If you find yourself wandering past a giant robotic quid, Interactive Kinetic Sculptures, an RFID door lock, Mythbusters, co-host, Adam Savage and booths of do-it-yourself (DIY) looking art and tech projects sometimes held together with geek faith and duct tape, you’re probably at a Maker Faire. It’s been around since 2006 has gained momentum annually. Hosted by Make Magazine, Maker Faire has branched off into various cities, each with its own local innovators and guest speakers. Toronto hosted a Mini Maker Faire in January, Vancouver is holding its second annual Maker Faire this week, Detroit’s is this weekend and there is a World Maker Faire happening in New York in September. What’s most interesting about these events? It is made up of individuals who, with an idea, the technology know-how to back it, amd a DIY spirit, make exceptional things. It is truly pangaea of all that is cool in the world of DIY tech gadgetry, robotics, science and art.
They began when artists and techies got together in San Fancisco for skill sharing, a show & tell and to geek out over some interesting DIY gadgetry and art. With the internet and the power of social media, word quickly got out that this was a place to be if you have an invention or art project using altered materials, augmented hardware or hacked software already available on the market. Since then, it has grown from 100 presenters in a single city to over 500 presenters at their flagship events and has become a place where research and development teams from big tech companies visit regularly to see what’s bubbling in the evolutionary mire of technology, science, art and design.
Images from the first Maker Faire in San Francisco in 2006. Squid Lab's IKEA Chair and Douglas Repetto's
Wall Painting Machine. Photos by Will O'Brien
Regular attendees, on the other hand, go to see high and low tech DIY projects with little or no funding. They range in complexity from a cat feeder that can differentiate between two cats who need separate diets, allowing each cat to access their correct meal plan to the well publicized 3D printer, Thing-O-Matic from MakerBot. This 3D printing machine introduced at the 2010 NYC World Maker Faire allows you to download design plans from the internet and create three-dimential objects using layers of vinyl. MakerBot is the leader in affordable personal 3D printers and is being hailed by some as the next revolution after the industrial and computer ages. It has the potential to change consumer purchasing habits which will in turn greatly impact the nature of product distribution worldwide. Instead of going to a store to by a plastic object, you can go to your 3D printer, as one might use a telephone or a fax machine, download the plans for the object, print it and use. Yes, this little invention came from a Maker Faire. Pay attention.
The culture around Maker Faires includes everyone from the high school keener to the university student with a formal education to the hacker of open source software. The maker movement supports a celebration of innovation and often has a collective "WE WIN" when someone succeeds in bringing to the table something completely out of left field.
For artists, a Maker Faire, aglow with promise and the building blocks to support new artistic ideas, can be inspiring. As in the relationship between an architect and an engineer, a Maker Faire can help artists learn how projects can come to be and provides abundant opportunities for collaboration.
Anyone with an idea and the courage to try something new can present at a Maker Faire. Registration is open to the public though invitation or open call. You do not have to live in a specific city to participate. So weather you have an idea and have been playing around with reconstructed electronics or you are a tech savvy inventor or new media artists using a new technology in your work, the Maker Faire is something worth checking out in your city or in one near you.
James Fowler worked in public relations with organizations in various industries to achieve their communications goals and streamline their media messaging, monitoring and metrics. James currently maintains a fulltime studio practice in Toronto and has taken a keen interest in social media and eMarketing. He joined Akimbo in the spring 2011 as Social Media Director.
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