Hundreds of Makers in Orlando, Florida, are putting the finishing touches on their projects in preparation for the fourth annual Maker Faire to take place in their city. Maker Faire Orlando opens the doors to inspiration this weekend, September 12 and 13, at the Orlando Science Center, the nearby Orlando Museum of Art, and throughout adjacent Loch Haven Park. The inaugural event, the Orlando Mini Maker Faire, was held in 2012, when the organizers curated 100 Maker exhibits and 2,500 attendees joined the festivities.
By the following year, the team had partnered with the Orlando Science Center. By 2014, the Faire had escalated to the size of a featured Faire, with 200 exhibits and 10,000 enthusiastic fairgoers. Show producer Jessica Eson King, recalls:
I think the moment that we realized we needed to scale up to a featured Faire was about 6 p.m. on October 5, 2013. As the last Makers packed up and we started pulling down flags and posters, we knew that 2014 had to be a two-day event. The feeling was in the air. A few weeks later, we got the overwhelming response from our attendee surveys that “We couldn’t see it all in one day.” Our partnerships with Loch Haven Park and the surrounding entities solidified that decision.
This year, Maker Faire Orlando boasts over 300 Maker exhibits, and the attendee numbers will undoubtedly scale accordingly. King further notes:
We’ve been astonished not just at the growth but by the reception of the community. It’s a difficult feeling for me to describe, but I think awe is the most accurate word. I’m constantly in awe of the Makers and the community. The community members genuinely want to be involved! We filled over 300 volunteer spots in less than two weeks. Before we open doors to the first attendee this year, there will already be close to 1,500 people in the building who helped to make Maker Faire. To me, there is no greater description of the community support and reaction.
We asked King and co-organizer Ian Cole for further insight into how the Faire got started, what to expect at this year’s Faire, and what effect the Faire has had on the community over the past four years.
1. What inspired you to organize a Faire in Orlando? Who was involved in making it happen?
Cole: A number of us at FamiLAB participate in the Great Global Hackerspace Challenge, and while we didn’t make the finals, it was being judged at Maker Faire Bay Area 2012, so Dave Casey and I went, along with my son Adam, who was 11 at the time. We had a great time, and Adam left inspired to make and learn. We knew we needed to have the Maker Faire spirit in Orlando. Dave and I agreed to figure out the finances together, and almost every member of FamiLAB helped in some way. Jessica [Eson King] was one of those people who got involved and just kept getting more involved until she was the primary producer of the event. We really wanted to host at the Orlando Science Center, but we couldn’t make it work the first year. They did come out to the event and had a great time, which opened the door for us to use their facility since 2013. [Check out Ian and Adam’s presentation called “Making Our Community.”]
King: About two weeks before the 2012 event, I got an email from Ian telling me that he needed “someone responsible and articulate” to help with Maker Faire. I’m still not sure if he was asking me for help or a recommendation, but I jumped on board as an Area Captain and he hasn’t been able to get rid of me yet!
2. What effect has hosting a Faire had on the Orlando (and further) Maker community?
Cole: We always knew there were amazing things being made in our community by amazing people, but they get overshadowed by the theme parks. We’ve raised the awareness, and we love all the amazing creative collisions that happen when people of different backgrounds and skill sets meet and then collaborate on something incredible.
King: I’m starting to see more collaboration between groups that I don’t think would have met without Maker Faire. A great example is the new partnership between Sam Flax (a local art store) and DeltaMaker (a local 3D Printer designer/manufacturer). We’re also seeing Makerspaces partner up to create amazing things and artists collaborate on incredible mashups. For me, the magic of Maker Faire is in those collisions.
3. Tell us a little about the Maker community and the Makerspaces in Orlando.
Cole: Maker Faire Orlando was started by the community at FamiLAB and was later joined by the community at Factur — both of which are working together on the world’s largest arcade game and will be having fun together in our Power Racing Series. We also have several meetup groups and other creative communities that get involved.
King: The Maker community is growing and thriving. In addition to FamiLAB and Factur, the local libraries have started adding Makerspaces, and we’re receiving emails from teachers and other educators on a weekly basis asking for assistance in bringing the Maker Movement into the classroom. One of the beautiful things about Maker Faire Orlando is its reach. Not only do we have the Orlando spaces involved, but we also have schools and Maker/hackerspaces coming from all over the state to participate!
4. What drives you to do the hard work of organizing a Maker Faire?
Cole: Check out the nonprofit foundation we started after getting into all this. It’s called The Maker Effect. Basically, we see the impact on people’s lives when they learn and build together — and we want to help them find the communities and the tools that they need to be successful. We also have a free self-assessment tool for Makers that can help them learn more about themselves and how they can improve their non-technical skills. Jessica is the researcher on that project.
11 Fun Exhibits to See
With over 300 Maker exhibits on tap for this weekend covering all areas of interest including robots, jewelry, Lego, puppets, and of course 3D printing, to name but a few, anyone who finds themselves bored might have to have their pulse checked. Browse the extensive list by category and scope the 11 below for a sampling.
Maker: Ron Czarnik
This interactive exhibit will encourage you to pick up and play one of a kind electronic musical instruments. A wide range of synthesized and MIDI instruments will be available, including drums, guitars, bass pedals, keytars, and other hybrids. Most are designed for musical novices to easily enjoy.
Maker: Steve Emery
ChipScapes are pictures taken of computer chips, sort of microscopic chip landscapes. This original artwork is created by photographing a silicon computer chip using a microscope and special lighting. Silicon is a silvery gray element and not very exciting to look at. The colors in ChipScapes come from a process that creates a prism effect derived from special lighting that takes advantage of the layered manufacturing process of computer chips.
Maker: JT Smalley
Aging Technology features a series of three new works of sculpture about our culture’s obsession with technology and how we desire the newest items when the old ones work just as well. This is a metaphor for our cultural loss of the wisdom of our elders. Our culture no longer looks to its elders for answers; instead we turn to technology and many times misinformation.
Franchise: Exploita El Tercer Mundo
This installation consists of a giant 18-foot-long handmade yellow banana composed entirely of cardboard, which has been wrapped around a wire frame in peels and sealed at each end using a cardboard pulp mâché. The banana sits safety atop a flattened Chiquita Banana Lady in a presentation that references the famous scene from The Wizard of Oz. She has been made with cardboard casted arms and legs, and is wearing a handmade dress with matching hat and heels. Lastly, fruit has spilled from her large basket-of-a-hat and projects out all over the ground around her. Yellow police tape ribbon blocks off a parameter around the crime scene, and inside the parameter guarding the scene is none other than officer SKIP.
House of Darkly
Maker: House of Darkly
Watch plush being finished and ask questions about the process of handmade toys. Also on display: foam and fabric puppets well-known on their social media accounts.
Human Powered Snow Cones
Maker: Joe Donoughe
The Ice Age snow cone wheel, also known to many as the world’s largest snow cone machine, is an event favorite. It is a “Willy Wonka meets Rube Goldberg” creation. This handcrafted machine gets the attention of kids and adults alike.
Junko’s Pop Emporium
Maker: Junko Takagi Gillespie
Junko combines her amazing craft and origami skills with her love of pop culture to create one of a kind accessories and origami collectibles! Specializing in dragons and “chibi” figures inspired by everything from Star Wars to Pokemon, Junko’s Pop Emporium has something to thrill and delight audiences of all ages.
Maker: John Bent Cope
Detailed planning, design, manufacturing, and lasers come together in Cope’s large and small tabletop and suspended lanterns.
Self Watering Mobile Garden Beds
Maker: Growing Orlando
Grow Orlando has converted galvanized steel stock tanks into mobile raised garden beds on wheels that are self watering. The bottom foot is a water tank, the top foot is soil, and on the back is an electronics box that controls the watering. This design eliminated the need for a constant connection to a nearby water source. The electronics box contains a 12v rechargeable battery, Arduino board, fountain pump, and a couple other components that all come in under $50 per tank assembly.
Witch Doctor and Shaman
Maker: Team Witch Doctor
Come meet Witch Doctor and Shaman from BattleBots! The 250lb multi-bot will be showing off its battle scars while team members Andrea, Mike, and Paul will be available for questions throughout the day.
Wizzbangz S.T.E.A.M. with a Bang!
The bus will be open to tour and will display/demo projects that Wizzbangz have worked on with their educational classes and Curiosity Hacked guild. These will include a 3D printed solar car and robot, DIY Arduino laser tag guns, 3D printed engineering/building tools for use with common household items, mini robotics powered by Scratch, water-powered bottle rockets, and other hands-on actives for adults and children.
To wrap up, we would be remiss to not include this feel-good story that King shared with us, as it’s another fine reflection of what makes the Maker community so awesome:
Last week I got an email from a grandmother who wanted to know when our T-shirts would be available for purchase. Her grandson’s 10th birthday is September 12 (the first day of our Faire) and all he wanted was to go to Maker Faire and to bring a friend with him. She wanted to give him a Maker Faire Orlando T-Shirt to let him know that his birthday wish was going to come true.
It didn’t look like our T-shirts would be available until the event, so I emailed Justin Peterson (our Stan the T-Rex mascot artist) and asked him if he could modify the T-shirt art to a birthday card or poster that could be given to this kid instead of the shirt. Justin jumped on board and I met him on Monday to pick up the birthday card, which I delivered to her grandson’s elementary school Tuesday morning.
It’s also important to note that Justin’s own birthday is September 13 and he’ll be spending his birthday at Maker Faire Orlando for the second year in a row. When I thanked him for donating his birthday weekend to Maker Faire again, he thanked me for throwing “the most epic birthday party” for him. These are the kinds of people we’re working with. I couldn’t be luckier.
For all the information you need to join the festivities and support the community, head to the Maker Faire Orlando site.