpture by the Flux Foundation. The installation was 32 feet high and interactive using an Arduino (an open-source electronics prototyping platform) control system. As I watched, three kids were controlling the fire poofers that sent flames shooting out of the metal umbrellas.

Earth Amplified rocked the crowd at Rock The Bike.

I've covered it in past years but I had to feature the Rock the Bike pedal powered stage again because it's just so cool. All of the electricity to power the instruments and equipment for the performers on stage is generated by audience members hopping astride several bicycles and pedaling to power. The tandem over and under tree bike with speakers was definitely an eye catcher!

To top it off for the first time I really took notice of the performance onstage. It was rap. I don't particularly care for rap, but this band drew me in. It turns out Earth Amplified "plays hard, conscious Roots-Rap-Reggae to uplift the people and the planet." Ah! So I do like rap. It just has to be uplifting, hard, conscious Roots-Rap-Reggae rap!


The Ragtime Castaway Band was another one of those perfect Photojojo Fisheye Lens shots. There was simply no better way to capture the overhead suspension of the bands multitude of instruments than with a 180º fisheye! The crowds loved this exhibit. You could stand around or beneath the instruments to enjoy the music being played on real instruments, robotically.


And there were all kinds of vehicles parked and roaming around the fairgrounds.

Top Left and Right: There was of course the ever popular Kinetic Pastry Science Mobile Muffins.

Middle Left: The bright green and multi-colored passenger trike I unfortunately don't know who made or its name. If you do please let me know and I'll update this post.

Middle Right: There was no shortage of people wanting to ride in the Battlestar Galactica Viper flight simulator that would spin in all directions. It was designed and constructed by teenagers in the Young Maker program! Awesomely creative guys!

Bottom Left: The Stanford Solar Car Project is currently entered in the BOCA BEARINGS 2012 INNOVATION COMPETITION. If they win they'll use the $10,000 prize to build their next car. You can help them win by voting at THIS LINK. Use an email address or Facebook to place your vote. No registration is needed but email verification is required if you vote by email.

Bottom Right: The Rallier Roadster, sponsored by Autodesk and made at TechShop is a speedy looking, bright silver car featuring design elements from the rally and race cars of the 1930's.

I loved the long, curved, graceful neck of the Dragon Wagon 

The FLUXcycle Dragon Wagon is a pedal-powered fire sculpture built by the FLUX Foundation artists. After visiting their website I realized this Oakland based design team is the same one who created the Fishbug I loved in 2010 and the BollyFrock sculpture I'd seen earlier in the day.


A three wheeled canoe tricycle and home built submarine were the coolest watercraft I saw. The Undersea Voyager Project was founded by Scott Cassell who is also the project's CEO. He's an explorer-film maker with impressive credentials. The submarine was designed to study the ocean's currents, our impact on them, and to share what it learns with a global audience.


The South Lot had a clock titled Time to Change made out of 12 complete bicycles. Almost al of the parts were recycled or repurposed. If you're a bike lover how cool would it be to have a huge bike clock in your house or backyard?


There was also a 12 bike, Cyclecide, bicycle carousel for grownups and a smaller one nearby for kids.


Back at the Fiesta Hall, which is kept in perpetual darkness, I caught part of the ArcAttack singing tesla coils light and music show. I've featured it every year in my posts because it's a real show stopper. Their website describes the experience as:

"Two custom engineered hand built Tesla Coils throw out electrical arcs up to twelve feet long, each one acting as an instrument with a sound reminiscent of the early days of the synthesizer. A robotic drum set accompanies the spectacle, it's high power LED's flashing bright colors with the stroke of each mechanically actuated stick, while ArcAttack's six members churn out rhythmic instrumental melodies."


Another crowd favorite was the Ball and Chain Project by Eugene Korsunskiy. People couldn't not walk through it. It was impossible to get a picture of the installation void of humans. The design was simple, elegant and irresistible to people of all ages.


There were lit vehicles like The Serpent Twins, with heads forged of metal and bodies comprised of glowing plastic drums lit internally with LED lights.

The flapping, three dimensional butterfly and El-wire lit clothing by Todd Williams were also very popular. Todd is also the maker of the neon Land Sharks I featured in last year's post.


Have you ever wished you could have your own planetarium? Engineer Ken Miller says you can build one as a hobby! He has built them for both a school district and a children's museum.

Simran Gleason's Fractal Furniture

The day has been long and we were ready to head out. As we walked towards the exit gate I noticed one last thing that caught my eye. It was something i'd been thinking about: Making furniture out of copper pipe.

Why? Because I'd like to make raised garden planters with legs made of copper to keep snails and slugs from accessing the plants they would love to eat. Copper gives them an electric shock when they come into contact with it so it can be used as an effective, non-chemical or lethal barrier. You see, I love snails and slugs and refuse to kill them. For years, wherever I've lived I've found plants that were able to withstand their presence. But if I want to venture into vegetable gardening or growing herbs like basil this summer I'll have to find a way to keep the two apart. I'd been thinking of making simple pipe legs for my planters but the Fractal Furniture is an attractive aesthetic I hadn't thought of. Plus I'll need to learn how to solder.

When the copper becomes covered with dust it will need to be cleaned with vinegar, or I'm guessing lemon juice would work, to prevent the dust from becoming a protective layer that the snails and slugs can then cross.


I'd met up with my friends Loretta and Keith so at the end of the day we waited for the shuttle bus to come pick us up.

This year's Maker Faire ended less than a week ago and I'm already looking forward to 2013! If you've never gone you should go. One of the coolest things about attending Maker Faire is the unbridled creativity that is brought to life. The "can do" attitude is pervasive and for some attendees it's enough to make them want to make or build something of their own. So whether you're there to celebrate the innovation and creativity of others, or to become a maker yourself, if you're like me you'll walk away feeling fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend such a unique and uplifting event.




For the first time I was an official media attendee as The Flirty Blog! I received my own media badge and was able to use the press lounge. The lounge has comfy chairs and couches where we could rest up and take breaks (needed when spending a ten hour day documenting as much as I possibly could). There were also laptops running in case we wanted to go online to post things. I'd been able to use the lounge in previous years as a correspondent for Fired Up Productions but it was fun being there for my own blog this year :)

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