I have wanted to go to Maker Faire ever since I first heard about it. I’ve been a subscriber to Make: magazine for three and a half years, now, and while I haven’t done very many of the projects I have been inspired and enthused by reading about them! Make: magazine comes from O’Reilly media and for several years has been sponsoring Maker Faires in faraway places like Texas and California. So when I found out that there would be one in New York City (specifically, in Queens), I immediately made plans to attend.
Well, that was yesterday. I drove up with an interesting guy who does science parties and teacher trainings, Ken Fink of Wondergy. He was a helpful navigator (it is always a challenge to find my way to a new place…can’t easily read my Google Maps driving directions AND watch the road!) and good nerdy conversationalist. We arrived, presented our tickets, and entered wonderland.
The first area I entered had tents with fabricators (shopbot, home plastic vacuum forming, CNCdevices (think home-accessible 3-D printing, though still pricey), instructional areas (lockpicking, soldering), and various commercial interests (Ford, Wolfram, US Patent Office). MakerShed was there (the Make: magazine store, full of books, kits, parts, more learn-to-solder stations, etc) and there was a beer tent and a giant version of that old “Moustrap” board game. Plus a two-person pedal-powered ferris wheel and a pedal-powered electric guitar windmill tower. I got a Wolfram Mathematica temporary tattoo (almost gone now, actually) and entered a query into Wolfram Alpha to receive a deck of WolframResearch playing cards! I did not bother to learn lockpicking. It’s not something I feel I need to know right now.
I then wandered over into a large parking lot (for the NY Hall of Science) where I found an area of recycling/composting/indoor gardening booths, and a bunch of big tents set up. I wandered through one, finding things like nixie-tube sudoku; beautiful brass, steel, and wood electrostatics demonstration equipment; musical instruments played by pulling on ropes or powered by arduinos; and Cooper Union students showing off their chemically-powered robotic vehicle. I stopped at the booth where a guy from the UK was teaching surface-mount soldering on a scrolling digital name badge powered by arduino. Free to learn, $20 to keep. Of course I made one! We didn’t use soldering irons for the surface-mount work, instead we used these nifty little butane-powered heat guns – I will have to get one if I ever get more into surface-mount work, though that seems unlikely at this time. I have no particular need to work with components that tiny and hard to see (I didn’t even think to bring my reading glasses, though I had my own safely goggles!)
I wandered a little more before deciding I was hungry, so I bought a plate of paella. It was huge, and included huge prawns which I had difficulty eating. My parents know I can’t deal with soft-shelled crab, the one time I had Maine lobster my friend Line kindly extracted the meat for me, and in general if it still has a head on it I can’t eat it. But the rest of it was delicious! I couldn’t finish it, though.
After lunch I found my way inside the NY Hall of Science, where I finally met Lenore and Windell of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. I’ve been a fan of their blog for a few years, and once got a lot of traffic on this blog when they linked to my “Cheer Up” post featuring the fish-shaped ice cream sandwich. I have made their bulbdial clock kit (lots of soldering – the normal kind – which I love) and I have placed their egg-bot kit on my wish list.
There were also a couple of guys with an amazing machine which shoots little balls through holes in rotating disks…amazing! I met a Mexican guy who has set up a knowledge exchange (“Will trade my brain for info“) and who gave me a linoleum print, and bought a Nikola Tesla poster from the Tesla Wardenclyffe Project. Woot! Several people or groups had brought interactive art installations, like a ferro-fluid puddle with an upper and lower adjustable magnet, and a large screen which would display a splotch of spilled letters when hit by a thrown book. And all over the place there were kids involved, learning to take stuff apart (there was a small room dedicated to deconstruction) and put stuff together and to be creative. That was beautiful!
Then I went back outdoors and entered the Craft tent. I was immediately asked if I knew how to knit or crochet. When I answered no, I was asked which I would like to learn, and was seated next to a very patient woman, handed a thingy of yarn and a pair of 6.0 mm (U.S. 10) needles, and taught to knit and purl, do stockinette and make ribbing. Wow! Then, I was given the remaining yarn and the needles to KEEP! Sweet!) Later, I signed up to win a $500 gift certificate for personalized designed furniture, learned about using resin to make jewelry, and saw some people who were all about making stuff out of cardboard. Just outside the tent was a car covered with a knitted “pseudo-sod” car cover, that had taken the artist a year to make!
Later, I wandered through a craft-vendor area, where I found everything from Martha Stewart Living to a woman offering crafts made from yogurt containers and plastic bags. She let me make a little plastic skull with her stuff, which can be a magnet or a brooch, depending on what I decide to attach to the back. There were lots of t-shirts for sale, jewelry, some pottery and ceramics, and even food vendors (artisan ice cream and chocolate). I’ve been going to craft fairs since I was very young, and of course I bought things. A barrette that spells out “NERD” in scrabble tiles, a headband of block-printed, layered and stitched felt, a print touting the “tofu revolution,” and some greeting cards made with the pages of an old children’s encyclopedia. I did not go back for the chocolate because I decided to catch the last performance by ArcAttack at the end of the day.
ArcAttack? They’re the guys who make music by vibrating the air with sparking tesla coils. They wear head-to-toe chainmail so that they are protected by personal mobile Faraday cages. If you ever get a chance to experience their performance, do it!
Note: more photos are on my Flickr.