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Posts Tagged ‘MakerFaire’

Maker Faire, Part Two: Robots and More Robots

This part is going to be brief. There were robots. And more robots. Then tacos and some amazing strawberry lemonade, and then more robots.

Makers love robots. Next to the craft pavilions were two more huge tents: one filled with adult robot enthusiasts and the other, Youth Makers, with kid robot enthusiasts. (Not Kid Robot, that’s entirely different.) OK, so perhaps a few of the exhibitors showed creations that weren’t robots, like light-up anglerfish sculptures and various plushies stuffed with lights. Maybe there was one guy making digital name tags, another scanning book pages and oh, these metal sculptures were pretty cool. Also, I enjoyed watching the little Kelvin Generator make sparks. And someone had created a pulley system that generated music. But seriously? 80% of what I saw involved robots, Arduino boards and/or remote-controlled conveyances.

LEGOSThe Young Makers tent was almost identical except for the youthful excitement and a lot of LEGOS. We had trouble getting the kid to leave the Robofun booth, because they handed him the controller to a LEGO car. I thought we were going to spend the whole morning there.

Inside the museum we found one hundred more exhibitors, most with their own special type of robot. I don’t mean to sound snarky, but I did reach a point where enough was enough. Just because you can successfully build a kit that you ordered online (or matriculated in NYU’s ITP program) does not mean you have earned your own exhibition booth. And if you have one anyway, you should be required to be able to hold an intelligent conversation about what you’ve invented. That said, I had my voice turned into a sculpture with speaker wire, turned a story into knitting and played with various RC devices. We also were able to enjoy the NY Hall of Science itself, including its blissful air conditioning, and to spend a few minutes with the best museum exhibit ever, Mathematica, which I recall fondly from many, many visits to Boston’s Museum of Science. We now return you to your Maker Faire programming:

The best low-tech spectacle I saw was undoubtedly the Egg-Bot, “an open-source art robot that can draw on spherical or egg-shaped objects.” It was incredibly mesmerizing…

Egg-Bot

What did we miss? Everything large-scale. I can’t speak to the life-size mousetrap, the MakerBot and ShopBot, the Diet Coke and Mentos fountains, anything presented by a car company or that required the signing of a waiver. But we did glimpse bicycles that emitted fire, Science Friday’s Ira Flatow and a steampunk guy on a giant tricycle who informed me I was a brave woman for crossing his path.

Did I love it? Yes. Was I the target audience? Only partially. Would I go back? Absolutely.

Maker Faire in Brief…Part One

Maker Faire

Robyn Love's Message to the Universe

Please don’t expect this to be a thorough recap of the World Maker Faire NYC experience, because it would be absolutely impossible to have seen the whole thing in 4.5 hours with a toddler. But what we did see was spectacular, and even the kid – perhaps I should say, especially the kid – had a blast. Some top-of-mind thoughts:

We went on the first day, right when it opened at 10am. I’d recommend this for most large scale events, particularly those populated by enthusiasts and semi-professionals, as everyone’s spirits are high on Day One. The sun wasn’t too strong yet and all the vendors and makers we visited were excited and high-energy. We headed first to the craft pavilions, taking a quick look at some of the vendor booths in the BUST Craftacular…but I’ll confess that I wasn’t too excited about looking at more handmade soap and silkscreened tees. You know how I feel about silkscreened tees.

The craft activities, on the other hand, were not busy yet and loads of fun. The kid and I made a bottlecap ring by fitting a spider button and some sparkly beads into a pre-assembled blank and covering the whole thing with ModPodge Dimensional Magic. AND, they gave me a little bottle of ModPodge to take with me. Yay for sponsors.

Lion Brand Yarn, Red Heart Yarns and a knitters guild (I missed the name, sorry) offered yarn and needles to anyone willing to sit down for a lesson. The knitters guild even had lovely rosewood needles from Lantern Moon, which was delightfully generous. Lots of people were learning to knit! And crochet. And cross-stitch.

Xyron encouraged people to decorate picture frames with stickers and even gave me a Magic Sticker Maker, which is a neat little device that makes stickers out of any flat paper shape, but googling reveals it to be a discontinued product. So I’m not going to get too attached to it. Did I mention it’s totally cool? We have 19 feet of stickability remaining…

Martha Stewart Living’s area encouraged you to cut out and attach to a stick one of the giant orange butterflies featured in the October issue. The big monarch butterflies people carried all around the fair lent additional color and whimsy to the day.

So yes, the craft pavilions were well worth a visit. Everyone was so friendly and generous, including my favorite BurdaStyle booth, who offered one-on-one instruction to make a drawstring bag on a sewing machine. I didn’t have time to do this, but they sent me home with fabric and ribbon to make my own. Thanks as always, BurdaStyle! (And thanks also to Lion Brand for the huge tote bag into which I put all this crafty stuff.)

Clif HatAs we left the craft areas, we ran to the Clif Kid folks, who encouraged my little one to decorate a recycled-cardboard hat with all manner of googly eyes, stick-on letters and pom-pom aliens. This was a perfect activity for kids, and they of course sent us away with samples of their new chocolate chip organic Zbar, which turns out to be pretty tasty for a packaged snack. Score another one for marketing/branding goodwill ambassadors!

Also of note was fiber artist Robyn Love’s Send a Message to the Universe, in which she yarnbombed a rocket with squares knitted and crocheted by over 100 different people. Including me and several knitters in our neighborhood. And now that the Faire is over, the piece and extra squares have gone to Lion Brand, who donated the yarn, to be made into blankets for Warm Up America. Lovely.

Oops, this was not meant to be entirely a craft recap. But I do commend the staff behind the now-online-only CRAFT Magazine for making the most of its second-tier status next to the robot enthusiasts, arduino programmers and fire-breathing-bicycle operators. Next post, the MAKE portion of Maker Faire…