Possibly San Francisco’s coolest weekly nerdfest is the Exploratorium After Dark — a night in the museum for grownups, where you can play with hundreds of interactive science exhibits along with your friends, a date, a cocktail, or all of the above. Last night’s was the Maker Faire Edition, and we got a preview of nine great makers and their exhibits that you’ll see this weekend at Maker Faire Bay Area (get your tickets now!).


Firefly Stomp and Sound Wave Dancers With Mike Sullivan

Mike brought two cool mechatronic sound exhibits that fit right in at the Exploratorium. Sound Wave Dancers is a sort of flameless Rubens tube where sound waves are made visible, physically embodied by the dance of a thousand little foam balls. Firefly Stomp lets you jump on a “stomp pad” to control “fireflies” in a clear globe. Transducer signals in the stomp pad are amplified to drive a speaker that makes the fluorescent beads inside fly around in response.


Slime Lamps With Hirotaka Niisato

Extremely weird and fresh off the plane from Japan! You can stretch, shape, and mix together these lights embedded in flexible slime, and they’ll beat along with your heartbeat, thanks to embedded pulse sensors.


Astro Botanicals: Space Garden With Stan Clark

You (and your kids) will love getting lost in these giant light-up inflatable alien plants and flowers, a favorite in the Dark Room at Maker Faire. My family loves “the asparagus ones.”


Big Face Box With Yuji Hayashi

You put your face in this box, and your face gets really really big. Much laughter ensues. Never gets old! Yuji and his crew came all the way from Japan to share this easy DIY project you can make at home.


BioLuminOids With Erick Dunn

Erick brought his eerily beautiful, light-and-sound animated artworks to the Dark Room at Maker Faire last year. They’re kind of mesmerizing, and you can tweak the computer code to customize the animations. Then he built an enormous one for Burning Man — but sadly it didn’t survive the 2017 Sonoma County fires, which destroyed his shop, dozens of artworks, and his unique molds for casting them. This year Erick is debuting a stunning new, 10-foot-high alien thing which he assembled for the very first time last night at the Exploratorium.


Channeled Alien Mechanicals With Justin Kohn

You had me at The Nightmare Before Christmas! Justin’s hand-machined mechanical sculptures look like exquisite armatures for stop-motion animation, because that’s his day job — doing stop-motion for the movies like Coraline, Robocop 2, The Life Aquatic, James and the Giant Peach, and yes, Tim Burton’s holiday classic.


Flock by Zachary Coffin

This 30-foot-tall kinetic sculpture by Burning Man legend Zach Coffin resembles two flocks of birds forever circling one another in a constantly-changing, wind-powered dance of shiny metal. Lovely, and Zach improved it this year with a rotating base, so now you can move it too.


Mousie With Margaret Long

Zipping around the Faire again this year will be Mousie, an R/C car converted to curious rodent that interacts with other robots and Faire-goers, especially kids, who can’t get enough of chasing it around (and being chased by it).


Sewn Scenarios With Paul Nosa

Paul has a talent you’ve got to see in action to appreciate: free-form, on-the-fly sewing machine art. He’s got a spontaneous, cartoonist’s eye and a pure unbroken line — it’s really amazing. Give him a random scenario and he’ll sew you a picture of it, on the spot. This one’s called Singing Fish Island.

All these and hundreds more makers to see this weekend. See you at the Faire!