Nestled in the arms of the Basque mountains, in the north-central region of Spain, lies the scenic metropolis of Bilbao, the second most industrialized city in the country. This year marks the first annual Maker Faire Bilbao which takes place this weekend, on November 21 and 22, at the Bilbao Cookie Factory and Zorrozaurre Island, and the theme is “Technology Is the New Rock and Roll.” The road leading up to Bilbao’s first featured Maker Faire was paved by the dedicated organizers who have been tending the Maker mentality already present in their community.
In 2013, three organizations (Espacio Open, Social Sound, and Bilbao Makers) banded together to bring the first Mini Maker Faire to their fair city. They had already been organizing Maker-centric events like the 24-hour recycling marathon called Alarmarte and wanted to gather a community around Maker culture, as well as extend the circle to folks who might not have been otherwise involved. As event organizer Karim Asry notes, “The Maker Faire brand gave us the opportunity to translate a lot of things that were already happening in the city into something that more and more people could understand and get involved in.”
The Bilbao Mini Maker Faires in 2013 and 2014 each featured 60 Maker exhibits and drew roughly 4,000 attendees. Asry recalls the community reaction:
It blew everybody’s minds. The mix of technologists, artists, designers, amateurs, and professionals, plus the horizontality of having a multimillion-dollar electronics startup side by side with a 16-year-old kid’s project was something unseen. No one comes out indifferent from a Maker Faire because it gives you a roadmap for the future; it goes straight to the heart. The diversity of life trajectories you can find there is like nothing else. For the Makers, the experience was also new: the interaction with families, kids, urban tribes, and all types of worlds that usually don’t talk to each other is something they could only find at Maker Faire. I remember the reaction of Musikorta, a DIY synthesizer ninja, when he finally found the word that described him well: “I’m a Maker!”
Highlight reel from 2013 Faire:
What affect has hosting the Faire had on the Bilbao Maker community over the past two years? Asry answers:
It boosted everything up. All types of makerspaces and labs were born in the city and the whole Bizkaia region after the Faire. Young people like the founders of Bilbao Dynamics started robotics collectives. Persons who wanted a change in their lives and didn’t know how to become artists or biohackers gained insight. Companies like a MyMat Mondragon, one of the largest cooperatives in the world, started exploring the potential of Maker culture and ended up inventing new materials like ultra-nylon for 3D printers. New Maker programs for youngsters, like Gaztea Tech, have trained hundreds of teens in creative technology. Plus, people have found alliances for their projects and startups. Basically, it has activated our latent potential to innovate as a society.
This year, after two years of positive feedback from the community, the Bilbao organizers have decided to up the ante and transform their Mini Maker Faire into a full-fledged, large-scale featured Faire.
What made them decide to upscale this year? Organizer Nerea Diaz shares:
Because it accelerates its positive impact on the city and its people. Bilbao and our neighborhood, the Zorrozaurre Island, is quietly emerging as a European creative industries hub, giving a second life to huge empty industrial warehouses. Our headquarters in the Cookie Factory were home to more and more projects that also had the DIY spirit, like the circus school Zirkozaurre, the skateboarding school Gure Txoko, or the rock climbers from Piugaz, all of them Makers and builders. We wanted to show them the potential of Maker culture tools in digital fabrication, creative electronics, and programming so they could also incorporate them into their toolkits and allow their communities to be in the loop of open source technologies. And we couldn’t think of a better catalyzer than a larger Maker Faire, in which we all could do all type of family-friendly crazy stuff. Also, the city is celebrating its first edition of the D Week, focused on design, technologies, and creative industries, so it made sense to go bigger this year.
Highlight reel from 2014 Faire:
This year’s Maker Faire Bilbao will feature upwards of 200 activities, exhibits, and hands-on workshops. A full list of Makers, as well as a comprehensive schedule of events is available on their site. Diaz offers insight into what to expect:
This year we’re bringing together some of the world’s finest Makers, artists, and technologists so their ideas can spread and the dots can get connected locally. David Cuartielles, cofounder of Arduino, is Spanish, so he couldn’t miss this first featured Faire in Spain. We’ll also have Josef Prusa, inventor of the RepRap 3d printer that carries his name. José Gómez Marquez From MIT Little Devices Lab and MakerNurse will be there with other Makers from all over Europe to apply DIY to health and social issues. The local team from OpenROV Spain will explore the same river where Spanish inventor Torres Quevedo amazed the crowd operating a boat using a radio remote controller for the first time. The team from Seeed Studio in Shenzhen will explain the ecosystem of the hardware renaissance and help Makers design for manufacturing, in one of their first appearances in Spain. We’ll also have Gael Langevin, French sculptor and creator of the InMoov, who happened to be in town for the EEC15 Conference and will stay for the weekend so all the kids can go crazy saying hello to his open source humanoid robot.
We love how each Maker Faire becomes a direct reflection of the community it takes place in, so we had to ask what uniquely defines the Bilbao Maker community. Asry notes:
The Maker community in Bilbao is as diverse as life itself, but if we can highlight an aspect, it’s that we have an interesting conversation between art, design, technology, and urban culture. All of this is mixing itself with the industrial memory of a land that already played a central role in Spain’s previous industrial revolution. We also have a strong social sensibility. A group of youngsters that months before didn’t know Arduino existed are building a robotic chariot for the Faire that will help older people carry weight. They could’ve built an arcade, but they chose to build something to help others. It’s just an example, but it means something.
Their theme of “Technology Is the New Rock and Roll” is an intriguing one indeed. What is the connection and how will it be embodied at the Faire? Asry says:
Self-expression, the collective experience of enjoying something together, identity, skills: there are so many things in common. Many people probably experience the same thing at their first Faire as with their first music concert, thinking something like, “How could we have not known about this?” At the Faire, we’ll heat things up with a groovy Maker music jam with all types of instruments, from 3D-printed ukeleles to soft pianos to laser-cut drums and everything else the Makers will be bringing with them or making onsite. We’ll also do creative prototyping with the Circus School, the Skate School, and the rock-climbing boulder builders (secret passwords: accelerometer and gyroscope). There’s more, but let’s keep a couple of surprises.
Makers of Bilbao
With over 100 Makers and 60 exhibits in the Maker Faire Bilbao lineup, there’s a little something for everyone. Here are just five of the many. Check out the site for a full listing.
Low-cost, open-source geodesic dome system.
A musical instrument you can play with you whole body.
An open source binaural microphone.
A wearable that allows you to broadcast your life in real-time.
Green agro-domestics structures.
For all the information you need to join the Maker community at Maker Faire Bilbao, head to the site. Hasta pronto!