With its rich history dating back thousands of years, the world-renowned capital of the Czech Republic, Prague, is one of the must-see cities of the world. Alongside ancient, well-preserved crafts and traditions is the exponential growth of Czech maker culture, an initial stamp of which was made by one of the most famous 3D printer makers and enthusiasts in the world: Josef Prusa. This weekend, maker history will be made as the fair city hosts its first annual Maker Faire Prague, June 23 and 24 at the Industrial Palace (which dates back to 1891). We spoke with the organizing team to learn more.
What was the main impetus for organizing the first Prague Maker Faire?
It was a shared feeling among the members of our team that we have many open-source hardware, maker, and citizen science projects and groups in the Czech Republic, but they are not very visible to the general public. Prusa Research, makers of 3D printers, or Bastl Instruments, the famous synth company, are well-known abroad, but less so in our local context.
There has also been a surge of makerspace and hackerspace openings and activities across the country, such as DEPO2015, FabLab Brno, FutLab, PrusaLab, and others that have started to attract new members. Maker Faire is simply an ideal format to connect all these people and organizations. It is something of a rite of passage that will show the public the possibilities of this movement and connect the makers themselves.
Who is involved with organizing the event?
We have a very diverse team comprised of academics, students, members of the business community, professional marketing & PR folks, and event organizers that all share a passion for maker projects. Josef Prusa, who makes amazingly popular 3D printers that all makers love, initiated the event after some conversations with Ivan Sobička from Žádná Věda (Not Rocket Science), a nonprofit organization famous for their fun geocaching and science events, and Jiří Zemánek from the Czech Technical University in Prague, who is a prolific maker of contraptions (for example, eggs with stroboscopic effects) but also a scientist building tools for micro-manipulation in magnetic and electric fields. They all use DIY, open hardware tools and techniques in their professional lives and decided to mobilize their social networks to bring up the whole event.
Another academic and maker interested in citizen science projects who joined early as core team member is Denisa Kera, who brought international experience and connections and managed the project in its early phase. Together with a professional production and event management team specializing in student festivals around Daniel Jirotka and Ondřej Kašpárek, we created a very diverse and balanced group.
We also had the amazing support of Jasna Sykorová, a partner from the communication & PR agency, Taktiq, that specializes in tech companies and events. She used to work as a volunteer for Maker Faire in San Francisco in 2015, and she brought to our team maybe the most interesting member, Leona Daňková (also from Taktiq), our marketing guru. Leona experienced her first Maker Faire in Chemnitz just this April and immediately fell in love with it, so she decided to involve her whole family. Her daughter, Anetka, is organizing one of the most popular booths in the Maker Faire, for which we are getting a lot of volunteers and requests: slime making. Anetka gathered a group of 7- to 10-year-old girls who will test various slime-making recipes on their tables.
Is there a theme?
The main goal for our first year is to show making as something that connects Czech society across cities and regions but also across generations and professions. The biggest challenge for us was to connect the traditional Czech maker activities and formats, such as the radio clubs and various technical clubs from the museums and schools, with the global movement of fab labs, makerspaces and shared workshops. We feel respect and admiration for these older activities and names for “making” (bastl, tinkering, home improvement), and we hope to show the continuity and to simply map what is happening in various public and private workshops, garages, labs, etc.
Another big theme for us is to show making and open hardware as a more engaging model in education, but also something that offers unique possibilities for business, science, art etc. The first year is simply about mapping the Czech maker scene and spirit, exploring its diversity and traditions, and connecting the people involved, helping them realize they are part of a global movement.
How many makers and attendees are you expecting?
On 6,000 square meters, we have 180 exhibited projects and activities, over 20 workshops, and 50 presentations, and we expect around 5,000 people. Visitors will be able to shoot from the biggest air cannon in the world that is 4 meters long, admire robots of all kinds that draw, push around ketchup cans, play football, race drones, and visit DIY astronomical paper dome for 3D projections. They can do various chemical experiments with food and follow the content of vitamin C, make their own musical synths, learn Arduino or create brushbots. There will be everything from meteorological balloons to nano-satellites, 3D printed tools for cryptography to cosplay and LARP objects, “smart” bins and headsets for communication with AIs, and a lot of opportunity to 3D print or doodle. They can play in VR but also with new types of 3D-printed sports and games.
What has the community response been so far?
Absolutely enthusiastic, we have makers of all generations and even whole families submitting projects and showing what they do, including quite few radio clubs and technical clubs. We are giving a lot of exposure to our makerspaces and hackerspaces from the Czech Republic.
Tell us about the maker community in Prague. What, in your opinion, uniquely defines it?
We are one of the birthplaces of all robots, a city with a long tradition of making, tinkering, and playing with science and technology that goes back to the 16th-century alchemy and mechanical arts. The word “robot” originated in a play by Karel Čapek, an influential early-20th-century science fiction author, who was inspired by an old Golem legend. Golem was a powerful and semi-autonomous creature from clay designed by one of our first makers, the 16th-century rabbi of Prague, Judah Loew ben Bezalel. Rabbi Loew was one of the first makers to face a very modern dilemma: how to make our autonomous and powerful technologies not only efficient and obedient but also ethically and morally responsible and aesthetically pleasing and fun. DIY culture is in our DNA. Due to the lack of various products during the communist regime, people were forced to manufacture things they could not buy. Almost every family has a weekend house with a garage or workshop for home improvement projects.
The old spirit of experimentation between technology, philosophy, and art is still something happening in our makerspaces and hackerspaces today. The oldest hackerspace is Brmlab, which started in 2010 with about 50 members that do really nice citizen science projects, mapping of pond creatures, such as algae, etc. They also do Tesla coil performances, have their own DIY cotton candy machine, and signals monitoring lab. There is also a newly set up, FutLab, next door that specializes in experiments with new materials, but also 3D printing on textiles and various 3D printing techniques. The biggest one is PrusaLab, which is a maker paradise thanks to the big tools, CNC mill, lathe, and laser cutters.
Prague Maker Sampler
There will be so much to see and do this weekend! Be sure to check out the full lineup of makers, the schedule of workshops and experiments (workshopy a experimenty!), and the lectures and performances. Here’s just a small sampling to whet your appetite!
Pyroterra Light Show
Pyroterra, makers of specialty lights, will be performing, offering a mesmerizing combination of dancing, flow arts. and futuristic LED costumes and equipment.
Dalibor Farný is a former software engineer who fell in love with Nixie tubes and started his own production from the scratch.
Eva Nečasová creates Spacelights, dreamy lights and geometric jewelry, inspired by nature.
Architect Kateřina Huráková makes small textile Leebee toys.
Michal Zahradník, an 8th-generation glassmaker, makes steam engines out of glass.
The eForce FEE Prague Formula is a team of the International Student Formula Competition under the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the Czech Technical University in Prague.
Šimon Kern makes recycled seats composed from a mixture of fallen leaves from trees and bio resin made mostly from cooking oil waste.
3DLabPrint was founded in 2015 in Brno, Czech Republic as an aeronautics company focused on the use of the additive process for a variety of manufacturing from small R/C models to manned aircrafts.
MansterVille is an all-interactive propane punk concept theme park and show! It’s a unique experience you simply must have!
Laborky Air Cannon
Plus, one of the biggest air cannons in the world, made by Laborky.Cz, which is 3 meters in diameter and can break a wall of boxes 100 meters away!
For all the information you need to join the fun at this historic event, head over to the Maker Faire Prague website!