You can famously walk to Santiago de Compostela (as pilgrims have been doing since the 8th century) or you can travel there virtually, as makers from around the world did this last November for the 6th edition of Maker Faire Galicia. Unwilling to let a year go by without an event that has become a regional touchstone for innovation and possessed of years of product design experience, producers Enrique Saavedra Martínez and Marcos Saavedra (unrelated, long-term collaborators) created a novel platform as the “space” for their event.

Dispelling with the idea that virtual events can only be navigated through text (links) or a time-based schedule, they developed a navigational system (not unlike Google Maps) that allows you to “walk” through a virtual version of their event’s amazing physical location, encountering projects and interacting with makers just as you would within a “real” Maker Faire. Here’s a taste of the experience.

The video from the 2019 edition gives an indication of the amazing space in which the event is held and that was used as the “base” for the virtual platform, the remarkable Gaiás Centre Museum at the City of Culture of Galicia—an architectural complex by Eisenman Architects (NYC) that evokes a scallop shell, the symbol of Santiago.

 

As virtual events seem set to remain an important means of connection and communication in 2021, their platform offers an object lesson of both maker ingenuity and a new way of unifying the serendipity of Maker Faire and the broadened opportunities for participants that we’ve seen virtual events offer. The platform Tu Evento Online is now being used by other exhibitions, museums, conferences, and more and has many possible configurations depending on what is needed and also a bespoke service (3D design and VR experiences for the stands, interactive layers). We reached out to Enrique and Marcos to hear more about how their process, how attendees liked it, and how it will change their event this year. “The new platform made the fair a completely new story for the viewers, with much more interaction and options to navigate. Although there was little time to make it and we’ve improved many things since the Maker Faire, we are very happy because we had a lot of people from different continents that wanted to participate and made the faire really global. The workshops worked really well using different formats (recorded, live, and some with a provided with physical kits or materials list).”

Maker Faire Galicia had been innovating the content of their event over the last few years already, stretching it over 5 days to include an industry day, two education days (one for educators and one for students), and two “open” days of traditional Maker Faire exhibits and workshops—and are looking to keep both that structure and the new experiences made possible by the virtual format. As Enrique notes, “We want to expand and make more workshops next year, especially for the educational day and the open days of the event. We want to improve the experience for the visitors and make it more interactive with tasks and challenges with reards and prizes. Likewise, we want to facilitate the “ice-breaking” talk among visitors and makers by proposing questions and offering different options to communicate. We also want to dedicate more on more time for the makers to be more visible on the site and gain visitors. With these changes, we are sure the faire will work very well and that in future editions a hybrid (virtual/physical) will bring new participation opportunities and interactions.”

And, as Maker Faire Galicia has been uniquely focused on developing relationships among industry, educators, and makers they see this format as creating an even stronger network in the region and beyond: “It will make the faire an even better place to get the right contacts for your projects and communicate what you do.” Since 2015, when they started the Compostela Mini Maker Faire (with co-producers Mathilde Rodriguez and Chus Prol), Enrique and Marcos have nurtured the maker community at the far western edge of Spain, quickly growing the event to the regional level as Maker Faire Galicia with hundreds of maker projects and five days of content and interactions that build connections among industry, innovation, and education. Read about their past Maker Faire events in 2016, 2017, and 2018.

As we’re always interested in what turns a maker into a Maker Faire producer, we asked Enrique and Marcos to share more about what they do outside of creating Maker Faire Galicia and how they got started. And it’s clear that for them, it is all integrated into a philosophy that seamlessly blends design, innovation, a passion for creating physical objects, and sharing their knowledge with others as they describe in their 2015 TedX talk.

What is your day job? 

360 Innovation: social, education, and business through VermisLab where we do everything from educational products and industrial design to online courses.

What kinds of stuff do you make?

Marcos and I always like creating things, not only physical things, we met at the university, studying Product Design in 2005.

What is something that you’ve made that you’re really proud of?

  • An educational maker microscope, the Maker Academy in academy Vermislab).
  • The Vermis, a Finalist at the International Fujitsu Design Award competition, 2011.

What is next on your project list?

Giving back to communities around the world by teaching the things we teach at Vermislab.

What is something you’d like to work with but you haven’t yet?

AI projects for education.

Any advice for people reading this?

Don’t think too much and make it happen!