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A robotic dog chases a tennis ball at last year's Milwaukee MakerFest

A robotic dog chases a tennis ball at last year’s Milwaukee MakerFest

Last year, the members of Milwaukee Makerspace decided to hold a festival. The city is known for its festivals — Summerfest, Polish Fest, German Fest — so the makerspace called it MakerFest and held it in their 16,000-square-foot space. It attracted some 30 to 40 makers and more than 600 attendees, but the makerspace is growing rapidly and the event was limited in scope.

Still, it attracted staff from Milwaukee’s Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, who were impressed enough they suggested a collaboration: The museum and the makerspace would work together to put on a Maker Faire in 2014.

“Milwaukee’s kind of a blue-collar, rust belt, industrial city that has a lot of history in the making of things, and maybe it’s time for that to return,” says Mike Cook, who runs the museum’s makerspace and is working on the faire’s content curation. “A lot of kids don’t have access … and that’s what I’m excited about the Maker Faire bringing to the city.”

It’ll be at the Wisconsin State Fair Park, on September 27 and 28, with 120,000 square feet of space to cover. Milwaukee Makerspace’s Lance Lamont expects as many as 15,000 attendees, thanks in part to Harvest Fest, which will be sharing space at the fairgrounds. Both events are free, for accepted makers and attendees. (The exception being makers who are selling products at the faire.)

But although all this should bolster attendance, Lamont is encouraging more makers to apply for booths — including those who don’t yet know they are makers. “There’s a lot of people that have no idea what a maker faire is, still,” he says, adding that they need to reach those people “and help them realize that they’re welcome, and they’re perfect for it.” He met a man at a Renaissance faire who makes miniature siege engines from mousetraps. It’s perfect for Maker Faire, says Lamont, but the creator had never heard of the event.

Cook offers another example: “I was just bothering this guy I met the other day, ’cause he made this amazing web addressable controllable meat smoker thing, and he didn’t realize that he should probably bring that, ’cause it’s awesome.”

Among the attractions will be a giant Kuka robotic arm and MagneTag (think laser tag, but with magnets). It’ll also be the first time a Power Racing Series event is held on an actual racetrack — the Milwaukee Mile.

If you would like to be involved in the Milwaukee Maker Faire, they are accepting maker applications until August 3. Update: The call for makers has been extended to August 17. Use those extra weeks to put together a killer application!

Nathan Hurst

Nathan Hurst is an editor at MAKE. He loves anything having to do with science or bicycling.


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