The idea of trying to choose only ten favorite moments from the past ten years of Maker Faire is almost silly. Over that decade, the Faires have been painstakingly engineered to deliver attendees memorable moments by the moment. But when we think back over the flagship Faires (Bay Area, New York, Austin, Detroit), from 2006 to the present, certain moments and special events spring to mind. The following list was generated by asking the Maker Media team, the Faire crew, and some close friends and followers to share their favorite event attractions. Here are their top ten, in no particular order.
Woz playing Segway Polo
Apple co-founder and hacker icon Steve Wozniak was an attendee at the first Maker Faire in 2006. That was the year that Segway polo was played on the lawn and Steve was one of its players. Other memorable mallet-wielders included Adam Savage and Grant Imahara of MythBusters. Rumor has it that the Woz even Segway’d into the bathroom and used the urinal from atop his robotic steed, but that remains unconfirmed. [Photo by Scott Beale]
OK Go performing with fishbowls on their heads
The endlessly, seemingly effortlessly creative alt.rock band OK Go has been a friend of Maker Faire for years. In 2010, they performed on one of the Faire stages while wearing water-filled fish bowls (complete with gold fish) on their heads. The rigs were designed by Marque Cornblatt, now of Game of Drones fame. You can watch a behind the scenes video of OK Go suiting up here.
Tim O’Reilly rides the Thundersteed Jet Ponies
One of the most amazing (and amazingly loud) contraptions ever to appear at a Maker Faire was the Thundersteed Jet Ponies at the first World Maker Faire in New York, in 2010. Created by Hackett and the talented tinkerpunks at the Madagascar Institute of Brooklyn, this carnival ride from hell consisted of two pulsejets (as in V1 bombs from WWII) with seats strapped to them that spun around on a rather insubstantial, welded frame. The sound and fury of this thing was amazing. Many of us held our collective breath when O’Reilly Media co-founder, Tim O’Reilly, and one of his elderly friends decided to take the Ponies for a ride. In the end, nobody died in a Maker Movement-crippling fireball and a pulse-quickening good time was had by all.
ArcAttack inside the Great Hall
The Austin, Texas-based performance group, ArcAttack, has pleased crowds at flagship Faires in Austin, the Bay Area, and New York. But perhaps their most… electrifying performance was when, for MFNY 2011, they brought their singing Tesla coils into the hallowed Great Hall of the New York Hall of Science to perform Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.” [Photo by Brain Derballa/Wall Street Journal]
Make Play Day
One of the more important moments of the first Bay Area Faire in 2006 was when the Make: staff saw just how readily kids (and adults) took to being given “permission to play.” Presented with a roomful of technojunk and the tools to disassemble and reassemble it, they enthusiastically dove into creating clever creations they were proud of. This was perhaps the Genesis-moment for all of the maker kids and maker education initiatives that have followed, from the Learn to Solder tent to the annual Maker Camp on Google to the Maker Education Initiative. [Photo by Kent Barnes]
Adam Savage’s annual maker sermons
MythBuster’s Adam Savage has been an avid Maker Faire regular and champion since day one. Adam is like a Maker Movement equivalent of one of The Beatles. He gets mobbed by adoring kids and parents wherever he goes around the fairgrounds. For years, whenever his busy schedule allows, he’s given moving, inspirational talks to the gathered throngs. All of Adam’s talks have been so great, I couldn’t pick just one, so here are four: Problem Solving, Why We Make, Working Smarter, Ten Commandments of Making.
Adam Savage Bonus Video: Adam, inside of a Faraday cage, rocking out to ArcAttack performing the Dr. Who theme at MFBA 2011.
The Contraptor’s Lounge
In 2008, Maker Faire reached out to many of the movers and shakers in the steampunk community and invited them to create their own mini happening within the Faire. Together Make: editors and the steampunks created The Contraptor’s Lounge. Icons of the movement such as the late Datamancer, Jake von Slatt (Steampunk Workshop), Libby Bulloff and Margaret Killjoy (Steampunk Magazine), the steampunk rock band, Abney Park, and many others showed up. For many, it was the first time they were meeting face-to-face and the event proved to be an important one in the history of the steampunk scene. Volume 17 of Make:, the “Lost Knowledge” issue, was an outgrowth of this event within the event. Steampunks have been an official part of Maker Faire ever since. [Top two photos by Libby Bulloff, bottom illustration, of Jake von Slatt and Datamancer, by Suzanne Forbes]
Maker Faire has always taken chances, not been afraid to bring strange and offbeat art and outside-the-box makers to the show. One prime example of this is John Dunivant’s Theater Bizarre, an annual, underground Halloween masquerade ball and haunted sideshow that happens in Detroit each Halloween. In 2011, Maker Faire brought Theater Bizarre to the second Detroit Faire. The group designed a unique experience for the event, creating a stage around a NY transit accordion bus and building the world’s tallest Hi-Striker which even shot fire that tracked the height of your strike. [Mephist-o-Meter image by Becky Stern]
The Hand of Man
We already wrote a profile of Christian Ristow, featuring his Hand of Man kinetic artwork, but we had to include it again as it was on so many people’s lists of Faire favorites. Not only did the piece look amazing, but you cannot imagine how satisfying it was to crush a giant object within a giant robotic hand and forearm controlled by your puny meatbot arm and hand. This is the kind of stress-reliever that everyone needs in their backyard.
First White House Maker Faire
In February of 2014, the White House announced that it would be hosting a Maker Faire on its grounds. That event took place on June 18th, 2014. Over 100 makers from 25 states got to show President Obama and other lawmakers, the media, and the world their passion for making and innovating. The President also declared June 18th a National Day of Making and challenged individuals, companies, and organizations to join the Maker Movement in helping to foster innovation and STEAM education in the US. Make: founder and publisher, Dale Dougherty, Maker Media V. P. Sherry Huss, Maker Faire Producer, Louise Glasgow, and many others from the Maker Media team where hosted at the White House. I can’t think of a better way to end this piece, tracking the dramatic arc of Maker Faire and the Maker Movement, than finding our team proudly taking group photos and selfies at the White House while attending a White House-sponsored Faire. This month, the White House officially announced the National Maker Faire on June 12 & 13, 2015 and a Week of Making (June 12-18). For more info, you can sign up here.