Maker Faire 2015

More images in the Flickr Set.

This year was the 10th birthday of “The Greatest Show and Tell on Earth” – that Rainbow Gathering of robot makers, sculptors, hackers, welders, Burning Man attendees with kids, benders of light, food artisans, bicycle tweakers, DJs and artistic misfits.


I’m proud to be able to say I’ve taken my child to Maker Faire @ San Mateo every single year since 2006, meaning we haven’t missed a single event.


Light Sculpture

Despite the annoying aspect of the ever-growing crowds, it’s become a father-son tradition we look forward to every year, and we can’t imagine ever skipping it at this point. Every year is both “more of the same” and completely different.

Creature Quad

Certain exhibits seem almost perennial, but there are always tons of new surprises. It was especially nice to have cooler temperatures this year – low 60s meant we were able to do a full eight hours on the fairgrounds without missing a beat.

More fire-breathing giant beastie sculptures than ever before:

Robot sculpture fire

Riding Cyclecide’s collection of hacked bicycles is always our favorite part of the day. Bikes with hinges in the middle of the frame are almost impossible to ride, but you do kind of get the hang of it after a while.


Same with the reverse-steering-gear bike that turns the opposite of the direction you turn the wheels. Our fave this time was the bike with off-center axles, making it feel like it’s navigating bumpy terrain even on flat ground.


The “dark room” seemed better than ever, with more sophisticated interactives, plus a truly gorgeous wall-sized mixed-materials glowing sculpture reminiscent of a time tunnel receding into space.

Light Sculpture

We’ve admired the masking tape cities and gardens every year (now represening 10,000 hours of work and more than 27 miles of tape!), and for the first time this year we actually sat down for a 30-minute lesson on masking tape “origami.”

Masking Tape Art

And Miles had his first opportunity to sit at the helm of an original Apple IIe, just like the ones we used in high school in the early 80s:

Apple IIe

Totally loved the “junk” drumming of John F. King:

More images in the Flickr Set.

Maker Faire 2013

I’ve been taking Miles to Maker Faire every year since it launched in 2006, making this our 8th. It’s different every year – sometimes better, sometimes worse. No question it’s become more popular (for better and for worse) and less dangerous over time. With every passing year, there are fewer exhibits that can take your head off, singe your eyebrows, or help you lose a limb. And there’s an increasing emphasis on crafty stuff, things you can do with kids, etc. The maker movement has become more mainstream, less Burning Man, and more accessible. But there’s still no better place to experience such an awesome array of things to do with your kids, concentrated in one place. Despite the crowds and the impossible traffic, we still consider it worth going.

Tough Art

A few highlights from this year’s event:

  • Giant vat of the stuff they fill disposable diapers with. Neither wet nor dry, it feels surreal and rubbery to the touch. Amazing in large quantities.
  • The usual amazing Tesla Coil demonstration
  • Guy playing a homemade didgeridoo/drum kit rig
  • Cupcake cars driving around
  • Biggest bin of iron filings and rare earth magnets I’ve ever seen
  • Immense arrays of bubbles being dispensed from long loop/string invention
  • Giant replica of Milton Bradley’s original Mousetrap game, including 400-lb steel bathtub and real bowling balls.
  • Adam Savage in person!
  • Miles got to make a bizarre vuvuzela-type noisemaker
  • Bike-like vehicle driven by the motion of the rider pumping up and down rather than pedaling
  • Solar powered cars
  • Mind-blowing 3D printer creations
  • Hands-on metal stamping with 1-lb brass hammer
  • Pedal-powered llama-shaped cars with articulated head
  • The usual assortment of crazy bicycle-like inventions
  • Entire city made of tightly wrapped masking tape (hard to describe, but incredible)
  • Make your own steampunk goggles booth (for kids)
  • Biggest paella cooking trays you’ve ever seen
  • Blue Man Group-style PVC acoustic marimba
  • Stilt walkers everywhere

… and we didn’t even get to see 50% percent of it.


Flickr set

Maker Faire 2010

Miles and I have a perfect track record so far at Maker Faire, attending every year since its inception in 2006. This year was our fifth time out, though things took a slightly different turn this year. Rather than it being father/son bonding time, my extended family trekked out to the Bay Area for the experience. Corralling nine people meant a bit less explore time, so we saw less of the cornucopia, but what we did see was amazing, as always.

Highlights: RC-controlled neon land sharks chasing kids around in the dark. Tall bikes everywhere, including one with “roots” that could be deployed at the flip of a lever so the rider could stop at lights without toppling over. A grand steampunk calliope with half-sawn tubas, whoopee whistles, cuckoos, and tubes galore honking out a rendition of Yellow Submarine. The giant Tesla coils throwing lightning, but this time generating music at the same time (remember Hot Buttered’s “Popcorn?” Imagine that set to explosive blue electricity). A guy playing drums, didgeridoo and bass at the same time. 6-ft.-wide plates of paella. The life-size mousetrap, as always.

Unfortunately, the Wooden Bikes crowd was nowhere to be seen, and the Cyclecide crew’s human-powered carnival rides were shut down for a break when we arrived. Still, Maker Faire remains “Burning Man for families” – an explosion of creativity and weld joints like no other. Won’t be the last.

Took fewer photos than usual, but managed to put together an OK Flickr set.

Maker Faire 2009

There were stickers scattered randomly around this year’s Maker Faire: “Last year was better.” The weird thing was that whoever made them would had to have printed them up before the fair began. How could they know in advance? What would have happened if this year had been better than ever? Unfortunately, the stickers were right.

We’ve attended all four years of Maker Faire now, so Miles has been there at ages 3, 4, 5 and 6 (does that qualify as a tradition?) I still think it’s one of the Bay Area’s most amazing explosions of talent and creativity — there’s nothing else like it. But this year there were noticeably fewer amazing giant steel sculptures, a much smaller presence from the incredible Cyclecide, more guard rails and safety precautions, more people (again), and more attendance from professional organizations. Year by year, the fair is starting to feel a bit less like a family-friendly version of Burning Man, a bit more like an opportunity for professional Lego collectors to network.

I don’t want to make too much of that though – Maker Faire most definitely has NOT started to suck. It’s still dazzling, inspiring, amazing. Just that it’s started to feel a bit… safer than it once did.

That said, Miles and I had an amazing day watching the Giant Mouse Trap, building inventions with computer scrap parts, learning about the SCA, “driving” the amazing snail car, watching the human llama wobble around, riding the wooden bikes (my fave part of every MF), digging on a thousand kinds of robots, taking on challenges at the Instructables booth, spending way too much time at the various Legos exhibits, eating great good food on a perfect spring day. And the R2D2 Miles wanted so badly to see last year finally showed up – the little Padouin was beaming with happiness.

This year’s photo gallery (63 images and 10 videos):

Click icon at lower right after starting to view full-screen.
View the whole set at Flickr (includes captions you don’t get with the slideshow).

See also: my photos from Maker Faires 2008, 2007 and 2006.

Maker Faire 2008

Awesome day, as always, with Miles at Maker Faire yesterday. Arrived early and glad we did – heard that by early afternoon the traffic and lines were so bad that people were turning around on the highway and returning home. This was our third year at the show, and somehow things didn’t click as well as they have in the past – didn’t manage to catch any of the scheduled events (giant mousetrap, Eepybird’s Diet Coke and Mentos display, floating R/C battleship war…) And starting to realize there’s a lot of carry-over from year to year, so didn’t get the delight of surprise from a lot of stuff. Crowds larger than ever, and the presence of Disney at a DIY fair kind of gave me the willies (though Miles loved their toy Wall-E bot).

Bicycle Guitar

Still, Maker Faire is one of the most inspirational things going – a wonderland of unpackaged, under-funded, can-do creativity. Cyclecide had their full range of human/bike-powered rides and attractions, the giant mousetrap was fully operational. A glass-blowing artist displayed his Prozac-eating chicken, an electronic calliope and a chariot pulled by an Arnold Schwarzenegger bot wandered the grounds, blending in with the Extra Action marching band as Total Annihalation jammed on stage near a 40-ft goddess made of welded steel cable, spewing great balls of flame from her heart chakra. Battlebots battled and hovercraft hummed and dudes roasted pickles near a giant Tesla coil. Steampunk ruled the day, its centerpiece Neverwas Haul alive and well (and until you’ve heard a steam gizmo concerto, your ears ain’t lived). People ground bags of flour from raw wheat with a bicycle, affixed Legos to a Jeep, 4′ cupcakes drove around, kids blasted model rockets 200 yards into the air, a man knitted and drummed at the same time (with the same sticks).

Steampunk Concerto II

In other words, Maker Faire is Burning Man Lite — and that’s OK. If you can’t take off a week to hang out in the desert, or don’t want to usher your kids into a psychedelic love den, Maker Faire brings much of the same creative juice, with a more scientific bent and none of the drugs. It’s one of those things that makes you feel blessed to live in the Bay Area.

Total Annihalation I

Dylan Tweney: Maker Faire and DIY culture From Welding to Weddings

Here’s my Flickr Set from the day, which also includes five short videos – using Flickr’s new video upload capability for the first time, with 30fps videos taken with my new PowerShot SD1100s – amazing to see how far the video quality has come in consumer still cams.

Other public Flickr shots tagged makerfaire2008.

Music: Stereolab :: People Do It All The Time

Maker Faire 2007

Spectacle-Tm Spent the day with Miles at Maker Faire 2007, where you can’t swing a cat without clobbering a team of reality hackers. Enjoyed the giant Mousetrap game (perfect functional replica of the original, writ large (very large)), the myriad bicycle hacks from Cyclecide, the whale blimp, Ukey Stardust (the entirety of David Bowie’s ;em>Ziggy Stardust performed on ukuleles), the Victorian mini-mansion on wheels Neverwas Haul, The Disgusting Spectacle (kids running on a hamster wheel cause giant to pick enormous gobs of snot from nose), playing with stop-motion claymation video, performance by the original Pepsi and Mentos dudes, the sonar-controlled self-balancing skateboard (which both Miles and I rode!), the endless procession of robots both sleek and gritty – some of them engaged in mortal combat, others the picture of gentility.

Flickr set posted, though I think my set from last year was better (in fact, I think Maker Faire was better last year in general, but not by much – may have been a state of mind, or creeping jadedness). But Maker Faire has already become an amazing father/son bonding tradition thing for us. Now I just need to learn to weld before he turns five.

Music: Velvet Underground :: Sweet Jane

Maker Faire 2006

Makerfaire2006 Headed to San Mateo for Make: Magazine’s “Maker Faire” (could strangle them for plopping an “e” on the end of the name) – a confab for hackers and geeks who like to… make stuff. Busting with energy and ideas. Robots of all stripes (of course), flame throwers, Segway hacks, cardboard fabs, neon tube bending, wooden bikes, drive actuator music box, earth-magnet LED tossing, live-circuit graffiti, BBQ grill pool heater, steam-bots, mechanical theremin, painting bots, The Woz playing Segway polo, collaborative sound jams… an incredible day, and Miles didn’t want to leave.

Since my fave image publishing app Image Rodeo seems to have ceased development, decided to try a couple of experiments.

First whack at using Apple’s iWeb to extract sets directly to a non-.Mac gallery. Overall, pretty cool for 1.0, but iWeb doesn’t preserve iPhoto comments as captions (how lame is that?) and forces you to use the big popup slideshow viewer rather than putting each image onto its own page. It also does some URLs-with-spaces stuff that I hated, and had to modify after the fact. Limiting overall, but the built-in template collection is slick.

Next tried Frasier Spiers’ excellent Flickr Export plugin to poot directly from iPhoto to Flickr. Correctly extracts caption data, and gives you all that rich, chocolatey tagging goodness, but without the fancy templates, of course. I’m OK with that. Flickr’s got it all figured out, and as long as there’s a strong bridge from local metadata to remote, I’m buzzing.

Been buzzing with “make” energy all day.

Music: Tom Ze :: Xiquexique

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