I learned a new German word at Maker Faire Hannover. Begreifen. It combines two meanings: to touch and to understand. It might be translated as “grasp.”

A teacher, Mathias Wunderlich, used the word to explain why he created a mapping project with his students at the Freie Aktiv Schulen, a middle school in the small town of Wülfrath. The project consists of a 10×12 km topographic map of Wülfrath, which was 3D printed as a set of 1 km square tiles. On this map, a digital projector can show different overlays or views.

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Wunderlich said that combining the physical and digital in this map project was a new way to introduce students to geography. “Students use maps on smartphones to navigate but they don’t understand geography,” he said. He described bregreifen, how students could touch this physical representation, allowing students to grasp the geography of their own region. “I can even mix up the tiles and they can put it back together like a puzzle,” said Wunderlich.

To create the map, Wunderlich could not rely on available open data, such as Google Maps, because the resolution was not good enough. He needed to map data that was only available commercially, but he called the company that sold the data, and eventually found someone who understood what he wanted to do in education and they gave him the data.

Wunderlich said he didn’t invent this project but found a Swiss educator doing something similar. Yet the mapping project is a terrific example of innovation by a maker educator, who is not just teaching technology such as 3D printing but using the technology to create new interactive models for learning about the world.

The mapping project was developed at the school’s makerspace, which Wunderlich thinks might be the first school makerspace in Germany. The school is an independent school, which Wunderlich said, “can be kind of tech-phobic.” A makerspace, he said, was a good way to introduce technology and connect making with the school’s subjects and its teachers.

Fourth Year in Hannover

In its fourth year, Maker Faire Hannover had over 16,000 people and over 200 exhibits and 800 makers. For the first time, Hannover had an education day with 1,000 students experiencing Maker Faire on Friday. The majority of exhibits were inside two medium-sized halls. Outside was a tree-lined area where a few exhibits such as blacksmithing were located as well as food vendors.

Even with rain on Sunday morning, there was a good crowd, although organizer Phillip Steffan (in a photo below from EU Maker Week in Brussels) was busy early moving a few of the exhibits inside. This edition of Hannover had more art, as its organizers wanted it to feel like a festival. Yet it also had plenty of robots, drones, electronics, craft, and dozens of curiosities.

Roaming around was Makey, a robot mascot in a soft-shell costume. Makey wasn’t alone, as there were steampunk-themed costumes and other cosplayers. I met Rudolph Arnold, a sixty-something math teacher who had blue hair and wings as Hakone Miku, a popular Japanese vocaloid.

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As expected, Maker Faire Hannover had a wide range of activities and workshops. It’s wonderful to see a young person seated at a soldering station, intently focused on doing the work.

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DIY POV Globe

Maker Faire Hannover is organized by Maker Media Germany, a division of Heise, and they also publish Make: magazine in the German language. I like many of the new projects that they feature in the magazine. The upcoming issue features a DIY persistence of vision (POV) spinning globe and they had a demo on display.

At several of the early Maker Faires in the Bay Area, James Sears brought a large version of this project. This version fits nicely on a tabletop. It consists of 32 LEDs and is powered by an Arduino Nano. I hope to publish this project in English in Make:.

Fair Trade Solder

I had a conversation with Oliver Sendelbach who is Fair Lötet, an organization that promotes “fair trade” solder. He explained that solder generally comes from metals that originate in conflict zones, which often have poor or exploitive working conditions.

In practice today, fair trade solder or flux is made from recycled tin. A big win for Fair Lötet was an agreement with STANNOL, a German company, to produce a product line of fair trade solder. Sendelbach referenced the Fair Phone and the Fair PC as other electronics projects that are trying to understand the origin of all the materials that make up electronic components, which go into our devices. Sendelbach hopes that efforts like Fair Lötet can help change the electronics industry, just as Fair Trade has impacted the coffee and food industry. Visit fairloetet.de for the details on fair trade solder or Stannol.de for product information.

Vintage Machines

Friedhelm Bruegman displayed his intricate nixie clock, along with a mirror that allowed him to proudly show off the underside of his work. Mostly, he sat back in his chair, content to let his work speak for itself.

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Das Wellenkino was an exhibit of old electronic machines such as oscilloscopes, organized by a group that repairs the equipment and looks for new uses for old machines.

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Another old machine on display was a working Telex with a sign “Real Communication Makes Noise.”

Der Fisch

Certainly a highlight was the metal art-car in the shape of an angler fish (or lantern fish). A group of costumed sea creatures board der fisch and drove it around but they also put on a performance with loud, haunting music.

I didn’t learn a lot about the group, which calls itself MetallKampo, except that the artists came from Leipzig in Germany and Rennes in France. The performance was edgy and fun – one of the creatures heads into the crowd with a powerful squirt gun. I learned another German word, tiefseefisch, which means deep-sea fish.

Laser Cutters

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I learned about a maker of laser cutters from the The Hague in the Netherlands whose name is FAB Creator. Fab Creator has three type of laser cutters, all of them open source. FAB Kit is a low-cost DIY C02 laser cutter that can be put together with a screwdriver. The brochure says that “it’s not just for novice makers.” FAB Creator also offers two fully assembled professional models, the 40 and the 100 (shown below). Visit FabCreator.com for more information.

Open Source Resin Printer

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OpenExposer is a resin-based 3D printer kit design from Mario Lukas and Christoph Emunds. They have been working on the prototype for a while but they believe it’s ready now. As a kit, it would cost about $200 in parts and materials. The kit uses an Arduino.

Bikes

Walking into the event, I saw a couple of colorful yarn bikes. I don’t know if someone just rode their bikes to Maker Faire or if they were an exhibit. Probably both.

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Uwe Hoppe makes large “power bikes” at power-bikes.de. These are electric bikes with custom frames that look cool. “It takes two days to make one,” said Hoppe, who was speeding around in one of the bikes when he could get away. Hoppe has made about twelve of these bikes and he is making plans to ramp up production.

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Cocktail Machine

A perfectly self-serving maker project, the cocktail machine was developed (and, no doubt, battle tested) by students at FH Bielefeld. Malte Mechtenburg, Fabian Hilbert, and Dennis Demirbas brought the second version of their automated cocktail machine and gave demonstrations of it making mixed drinks.

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The same students also displayed a variety of souped-up toy cars based on the popular German “bobby car.” It reminded me of how Power Racing Series teams modify a basic toy car for racing. In the photo below, Fabian is riding a solar-powered bobby car and the original bobby car is to his left.

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I was assured that the two projects are kept separate to avoid any drinking and driving.

Wind Technology

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A group of three students displayed several different models that they have built to look at ways to capture the wind and convert it into energy. The Green Wind Technology exhibit was developed by Melina Heine, Alina Langkowsky and Tabea Diedrich.

EduFab Kits

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I really like the stackable design of the EduFab kits, which are portable boxes that organize a a number of components and tools for classroom projects. They were developed by the DiMeB program at the University of Bremen. For more information, check out the EduFab website.

Pi-Top

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Another educational project at Maker Faire Hannover was the Raspberry-Pi laptop called PI-Topm produced by a group out of the UK. Kids seemed to enjoy sitting down and playing with the green and black laptops, which have a sliding door that opens to show the RPi inside. Kids sat right down and began playing Minecraft.

Zoobotics

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I met Willo and Daniel of Zoobotics two years ago in Hannover and they were excited to tell me about the progress that they have made on the paper robotics kit called Zuni. They are about ready to do a Kickstarter. The basic form is the same, but they’ve improved its design and made it easier to build.

Wearables

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Lina Wassong exhibited several wearables projects. One was a purse with LEDs that could change color through a smartphone app. The other was a dress with several strips of LEDs that reacted to sound. A student, Lina is not particularly interested in turning her projects into products but rather enjoys teaching others how to do wearables projects.

Musical Tesla Coil

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One of the steampunk exhibits had a musical Tesla coil playing a Star Wars tune. When people hear the music, they form a crowd to listen and snap pictures, as seen above. As much as I enjoy the makers, I like seeing people and how they respond to the things they see at Maker Faire.