Hands-On History Shines Bright at Maker Faire Milwaukee

Maker News
Hands-On History Shines Bright at Maker Faire Milwaukee

mfm aerial out

“Milwaukee was once known as ‘The Machine Tool Shop of the World’ due to the amount of manufacturing that happened here. Times change, and while we may not have the manufacturing power we once did, we’re seeing a resurgence in people wanting to make things and try to change the world. Much of the city still shows its industrial roots in the buildings and in the DIY attitude of the people who live and work here. I think that even as Milwaukee moves more and more toward the future and we see a new crop of technology companies call it home, we’ll always have that hands-on history that makes us unique.”

Pete Prodoehl, a member of the Maker Faire Milwaukee organizing team, shared this insight into what makes Milwaukee unique among Maker communities. Last year, Milwaukee Makerspace and Betty Brinn Children’s Museum (BBCM) linked up to produce the inaugural Maker Faire Milwaukee, which featured 150 Makers and drew a whopping 35,000 attendees, a testament to how well the event resonated with the community.

This video by Brian McCormick is the next best thing to having been there.

YouTube player

Of last year’s event, Prodoehl shares:

“The community was excited about doing a big event that wasn’t limited to the space of a single building, and lots of people got involved with the planning and volunteering. We were overwhelmed with the positive response from the Makers as well as the attendees, many of who were not familiar with the Maker Movement or some of the amazing things happening in their own city. Both Makers and attendees complimented the mix of high tech with traditional crafts, trades, and other exhibits, and we’re committed to maintaining this ‘Milwaukee’ feel at our Faire.

During the Faire, we also heard from a lot of people who were surprised there were so many interesting Makers and organizations that they were unaware of, so raising awareness was definitely a big thing. Just getting the diverse Maker communities together in one place was an accomplishment. We saw groups like the Wisconsin Burners connect with members of Milwaukee Makerspace, and BBCM has seen growing numbers of schools, libraries, and other venues take an interest in Maker-related activities.”

True to the nature of Maker Faire, bringing all aspects of the local Maker community out of their workshops and into an event together always yields the most fantastic results. Here’s a selection of images from last year’s Faire.

The second annual Maker Faire Milwaukee takes place this weekend, September 26 and 27, at the Wisconsin State Fair Park.

What can attendees expect this year?

“Last year was a learning experience, and we’ve taken everything we learned the first year to make things run even more smoothly this year. We also aren’t content to stay in our comfort zone, so we’re taking on twice as much space as last year, and after we made that decision, the number of large exhibits and big ideas just kept growing!

We’ve got over 170 Makers signed up, including individuals, companies, schools, clubs, and a half dozen makerspaces. (We’re still getting some last minute requests to take part, so the numbers may grown a bit!)

Besides the many Makers, this year visitors can expect two full days of speakers and performances, three workshop areas, 14 teams competing in the GE Design & Build Challenge, a Power Racing Series demo race, an R/C car race on the Milwaukee Mile, and a new Dark Room and Lounge area featuring everything that lights up, including a number of interactive video pieces and an immersive starship bridge experience. We’ve also got a giant dancing clock!

Some of the workshops include Recycled Bicycle Jewelry, Circuit Bending 101, Caramel and Fudge Creations, 2D Robot Design, Using Processing to Create Digital Spirographs & Harmonographs, and Letterpress Posters.”

9 Makers to Meet at Maker Faire Milwaukee

To delve deep, there’s a full list of Makers and a comprehensive schedule of presentations, workshops, and speakers on the Maker Faire Milwaukee site. With so many amazing Makers in the line up, it’s difficult to pick a handful to highlight, but here Prodoehl details a few notables.

Frankie Flood

mfm frankie flood

Frankie Flood teaches Digital Fabrication and Design at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and in the last two years has been heavily involved with E-Nable, helping create prosthetic devices for children. He’s also managed to get a number of students in his Digital Craft Research Lab interested as well, showing that making for others can be a rewarding experience.

mfm frankie hand

Margie Criner


Chicago-based artist Margie Criner makes sculptures within sculptures. She uses a variety of materials, including wood, wool, vintage toys, and found objects. Her sculptures feature “abstract exteriors that house miniature narrative interiors” that can be seen through a viewing portal.


Ben Nelson

mfm ben nelson

Ben Nelson is a huge fan of electric vehicles and renewable energy and decided to hold his own “DIY Road Rally,” where he traveled 1,000+ miles around Lake Michigan without using a single drop of gasoline. He’ll be sharing the details of his big trip, with photos and video he hopes to turn into a full-length documentary film.

mfm ben bikes

Becky Tesch

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Milwaukee native Becky Tesch tirelessly sees potential in things others throw away. A lifelong Maker, she’ll be sharing her new jewelry line, all made with reclaimed materials and found objects “with a heavy emphasis on bicycle parts.” Tesch believes, “Humans are hard wired to make things with their hands, but we’re losing these skills and traditions. I think it’s essential to our basic happiness to make things and be proud of them and use them.”

mfm becky jewelry

Bryan Cera

mfm bryan cera
Bryan Cera started out as a digital artist but eventually fell in love with making physical objects, and since then he’s built such things as a glove-based cellphone and ARAI (Arm Robot for Artistic Inquiry), which is an industrial-style robot whose sole purpose is to procrastinate. For Maker Faire Milwaukee, Cera has built a gigantic retro video game controller that requires people to work as a team to control a single-player video game.
mfm bryan game

Mark Rehorst

mfm mark rehorst

Mark Rehorst is a former electrical engineer who now works as a dentist. Mark has previously built a 3D printer named MegaMax, which had a 12″x12″x12″ print area. He recently rebuilt it and renamed it “Son of MegaMax.” He’ll be sharing a new large-volume 3D printer that prints chocolate vases. (Does anyone else question the motives of a dentist that is building a 3D printer that uses chocolate?)

mfm mark 3dp

Karen Corbeill

mfw karen

Karen Corbeill is a Maker of all trades. When she’s not busy welding, making costumes, or winning Power Racing Series races, she helps make makerspaces, most recently The Bodgery. At their booth, she’ll be showing off various projects she’s made “including a necklace made from a bowling ball, various welded nail art pieces, and crocheted snuggle monsters.” She also helped make two Maker-themed carnival games, a Tesla coil steampunk ring toss and the air-powered Rocket Shot game, both of which will be on display for attendees to play.

mfw karenmade

Chad Bridgewater

mfm chad bridgewater

Chad Bridgewater loves old tools and has quite a collection, but he’s also interested in reuse and giving new life to old things. His series of tools, known as “Re-Made in Milwaukee,” is a collection of 1940s and 1950s shop equipment that has been retrofitted and repurposed with the integration of CNC components. The results are a 3D printer, CNC router, laser etcher, and other modified tools where cast iron and heavy gage steel contrasts 3D printed plastic and polished aluminum.

mfm chad machines

Henri Verhoeven


Perhaps the youngest Maker displaying a project at Maker Faire Milwaukee, Henri Verhoeven is 6 years old. He’s bringing the awesome PVC robot that he made (with a little help from his dad Jerome). We couldn’t resist sharing his Q&A in its entirety:

1. Can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Henri. I like the colors red and green. I like to play with my porcupine finger puppet. I really like Indiana Jones, I like the movies, I like the Lego video games, and like pretending I am Indiana Jones. I like to swim. I have three sisters and I really like driving them crazy.

2. What are you presenting at Maker Faire Milwaukee?
My robot, the coolest thing on the robot is the rocket launcher. It was hard to make, but fun too.

3. Why is making important to you?
Because it’s fun.

4. What was the first thing you remember making?
Legos with lights on them. I would plug the little lights onto a box that my dad made. We put the lights in a Lego brick. The police one flashed red and blue with a siren, and the construction light just flashed without a siren.

5. What have you made that you are most proud of?
Definitely my robot because it got into the Maker Faire.

6. Given an unlimited budget, what would you make?
I would set up my own chemistry laboratory and make experiments that bubble and explode. Maybe I would make a rocket. That sounds pretty cool too.

Organizing a large-scale Maker Faire is no small feat. As a final question, we asked Prodoehl what inspires him and the organizing team to put forth the effort. He said:

The first Maker Faire I attended was Maker Faire Detroit in 2012, and within an hour of being there, I knew we had to have one in Milwaukee. I’ve been involved in a number of creative communities here, and I found Maker Faire to be so inspiring, I wanted to bring it home. I get inspired when I see the projects people share and the passion they have for making, and I want to help people share their enthusiasm with others. Seeing people (and especially kids) get excited by the things people make is a great reward for all the hard work we put into making the Faire happen.

For all the information you need to attend Maker Faire Milwaukee this weekend, head to the site. Although this event is free thanks to generous donations from the sponsors, pre-registration is highly recommended so you can maximize your time getting inspired and save time waiting in line.

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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 snowgoli@gmail.com or via @snowgoli.

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