Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Learning | Maker Faire 2013, Part 2

The 2013 Bay Area Maker Faire is now history. Here are a few impressions I took away from the Saturday I went there:

Hands-on opportunities:

This is one of the best things about Maker Faire. There are so many things to do, for people of all ages.

I saw some LED lamps that were encased in a slimy, squishy gel material. Of course, I had to squeeze and poke them, to see what they were like.

The developer of the Open Clock Project let me touch the screen of the clock to set the alarm and view different features.

One booth gave instructions for modifying your Roomba, so that you can control it when you are away from home, either on the internet, or via smartphone.  They touted a Roomba Chat Room.  Now, I know this was intended as a forum for Roomba hackers to share ideas and troubleshoot, but my son and I couldn't help smiling, thinking about Roombas all over the world communicating. It's not hard to imagine them making posts like, "Look at this mess. How am I expected to clean up juice?" or "The cat has been sitting on me ALL DAY. #justpulloutmybatteriesnow"


Sharing resources!

3D printers were everywhere, just like last year, but visitors did not hang around to watch the printing process nearly so much.  They were more interested in the materials offered for printing, and services from companies that will take your file and print 3D objects for a fee.

Likewise, more hackerspaces are offering memberships.  One company is trying to coordinate sharing of tools between hackerspaces.  Hackerspaces, also known as hack labs or maker spaces, are places where people gather to share tools, space and other resources, to make things. 

Kickstarter was a buzzword this year.  Entrepreneurs hope their displays at the Maker Faire will generate enough interest for people to invest in their companies.  Business cards, more often than not, have a ID on them, as well as a url for the company's own website.

I noticed more companies using smartphones and tablets to operate their automated creations. Although most gadgets seemed to incorporate Arduino microcontrollers, the new Raspberry Pi single-board computer from the United Kingdom made a strong debut.

Cool things to watch:

A show with Mentos and hundreds of Coke Zero bottles, timed to go off with music, mimicking the Bellagio Fountain in Las Vegas. These guys explain the scientific principles  and chemical reactions that produce great amounts of fizz, before they dazzle you with the actual performance.

A life-size mousetrap game, and many other Rube Goldberg-like machines.

People dancing on stilts--with people in robot costumes.

A concert powered by people riding stationary bicycles. There seemed to be no end to the number of people who wanted to sit down and pedal to keep it going.

Flaming sculptures.

The tesla coil concert. This was in a darkened hall; the music was mostly heavy metal. I particularly enjoyed the rendition of the Doctor Who theme.

A car covered with dancing plastic fish and lobsters, programmed to move in time to music. 

All Bay Area Maker Faire 2013 pictures courtesy of Windell Oskay's Photostream on Flickr. Some rights reserved.


Whenever I visit the Maker Faire, I think of people like Simon Rodia, who spent the better part of his life building the structures that came to be known as the Watts Towers.  You can read about him in two colorful non-fiction children's books:

Patricia Zelver's The Wonderful Towers of Watts. This particular book was a bedtime favorite for one of my sons.

I also think of the late author E. L. Konigsberg's  novel, The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place. This is a coming-of-age story about Margaret Rose Kane. She returns from a dismal time at summer camp to find that the amazing, Watts Tower-like structures in her uncles' backyard are in danger of being torn down. 


  1. Maker Faire 2013 was extraordinary! Thanks for the excellent summary.

  2. Thank you, Masood. If you were there, you know that I only mentioned a small fraction of the wonders to behold there.