Best of Maker Faire Bay Area Beats: Bikes, Robots, Outdoors, and Arts

Craft & Design Robotics
Gon KiRin

Maker Faire Bay Area 2012

It’s hard to believe over a month has passed since Maker Faire Bay Area 2012. The Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth blew through like a tornado of inspiration, and we’re still reeling from the incredibly creative ideas and projects we witnessed and the impressive number of folks who came out in support of making. With faith in humanity well restored, we look forward to Maker Faire New York at the end of September.

With over 700 makers present at the Faire, checking out everything is a daunting task, so this year, members of our editorial staff each picked a beat to cover. Here’s part one: a tasty sampling of four out of eight editor’s beat picks, in their own words. Stay tuned for part two next week, featuring Arduino and Microcontrollers, Young Makers, 3D Printers, and Crafts.

Nick Normal: Bicycles and Pedal Power

Fun Bike Unicorn Club
Winners all around, the FBUC (pronounced ef-buck) were a big hit with kids, throughout the Faire but especially on Education Day. Todd Barricklow was a great emcee, and worked the crowd to magical effect. I was only able to stop by the Death Defying track once during the event, but went there with the sole intention of making a GIF [seen above]. It was great that FBUC opened up the pedal-car racing to the public.

“Blackbird” Super Cruiser
So I learned something interesting about doing a beat on mostly mobile projects — they’re incredibly hard to find! But, if you stand in one place long enough, they might pass by YOU. That was the serendipity of my encounter with Cat’s (his name) “Blackbird” Super Cruiser. I was manning the Zone 6 booth (seen in background) when he cruised by. I got him as he swung back around, and talked his ear off for a good 10 minutes. I went to take this shot, and it was so bright out I couldn’t even see my camera’s LCD screen. I had a good shot framed, but his face is completely obstructed by his side mirror. He also didn’t see the blog post I wrote prior to the Faire, but said he would look it up. Very unique project, ideal for his commute and location. And pretty inspiring that his entire build is completely road-legal.

Rock the Bike’s Pedal-Powered Stage
Rock the Bike needs no introduction. They rocked it like usual. I don’t know about everyone else but seeing those 5th graders perform songs by Nirvana, and perform them well, was simply awesome. Pedal-powered amplification is becoming standard at maker-inspired events, but it’s interesting to see how each group approaches the format uniquely, and having seen this project now 3 years in a row it’s still changing, expanding, evolving.

Gareth Branwyn: Robots

Microsoft Robotics
The folks from Microsoft Robotics were set up right across from the Make: Live fishbowl. I saw a number of their Kinect-equipped disk platform-based bots interacting with the crowd. The one I was most impressed with was Roborazzi, created by Greg Shirakyan. It’s a camerabot that goes around hunting people, using the Kinect and their Skeletal Tracking software, built into Robotics Development Studio 4. When it IDs a person and a face, it moves in and takes their picture. I loved watching it stalk folks and how some people actively tried to avoid it and looked annoyed, angry, or scared of it. The picture above shows what happened when it tried to photograph two HALO Master Chiefs. The platform they were using was a kit from Parallax developed using an MS Robotics hardware spec.

Claire de Launay, Robotics Valley/SRI
I met Claire at the IOIO (pronounced yo-yo) booth. IOIO is a little gumstick board that lets you interface Androids with sensors and actuators. We sell the IOIO in the Shed and have a Maker Press book on using it. Claire, who’s at Stanford, made exactly the type of tabletop telepresence rig for a phone (so that you can participate in a meeting or social gathering from a phone on a base that you control, pan/tilt/move, remotely) that I dreamed up for my forthcoming Make: Robots book! Above is her phone telepresence base. Amazingly, that was printed on a low-res 3D printer. She made it look so smooth by hand-sanding it. Something she was very proud of. Within a day she went from the idea of the body of the unit to this prototype. Very impressive.

Dangerous Prototypes
Spent some time hanging out with these guys and really like what they are about. The have really good monthly open source projects on their website. Skot9000 was sharing booth space with them. We had him on Make: Live in the fishbowl showing off his awesome DigitGrid project.

Keith Hammond: Outdoors

OneWheel Self-Balancing Electric Skateboard by Kyle Doerksen
Cool DIY build. He’s trying to get a company going. Surprising form factor: single huge tire in the middle of the board.

Kinetic Steam Works‘ Paddleboat Wilhelmina
These guys are always worth following. Maybe we could get a real ride on the steamboat.

Lit Motors Self-Balancing Gyroscopic Motorcycle
CEO Danny Kim spoke at the Faire. I met CTO Kevin Bretney and “Chief Radness Officer” Ryan James. Working prototype (gyros working, anyway) and a gorgeous concept bike with full bodywork.

Goli Mohammadi: Art

Jeremy Mayer
Applied Kinetic Arts
I’m a big fan of the exhibits that AKA puts up at Maker Faire every year (this was their sixth year), and how the artists in this collective help and inform one another, even though their works are so varied. I took some time to connect with Nemo Gould and Jeremy Mayer (whose piece Bust V, made entirely of dry fit typewriter parts, is pictured above) about featuring their work in the magazine. This was the first year that Nemo wasn’t actually showing his work, wanting to truly experience the Faire as an attendee.

Shawn Thorsson
Shawn Thorsson’s Costumes
Shawn’s insanely cool, gigantic costumes always blow my mind. Pictured here is one of his crew, in a Warhammer 40K Space Marine costume, dutifully guarding the MAKE booth. While Shawn was getting mobbed by curious fairgoers, I had a really interesting conversation with his sister and learned that he’s based in Petaluma (our neighbor), has a fascinating workshop (no surprise there), and comes from a family of creatives. He and his sister grew up going to their aunt’s costume shop, and their mom was a performing belly dancer who made all her own costumes. I love hearing about maker roots. I chatted with Shawn about visiting his workshop for some photos and an interview for MAKE (stay tuned!).

Gon KiRin
Gon KiRin by Ryan C. Doyle and Teddy Lo
What’s not to love about a 60-foot-long, 23-foot-tall, 12-foot-wide fire-breathing dragon with a booming sound system and couches? I had seen videos of this beauty, but seeing it in person is something else. I stood in awe as its spiky tail elegantly waved back and forth and fire plumes shot from the nose. It’s one thing to dream up something like this, but to execute it is inspirational. The stuff dreams are made of.

4 thoughts on “Best of Maker Faire Bay Area Beats: Bikes, Robots, Outdoors, and Arts

  1. Mini Maker Faire in Dublin, Saturday 14th July, Science Gallery | Cross Dominant says:

    […] addthis_share = [];}After reading tons of posts and watching lots of videos of the most recent Maker Faire in San Mateo in the US, I wondered if anyone had ever organised one here. So I was more than a little happy to […]

  2. STEM TECH 2012 says:

    Reblogged this on STEM – ROBOTICS EDUCATION.

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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