17 Larger-Than-Life Projects to Behold at the Biggest Maker Faire on Earth

Metalworking Robotics Technology Workshop

It is no secret that you could easily have your mind blown by just walking around Maker Faire Bay Area, the mothership of all Maker Faires. With roots that date back to the first Maker Faire the world ever saw back in 2006, the twelfth installment of this larger-than-life event will take place in less than a month, from May 19–21 at the San Mateo Fairgrounds.

Each Faire around the globe has its own unique flavor that reflects the maker community it is couched in. So although the Bay Area version features projects (and attendees) from across the U.S. and around the world, it definitely has a Bay Area patina that makes it shine big and bright. There will be no shortage of jaw-dropping, oversized projects to gawk at, tell a friend about, and be inspired by. Here are just seventeen of them. Go big, then go home. Flames, anyone?


The Flaming Lotus Girls present Pulse, a 13-foot-tall anatomically correct heart that beats fire through its four chambers to emulate blood flow through the human heart. Using biosensors, participants can synchronize the flame effects with their own heartbeat or trigger fire bursts with buttons.

Location: Zone 4

The Big Ant from Nantes

The Big Ant is coming from the magical, but very real, De L’île Nantes and Les Machines. A creation and “traveling machine” of Les Machines, the Big Ant is often described as a combination of the invented worlds of Jules Verne and the mechanical universe of Leonardo Da Vinci. The ant can carry five fairgoers at a time as it roams.

François Delaroziere et Pierre Orefice, co-creators of Les Machines de L’île de Nantes, will be speaking on Center Stage at 1:30pm on Saturday, May 20. They will be sharing details of the process that each of their amazing creations goes through, from the workshop to interactions with visitors. They will also discuss their most ambitious project to date: The Heron Tree.

Location: Zone 8

Scultura di Colletivo

Scultura di Colletivo is a fully operational blacksmith shop, staffed by professional blacksmiths and featuring a hand-forged 12-foot-tall sculpture of a pair of wings as inspiration. The workshop space will have the look, feel, and smell of a traditional blacksmith shop. It will be completely outfitted with coal forges, anvils, vices, hammers, and tongs. Participants of all ages and backgrounds will have the opportunity to heat and mold steel under the guidance of the Scultura di Colletivo team of smiths, and take home a handmade steel feather of their own.

Location: Zone 7

The Jack

Created by art and science collective Chromaforms, The Jack is an 18-foot-long inflatable sculpture made from double-layered highly-reflective aluminized vinyl. Despite being larger than a small truck, The Jack weighs only 140 pounds. Two people can pick it up, roll it, flip it over, sit on the protrusions, or float it on the water. The Jack was constructed from heavy-duty materials so it can withstand all sorts of play, including people climbing on it or tossing it around.

Location: Zone 7

Le Attrata

Born out of Oakland’s Therm art collective, Le Attrata is a showpiece of metal and fire composed of three steel spires (18, 15, and 12 feet tall) topped by stainless steel moths that are 6 feet long with 12-foot-wide wingspans.

Each moth can bear flames using a turbine-driven blast furnace flame effect. The spires join together at a hexagon core that contain a light well filled with 3D-printed crystals that cast shifting light upwards. The base of the spires extend outward, encircled by smooth wood benches that offer a comfortable place to sit. At the ends of the benches, large textured chrysalises emerge, shifting lights from within, suggesting movement and life. LEDs under the benches provide additional illumination.

Location: Zone 5


Lotus is an experiential, light-based, meditative installation by James Peterson, designed to be a place of rest and collaboration in a chaotic world. As you sit and relax near Lotus, it envelops you in waves of color, and you begin to discover how to unlock the deeper levels of the sculpture.

Location: Zone 3, Fiesta Hall

The Life Size Mousetrap

A Faire favorite for many, Life Size Mousetrap is a fantastically handcrafted, 16-piece, 50,000-pound interactive kinetic sculpture set atop a 6,500-square-foot game board. This giant Rube Goldberg-style contraption comes complete with a vaudevillian-style show, original musical score by the one-woman-band Esmerelda Strange, sexy mice can-can dancers, clown workers, acrobatic high jinks, and other amazing scenes dedicated to the pursuit of spectacle-laden fun!

Location: Zone 1

Tobor the Robotic Dinosaur

Tobor is a robotic dinosaur built by the instructors at the Northampton Community College Fab Lab in Bethlehem, Penn. He normally stands 6 feet tall, but when his torso is raised, he rises to over 12 feet tall. Tobor is controlled wirelessly with a power glove and can raise/lower the body, grab things with a gripper attached at his mouth, and walks thanks to his motorized wheelchair chassis. He even features lights and sounds as he moves around. Tobor was built to demonstrate that all is possible at the Fab Lab, including woodworking, machining, laser cutting, 3D printing, sound engineering, electronics, robotics, and casting. In addition to Tobor, NCC Fab Lab will have a number of their smaller projects on display.

Location: Zone 5

Flaming Bop It! Game

How do you make a popular toy more fun? Just add flames! PSI Makers presents Bop It!, the interactive fire art game that transports people back to their childhood. After spending an afternoon playing Hasbro’s handheld Bop It! game with his 5-year-old daughter, maker Chuck Schuler started thinking of a way to make it fun for all ages. He let his imagination run wild and envisioned a stand-up version of the game. To make what he had in mind, he tapped into the skills of many of his friends. Weeks of work by dozens of people at the PSI shop resulted in a super-sized version of the game — with flames!

Location: Zone 1

Giant Wooden Gear Train

This year, Kinetic Steam Works has constructed a gear train out of large wooden gears ranging from 18 to 48-inches in diameter. The gear train is driven by a steam engine and, for whimsey’s sake, drives an automatic pencil sharpener from around 1906. The gears were made traditionally instead of CNC machined. The exhibit will show the entire build process, from constructing the gear blanks out of built-up wooden pieces to making the custom tooling for indexing and cutting teeth on such large-diameter gears. They will also have multiple century old Chandler and Price printing presses lined up in a row to visually demonstrate each color run necessary to create a finished coaster design. The presses will be driven by a line shaft that is also powered by steam.

Location: Zone 1

MegaBot Mk.III Debut

Two years ago, MegaBots debuted the Mk.II (pictured above) at Maker Faire Bay Area and it definitely blew minds. The group recently completed the Mk.III MegaBot (a sneak peek, unfinished version shown in the video below), the robot that will be fighting Suidobashi Heavy Industry in the Giant Robot Duel. The Mk.III is a 12-ton, 16-foot-tall, 430-horsepower humanoid combat robot with 26 degrees of freedom. It can pick up and drop a full-sized car, fire giant paint cannonballs, throw 25mph punches, and more.

Location: Zone 10

The Traveling Spectacular

Tobias Weinberger’s The Traveling Spectacular offers live entertainment complete with grand illusions, a sword-swallowing prestidigitator extraordinaire, vaudevillian comedy, alluring dancers, and a fire-breathing devil, with music by the Oddjob Ensemble, a Californian consortium of multi-instrumentalists that play a lively, exotic accompaniment to the fantastic acts on stage. This action-packed production is set on a beautifully handcrafted, self-contained, 15 by 14-foot deployable stage.

Location: Zone 5 with shows throughout the weekend at 11:30, 1:30, and 4:30.


The brainchild of Barry Crawford, Mechateuthis is a mechanical giant squid powered by eight digitally controlled electric motors. By turning cranks on the perimeter fence, you can control Mechateuthis’ tentacles, beak, eyes, and mantle fins.

Location: Zone 10

Sextant Tesla Coils

The Sextant Tesla Coils are two 32-foot towers featuring 8-foot toroids. Originally built for the Sextant themed camp at Burning Man 2014, the coils have been reworked to achieve giant sparks. The crew has gotten 18-foot sparks between the coils and is aiming to reach 24 feet as they continue to develop the system.

Location: Zone 6 on the Make: Science Stage with shows throughout the weekend at 11:45, 1:45, 2:45, and 5:45.



San Francisco-based kinetic sculptor Peter Hudson (Hudzo) presents Deeper, a 16-foot-tall, 40-foot-diameter 3D stroboscopic zoetrope. Zoetropes are the earliest form of animation dating back to the 1800s. They consist of a cylinder with a progression of images inside and slots to peer through. As the wheel spins, the motion gives the viewer the illusion of movement. Hudzo figured out a way to create the effect with life-sized sculptures, using spinning motion and strobe lights to create something akin to a three-dimensional motion picture. He takes the most primitive form of animation to an extreme level, incorporating creativity, art, engineering, technology, and fantasy into his delightfully captivating designs.

Location: Zone 3, Fiesta Hall

Learn more about Hudson via our Maker Spotlight of him.

The Mystic Flyer

The Mystic Flyer is large-scale display of 4,784 LEDs that respond live to ambient sound. The display itself is built as a 3D optical illusion called a reverse-perspective that appears to move and morph its shape based on how you look at it. This display, which has earned the record for the World’s Largest Reverse-Perceptive Optical Illusion, is part of a bigger project, the Mystic Flyer Art Bus, a 40+-foot bus with over 10,000 LEDs and multiple sculptural elements.

Location: Zone 3, Fiesta Hall

Russell the Electric Giraffe

Maker Faire Bay Area would not be complete without everyone’s favorite 17-foot robotic giraffe, Russell, who has been rolling around, playing music, and making friends at the Faire ever since the very first one. Russell has gone through transformations and been on lots of adventures, including getting invited to the White House in 2014. He has been profiled and interviewed countless times, and he has been an integral part of many a young maker’s childhood. Basically, everyone loves Russell. Meet him and you will know why.

Location: Zone 3, Fiesta Hall

There is no way pictures and videos can do these incredible creations justice. Come out to Maker Faire Bay Area and experience them (and thousands of other amazing projects) in person. All the information you need in order to get tickets in advance and join the fun is on the site.

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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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