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Recap: Maker Faire

Ever since I saw my first link to Make’s website from Slashdot, I have been a faithful reader and subscriber to the magazine. The DIY ethic has always been in my nature and something I have always supported. When I was in California for work in 2006, I returned home a week before the first Maker Faire, but since they were finally bringing it to New York, I had to be part of it.

As soon as the World Maker Faire was announced, I jumped on the chance to apply for a table for the New York Brick Artists to display. The day I received confirmation that we were accepted was one that I believed to be a big one for us. We display at about 10 events a year, varying from First Robotics competitions to libraries to Lego conventions, but the size and intersection of science and creation was the perfect match for us, and the large and diverse crowd would be great exposure for us.

Day One

Friday at the World Maker Faire was for setup and not open to the public. I arrived midday to survey our area and see how the Maker Faire display would vary from our standard displays. The most unusual difference was the location of our table. Normally, we are given a table indoors with a table cloth to set up on. Instead, we were placed in the Young Makers tent outside on a plain wooden table. Nothing insurmountable, but when the first gust of wind blew through the tent, I knew we couldn’t stand our displays up like be normally did or we would be repairing our two dimensional pieces all weekend.

The rest of the afternoon was spent checking out what other makers were around and setting up. It was interesting to see a preview of what was to come over the weekend until it was time for the cast mixer. The varying makers and crafters met up in the back of the science center to have a few drinks and mingle until the party was set to begin. It was an interesting mix of creators from famed scientists to knitters. When it was time, we were lead by an alt-marching band to the location of the Life Size Mousetrap. Like the board game, the enlarged rube goldberg device goes through a series of tasks until a giant safe crashes down. For our display, a cardboard robot was crushed in its successful test run. During the following runs for the public, a taxi cab was to be crushed for their amusement.

Once the robot was thinner than the cardboard had ever been, we moved to the paella booth for dinner and the Treats Truck for dessert. Our appetites sated, the afterparty was ready to begin. As we moved to the great hall, Arc Attack performed a show for us. I had seen their tesla coil music online, but a recording didn’t show the intensity of it in person, feeling the static electricity building around us as electricity sparked on stage was something that needed to be experienced live.

With their performance ended, the Red Bull sponsored bars served unique drinks to attendees of age. The two drinks I tried were a Red Bull and absinthe drink that was sprayed by a machine that shot flames over the glass once poured and a rum, lime juice and Red Bull concoction that smoked due to the insertion of dry ice. I imbibed my beverages, caught the second performance of the evening by Arc Attack, checked out the science museum for a little bit and headed home to prepare for the second day.

Day Two

With the purchase of a disposable red tablecloth on my way home the previous night, I was able to prepare our table properly and display our banner on the front of the table. I was joined by professional Lego animator David Pagano to man the table with me for the New York Brick Artists.

As 10am hit, the public joined the makers and we had a steady stream of people until 7pm. The two of us manned the booth for most of the day, only taking little breaks to stretch our legs, get food, or other little things. After a while, we amused ourselves by taking some spare Lego pieces that were lying on the table and seeing what abstract creations we could make.

The other new experience with our outdoor venue occurred in the afternoon when the temperatures were unexpectedly high for a fall day. One of the pieces I had on display was the Chaotic Computer. A piece I had been displaying for five years and was the piece that caused me to work for Lego back in the day. Since all of our previous displays were in temperature controlled environments, heat had never been an issue for the computer, but 90 degree weather was too much for it. It severely overheated to the point where it would not work the rest of the weekend, even in the much cooler Sunday morning weather.

Day Three

With the arrival of the final day, came Mike, Brian and Hope to assist at the table. We commandeered a second table to display all of the additional pieces they brought to display. As the doors opened, we were visited by Rachel from Craft magazine, who informed us that she wanted to bestow upon us an editor’s choice award for our table.

With the additional help and the less busy table Sunday morning, I was able to explore the Craft area late in the morning. While the part with the sewing, knitting and other items in the crafters section was interesting, even if it was not my forte, but it was when I went over to the Bust Magazine area. It seems the people in the Bust area had made some cool stuff, but ultimately the whole area felt like a flea market. They were selling jewelry, clothes and other assorted items that might have been interested to watch them make, but instead they seemed bored behind their tables and didn’t seem too interested in being part of the Maker Faire experience. To be fair, I did buy a Fight Club soap from Dirty Ass Soaps.

Another couple hours at the table and I was able to get another hour away from the table. It was amazing to see all the hacker spaces, machines, technologies and different sciences on display. I feel like I barely scratched the surface, but had to return the table so other members of the New York Brick Artists could leave for various reasons. While manning the table for the last couple hours, I was approached by another editor from Craft who gave us a second award for our display. A great honor to receive two awards, and we’re very proud to be recognized in such a way.

As the World Maker Faire closed to the public everything began to break down. Quickly the tables cleared and the tents emptied as the makers broke it all down, loaded their vehicles and headed home. I packed up mine as well, including some that seem to have made their last visits to public display, like the computer that overheated and Touristbot seeing a year’s worth of wear and tear take its toll, but perhaps needing to revisit old projects will lead to even bigger and better.

The faire was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to do it again next year. So many great ideas and projects I want to get started on after seeing all the amazing technology. It’s so inspirational to see science on display like that and show that science needs to experimental and sometimes dangerous instead of the staid book learning that we are all subjected to in the name of education.

To see more of my pics from the World Maker Faire, check out my Flickr. And videos below of the marching band and Arc Attack from the cast party.

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