This past weekend, thousands of Chileans descended upon a lovely little park in central Santiago called Parque Quinta Normal. I arrived around 11am on a bright and sunny Saturday morning. I walked through the entry gates of the park and when I saw a huge yellow circus tent in the middle of the park, I knew I was in the right place.
As I got closer to the fair, I was greeted by a few llamas. Yes, we had llamas at the Santiago Maker Faire. I took a quick photo and continued to the registration area. I received my wrist band, walked to the central point of the fair and was pleasantly surprised to see so many people inside. I would estimate that there were over 400 people when I arrived. It was great to see so many families and young children enjoying the beautiful Saturday.
I walked to the main tent and as I entered, I was bombarded with all sorts of wild sounds and colors. The first exhibit I saw was a near life size replica of a Mark 9 Ironman suit that a young boy named Nicolás Cartes had built out of cardboard and a few electronics as a replica for the energy core.
As I made my way around the tent, I saw a big influence of 3D printing. This is not abnormal to see at other Maker Faires but I was happy to see this technology here in Santiago. This just goes to show that technology, ideas, and perhaps more importantly, money is moving from the traditional places to new parts of the world. This is good for everyone. The spread of knowledge and wealth is, in my opinion, the primary driver for growth and technological advancement.
A very impressive and creative exhibit was called Simulador de Parapente DIY by Antonio Suazo Navia. He built a paragliding simulator using an Oculus Rift and a customized paragliding chair that he built. I did not try it out, but I could tell by the smiles of the young ones that it was a fun experience.
There were some other really cool exhibits like a DNA extraction from plants. A company called Jump Cats VFX had a very impressive installation set up to show off some of their amazing work in special effects video editing. I talked to one of the guys and he said he went to school for journalism. After graduation, he realized that he wanted to do what he loved, so instead of being a journalist, he went to work for Jump Cats. There were small Kinect driven robots, quadcopters, and even a life size animatronic robot. I also saw interesting craft projects and a hilarious drinkbot.
I left the main tent to see the rest of the fair and my ear caught the sound of a live band. I followed the sound to a stage and the entire band was playing DIY instruments. Now, it would be one thing to make a drumset from random parts but a violin or a flute?! What about a saxophone? That seems to be incredibly difficult. I was amazed at how deep and rich the sounds were. I was not familiar with the song they were playing, but hearing them was one of the highlights of the fair.
As I tried to stay within earshot of the band, I explored more. I saw a bunch of children playing with DIY bubble maker sticks. For most of them, it seemed as though they thought the bubbles were the most amazing things in the world. As I was talking a few photos, I seemed to attract the bubbles like magnets.
Overall, this Mini Maker Faire was a great experience. I am very encouraged by the large support of emerging technologies that I saw this weekend. People seem eager to learn about technology and adopt it. I am excited because I plan on making South America my home. There are a lot of companies here that are investing in emerging technologies and smaller startup companies. One of those companies is a new type of educational program called Exosphere. I recently wrote an article for MAKE explaining what it is. If you are interested in entrepreneurship or technology, I suggest you check it out.