By Kevin Dunleavy, Associate Creative Director
This past Saturday, I took the missus and our three tiny crazy people to the Mini Maker Faire at the Austin Expo Center.
The Maker Faire? It’s an event taking place in a lot of cities across the country – most of them showcasing local individuals and groups who’ve done some very cool things in the realm of science, technology and engineering.
(The photos below aren’t the best, but, well, I was holding an 11-month old.)
First project I saw upon entering the Faire was like a living RadioShack napkin sketch (which, if you haven’t seen any on ye olde social medias, start here: http://instagram.com/p/nd-eaMv0c5/)
The “sashimi tabernacle choir” the owner called it.
250-ish singing Bass and robo-lobsters, mounted to an ancient Volvo. They gyrated in sync with music blaring from speakers. Their site says the control system features “a Linux netbook, custom C software with a web-browser GUI, 300 pounds of batteries, 5 miles of wire, and about 30 custom PCB driver boards.”
But you probably already knew that.
Then there was this guy.
Proving that there’s not just a technical side to this Maker phenomenon, but a crazy/weird/interesting one as well.
A giant eagle bike. Because why the hell not.
Inside, a ton going on. Intel. Lego. The Austin Planetarium (which apparently does not yet exist, but is soon to be dazzling our city with constellation displays and Pink Floyd laser light shows.) There was laser woodcutting, 3D printers a-blazin’, geeks ooh-ing and everyone else aah-ing.
Of course, it’s not a Maker Faire until Star Wars schwag shows up.
Annnnd here we go.
A fully functional R2D2, in all its bleeping and blorping glory.
Not even a little person inside, which is how G-Lucas did it (I checked).
There were some costume makers at the Faire too, standing out like Chewbacca at a Klingon convention. (Probably meant to be at the craftier Palmer Center Re-Make Fair on the same day. Which, gee, is not confusing in the least.)
That’s my kid with Batman face paint. He peed on me later as I carried him through the parking lot.
I only bring it up because he was having such a good time he forgot to go. Such is life.
Back to the science side of stuff. Someone built an 8-bit Nintendo into an old Mac using Raspberry Pi and, presumably, black magic. At another table some people had made a robotic system that was playing Nintendo 64 — and winning. Some other guy had made his own pinball machines (Star Trek ones, naturally). I overheard him mention something about using LEDs vs ionized gas tubes because the light from the one was washing out the illustration of Capt. Kirk. I wish I could remember the quote verbatim, as it was quite possibly one of the nerdiest things uttered in over 20 years.
Yeah, I know the above isn’t a very good picture. I was shooting these things quickly.
Did I mention my kid peed on me?
Overall, time well spent. Yes, there are a fair amount of folks at the Maker Faire who look like:
But there’s also a lot of normal people just into making and building cool stuff. As a “sometimes tech-forward/sometimes luddite” guy, it’s inspiring to see these Makers go all out.
I was particularly impressed by the high schools and clubs that had set up some tents there. For example, the Westlake Robotics team had built some super-cool robotic contraption that was capable of catapulting giant rubber balls into the air.
All I did in high school was work on the newspaper and drink Miller Lite Ice.
To sum up:
saw a lot of cool stuff,
learned a few things,
got a giant oval urine stain on the right side of my shirt.
Not a bad Saturday in the least.