MakerFaire 2010: the State Fair for Mad Scientists - Tools and Demos
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As much as the actual items made, the tools shown off at MakerFaire were pretty amazing. There were several versions of home prototypers capable of “printing out” three-dimensional plastic objects. There was a machine about half the size of a Volkswagon Beetle that could burn a sign in bas relief into a piece of wood – and laser etch and cut parts for all sorts of uses. Just learning how to use certain tools? No problem. There were at least two different places where you could learn how to solder, and most makers were eager to explain and demonstrate what they'd brought with them.
Speaking of which, there were far too many presentations on various stages for anyone to attend them all. Some enticing titles included “Is Fusion Energy in Our Future?,” “Opening Up Space for You and Me” (presented by a NASA employee), “Smartphone Smallsats and Hybrid Rockets,” “Intro to Soft Electronics,” “Making Dramatic Science Demonstrations” (for teachers, to spark interest in science in school), “Making Music from the iPhone,” “Turning Pro: Becoming a Professional Maker,” and many, many more.
There were at least two stages devoted to demonstrations of specific projects or techniques. I went to several of these. One, at the Make: Projects stage, was on making cigar box guitars. I was surprised to learn that one could make a cigar box amplifier to go with the guitar, and that there's an active online community devoted to making such things out of cigar boxes. By this time I really shouldn't be surprised. Other demonstrations on this stage showed how to make DIY time-lapse movies, pick locks, build a Bluetooth retro phone headset, do 3D printing with MakerBot, and more.
The other stage that demonstrated specific projects focused on the “softer” stuff. The Craft Demo stage included presentations on how to make a needlefelted Artoo Detoo, “sew” circuits into projects with conductive thread, make button jewelry, handle conductive fabric, and more. The conductive thread demonstration was particularly eye-opening, simply for the potential it offers. One of the presenters explained how she'd cleverly sewn a simple heat sensor and two multi-color LEDs into a fabric sleeve – the kind that you wrap around a store-bought cup of coffee or tea. The LEDs form the eyes of a penguin stitched onto the sleeve. When the drink is too hot, the LEDs glow red; when it cools to a drinkable temperature, they turn green. The presenter said this had saved her many a burn.
One entire outdoor area was devoted to “food makers.” Here you could find people showing off (and selling) mushroom farms and space-saving ways to garden indoors. This part of the fair had its own stage and workshops, covering subjects like making your own butter, growing sprouts and baby greens with and without soil, molecular gastronomy, basic chicken butchery, the art and science of tofu making, pickling, making alcoholic beverages at home, and more.
Truthfully, I've only scratched the surface of what went on at MakerFaire this year. I recommend that you check the site itself, or browse the list of makers for anything that might interest you. Happy making!
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