Maker Faire Report

This past weekend Detroit hosted the second annual Maker Faire at The Henry Ford. Maker Faire started in 2006 in San Mateo, CA and quickly word spread about how fun and amazing it was and soon other areas organized local Maker Faire events.

It is a weekend long celebration of everything fantastic about learning and teaching, science and engineering, arts and crafts, and everything in between. It gives a place for every DIY’er and home-brew hacker to come together and show off what they love – creating.

Throughout the day I saw people of all ages learning how things work, and seeing new ideas taking shape. Everyone was having fun, and everyone wore their geek titles proudly.

We arrived at 9 am and already there was a good bit of commotion on the parking lot grounds as everyone finished setting up for the day.

They had a very organized ticket pickup process, which left us with 30 minutes to kill.

I’ve been coming to the Henry Ford since I was a child – courtesy of my grandparents who kept a family membership (which includes all kids and grandkids under 18 – really a good deal) and made an annual outing of seeing the museum. It’s been a few years since I’ve been here though, and amazingly my husband has never been.

A photo enthusiast like myself could spend hours pointing the camera at everything no one else looks at, let alone the actual museum installations.

Finally we killed enough time and were let in. They had signs up with QR codes to unlock an app that let you enter a drawing for an iPad (which were heavily in use everywhere, as portable video displays or robot controllers). Droids were also in abundance of course.

While not exactly Maker Faire – I had to get a shot of the old style Wienermobile. We saw the current one just this year during one of our trips to Chicago so it was cool that this was the first thing we saw walking into the museum space. Yes, I bought a whistle.

The second thing was a Rancor head (complete with drool)…

A fantastic reproduction R2-D2 (all metal!)

Displaying the power of the BeagleBoard. Each tiny chipboard is controlling a single monitor and keeping the video perfectly synched across them. Essentially everything an average laptop can do all on a board the size of a floppy (3.24 inches square). Very impressive.

Some kind of recycled scrap installation art piece. Not entirely sure…. I was amused however to notice after getting home that the art got a picture of me taking a picture of the art:

There was an excellent balloon artist entertaining the kids:

Souvenir tee shirt:

The Maker Works booth showing off a laser cutter – and promoting the opening of an Ann Arbor tech shop where members can use this machine and many more for projects that would require far more investment capital than most of us have.

The always popular MakerBot

My fangirl moment (in the middle of all the rest of the geeky stuff of course) were these adorable Daleks (with the rocket ships behind them):

Another interesting display was the mold casting booth. It offered a great variety of colors of hard plastic as well as malleable rubber for masks. This guy was as well made as he was creepy:

I was REALLY excited to turn the corner and see Shapeways had a booth. I’ve been following them since they started (and they have really come a long way in a short time in terms of materials they offer) but never gotten around to plunking down cash for an order. Being able to see the results in person, hold them and stress test them was fantastic. I am 100% comfortable in suggesting their services to friends and will seriously look at placing an order soon.

Another extrusion based 3D printer – this one however kept the head in place and moved the table as it printed.

Next up was some mechanical demon pony robot that spat fire (my husband: “Of course it does”).

The next photo doesn’t really work without sound – but we’d left the camcorder at home so…. The museum staff were showing off this lovely gramophone and even letting you record your voice on a wax cylinder and playing it back! I thought it was wonderful (I want one) and still amazing that something so simple works so cleanly. I actually liked the sound of my voice on this.

A cyber robot snowman (duh):

Some of the best things were all the hands on demos. For instance – they had a “learn to solder” booth set up where you made this cute little Maker SHED robot for just a $1. I’ve never soldered before and found it a little too small and fiddly for me (especially in a crowd, in the heat, I get frustrated easier) so Chris had to help. They DID have staff helping out of course, but a husband is a better handler of heat induced meltdowns I think. ;)

By now we were pretty hungry and more than ready for some air conditioning time (temps were in the HIGH 90’s, and we’re in a parking lot with no shade) so we headed in to the Michigan Cafe’.

There was a fairly long line (but it moved fast) so I busied myself taking artsy photos:

They have a nice setup to deal with crowds – the full menu board is in sight of the line, and broken up by salads, hot items, and deli things. With a cafeteria style pickup spot for each. Folks know what they want and can go straight to the counter without having to mill about deciding.

Chris got the pulled pork and a side of potatoes. The pork was good, with a slightly sweet tangy sauce to it:

I got the broccoli quiche (with potatoes) which was fantastic. There was a spice that I can’t quite name but gave it a tart citrus kind of flavor that was different. I’m not sure if they make this in house or if it’s brought in, but I’d buy a whole pan!

Revived and cooled for the moment – we ventured back outside. Right into a couple of Stormtroopers. “We support the Empire – honest!”
The always fantastic 501st Legion – Great Lakes Garrison division.

Demonstrating electricity generation by people power:

Sadly, we didn’t get to see the Imax video – but seeing the Tornado Intercept Vehicle in person was awesome.

We have a LARGE yard. We own a piddly push mower with a wonky back wheel (though we’re grateful for it, as it was a hand me down, else we wouldn’t have one at all) that takes many many passes to tame our lawn. So I was not surprised when this made Chris’ eyes light up like it was his birthday:

Uhm, hmmm… okay….

Tusken Raider!

Nyan Cat! Yes – it was animated too, and he sang the song. This guy never was without a crowd whenever we went by (I also saw him playing videos from The Simpsons).

For the last event of the day we stopped to watch the Life Size Mousetrap game:

It was a very cool thing to watch (and yes I tipped him).

That was our day at Maker Faire. There was a ton I didn’t get photos of (just far too hot for me to deal with – even the camera was almost too warm to touch) but hopefully I’ll have more photos to feature next year. Who knows, maybe we’ll be there SHOWING an invention?

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