Rain and wind didn't keep them away

Rain and wind didn’t keep them away

Wayne Losey, chief creative at Modio, a toy startup that lets kids design and customize their own toys, is standing under a tent, next to a sprawling collection of toy parts on a large circular table.  A gaggle of kids are assembling the parts in novel ways, showing their new creations to their parents.

A half a block away looms a corporate office building occupied by toy giant Hasbro. It’s also surrounded by kids, and parents, and makers: 3D printing personalized toys, flying drones, and checking out a geodesic dome.

We must be in Rhode Island, where a history of manufacturing overlaps with a culture of innovation and tinkering. We must be at Rhode Island Mini Maker Faire.

“It feels like a celebration of the pursuit of curiousity,” Wayne Losey says. “You got all these people, you’ve got Hasbro — Providence has always been a making town.”

Around 50 exhibitors joined Losey at this year’s version of the Faire, held last weekend in three locations in downtown Providence. Although the day started off rainy and windy, it ended up beautiful. There were 3D printers aplenty, of course, but also LED sculptures, pinball machines, robots, sculptures, and more robots.

Co-organizer Shawn Wallace said that the most remarkable thing about this year’s edition was how many repeat exhibitors were showing improved models of projects they had shown in previous years.

“So many things were more and more better,” Wallace said.

To co-organizer Brian Jepson the Faire was, “an awesome salute to Rhode Island’s innovation heritage.”

Jepson is referring, of course, to Rhode Island’s distinction as the place where the American Industrial Revolution began, when Samuel Slater snuck out of Great Britain in disguise in 1789. He needed the disguise because you weren’t allowed to leave there if you knew how to spark an industrial revolution. He arrived in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and made machines.

Rhode Island was also where sewing machine inventor George Henry Corliss came in 1844. He turned his talents to improvements in steam engine technology, and made a steam engine so efficient that European manufacturers produced knockoffs, even affixing Corliss’ name to their counterfeits.

Visitors to this year’s Faire had 50 reasons to believe that RI’s invention heritage continues. Check out the photo gallery for a representative sample.