“Maker Faire Detroit is about ordinary individuals, rolling up their sleeves and creating things, inventing solutions. It’s about everyday people being resourceful and innovative and thinking out of the box. Makers today are no different than the innovators of our past, people like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers — we celebrate them every day at The Henry Ford. We thought it was a natural fit.
Inside the museum, our Makers have the opportunity to display their work alongside one of the world’s most robust collections of artifacts from the Industrial Revolution. And seeing that collision of ingenuity — technology of the past cohabiting with present — is really amazing to see. And of course there’s no better place to show off the Maker Movement and creativity than Detroit!”
Six years ago, on a humid Midwestern summer weekend, scores of Makers from Detroit and beyond convened at The Henry Ford Museum to share projects, knowledge, and inspiration. The excitement and creative energy were palpable as ideas ignited, connections were made, and wheels turned. Maker Faire Detroit is going strong into its sixth year with over 2,000 Makers sharing their projects and about 25,000 attendees expected, July 25 and 26.
We chatted with two members of The Henry Ford’s faire organizing team, Shauna Wilson (quoted above) and Kristen Gallerneaux, to get the inside scoop and a sneak peek at some of the Maker exhibits on display this year. As Wilson notes, “Thankfully, we started out with enthusiastic Maker participation and strong attendance! We’re especially proud of the quality and variety of Makers who participate — there’s always something new to see every year.”
It’s fascinating to see what effect hosting a Maker Faire has on the surrounding Maker community. Wilson shares:
Detroit is a great incubator city for creativity, and Maker Faire has given local Makers an outlet to show off their projects. We’ve definitely seen the community grow, with additions like Ponyride and University of Michigan FabLab, along with new groups in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. Two additional Mini Maker Faires joined the lineup in the state as well.
Here are some of the faces and projects from previous years of Maker Faire Detroit:
I asked Wilson and Gallerneaux to share one of their most memorable moments from a previous Maker Faire Detroit.
Gallerneaux: Last year we helped to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moog synthesizer by bringing a very special artifact out of our storage. The Henry Ford’s collections include the very first prototype Moog synthesizer, built by Robert Moog and coinvented by Herbert Deutsch in 1964. But we went beyond the display of the Moog — we also invited Herbert Deutsch to come to Maker Faire and give a performance and to talk about his life working in electronic music.
Wilson: A couple of hours into the first day, year one, I walked past a couple of guys on the phone having the same conversation: “You have to see this! Seriously, get the kids in the car now and I will meet you at the entrance with tickets!” It felt like we were onto something.
Personally, I’d have to say one of my fondest memories was at the first year, watching hacker and inventor Mitch Altman teach countless people, ages 5 to 85 (including someone with a giant Henry Ford head on), how to solder. Brought tears to my eyes. Here are some of my shots from the first Maker Faire Detroit, in 2010:
10 (+1) Things to Check Out
Here’s just a small sampling of the types of project displays, hands-on workshops, and talks you can check out at this year’s Faire. With about 2,000 Makers registered, this is just the tip of the Midwestern Maker iceberg. See the full Maker list for more.
1. World’s Largest Hot Wheels Track
Engineer Matt West and his 6-year-old son Blade broke the world record for the largest Hot Wheels track. The previous record was a 9’9″ loop. West’s track is 12’6″ tall!
2. Cirque Mechanics
Founded in 2004 by Boston native and German Wheel artist Chris Lashua, Cirque Mechanics blends circus, acrobatics, and dance with mechanical apparatus that allow the artists to demonstrate circus in new ways.
3. P-Funk-Inspired Mothership
Ann Arbor-based Anya Sirota + AKOAKI designed this modular DJ and broadcast booth for Detroit’s North End neighborhood, inspired by P-Funk and their iconic Mothership Connection album.
4. National Honey Bee Queen
The reigning 2015 Honey Bee Queen, Gabrielle Hemesath, will lead a hands-on workshop for kids and give a talk about bees and blossoms and their impact on our food supply.
Created by Mat Roll, the Astroliner is a flight simulator that’s over 40 feet long and can carry up to 25 passengers.
6. Medical MacGyver Jose Gomez-Marquez
On a quest to democratize medical device fabrication, Jose Gomez-Marquez of MIT’s Little Devices Lab has become known as the Medical MacGyver and he’ll be at the Faire sharing his knowledge.
7. Les Paul Big Sound Experience
Part of a nationwide tour celebrating the 100th anniversary of innovator and musician Les Paul, the 53’ interactive state-of-the art mobile exhibit takes visitors behind the scenes into the world of Les Paul, giving them an opportunity for interactive exchanges within a 1,000 square feet full of music, technology, and the energy of Les Paul.
8. Handmade Toledo
9. Mark Montano and Great Lakes Beadworkers Guild
10. Field Ready
Putting Maker skills to use, Field Ready is an organization that provides on-demand manufacturing in post-disaster zones. As Dara Dotz puts it, “In practical terms, this means we will send volunteers with technical knowledge to areas of need who will then use advanced manufacturing technologies, such as 3D printers, to meet need where it is found.”
Bonus: Power Racing Series
We can’t talk about Maker Faire Detroit without mentioning the crowd favorite Power Racing Series, founded by Make:‘s own graphic designer James Burke. Born out of Chicago’s Pumping Station: One hackerspace, this renegade race, which involves Maker teams modifying and racing toy cars of the Power Wheels persuasion with a budget of under $500, made its Michigan debut at the inaugural Maker Faire Detroit in 2010. Trust us, you don’t want to miss it.
For all the information you need to join the fun on July 25 and 26, head to the Maker Faire Detroit site!