Do you have a soft spot for hardcore hacks, fanatical fabrication, robots, steampunk and funnel cakes? Do we even need to ask? It’s exactly why we were at this year’s Bay Area 2012 Maker Faire featuring all of that and a mass of 3D printers, tons of guest speakers, Tesla coils set to music and yes, even a robot petting zoo.
Here’s how you can imagine Maker Faire. Think of it as the Woodstock of Personal Manufacturing – thousands of people dancing around to the sounds of 3D Printers and pyrotechnic sculpture.
The best trait of this year’s show was the focus on kids and providing the tools and inspiration for an incredible making experience. Spread throughout the grounds were ‘Safety Bracelet Stations’ where kids would take a brief safety test for a ‘license’ to Make. Once they received the bracelet, they were free to run wild with all the tools and supplies, to the point that I actually felt bad for the dads who had to carry everything for the rest of the day (there was A LOT of cool stuff.)
To see so many kids, so excited about personal manufacturing was one of the most enlightening experiences I’ve had in a while. The most important takeaway from the event was the future of Making and without a doubt the future Makers. If this event was any kind of indication, personal manufacturing is exploding…FAST! Everywhere in site were kids as young as 3 running from booth-to-booth diving into whatever project was at hand. At the Autodesk booth for example, about a dozen iPads were in the hands of young makers creating in 123D, or getting a full upper body scan in the Autodesk 3D scan booth.
For the adults, there was plenty of beer and Arduino resources to go around, as well as robotics seminars and ready-to-ship Makerbot stations. Local Motors, Siemens, Ponoko, Autodesk, and TechShop were a few of the bigger companies on site, with in-depth demonstrations of their products and services in exciting ways – A twenty-foot cardboard T-Rex at the Autodesk exhibit? Yes please!
The most informative aspect of the fair, however, was the guest speakers, and boy were there a lot! Companies, like Local Motors and Ponoko, and geek celebs, like Chris Anderson of Wired and Adam Savage of MythBusters, were on hand to give presentations about their projects and create inspiration for those in attendance.
For those who wanted to take even more creativity home, there was an entire exhibit hall aptly named the ‘MAKE Store’, where every MAKE kit from ‘Getting Started with Arduino’ to Marshmallow Shooter Building Kits were available. And for the die hard MAKE fans, there were quite the assortments of limited edition MAKE Magazines and iPhone cases.
Oh, the funnel cakes… They looked delicious, but the beer-infused sausages on a stick were choice number one. The next big Maker Faire is coming up September 29-30 in New York City and there are more Mini Maker Faires coming up!
Some highlights of the Bay Area Maker Faire:
ArcAttack!: These guys put on one heck of a show on Saturday night. By using two custom engineered hand built Tesla Coils, these guys performed with electrical arcs being thrown at them throughout the entire performance. A robotic drum set was also part of the group, with each stroke sending out a wave of bright LED patterns to add to the experience.
Tapigami: This was definitely one of the coolest things at Maker Faire this year. Over 200 miles of masking tape rolled up into an amazing installation of a city, complete with a station of tape to add to it if your heart desired. Although the crew behind Tapigami make and sell other things (intricately made flowers for example), the highlight was their largest installation to date.
Bazaar Bizarre: Over 90 indie crafters and designers from across the world filled this large tent space with very cool and useful crafts. Approximately half of the vendors were new and emerging talent in the indie craft community. Some of the items being sold included soap in revolver form, posters featuring epic books in their entirety with clever typographical illustrations, and my favorite–Paperbots.
Design and Engineering:
MakerBot Industries: It wouldn’t be a Maker Faire without tons of Makerbots right? Even having been on a tour through Stratsys’ factory, I have never seen so many 3D printers in my life. Makerbot did an excellent job of offering both exciting demonstrations for kids and adults, with multiple machines running constantly and the opportunity for kids to walk away with a new 3D printed toy and a chance to get up close and personal with robots in the Makerbot Robot Petting Zoo.
The Maker Faire App
While the fair alone was phenomenal, it should be noted that the app for the event is quite possibly one of the coolest apps I have ever used. With real-time social media updates, interactive maps, links to all the vendors’ websites, and even a notepad, it was an invaluable resource for the event. As a matter of fact, it was so useful that it is still on my homescreen as a resource for anything Maker-related including robotics information and contacts for Arduino toolkits. Go get it today!
Stay tuned for more detailed posts on Maker Faire Presenters!