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Maker Faire 2014

Year of the Maker

By Nadia Alvarado

"Necessity is the mother of invention." After attending my first Bay Area Maker Faire this year, I have to respectfully disagree. Necessity had very little to do with most of the inventions I saw. Let me preface all this by saying I grew up going to Comic-Con International in San Diego for nearly 20 years. I've seen people cosplay (or "costume play") as everything from Ghostbusters in full uniform with proton packs to someone dressed as a giant black wall with the number 42 on it. I've seen the Time Machine and Batmobiles. I've seen Transformers struggle to sit down for a panel and Klingons go barhopping downtown.

So, having never attended Maker Faire, I thought it would be a lot like going to Michaels or Hobby Lobby. There would be craftsters and kids, and I might see something new, but nothing that would make me look twice. Boy was I wrong. Within the first hour of being at Maker Faire, I saw a huge landscape display made out of different types of adhesive tape (Tapigami, shown below), an LED color changing cat, a one-person motorized vehicle shaped like a mushroom and metal dragons of various sizes and functions.

The Art of Tapigami
The Art of Tapigami


I think I know how Alice in Wonderland felt now.
I think I know how Alice in Wonderland felt now.


Mushroom coming through!
Mushroom coming through!


One of many dragons.
One of many dragons.

There was a 4-foot tall remote control dalek (from Doctor Who), a life-sized Mouse Trap board game (complete with elevated bath tub and bowling balls in place of marbles), bicycles with unusual-sized wheels, a mechanical octopus that shot fire and Steampunk vehicles that would have made H.G. Wells green with envy.

The dalek says EXTERMINATE!
The dalek says "EXTERMINATE!"


Life-Size Mouse Trap Game
Life-Size Mouse Trap Game


This is what a real Big Wheel looks like.
This is what a real "Big Wheel" looks like.


El Pulpo Mecanico
El Pulpo Mecanico


Eat your heart out, H.G. Wells.
Eat your heart out, H.G. Wells.

The attendees ran the gamut of looking like someone you'd see at the grocery store to bearded men getting around in giant cupcakes. Some people were dressed in lab coats or flight suits, others walked around with things like realistic-looking parrots or monkeys, which they made, of course.

Maker Faire is the intersection where crafting, science, art, tech and cosplay meet. It's a place for people to showcase the things they've made, often composed of household items and ingenuity. Many items were for sale, but I got the impression most makers were much more interested in showing you how to replicate their techniques and answering questions than selling their wares.

Walking through Maker Faire and marveling at the innovations makers of all ages have made, I couldn't help but feel like I was walking through the Jameco Catalog. 3D printers and accessories? Check. Quadcopters? Check. Robotics? Check. Arduino, BeagleBone, littleBits? Triple check. It's inspiring to know the tools, components and kits Jameco carries can contribute to transitioning someone's imaginative ideas into real life creations.

After six eye-opening hours of seeing too many new things to list at Maker Faire, I came to the conclusion that makers create because they want to and because they can. Tienen ganas, you would say in Spanish. Makers are driven by curiosity and "are the music makers... and the dreamers of dreams." You don't need necessity to birth inventions when you have vision.

Are there more unusual exhibits at Maker Faire or Comic-Con? It's a matter of opinion and perspective. Considering I've seen Batman in pajama pants camped out on a lawn chair reading Harry Potter with a sign that read "Need help? Ask Superman, I'm retired," I think Comic-Con wins. But, both places are fun to visit and filled with some of the most creative people on the planet.

Just another day at Comic-Con.
Just another day at Comic-Con.

Have you been to a Maker Faire and seen memorable creations? Or, have you made something innovative you'd like to showcase at a Maker Faire? Tell us about it on our community forum.
Nadia Alvarado has a master's degree in Journalism from Syracuse University and a bachelor's degree in Economics from San Diego State University. She is originally from San Diego, CA. Her interests include comedy, comic books, board games, movies and watching too much TV. All photos in the story above, except for El Pulpo Mecanico and retired Batman, were taken by Nadia.