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08/07/2012 / thriftomancer

Maker Faire 2012, Part 1

Ah, Maker Faire. Where do I even start? Maybe first by saying that, since this post is going to be insanely image-heavy and long, I’ve split it into two parts. Right, that’ll do. Carry on!

This was the third year of Maker Faire Detroit, held mostly in the parking lot of the Henry Ford Museum with several tendrils of con wending their way into the building and its all-encompassing AC. This was also the first year I volunteered, which earned me a free weekend pass (Thanks Maker Faire admins!) and allowed me to attend both days. (Huzzah!)

My first impression of the faire this year (aside from ‘It’s good to be back./Ooh, what’s that?!/My people!’) was ‘something’s different’, but then the faire always changes slightly from year to year. This year it seemed the main difference was less fire. (Which I’ll admit is wise under this summer’s drought conditions.) Last year there were tons of flammable and molten attractions. This year, not so much.

That’s not to say open flame was nowhere to be found. There was one contraption/game where you dueled player 2 in trying to be the first to light a… Well, effectively a propane-burning flamethrower. With your mind. It used a pair of hacked headsets from the game Mindflex to detect brain activity and light the fires on mental command once a threshold of activity was reached.

There was also a demonstration of aluminum casting using backyard-level tech/tools in place of last year’s cast iron pouring demo and raku firing pottery which was made even cooler because they were glazing organs.

The glazing table

Kiln and cans for raku

The DMC teamed up with the potters (I think it may have been Pewabic, but that was unclear.) to raise awareness/fundraise for organ donation and their new organ transplant facilities. A partnership I enjoyed immensely because it gave us amazing raku guts like these.

Raku heart

Raku brain and kidney

Also, note their mascot, the kiln monster:

The Kiln Monster!

I want one.

Another fiery demo, kind of, was the blacksmith.

The blacksmiths

I say ‘kind of’ because while they did have a small forge set up and were making nails from scratch, they were also bending/hammering rings out of pre-made horseshoe nails using an ingenious vise+mandrel+press jig. Here’s mine:

My ring

It was also at their booth that I discovered this year’s anthropomorphized (unofficial) faire mascot: The Vigilant Tractor. (Last year’s was The Mustachioed Commodore.)

The Vigilant Tractor

I love it. Really, what use is there for aging farm equipment but attaching grotesquely charming facial features to it and letting it creep people out? Oh, and it still runs great, if you’re curious. Made a few laps around the faire ere running out of gas.

The usual acts were there too: Eepybird with their coke and mentos extravaganza and Life-Size Mousetrap which, amazingly, worked.

I’ve seen LSM perform at Maker Faire for three years now and caught multiple shows each year (It’s hard not to since they’re so centrally located.) and never until their very last show of this year did I ever see it work flawlessly and smash the car in a single go. Truly, I’ve never seen a more wondrous and whimsical way to drop a massive weight on a used car.

And, scattered all around, inside and out, were the Makers. Individuals showing their work, maker/hackerspaces displaying their toys (CNC machines, 3D printers, embroidery machines, ect.) and trying to attract members, and finished projects running amok all over the place. In short, the maelstrom of creative chaos that makes Maker Faire what it is. I was nearly run down by Robo-Pac-Man seeking its ghosts while I played Mega Operation. (No, that’s not me in the pic. Nobody I know even, but if you recognize yourself, give a shout and I’ll credit your mad operation skills.)

Mega Operation

Good times…

Here are the makers, projects, concepts, and other doohickeys/thingamabobs that really caught my eye:

The vehicles. Maker Faire is a good place for stuff on wheels. This year there were the traditional 6-person bikes (trikes?), now equipped with really annoying siren-type horns.

A 6-person bike

The Power Wheels Racing Series, wherein folks mod Power Wheels cars into outrageously, hilariously bizarre and speedy (sort of) monsters. Like this guy.

The Power Wheels Racing Series

That one was equipped with a killer stereo that played nothing but disco.

More modded and specialty bikes!

The grill bike

This one had a working grill in the back. As you can see, the owner was actively grilling chicken as I snapped my pics. It smelled delicious and was so very unfair.

Then there were these crazy things. Apparently each wheel is custom-made in the Netherlands and costs $8000.

The big wheels

And, of course, the motorized cupcake.

The cupcake's innards

The cupcake on the move!

This needs to become both commonplace and street legal.

Rarer, but of just as much note: The big projects.

I’d call this one a sculpture, really. Or an edifice. It was amazing. A geodesic dome made of 4″ diameter aluminum tubing. All the sections were securely bolted together and it was ridiculously strong. Here it is during construction:

The Dome: Under construction

Later when the dome itself was fully assembled kids started climbing it, which set Maker Faire’s liability senses tingling and freaked out their legal folk. Perfectly reasonable if you ask me, since a fall, even from the second row of bars, onto the pavement would easily, permanently wreck a person. Especially a kid.

The Dome: Construction complete!

It wasn’t even done yet, not really. The people building it continued by spreading carpets, pillows, and blankets inside and hanging a cargo net at the very top to serve as a hammock (for them). On Sunday they added a parachute to the top as a sun shade and, since I was helping to attach it, I got free rein to climb all over the dome in the course of tying it down.

Covering the dome

Taking photos while climbing probably wasn’t my brightest idea of the weekend, but I survived so I count it as a win. I’ve got to say, being up there was really fun and, again, I want one. Really want one. It’d be great in the back yard.

There was also this: The Great American Horn Machine.

The Great American Horn Machine

Please note the proliferation of horns. According to Make magazine’s interview about it, “Most of the single horns have a manufacturer’s rated output of over 100dB at 100ft, and the largest horn, originally from a U.S. Navy ship, is audible for 7 miles at sea.”

In short, it’s loud. Very loud. And very loudly patriotic. It sat alone in a slightly removed parking lot reserved just for it and, at scheduled times, lit up with its very loud horns to scream out ear-shattering classically patriotic American tunes.

Truly something that must be experienced in person so you get the full, rib-rattling impact of the performance.

On to Part 2!


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