Maker Faire “epiphanies”

Every year, at Maker Faire, I have one or more “epiphanies,” transcendent moments where I feel joyously overwhelmed by the wonder of what’s happening at the Faire — where it dawns on me how truly amazing this event is and how lucky I am to be a part of it. This year, my epiphanies were smaller, subtler, but I thought they were still worth sharing:

Moment #1: After my robotics panel on Sunday, I went over to finally meet Michael Brown, creator of the amazing Bluerain scrolling LED light installation (seen above). He was talking to an elderly gentleman (I think he said he was in his ’80s) who obviously knew something about the technology Michael was discussing. The man was also with a little boy, maybe 5 or so. “You seem to know something about this,” Michael said. “I’m a engineer,” the man replied, “I used to build robots.” Michael looked down at the little boy and said, with enthusiasm in his voice: “Do you know this man?” The little boy said (with equal enthusiasm): “That’s my granddad!” And Michael replied: “Whoa. You are SO lucky to have such a cool grandfather!” The kid had the most precious look on his face, like it was maybe just dawning on him that all of the amazing stuff he was seeing at the Faire — like Bluerain — his granddad might have had some involvement with similar “cool” stuff. And the look of pride on the grandfather’s face was so tremendous it almost made me tear up. I thought about all of the older engineers and other makers of his generation at the Faire and how much joy they must get from seeing so much respect and attention finally being paid to engineers, whom James Kip Finch called “The great makers of history.”

Moment #2: I was in one of the stalls of the men’s room when a man came in with a very rambunctious small child. Immediately, he started saying: “Don’t touch that! Leave that alone. Don’t open the doors. Stop looking under there!” The kid was a whirlwind of chaotic exploration. Then I heard the kid say to somebody: “We’re a family of makers.” Very Ralphie Wiggums. Somehow the whole scene just cracked me up. I think that kid is going places (and probably a few where he “shouldn’t”).

Moment #3: The last one wasn’t a moment, but many, and it wasn’t at the Faire, it was on Twitter. As the Faire approached, you could see all of the tweets from people preparing their projects, or just enthusiastically getting ready to go to the Faire. Then, on Friday night, before bedtime, people tweeted before they went to sleep, excited for the coming day. It felt like the night before Christmas and everybody in Whoville was tucking themselves into bed getting ready for the magic that the morning would bring. Really a wonderful sense that we were all collectively getting ready to experience something truly special. Not surprisingly, the next day, somebody actually tweeted: “Maker Faire is the new Christmas.”

If you were at Maker Faire this year, what were some of your “epiphanies?”

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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