Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Maker Faire 2011 - What You Missed

Sept. 17 and 18 was the second annual Maker Faire event at the New York Hall of Science. It is the East Coast exhibition of people who make things.

On the surface, this may not seem like much, but America was built on the ingenuity of our ability to create things, whether they be tools, cars, technology or other things.

For a variety of reasons, including lower labor costs in other countries and globalization of companies, Americans don't make as much as we used to. Nonetheless, the event is a celebration of the creativity and ability to make things that is still alive and well here in the United States.

The event is also an excellent place for children of all ages to explore science, engineering, electricity, creativity, music, visual arts and more.

Some of my favorite exhibits were the 3D Pavilion where there were demonstrations of devices that work in 3D, including 3D printers that can take a design in your computer and output it in 3D. My other favorite exhibit was the Maker Shed where people can actually build things, whether they be small electronic devices or a marshmallow shooter out of PVC pipe — my 6-year-old son's favorite.

In the video I created, which can be viewed at here, one of the crowd pleasers was the "Sashimi Tabernacle Choir," a Volvo to which the owner attached 250 dancing mechanical fish.

Another crowd pleaser was the electrical performance by ArcAttack, a musical group that wears metal suits — Faraday cages, actually — and interacts with huge bolts of electricity generated by giant Tesla coils. Its performance can be seen at www.arcattack.com.

Along with the exhibits that came in for the two-day event, there were a number of speakers, including Westport's David Pogue, who spoke on iPhone tips and tricks.

What interests me the most is to see the creative people who are keeping our abilities to create alive. I also relish seeing adults and children who see things that spark their interest and curiosity in science, engineering and the fact that they can create things rather than having to always buy things.

At the end of the day, it was fun to watch the families leaving Maker Faire talking about the fun things they saw and did.

I know my own family had to make a trip to Home Depot the following day to buy some PVC tubing and corners so that we could make some marshmallow shooters for my son's friends.

After we brought the PVC tubing home and sat on the steps cutting the pieces to size, my son was quite happy to experiment with his marshmallow shooter, putting pieces together, finding out what configurations worked and what didn't, how he could make the shooter bigger or shoot the marshmallow farther. He then had fun taking the new marshmallow shooters we'd made to his neighbor friends, putting them together and having marshmallow wars in the back yard. I think I have a young "maker" on my hands and we'll be going to Maker Faire 2012 next year.

Mark Mathias, a 30-plus year veteran of information technology and a resident of Westport, Connecticut, was named by Computerworld magazine to their inaugural list of “Premier 100 IT Leaders.” This column was originally published in the Westport News on Wednesday 5 October 2011.

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