2015 was a year of growth and increased community engagement for the Houston Mini Maker Faire. To further build the Maker Movement in the Greater Houston Area, we focused on invention and education this year, with significant new representation from the startup and inventor communities. We moved the event to the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston and filled one of its huge halls with Maker energy all day, to the delight of the large audience that was as diverse as Houston itself. With this growth came so many new Maker exhibitors – many more than we can cover with these brief highlights!
MacroFab is a large Houston startup business that provides rapid electronics manufacturing and operations. Its flexible automated services will be of interest to Makers everywhere who are seeking to prototype and bring electronics products to market. They had one of the coolest giveaways ever – a fully functional binary clock wristwatch! We thank them for joining us as a new sponsor this year.
The Arovia team was nearby with a demo of their “SPUD” portable 24″ video display device, which is headed for Kickstarter soon. They enjoyed sharing both their engineering insights and use of Maker tech and tools for device prototyping, and also demonstrating the device and getting feedback from hands-on use by potential future customers. Their initial target is business travelers – but they heard so many other ideas and applications at Houston Mini Maker Faire! Overall it was a great experience and they recommend it to anyone who is developing and preparing products for market.
Many Boy and Girl Scouts attended Houston Mini Maker Faire this year as a STEM learning experience. Through a collaboration with the Children’s Museum of Houston, activities were offered so Girl Scouts could earn the Inventor badge right at the event. And Case Alexander, the first Boy Scout in the Houston area to receive the STEM-oriented Supernova Award, spent the day in the Techno Chaos (a local Maker-space and STEM education center and event sponsor) booth chatting with visitors about his many individual and team projects, including the MATE underwater robot shown here. Overall the Scouts had a great time and have requested even more participation next year!
One of the busiest exhibits throughout the day was GroPockets, a complete urban gardening system for building vertical gardens that can be integrated with hydroponics or aquaponics. The GroPockets team is based in Houston and built and used a wide range of Makerspace tools to 3D model, prototype, and finish the production molds for the unique parts of their system.
Many attendees spent time in this booth learning how to build indoor and outdoor gardens with this system — and a lot of teachers were interested in potential applications in the classroom. The GroPockets team is full of ideas on how to enhance and extend their system, so they’ll have many new things to show next year.
Some of the most sophisticated Maker projects on display were in the “aero” space – namely, aviation and aerospace! The Tripoli Houston Rocketry Club was back with their large hand-built rockets, many taller than 10′ and capable of achieving nearly 15,000 feet in altitude. They were joined by new exhibitor Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 712 who brought a hand-made, full-size airplane into the exhibition hall. Who knows how many dreams were inspired by this chance to see a real aircraft up close, sit in it, and talk to the builders and flyers?
The ThumbSat team will take the honors for highest altitude achieved by any of these projects when a group of their satellites are launched into low-earth orbit in 2 years. This engineering team is building a complete Maker/educator/hobbyist/citizen-scientist-friendly satellite platform that significantly improves the ease and cost of getting an experimental satellite into space. They showed prototypes of their satellite devices and delivered a presentation with full insight into how to use their services. We can’t wait to see more of “Citizen Space” in the future!
The National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, Chapter 139 presented an informative and instructional exhibit about horology, the art of making clocks. Horology combines machining, mechanics, art, and history.
Through a hands-on activity visitors were able to assemble a clock movement, seeing how parts interact within the clock movement. In another display they could change clock pendulums and observe the effects of weight and pendulum length on the speed (accuracy) of the clock. Club members also shared information on how to maintain mechanical clocks.
In “Augmenting Your Reality!” Nelson Cordero from TISA Software roamed the aisles showing active examples of augmented reality displays on a tablet computing device screen. We were excited to have this software-based Maker exhibit as augmented reality is changing the way we look at and receive information by adding a whole new spectrum of data and imagery.
The system works through a user’s smartphone. By aiming the smartphone camera to a designated marker, image, or physical object, the software recognizes key elements and instantly an enhanced 3D image is displayed along with any information plugged into it. The enhanced image can include anything from useful information (as shown in the photo) to artistic effects and projections.
Elizabeth Hamilton from GeekRep showed a unique type of exhibit: how to create and publish comic books online! Comics as an art form have shown tremendous staying power and are doing just fine as the medium transitions from paper to digital, and this was a wonderful mix of old and new technology.
Elizabeth was very helpful to aspiring comic-artist Makers at the GeekRep booth and also delivered two presentations with even more information to help them get started publishing their own work!
Another art form experiencing a renaissance of sorts is board games. Shaun McMillan showed his “Alliance Megagame” board game layout and was busy with visitors all day. This board game combines elements of strategy with role-playing and political science to engage groups large and small in an immersive educational experience. Makers are branching out into so many new areas these days!
The Contemporary Handweavers of Houston kept attendees busy with “Past, Present, and Future Fiber.” This group brought a full-scale loom and spinning wheel that were demonstrated throughout the day to show the traditional art of weaving. They also brought clever small cardboard looms that booth visitors used to weave their own bookmarks from yarn.
The Science Aces presented the interactive exhibit “Creature Creation Lab.” Can science really be fun? Their enthusiastic response is “yes!” They invited visitors to explore why we look different from each other, and where those differences come from. Visitors could design their own creature using a card-based game featuring physical attributes designated dominant, recessive, or co-dominant. They then painted their creatures using household acids and bases (lemon juice and baking soda water) whose pH will change the color of treated paper.
Many school-based groups and teams exhibited a broad range of projects and activities — here’s a small sampling: Scott Hagedorn and his students from Sabine Pass School District showed projects they’ve created with 3D printing, Arduino, and Makey-Makey, including their own novel game controller device. Hagedorn also gave a presentation about how exploration and adoption of current “Maker” technologies creates an improved educational experience in school.
“CETA” (Carnegie Engineering and Technology Association) is a club at Carnegie Vanguard High School in which students can build anything they can think of! Students learn valuable Maker skills and showed a wide variety of projects in their booth. The “Steel Stallions” from the School of Science and Technology in San Antonio drove several hours to be part of Houston Mini Maker Faire and shared their many and varied robotic devices to inspire other students to take up the STEM field of study. And HCC (Houston Community College), shown in the photo above, returned again with an even larger display of makerspace tools and science demonstrations, including an extensive collection of NASA engineering prototypes and models.
Finally, we were thrilled to have a large number of active inventors join us as exhibitors this year! Many aspects of inventing are also Making, and we showed a strong connection at Houston Mini Maker Faire. Not only did they show their inventions as inspiration to others, but they also shared insights into the full creative process involved in turning an idea into reality and then moving it forward into production. Some of these exhibitors also showed the science behind their ideas.
Inventors ranged from everyday folk with great ideas about how to solve problems around the house, to former NASA engineers working on new opportunities (like Joe Evans and his Spine Wizard Back Stretcher, shown above). And the Houston Inventors Association (the largest inventors group in the US) and Young Inventors Showcase were there to further inspire young and old to get involved in applying their creative inventive brainpower to developing and Making new inventions!
We hope you enjoyed this quick recap of Houston Mini Maker Faire 2015 as much as we enjoyed being there. We already can’t wait to see what amazing things Houston-area Makers bring to show and share next year!