May 23, 2011

2011 Maker Faire fun

This was our second year that we were able to get to the Bay Area Maker Faire. I wrote a bit about our experiences at the 2010 Maker Faire here and mentioned one of the mini maker faire's we got to go to back in 2009 here too.

We were looking forward to this year a great deal, knowing from last year the kind of awesomeness that was awaiting us. We were also a little concerned that we might not actually make it this year, because I am really close to the end of this pregnancy and I'm carrying around more amniotic fluid than normal as well as the wee bairn, so I'm measuring really big in the bump department and it's seriously affecting my mobility by aggravating a couple of disks in my back that got damaged when I was a teen. We made it though and I managed to not go into labour at the faire too, which was another worry with all the walking around involved (been having contractions on and off for about a week even though I'm not due until June) This is how big the bump was at 35 weeks and it's growth has gone exponential over the last month. Oh yeah, and My six year old cut my five year old's fringe/bangs. Sneaky little toads! That's going to take a while to grow out!

So, yes, Maker Faire... We noticed this year that the Make people were offering a really great opportunity to get two adult day passes for free if you joined the "Maker Faire Street Team", which just involved posting fliers and posters and a few stickers and badges around your local area in places like coffee shops and libraries, schools and other appropriate places, so we jumped at that chance and one Saturday morning the whole family had a bit of a jaunt around our neighbourhood doing this. The kids actually enjoyed doing this quite a lot. As a result we ended up only having to pay for two $5 children's day passes to all go to the Maker Faire this year!

If you're thinking about going next year and live within a 200 mile radius of the Faire then I would definately keep an eye out for that Street Team offer again because it was so worth it. We went on the Sunday and the first port of call was to check out Arc Attack's tesla coil show that we had missed out on the year before. Fantastic stuff! If you've not seen them in action before, here's a link to them playing the Dr Who theme tune this year with Adam Savage dancing like the geek he is in the faraday cage.

The top attraction for the girls was the area set up by Astromech, the R2 unit builders club. The kids knew that they were going to be there and had been looking forward to seeing R2-D2 "in person" so much that Carys had actually put out her starwars tshirt two nights before the faire ready to wear and when she found out that there would be more than one R2 unit there, she drew a picture for each unit.

We must have spent a total of an hour with them between two visits (she wanted to go back at the end of the day before we left) We got talking to a couple of the builders there and found out that one of them was actually a fellow Welshman, who had moved to the Bay Area about a decade before we did. It's a small world! He's got some fantastic resources on his website for people looking to embark on their own R2 build. Seems like the perfect long term project for Carys and Paul, especially now that Paul's got the CNC milling machine he built up and running.Me and the girls have made several trashy robots from recycling in the past, like Wall-e and a Dalek and some space craft from Star wars too, so I might get the kids involved in making an R2D2 this way to give Paul some time to look into the specifics of cost and material options required to build a more accurate and robust droid. Thank you to Chris for letting Carys and Ffion into the R2 area to meet the units up close. It made their day :)

Other favourites with the kids were the Bay Area Lego Users Group area and the inflatable glowing asparagus forrest from "O Yeah Toys". The interactive discofloor, and the muffin cars pictured at the top of this post that were powered with modified electric wheelchair components were also big hits with both girls.

The kids had so much fun last year at Gever Tulley's "tinker your way out of this" challenge area. This year Gever had an outdoor area where he was letting kids have a go at some of the things from his book "50 dangerous things" By the time we got all the way up to the far end of the Faire it was getting late in the day though and although Ffion was keen to try the stick your fingers together challenge and did really well with it, both kids were quickly distracted by the enormous electric giraffe that was wandering past, so they didn't try all the things that Gever had out.

I'm hoping to find a chance to go and check out the space that he and Bryan Welch have secured for an amazing k-12 school in San Francisco before I have this baby too. It sounds like a wonderful creative environment for such a huge age range that I'm really keen to learn more about Brightworks and how they plan to operate.

Another cool interaction that was had at the faire was meeting a guy called Tommy Murrah. He was part of the team manning the ShopBot area. Amongst other impressive things, they had milled out a load of interlocking play planks based on the ones published in Modern Mechanix back in 1953. I only saw this type of play plank for the first time a few months back when Teacher Tom wrote a post about the ones that they had at Woodland Park. Paul has been gradually making a set by hand from any remnant plywood that he's found cheaply in the offcuts section at Home Depot, but having talked to Tommy at Maker Faire, it seems that we can actually get the open source plans to mill out a set with the CNC router that Paul built last year and this modern template also includes additional pieces allowing kids to build curved surfaces too!
The plans are made available by a site called LinkerLogs under the creative commons license, and even better than that, if you run a school or non profit then there is a forum on the Linker Logs site where you can find out if there is a person in your local area with a ShopBot that can donate their time to helping make a set for a worthy cause! You can also buy the finished item from Murrah Woodcraft if you have the money, but not the tools and time to make your own. They call their version Thinker Linkers.

One of the things that I missed out on doing that I wanted to was getting into the center of the Expo Hall, where all the Craft stuff was. The Expo Hall was so very very busy and crowded that it was difficult to get to see things in there, especially with two small children with us. I was hoping to go see the kanzashi folding devices that Diane Gilleland has been talking about recently on her blog. We've made giant kid friendly kanzashi out of Baby wipes and paper towels with the kids after I read about about the craft on Diane's blog Craftypod, that I've been subscribed to for a very long time. I couldn't figure out from just looking at these different shaped plastic contraptions she showed on her blog how exactly they might work. I'm guessing that there will be a video online at some point showing how to use them though. I'd also hoped to just say hi to some of the Craft team there because they have been very supportive of Filth Wizardry in the past and have posted about several of our projects over the last couple of years on the Craftzine blog. Hopefully there will be some more mini maker events over the coming year and I can say hello and thank you in person then. I think next year, we will have to try and get just adult tickets for one day of the event and find someone willing to babysit for us, and then take the whole family on the other day, because me and Paul are really into the technical stuff that is at the faire, but don't really get a chance to endulge when we have the small kids in the equation.

Right now though I need to really take it easy for a couple of days because my back is rather displeased with me and the weekend's antics. I still haven't planted the bed of spinach and the bed of peas and beans that I was planning to get sorted before little miss Boardman no.3 arrives, but with only a couple of weeks to go, my body has informed me that it is on strike when it comes to digging, lifting or bending. I'm really looking forward to meeting this little girl and introducing her to my older two, but I'm also hoping that she'll submit to another week or so of cooking time ;)

Did any of our UK readers make it to the Newcastle Maker Faire back in March? How was it? We are likely going to be back in the UK next year and I'm hoping there will be another UK Maker Faire in 2012.


  1. You are a brave mama!

    That is a super cute bump picture, but oh, it sounds so painful!

    We were considering a move to CA, and the Maker Faire was one of the big draws for me! Cost of living, not so much...

    I hope Baby #3 stays put a little longer for you, and that all goes smoothly with the delivery!

    That is a very short fringe, but your daughter is so cute I wouldn't have even noticed it if you hadn't mentioned it!

  2. Oh good luck with the pregnancy. Back pain is so hard in those last weeks.

    Thank you for mentioning the maker faire in the UK! I live in Northants and had NO IDEA that it existed over here. I will definitely be going in 2012; it sounds AMAZING.

  3. Thanks for the kind words M.A. :) Ffi is wearing her mullet well. I certainly wouldn't be able to pull off that look!

    Thanks too for the good luck vibes R.C. I've yet to talk to anyone that made it to the UK Maker Faire, but I'm hopeful that it'll keep growing year after year as the Bay Area one has. I'm curious to find out more about the various hacker spaces openning up around the UK too.

  4. I love your blog... I hope everything is OK with your pregnacy and you'll have more wonderful ideas to share with us. Kisses from a French family in Spain.

  5. Quel joli ventre ! (Cute Bump!)

    Merci pour me faire découvrir le maker faire day.

    Bonne fin de grossesse.


  6. Sorry you missed the demo - I've always loved your dryer sheet Kanzashi! This video might give you a little more detail on how those makers are used:

    Really, they're super easy. If you've ever used their Yo-Yo Makers, it's a really similar idea.

  7. As a fairly frequent visitor to your blog, I was incredibly surprised to see something familiar... Oh Yeah Toys is my husband's cousin's endeavor. My children were excited and came running saying that Cousin ____ was linked on a blog I read.

    Congrats on your new daughter. What a cutie!


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