Editor’s Note: MAKE Technical Advisory Board member Gareth Branwyn and his son, Blake, ran the Mousey the Junkbot Workshop in the MAKE area at Maker Faire. The following excerpt from Gareth’s blog, streettech.com, captures his experience at the Bay Area Maker Faire in May 2007.
Everything at Maker Faire is cranked to 11: the size of the event, the creativity of what’s being presented, the excitement of the fairgoers, the diversity of the people who show up. So, you end up on 11. I heard that this jacked amperage was experienced by both fairgoers and presenters alike. The common chant went something like: “This is so awesome. I love it! There’s too much! I’ll never get to see it all.”
As workshop presenters, Blake and I saw little of the Faire. The first day, we did open-ended workshops, selling Mousey parts bundles and then helping people build them at workstations we’d set up. That was probably the most tired I’ve ever been in my life. The second day, we ran three one-hour workshops. That gave us some time to wander around and see some of the Faire.
Our Mousey workshops went very well. We created two parts bundles (put together by the fine folks at Solarbotics [and still available at store.makezine.com]). We made a quicker, easier “car kit,” but ended up only selling three of them. Everyone bought the full Mousey, and a surprising number of people actually sat down and started the build right there in the MAKE area. People were at the workstations for several hours. My favorite was a woman who saw the mousebots, really liked them, and said: “You know what? This is really out of my comfort zone, but I’m going to do it anyway. I think I need to challenge myself more.” And she bought a parts bundle, chose an old mouse, sat down, and dove right in. There were a lot of kids with their parents, moms and dads alike, working together, which was nice to see.
Other highlights of the show for me were Mister Jalopy’s talk and his Urban Guerrilla Movie House on wheels (to build your own, see page 48). One of my new favorite words is hilaritas, which means “profoundly good-natured, full of mirth.” It’s more than being friendly, more than being funny. Mister Jalopy is full of hilaritas.
One of the things that really struck me about the Faire was the impressive diversity of the attendees. The MAKE ethos really does appeal to an extremely broad range of people. The staggering diversity and creativity on display were also evident in the vehicles that freely circulated throughout the fairgrounds.
It was the most insane, and insanely great, fleet of conveyances I’ve ever seen: all manner of odd vehicles, from electric bikes and cars, to pedaled recumbents, homemade Segways, a solar-powered motorcycle, and a guy riding a motorized unicycle while holding a regular unicycle in front of him. And then there was the chariot pulled by a Roman centurion robot, and a covered wagon pulled by two robotic horses. It was all so surreal, so ethereal, so like a dream, if your dreams were scripted by Salvador Dali and Rube Goldberg.
At dinner on the first night, Mark Frauenfelder and I were talking about the continued, cancerous growth of the American monoculture, as it spreads across the planet like the chocolate pudding blob from a 1950s sci-fi horror flick. There are few regional differences anymore, little local color. The cyberneticist Gregory Bateson is famous for saying “information is difference,” and “information is difference that makes a difference.” That’s what’s so scary about our planet-invading monoculture. No difference? No information.
The beauty of the Maker Faire is that it’s about crazy, almost fractal, levels of difference. So many people came up to me, looked at my project, which turns a useless analog mouse into a light-seeking robot, and were giddy, almost drunk, with excitement, over all of the monocultural boxes that they saw transcended at booth after booth. “There are so many innovative ideas here!” they enthused.
“I can’t get over all of the ingenuity, the creativity!” “How did you ever even think up such a thing?” And on and on.
So, in conclusion: run for your lives! And run to the next Maker Faire, if you can.
The next Maker Faire is Oct. 20–21, 2007 in Austin, Texas, at the Travis County Exposition Center and Fairgrounds.