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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?”

10 thoughts on “Maker Faire “epiphanies”

  1. cyenobite2 says:

    These are great! I missed the faire this year and it’s nice to hear accounts like this. I hope others will add more.

    tossing an idea out there… perhaps someone with more tech know-how than me can help on this… we need a twitter directory of Makers. I have several that I follow, and by far, they are the most interesting tweeters.
    I imagine a filtered database of some sort? ie: click a few buttons of the topics that interest you (ie: robots, arduino, kinetic), and see a list of makers like that. Very similar to but just for makers.
    Just a thought.

  2. says:

    I didn’t go, but a friend of mine did. Here’s the video she made to document the day-

  3. Marc de Vinck says:

    One of my favorite moments was a Dad that wanted to teach his 9 year old son how to solder, but didn’t know how. I introduced them to Dale Wheat, who was teaching how to solder in the Maker Shed, and he made his first kit. Awesome!

  4. Ken Denmead says:

    We had free-building with Lego at the Geekdad booth, and the kids were amazed and overjoyed when we told them they could take their creations home. That was so cool!

    Also, I got asked for my autograph. No, seriously!

  5. U. Ken DeWitt says:

    At the age of 58 I still consider myself a kid most especially after discovering the Makers Faire last Saturday. Where were we all hiding in 1959 when I built a talking robot out of cardboard boxes with a tape recorder secreted in the back to provide the answers to my scripted interview (slowed to half speed by removing the capstan on the pinch roller). I never would have even remembered Cosmo the Robot had my grandfather not been so proud of my invention that he bragged about it to anyone who would listen.

    But the epiphany for me at the Makers Faire was that the Rube Goldbergs of the world continue to hack and jury rig even though duct tape and super glue has replaced bailing wire and chewing gum and computers on a chip the size of my fingernail have replaced 3″ reel to reel tape recorders secreted into the back of cardboard box talking robots.

    I’m especially proud of the newly minted Green label which has always been the mantra of the truly clever. Edison said something to the effect that in order to invent you needed a lot of junk. The sampler which succinctly distills these concepts is “Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, Do without.”

    Yes, the rapturous faces of the kiddies was a thing of beauty and gave hope for the future but I had such an epiphanous time I’m still grinnin’ like a jackass eatin’ cockleburrs through a picket fence. [That last line was for you Gramps.]

    I even got my pitchur took playing on the Neverwas Haul Calliope which you can waste your time watching at:

    [my comment on that page is listed under the pseudonym of W. Cromwell Hornfisher]

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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. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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