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Probably everybody who’s involved in creating Maker Faire, presenting at Maker Faire, or attending Maker Faire, has a special moment or two that sort of encapsulates the experience or becomes the icing over the whole experience. Each year, I like to share some of those stories. Above is MAKE editor and Maker Faire founder Dale Dougherty, riding Mondo Spider, a 1,700 lb., 8-legged electric walking machine, captured by Blake Maloof on his cellphone camera. As Dale said: “Very Wild Wild West.” And after he’d parked the thing (decent parking job, BTW), as he got off, he said: “There was my Maker Faire Moment.”

I had two stand-out moments (honestly there were at least a dozen, but I’ll recount two):

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Some of the arty pummers built by Zach Debord that I showed off during my demo.

The first was an email I received from a mom after she and her son had attended my “How to Build Pummers” demo on the Make: Projects stage. She told me her son, seven years old, is dyslexic and really struggling with being wired differently than other kids. During my demo, I was having trouble orienting my iPad so that the overhead camera could pick it up and display the image properly to the audience. I mentioned that I was dyslexic. She said he “lit up” and that it was really inspiring for him to see someone doing something he thought was really cool, who was obviously accomplished, and who’d overcome the same thing he was struggling with. The letter was extraordinarily touching. I shed a tear or two over it and so did other team members when I shared it with them. In some quarters, being hooked up a little differently is an asset, not a liability. And Maker Faire is most definitely one of those quarters!

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My other moment centered on the Maker Shed Merit Badge and the Learn to Solder tent. This was one of my favorite happenings at the Faire. I loved that we were teaching so many people how to solder and it was so much fun to see what a conversation piece these buttons became, a badge of honor that newbies could parade around proudly displaying. At one point, I was talking to Dave Hrynkiw at the Solarbotics bench in the Maker Shed. A father came up with his young daughter and asked what would be a good kit to get her started. Dave pointed out their new BeetleBot kit. “No soldering required,” he said, “Screwdriver only.” The girl wrinkled up her nose. “She knows how to solder,” dad proudly replied. “She just took the soldering class.” Dave directed them towards the Mousebot kit, instead. Sweet.

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Phillip writes of one of his and Limor’s Maker Faire Moments:

Our favorite part of Maker Faire was the steady stream of parents with their daughters who had built Adafruit kits, watched “Ask an Engineer,” and/or just wanted to meet “Ladyada.” Here’s a photo from Jeff that captures it nicely :)

And on that note, a parent who watches “Ask an Engineer” with their kids each week said that their daughter asked the following question after seeing Ladyada and Amanda (w0z) on a few shows…

Are there any guy engineers? Or are they all women?

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Image of the ProdMod LED Hula Hoop kit, available in Makers Market.

Rachel Hobson writes:

I don’t know that this is particularly profound, but I had a moment when I was walking back to Expo Hall through Fiesta and saw a group of kids going to town with the LED hula hoops. They were soaking up the moment like nobody’s business, and when I looked at them with all the other art and magic happening around them, I was stopped dead in my tracks. I thought about how lucky they are to grow up with Maker Faire in their lives. For them, this environment is completely normal. They will grow up knowing that this kind of magic, creativity, and community can exist. I didn’t grow up with that, and it’s why I fell so madly in love with Maker Faire. It was like I’d finally landed in a place I’d been dreaming about my whole life. And these kids are lucky enough for it to be a part of their development. It stuns me to think of the implications of this being “normal” to them and what impact this will have on the future. And it was just darn fun to watch!

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Nick Normal, who’s helping us organize the World Maker Faire in New York (Sept 25, 26), says:

One thing that keeps going through my head is the image of this kid watching someone from The Crucible doing live welding. He was absolutely transfixed for many minutes, all without bother or distraction, watching this welder, just a few feet away. At one point, he turned around, saw that his dad was still there, also fixated on the welding, and turned back to watch and learn some more.

So, if you were at the Faire, what were some of your favorite moments? Tell us in the comments.

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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