www.whyville.net Oct 26, 2008 Weekly Issue

Guest Writer

Maker Faire

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This weekend, I went to Austin, Texas for the first time to attend Maker Faire. Have you heard of it? It's a big festival put on by Make and Craft magazines (O'Reilly Publishing) designed to showcase and celebrate innovation and design. There was one earlier this year in California, and my boss let me go to fall's event at the Travis County Fairgrounds.

The best part is that there's no real theme to Maker Faire other than that of invention and creativity - there truly was something there for everyone! There was a huge Show Barn that featured arts and crafts, alternative energy cars, a musical theater stage for kids and lots of electronics. While hanging out in the barn, I bought a lot of jewelry for my mom, sister and myself in there . . . spent quite a bit more than planned, but I've decided that it's my way of helping the economy!

The Lifesized Mousetrap

The Arena held competitions between huge homemade robots, and the Tesla Theater, where Arc Attack made music from the electricity generated by two giant Tesla coils (this was one of my favorite things to see!). Outside there was a huge MouseTrap, a Diet Coke and Mentos explosion show, and a tent for Food Makers - lots of homemade community-based food products like honey, teas and farmed goods . . . yummy! And the Maker Stage featured some truly unique presentations, like Fashioning Technology, where I learned about fabrics and materials that behave differently under certain chemical or light conditions. Imagine your clothes changing colors when you go outside into the light! This can be created by using photochromic pigments which are responsive to light rays.

While walking around, I also met the creators of Austin's own Carmadillo (get it? Car-armadillo?), which can travel up to 35 miles per hour and shoots fire out its eyes! I really wanted to ride in it, but the creators were letting little kids ride, so I didn't want to embarrass myself . . .

Austin's hometown pride, the Carmadillo. Its creator CJ is sitting on the right.

I met a lot of great people there, especially kids and their parents who all had a great time. I think the best thing about Maker Faire is that most people come to it already interested in one or two things - for me, it was the Tesla Coil music and the alternative energy vehicles. But once you're there, it's so easy to get excited about things beyond your normal area of interest. I think it's because what all the makers have in common is the notion of asking a cool question and then creating something new or different to address that question while fabricating something spectacular. For example, I had no idea that I'd be excited about ShopBots, a system that, among other uses, facilitates the building of homes in disaster-stricken areas without the need for skilled carpenters or construction workers, but it was fascinating.

A Chia-car!!

We had a little taste of Maker Faire this September at LabFest!: Museum of Science and Industry, when they debuted American Maker. It was SO much fun to see everyday people bring their extraordinary makes (check out some pictures on our Flickr page). Many thanks to Dale Dougherty, Sherry Huss and everyone at O'Reilly who made American Maker such a success, and for putting on Maker Faire every year to help us all connect with extraordinary artists and innovators who are, at the same time, very much just like you and me.

Check out my pictures from Maker Faire on Flickr (http://flickr.com/photos/sciencechicago/sets/72157607526099083/). Now I just have to convince Cheryl that I should go to California next year . . .

Author's Note: For more blogs from Dr. Rabiah, visit Science Chicago's website at: http://www.sciencechicagoblog.com

Sources: http://makerfaire.com/


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