Maker Faire Milwaukee returned for its second year and nearly doubled the amount of space for the event, adding a “Dark Room Lounge” this time, which featured projects and performances that really shined in a low-light environment. Over 175 Makers took part in the event, and we also had a number of speakers, performers, and conductors of workshops throughout the weekend, all excited to share their skills and knowledge with over 45,000 attendees.
Some favorites returned from last year, including Nerdy Derby, Laser Maze, and a demo race from The Power Racing Series, but we added a number of new things, including Swap-O-Rama-Rama, an indoor drones course, and Artemis, which took place inside a simulated starship bridge that was built as a collaborative project by the co-hosts of the event, Betty Brinn Children’s Museum and Milwaukee Makerspace.
Milwaukee Makerspace also led the charge on one of the big projects, a giant digital clock that had four 7-segment displays each with 20 rotating pieces. The clock was powered by 21 Arduinos running 1,600 lines of code, and over 25 people helped with laser cutting, CNCing, assembling, painting, lifting, and putting thousands of staples, screws, and nuts and bolts into place.
We also managed to get a partially built airplane into the building, and a FIRST Robotics competition featuring over a dozen teams. Outside we had blacksmithing, an Aluminum pour, and printing students from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design come together to demonstrate printmaking, including some large-scale prints that were done using a steam roller. There were also Tesla coils, large and small, and we ended the weekend with Jake (a member of Milwaukee Makerspace) putting on the suit of armor he made and grabbing his sword to do battle against the large Tesla coil.
Besides Makers local to the Greater Milwaukee Area, we also had a number of Makers from Madison and Chicago, and a few all the way from Kansas City. It was great to see so many Midwest Makers come together for the event.
We had Daleks, and R2 units, and the robot from “Lost in Space”, but one of our favorite robots didn’t come from movies or television, but from the mind (and hands) of a 6-year-old boy named Henri. Henri came to Maker Faire Milwaukee last year, and he loved it so much he told his dad that he wanted to make something this year, and with a little bit of help from his dad and his sister, he built a robot using PVC pipe, roller skates, and a rocket launcher.
Henri embodies what we all want to see at a Maker Faire: someone who attends, and leaves with the mindset of “I want to build something!” and then returns the next year to show off what they made, and help inspire others to start making. Henri’s dad sent an email to the organizers the day after Maker Faire, and I think his words are the perfect example of why Maker Faire exists:
I was unsure whether this would be too much for a 6-year-old, but I believe that the only way kids really learn stuff is by trying it, so when Henri insisted that he wanted to try to exhibit at Maker Faire I had to let him try. I guess all I can say as a father is that the arena you have provided for Henri (and all the other Makers) is amazing, and will probably live with him forever.