Maker Faire — cool, but not so much on the Re-newable

Psyche! I finally made it to Maker Faire and it was every bit as fun, interesting, and inspiring as I hoped. It was big and massive with welded giants of art and smashery. It was cool and witty with installations that made you laugh and wonder how the hell they did it. It was people-focused, having a large number of things that required no power or revived old skills (from vaudeville to composting to a lotta lotta Victoriana). Most of all, though, it was smart and, I hate to use the word, empowering. Everything had wit and intelligence and everything was comprehensible with a little help from the presenters, who were psyched to explain what they were doing.

My favorite, and I kept going back over and over again, were the soldering areas. Both the MAKERShed (MAKE Magazine’s store at the Faire) and Sparkfun (my favorite purveyor of fine electronic goods) had large tables set up with soldering stations where people could take the kits they had just bought and put them together with the help of staff.

These tables were never less than half full and it looked like there was always a mix of adults/kids, noobs/pros, male/female (though the females were predominantly adult). Sparkfun and Make both did a nice job of putting out projects that were doable, but not simplistic. Some kits let you solder two wires coming out of a battery pack to a thing that’s already running. While you learn to make a decent connection, and you’re not likely to fry any parts, you don’t really learn much and it’s not all that energizing. These kits, involved matching resistors, getting polarities right, and required some precision. I love the intensity on everyone’s faces.

The only disappointment is that there wasn’t much around renewable, social, or eco-preneurial. The DIY ethos was strong — make rather than buy, fix rather than replace — but it seemed like they could have dialed some of that up more, without being over-earnest or taking the fun out of it. Example: they had several playground toys designed by MAKErs. They were fun, looked cool, and had some interesting story to them — one was bicycle powered, one worked like a swing and was powered by leaning and leaning back. It would have been cool, given the theme, to see some of the playground toys that generate electricity or pump water.

Still, it was awesomely fun. I bought my second arduino kit and I’m converting space into a little work area and unpacking my soldering iron and box of switches, pots, leds, resistors, caps, transistors, etc and getting back to work. My first goal is to work with the Peggy:

It’s a board that allows you to address a 25*25 grid of multi-color LEDs. Loads of possibilities, especially if they’re connected and working in synch.

More pictures and vids and more to be added to a set on my flickrstream.

One Comment

  • […] Now when I say useful, I mean useful to me. Following my trip to MAKER Faire, I have gotten all middle-aged “Mister-Make-It-Fix-It-Tinker-I-Have-That-Tool-Guy” and am trying to fix anything that comes my way, including most recently, replacing a fastener on a new briefcase. During that repair effort, I got to use my Dremel(!) on a threaded rod(!!). I went to Home Depot with the fastener I needed to replace and the guy took me to a wall of drawers labelled threaded rod. I had no idea such things existed — a rod with threads! Not a screw, cuz that would have a cap. This was just a rod. The picture above is a nifty guide for a reasonably intelligent, barely handy person, to solve problems, find products and get ideas. […]

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