Maker Faire Kansas City 2012 Highlights

Maker Faire Kansas City 2012 Highlights

Last weekend the second annual Maker Faire KC took place at Union Station, Kansas City’s 1914 beaux-arts train station.  The grandeur of the Union Station is hard to resist, but of course it really was the makers of the Midwest who made Maker Faire KC such a special event.

According to organizers Luis Rodriguez and Joy Torchia, the fair attendance doubled from last year to 10,000+, and the number of makers also doubled, to 230.  The fair’s exhibits truly mapped across the Maker Faire range, from deep craft through robotics to auto hacks. Noted exceptions to the rule were no bikes (?!), but an evident and exceptionally strong 3D printing community.

I’ve uploaded a survey of exhibits and makers here on the MAKE Flickr pool, but before going to the swath of pics, here’s a look at a few standout makers that had great stories and fun projects:
Josh Bookout’s “Selectric II,” an Ascii Art Type-O-Matic:

Josh turned an old IBM Selectric II electric typewriter into essentially a serial printer. He runs a text file through serial to Arduino, through a controller board, actuating one of the 14 solenoids. The wires attached to the solenoids pull Erector Set levers, which actuate the key presses, which in turn type out the ASCII art.

Josh has great build videos and posts on his site with more explanation—and lots of live typing!

Bandit Guns of Missouri:

These super cool, laser cut rubber band “shotguns” sold out at the end of the first day! Shoot and then “pump” and another rubber band jumps up the staging “ladder,” ready to be fired.
The guns are awesome but Bandit Guns went above and beyond, designing and creating this equally beautiful shooting game target range. They have a great pistol version too. Find them at

Weird Doctor Office by Prof. Yekaterina Maksimova:

You couldn’t really hear what was going on in Prof. Yekaterina Maksimova’s exam room, but you could watch. Here ArcAttack’s Joe DiPrima is getting his lifesignal checked. Somehow the Jacob’s ladder is involved (arcs were climbing behind Joe during the exam), as well as a lot of switches.

Anthony Clay’s series of Electrical Engineering Reference Posters:

In part thanks to a recent successful Kickstarter campaign, Anthony Clay has produced a series of four EE reference posters. Topics are Ohm’s Law and Resistors (“It’s the Law!”), Capacitors and Inductors, Transistors, and Microcontroller Quicknotes. These posters are great looking and definitely a great makerspace accessory.

Tom McGuire of Hack.Art.Lab and Witchita State University and his Foam Cutting Machine:

Tom’s computer-controlled cutter turned out perforated foam sheets that people could then punch apart and make wacky hats from.
The Foam Cutting Machine is a bit like a tattoo gun, with the needle made of a sharpened piano wire.

Randal Strong-Wallace and his roller coaster models:

Last year Randal brought five of his model roller coaster models to Maker Faire KC. They were such a hit that after the fair, they were given permanent exhibition space inside Union Station’s Science City. This year, Randall brought his tallest, steepest, fastest model yet: “Dragon’s Flight.” Randall has put together some great how-to videos at For a fast insight into the making, check out his materials list:

Iron Man, War Machine, and Rescue from IBOT (Iron Brothers of Topeka):

The ratio of rad costume makers in Kansas City was surprisingly high. These guys, the Iron Brothers of Topeka, were just one (though definitely the most spectacular) of the characters roaming around the show. War Machine had a boombox integrated into his back, so they even had a SOUNDTRACK while they were walking around!

Kudos to ALL the makers who showed up at Maker Faire Kansas City, demonstrating to the globe that creativity is not a byproduct of coastline geography. For more pics, see my Flickr feed as well as Maker Faire KC on Facebook. See you in 2013!

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Sabrina is the Maker Faire Program Director. She works on stage content for the flagship fairs (Bay Area & New York), and also runs Maker Faire's global licensing program for locally and independently produced Maker Faires. She also co-creates the East Bay Mini Maker Faire in her town, Oakland, CA.

View more articles by Sabrina Merlo