My husband and I had the opportunity to attend (representing GeekMom) the Mini-Maker Faire in Portland, Ore. over the second weekend in September. The Faire was held at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) which has been part of Oregon for more than 65 years. A side parking lot was packed with all sorts of activities for the weekend. We didn’t bring out kids, but Jonathan Liu of GeekDad attended with his children and experienced different projects than we did. Here are 10 of our favorite things from the weekend.
Tabletop Moviemaking Studio: Jenny Williams has talked about the Tabletop Moviemaking studio on GeekDad, and you may recall the Kickstarter. These boxes include a scene, characters, a stand for a phone, tablet, or other recording device, and may contain lights and extra goodies for three point lighting–basically everything you need to make movies except a recording device and imagination. Since it is all paper and cardboard, there is a lot of room for personal customization. Plus, if your kids have imaginations like mine do, the sky is the limit for the stories and movies that can be made. The website has some great information on the contents of each level of kit, advice on getting started, how to use the kit, downloads for teachers, and even general tips on how to make movies (that are useful even if you aren’t using the kit).
Since my background is in broadcast production, having a set in our house also comes with a teacher! -CP
Yarned Car: The Yarn Car, by Tim Klein, brought new meaning to being yarn-bombed. Yarn bombing is a graffiti art form that normally involves knitting or crocheting a cover for a random piece of permanent fixture in a city (light pole, bike rack, parking meter). Instead of a traditional crochet or knit cover on a car (I use the term ‘traditional’ loosely here), single strands of yarn were meticulously laid out in a cool pattern. -CP
Pewter Coins with ESCO: It was deceptively educational making coins with the same process ESCO uses to make machine parts, digger buckets, and other large metal items. My husband and I were able to make a pewter coin for each of our kids following ESCO’s process for casting. Packing the sand/water/clay mixture into the mold was a bit like packing brown sugar while baking. The next step was stamping my child’s initials; I found that it took less pressure than I thought it would. Then, some ESCO volunteers packed more of the sand mix and compressed it. They then poured molten pewter, heated it in a furnace, into the mold, removed the new coin, and cooled it in water. We filed down the rough edges after the coins had cooled. The finished coins are really neat—the kids love them! -CP
Modeling Chocolate: Chocolate Craft Studio offered attendees the opportunity to make little penguins and fish out of modeling chocolate. The modeling chocolate has a consistency that is a cross between a fudge and clay. I used to work with polymer clay, and this was very similar. With the muggy Northwest day, the chocolate started coming off in my hands if I didn’t work with it quickly enough. The colors available were quite vibrant and I can see there would be many creative possibilities for using the chocolate. Unlike fondant, which I find just tastes like plastic, this chocolate had a very rich taste. It was fun to make the characters and the kids said the finished products were quite tasty. -CP
Glass work: Mark Simmons showed passers-by how to make drinking glasses out of bottles. I have seen Pinterest pins with instructions on how to do this at your home, but I haven’t tried it to know if it is ‘Pin-Busted’ or ‘Pin-Trusted’. That said, the glasses are quite spiffy looking, and it is a great way to recycle glass if you feel like getting a second use out of your empty wine bottles. -CP
R2D2 Builders Club: I was raised on Star Wars, and I never tire of seeing Star Wars robots at conventions. I have seen the R2D2 Builders Group before at Maker Fair and have seen them occasionally on YouTube. This group shares information and attends events with their robots getting kids and adults excited about robot-building. Making a robot is an investment in time and money, but can be done in your own home. What better way to get kids interested in engineering and robotics than to show them that some of their favorite movie characters are robots that they can build!?
Oh, and I might have been influenced by the dark side of the force: my husband caught me smooching Vader. -CP
Don Anderson’s Tesla Coil: Don Anderson had a 1 million volt Tesla coil and gave demonstrations every few hours. Now, I’ve seen Tesla coils before (including Arc Attack, which is really impressive) but Anderson had some other funny takes on it. He swapped out various attachments on the top to show how the lightning would change depending on whether you had a long straight rod, a tree-like antenna, or a glass globe. But my kids and I particularly enjoyed seeing some more unconventional attachments, like a CD (which was later passed around so you could see how it had been damaged) and a banana. -JL
F-F-Fiddle: David Perry had a 3D-printed violin at the OpenFan PDX booth. Since my daughter plays the violin, we stopped in so she could give it a try. The violin is a solid piece that basically is enough to have a chin rest and hold the strings taught, so there’s no hollow body for resonance—instead, it uses some parts from an electric violin so you can plug it into an amp. Next to the violin itself they had a 3D printer printing out another violin so you could see how it was done. -JL
Frisbee-launching Robot: The robotics team (The Flaming Chickens) at Catlin Gabel, a private school in Portland, had a lot of the kids at the booth and some robots on display. My favorite was the frisbee-launching robot—they’d drive it over to the edge of the parking lot and you’d hear the motor spin up, and then five frisbees would shoot out of the top. Of course, what they need next is a frisbee-retrieving robot!
You can watch the video below to see the robot in action. -JL
PIGSquad: The Portland Indie Game Squad (or PIGSquad) is a game development group and it was fun to see some of the games they have been working on. One of my favorites was PewPewPewPewPewPewPewPewPew, a game in which two players control the little astronaut using microphones. One player makes noises to turn on the jet pack (moving the astronaut up) while the other one can make “pew pew pew” noises to fire the gun. The sounds were all modulated through the speakers so they sounded more like video game sounds, and it was pretty hilarious to watch. PIGSquad overlaps with Pixel Arts Game Education PDX, which is dedicated to creating maker-based learning using games.
Check out the video below to see the game in action. -JL