Arduino, Electronics, General, Make

Maker Faire 2011

This year was the first time that I attended Maker Faire! It certainly did not disappoint! While Maker Faire wasn’t last weekend, it’s still pretty recent, so I figured I have to post something while it’s still relatively fresh on people’s minds. Each year prior, I always remember reading in amazement at the various posts coming out of Maker Faire. The work highlighted at the event has always amazed me. In person, the Faire is really quite something to experience. There’s a lot to see, so here’s a brief recap of Maker Faire weekend.

Plane View
Plane View

Flying in on Friday I was greeted with some great weather that stayed with all the attendees through Sunday. Hey even upon approach to SFO, I got to see the Golden Gate Bridge from my seat. Since I stayed right by SFO, Saturday morning I figured that I’d over to San Mateo bright and early never having been to that part of the Bay Area before. Arriving in San Mateo, I found a Starbucks very quickly and found the free parking beneath the Whole Foods. Still at this point it was before 8am, so I grabbed some coffee and breakfast and stuck around Starbucks. Never having been to Maker Faire before, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of lines. So after enjoying breakfast, I walked over to the fairgrounds around 8:45. By 9 I was standing in line waiting for the gates to open at 10. When I got there, there were only a few folks in line ahead of me, which was great. Since they had been to Maker Faires in the past, they talked about how the Faire has changed over time and gave some handy tips (like immediately getting the “get to do cool things” armband… this lets you participate in the Faire events, for example soldering in booths or entering the Tech Shop).

Let’s just say Saturday was a really long day. I took my time to explore and get my bearings of the fairgrounds. There was good WiFi and AT&T 3G coverage, so using the online map of the fairgrounds and schedule was good, but there was also a paper version. My first stop was over to the Tech Shop. Since I was one of the first people in the gates, the whole fairgrounds were pretty empty to start off with… actually great to kinds of see what’s what.

Cupcake Cars
Cupcake Cars

I got to see some of the famous Maker Faire cupcakes driving around as well as some hand crafted olde-style cars. At the Tech Shop, I was able to talk to some of the vendors and actually get a nameplate inscribed for my son (see the video posted below) with a real laser printer. 🙂 Very cool stuff. From there I moved to the outdoor Google booth which was staged in a few freight-liner style shipping containers.

Google's Area
Google’s Area

They were just demoing off the Arduino <-> Android work they had announced a few weeks prior at Google I/O. Unfortunately I didn’t get a free ADK from them. They demoed off some Android controlled robots with embedded Arduinos and other similar projects.

Moving along, I headed into the Fiesta Hall where later in the day they had the Tesla Coil concerts on the Tesla Stage. There were a bunch of other exhibits here including demos of the POV’s on bicycle wheels, the MakerBot, talks on incorporating LEDs in clothing that happened later in the day, and Neon Sharks.

Light Art
Light Art

Initially I did not spend much time in this hall, but I ended up exploring more here later in the day and on Sunday. I ended up finding some cool other areas in there, such as the section for Hackerspaces as well as some art exhibits towards one side of the hall.

The main event for me surrounded the huge Expo Hall. This is like a garage tinkerer’s paradise. There’s everything from electronics to Legos to building blocks to kinesthetic art to crafty stuff all jam packed into one hall. Really great stuff. Over the two days I managed to solder together a MiniPOV and a Drawdio at the element14 booth.

Lego City
Lego City

SparkFun had another huge soldering station setup, but I didn’t end up doing any soldering there since the lines were generally pretty long. None-the-less, they had a vending machine for various part that they sell and ended up getting a Barometric Sensor for a project that I have in mind. Among my favorite booths here was the SeeedStudio booth which also housed Ian from Dangerous Prototypes and the B-Squares Project. They happened to also be across the way from the Make: Live stage, which was handy for some of the talks that I attended. Roaming through this hall takes a ton of time. There’s lots to see and stuff that’s easy to miss, even the 10th time through. Some of the big highlights here included a huge Lego setup as well as a building blocks section where kids built very tall towers.

The outdoor areas were jam packed as well. The South Lot had tons of outdoor sculptures, and I learned only on Sunday that there were metal working, glass blowing, and other classes that you could sign up for.

Big Bubba's Grill
Big Bubba’s Grill

This was also home to the Whiskeydrome as well as the Life Sized Mousetrap game. The West Green was a great place to hang out on the grass and drink some beer or eat some food. The West Lot had a Homegrown village where you could learn about eating locally grown foods. There were some food vendors there as well as the Coke Zero+Mentos Demos. I have to say, other than eating lunch at Big Bubba’s (hey with a grill that big, you kinds have to try their BBQ!) I really didn’t spend much time in this section.

I spent some time in the Maker Shed, which is basically a store where you could get Arduinos, electronics projects and kits, books, T-shirts, etc. Some of the stuff you see online and wonder if it’s worth ordering, so it was actually nice to get to look at these items. Another pavilion, which was a bit underwhelming, was the Health 2.0 exhibit. Don’t get me wrong, the stuff there was cool, like doing microscopy with DSLRs and the GE Whole Body Analysis, but it was really light compared to the rest of the Faire. I hope in future years this area expands more.

All-in-all, it was a busy two days! On Saturday I didn’t leave until 7pm and Sunday I was first in line at 8:15, and left around 1:30 to head to SFO to catch my flight back to Seattle. From a logistical standpoint, showing up early is a great idea… I beat the crowds and line getting in. It actually seemed that the folks who travelled from out of the Bay Area were eager to get into the Faire. Parking at Whole Foods next to the aforementioned Starbucks was great. It’s only about a 15 minute walk, and with nice weather this was not bad. I wish I had attended more talks, for instance I missed Massimo Banzi and Adam Savage talk. 😦 So next year I definitely need to plan these into my day. I didn’t see the battleship area since the lines were long and I just didn’t plan around the show times. Also there were sections, especially outside, that I don’t feel like I spent enough time at. All things to take into account for next year!

Below you’ll find a pieced together video of all the short clips I took at the Faire, as well as a selection of photos.