Last weekend I returned to my hometown region to take in the sights at Lehigh Valley Mini Maker Faire and was extremely proud to see such a vibrant maker community. The first ever Maker Fair in the region took place at SteelStacks, a 10-acre campus dedicated to arts, culture, family, community, and education built on the former home plant of Bethlehem Steel, America’s second-largest steel producer and largest shipbuilder until its bankruptcy and shutdown in the 1980s that changed the region forever.
The iconic blast-furnaces of the once mighty Bethlehem Steel still dominate the landscape and give an otherworldly, industrial feel to a complex that is now focused on music and art. SteelStacks now hosts more than 1,000 concerts and eight different festivals annually, including Musikfest, the nation’s largest free music festival.
It gave me great pleasure to attend a Maker Faire here. The vitality, curiosity and creativity that poured out of the 100+ exhibitors and many attendees, and the many digital manufacturing programs that have sprung up, gave me great hope for the future of the Lehigh Valley.
I was particularly impressed with the work being done in the Northampton Community College Fab Lab, Lehigh University’s Integrated Product Development program and the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship Creativity, and Innovation.
The guitars produced by the “Basic & Advanced Woodworking Luthier Program – Stringed Instrument Construction” at the Northampton Community College Fab Lab were amazing. These guitars are both handmade and digitally fabricated, and have very intricate inlays that are made possible with the laser cutter. As their brochure states, “The intricacies of the craft and the science of Luthier are blended with old world and new world technologies.”
When old-world craftsmanship meets high tech innovations, the creativity is without bounds. Imagine building a guitar while you learn to incorporate laser engraving and inlay … Or, how about cutting the neck and body on the CNC machine using nested exotic woods from around the world. You can learn tonewood resonance testing and even do your own pick-up winding. The list goes on.
Exciting stuff is happening here and I’m looking forward to returning soon. Congratulations to producers Marc de Vinck of Lehigh University & the Baker Institute’s Lisa Getzler-linn who brought Maker Faire to this symbolic venue!
For maker videos, photos, and interviews, check out the rest of our Lehigh Valley Mini Maker Faire coverage.