Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Learning | Maker Faire, Part I

My family discovered the Bay Area Maker Faire a few years ago. I was so intrigued to hear my husband and teenage son rave about the 2011 event, that I decided to go with them in 2012. It was even bigger and better than they described.  

They had told me about the robots, and narrowly missing seeing Mythbusters star Adam Savage. (We listened to Adam Savage's presentation in 2012. He appeared in an Indiana Jones hat, and told a compelling story of a boy who liked to make his own props for imaginary play, then had a career in creating special effects for movies--which led to his phenomenal success on the Mythbusters television show.)

I expected to see robots everywhere, but I didn't expect to walk into a room full of R2-D2 replicas! Apparently, the cute little droid from Star Wars is one of the most popular subjects for amateur projects.

It seemed like everywhere I turned, there were people touting their 3-D printers, and talking about things to make with Arduino, a microcontroller that can be used for multiple purposes.  SSJCPL carries a title called Making Things Talk.  It's full of instructions for Arduino-based projects, like these:
  • make a mat that tells you when your cat is sitting on it
  • make a stuffed monkey talk
  • make a simple electronic ping pong game.  
This book is published by the company that organizes the Maker Faire; it's affiliated with a magazine called Make:.

If you like do-it-yourself electronics projects, you might consider checking out some books from the Evil Genius Series. The publisher of this series had a booth at Maker Faire last year; one of the authors was there to autograph books. 

There are so many different kinds of creations and inventions at Maker Faire, that I am having trouble condensing it all into one blog post. One section is devoted to recycled objects and clothing--making something new out of something old. There are accessories and jewelry. Another section is devoted to growing food. And then there are the glowing sharks that seem to soar through the darkness in one pavilion. Families with children really seemed to enjoy the hands-on activities.  I was able to extract DNA from a strawberry at one table! There was an area where kids could learn (hands-on) all about how locks, keys and tumblers work.

One large section of the Faire is devoted to Steampunk.  This is a cultural movement that embraces science fiction concepts like time travel; it is both futuristic and anachronistic. I think it's really fun, but then, I'm a devoted Doctor Who fan. 1000 Steampunk Creations is loaded with pictures of contraptions, art, decor and fashion in the genre.  

The Maker Faire will be at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds on May 18-19, 2013.  Our family purchased our tickets months ago. Maybe I'll see you there.

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