Ever since moving up to the Bay Area in 2006, I’ve been hearing about the annual Maker Faire. It’s a sort of DIY’ers and crafters convention, but to describe it as that is a bit of an understatement. This year’s event was May 21-22 at the San Mateo County Event Center.
Maker Faire is a gathering of creative types from engineers to costume designers, and computer programmers to mechanics. Artists, thespians, cosplayers, carpenters, musicians … If someone can imagine something, and bring that idea to realization, there’s pretty much a place for them at the Maker Faire.
After about three years of planning to go, and false starts, I was finally able to make it there this year, and can safely say that the Maker Faire is something I will be going back to again, and again.
The range of creativity that’s represented, and the passion that all of the makers bring to their ideas, is awe-inspiring. There are demonstrations, lectures, presentations, and people running around cosplaying and riding around in all manner of custom designed vehicles, both vintage and never before heard of.
Okay, not going to lie here … This is a very nerdy, geeky, event. And I say that with all the pride my extremely nerdy, geeky, heart can muster.
There were both indoor and outdoor events and exhibitions. A lot of the indoor attractions focused on computers, electronics, robotics, audio, video, and music.
Speaking of music, there was a band there called Arc Attack, that features six live musicians, a robot drummer, and two giant Tesla coils run by a synthesizer (see video.) The coils bounce electrical current off of a metal cage during the performance, with the effect being a light show like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Likely, probably only because I’m a Faire n00bie, as I’m told these have been around for a while. Be that as it may, 1,000,000 volts flying through the air to music is nothing to shake a stick out…especially if it’s metal…cause that could hurt.
The crowd was pretty receptive as they played things like AC/DC’s “Back in Black (clever, eh?), but when they launched into the theme from “Dr. Who” (original BBC version), the place went berserk…That, my friends, is the depth of the geeky goodness going on here.
On the cosplay side, there was a heavy steampunk contingent, represented by groups such as Kinectic Steamworks, and a very interesting peformance group from the Los Angeles area called the League of S.T.E.A.M.
The League of S.T.E.A.M. is a steampunk Ghostbusters team that has done a number of webisodes, and appeared in a music video for Panic! At the Disco, called The Ballad of Mona Lisa (which completely rocks, and I’m going to have to get the download.) These guys go all out with character, costume, gear, back story and, oh yeah, a Zombie Gentleman’s Gentleman, named Zed.
Check out their website. It’s great stuff.
There were just about every kind of vehicle imaginable on display (and driving through the fair grounds), from giant penny-farthing inspired bikes to a fire-breathing dragon fly recumbent, several custom steam-powered motorcycles and solar cars. There was even a bicycle made out of beautifully laminated wood.
Alternative energy/green resources was a recurring theme at the Faire (well, except for some of the steampunk guys who’s equipment seemed to need some emissions work, but in a post-apocalyptic steampunk culture I guess you’d have to make some allowances.) One of the bandstands featured a loudspeaker system that was powered generators run by audience members on bicycles.
Add to all of this unbelievable shopping (it was all I could do not to buy this giant robot kit from the electronics bazaar, and was lucky to make it out of there a couple of hundred bucks lighter, but happy), every kind of food imaginable, and it makes for a great day out, and an amazing experience.
For more photos from the Maker Faire, click on the link to go to my Flickr page.