“Come and experience old crafts side by side with new technologies and look out for opportunities to try your hand at something extraordinary.” Sounds like Maker Faire! This Sunday, November 6, a full-on maker celebration in the form of Maker Faire Adelaide will be in effect at the Tonsley Innovation Precinct. Impressively organized by a group of dedicated volunteers led by South Australian Makers, this Faire is definitely by the people, for the people. This year there will be roughly 125 maker exhibits covering a wide range of making from robots to waffles. We chatted with one of the organizers, David Byworth, to get insight into the history and vibe of the Faire.
How have you seen Maker Faire Adelaide grow over the past three years?
Australia has a great culture of people tinkering away in sheds, workrooms, and garages, but the notion of bringing them all out together in a cross-disciplinary festival under the banner of a makers and making is still relatively new. When we ran the the first Adelaide Mini Maker Faire in 2013, we knew there was interest in making, but we didn’t know how much. In a relatively short period, we managed to pull together some 40 exhibits, and through little more than word of mouth on social media, we invited the community to come — and come they did! Our measure of success was 700–1000 people through the door, but we smashed that figure in the first hour. And 4000 visitors later, we knew we were on to something fantastic.
Sadly, the unexpected size of the first Mini Maker Faire meant the organization that produced it didn’t have the capacity to continue, so a repeat event in 2014 wasn’t a possibility. Interest remained high amongst the community, however — enough so that in 2015 the community came together to go it alone, resulting in the 2015 Adelaide Mini Maker Faire with a new volunteer management team, new venue, double the exhibitors, and more than 5000 visitors.
This year, we outgrew the Mini branding to become the first featured Maker Faire in Australia. Still entirely organized and run by a small, passionate group of volunteers, this weekend’s event is shaping up to be even bigger and better.
How long we can continue to maintain this growth is a matter of debate. Having to rely on the generosity of volunteers and their time is increasingly challenging: institutions, organizations, and government here just don’t seem ready to embrace the Maker Movement in any major supporting capacity yet.
How has hosting a Maker Faire in Adelaide affected the maker community?
We’ve been delighted to see connections being made between different makers, leading to new projects and collaborations. This year, we have people traveling from inter-state and overseas to come. The community is building every year. We’ve even had sponsors finding us other sponsors based on the positive experience they had the year before.
For us, it’s a great thrill to see Hollywood prop makers and traditional textile artists deep in conversation at our Maker Muster the night before the Maker Faire. Or retired accountants, complementing their traditional wood-turning hobby with a laser cutter because of the skills shared amongst makers.
What’s new this year? What are you doing differently?
As we’re still a relatively new event, we haven’t made any significant changes. The focus has been on improving — mostly small, incremental changes based on the lessons learnt from last year. Many of last year’s sponsors have returned, and a number of them at a higher sponsorship tier, which has really helped give us a financial buffer to deliver the event. We also have a better relationship with the venue owners (now that they get what a Maker Faire is), so that has been a massive help in the planning process.
Marketing and promotions have been ramped up this year, plus the recruitment of an experienced social media team to help build our online presence. We’re charging a set entry fee this year. The first Faire was free, and the second was entry by small donation. This year we’re charging $5/adult, with kids free. Also, to encourage our makers to bring their very best to the Faire, we’ve offered a number of small grants to help with materials, transport, and other expenses.
Tell us how/why South Australian Makers was formed.
South Australian Makers (SA Makers) exists to support makers and making here in South Australia. Like many great Australian ideas, SA Makers started in a pub! After the success of the 2013 Mini Maker Faire and the subsequent lull in 2014, a group of friends gathered and decided that we could “do it ourselves.” As an individual can’t hold the license for a Maker Faire, we set about forming a volunteer-run, not-for-profit entity: SA Makers. We posted information about a public meeting, and 20 people attended. The rest, as they say, is history.
SA Makers now not only produces Maker Faire Adelaide but also manages Fab Lab Adelaide, a community workshop with a range of tools, including 3D printers and laser cutters. Like Maker Faire, Fab Lab Adelaide was an immediate early success but eventually ran out of funding after government support and interest waned. Once again, it was left to the SA Makers volunteers to step in and save the Lab from closure. The Fab Lab celebrated its fourth birthday yesterday! Proceeds from this weekend’s Maker Faire will be used to help keep the Fab Lab open and available to the local maker community.
South Australia is facing some of the same challenges the manufacturing states of North America have faced and continue to face: Traditionally, our industry has been large-scale manufacturing and this is now in decline. If South Australia is to have a sustainable future, we need to diversify and think differently about our economy, our people, and the way in which value is created. We believe that makers have a key role to play in this and we, as a small group of concerned individuals, are committed to supporting the making community to do this. Our challenge is to get government to look beyond existing business and universities as the sole drivers of innovation and to recognize, encourage, and value the benefits of grassroots community making in all its forms.
7 Superb Projects at Maker Faire Adelaide
There certainly won’t be any lack of offerings or variety therein this weekend. Check out the full list of makers and don’t forget to scope the lineup of workshops and program guide for opportunities to get hands-on. For now, here are seven of the superb projects that will be at Maker Faire Adelaide on Sunday.
Game Controller Hacking by Thomas Tilley
Game Controller Hacking will display a line-following mobile robot named Lollybot, made from a hacked joystick. There will also be interactive displays that include hacked game controllers — like the multiplayer Guitar Hero that up to ten people can play at once!
The Sonic Manipulator
The Sonic Manipulator has built a suite of eight light-up, clear acrylic MIDI controllers that all make music in different ways. For example the Claude Controller has 57 wheels arranged like a piano keyboard, which makes it possible to map these to all the synth parameters as well as the effects and to easily remember where they all are. Articulating these controls while playing produces fantastically expressive music.
Australian Dalek Builders Union
Dalek Makers of the World Unite! You have nothing to lose but your kitchen sink plungers! The Australia Dalek Builders Union formed in 2012 to share the love of building the scariest cyborgs from the world’s longest-running science fiction show, Doctor Who. The Union is an Australian subset of the British group Project Dalek. Come meet the Adelaide Chapter of The Australian Dalek Builders Union and their Daleks, and discover how to make a member of one of the most feared races in the universe!
Miniature Art by Joshua Smith
Joshua Smith is an Adelaide-based miniature sculpture artist who creates tiny urban landscapes. How does he do it? Come ask him at Maker Faire Adelaide.
Smoke Ring Puffers by Institute of Backyard Studies
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire! Or maybe it’s one of the Institute of Backyard Studies’ Giant Toroidal Smoke Ring Puffers. The Institute is taking valuable time off their ongoing research into Australia’s famous scientist and inventor Henry Hoke to bring two of their Smoke Ring Puffers to Maker Faire for your enjoyment! Come and meet Mark Thomson and his fellow researchers, and try your hand at generating smoke rings!
Recycled Armor by Terry Izzat
Terry Izzat sees the beauty in recycling. He makes handmade armor and props out of recycled materials. Terry won the award for Best Use of Recycled Materials at the 2015 Maker Faire.
Pegasus Props and Visual Design by Matthew Bagnara
Pegasus Props and Visual Design specializes in cosplay and replica props. Come check out the props in person.
All the information you need to join the community at Maker Faire Adelaide this Sunday is on the site!