It amazes me how some publications become avatars for specific cultural movements. For example, I can’t think about the (pre-internet) BBS hacking scene without an image of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, nor I could dissociate the formative years of the geek generation from WIRED (of which I was an avid reader and even occasional subscriber, despite its price in Brazil.)
The community of do-it-yourself electronics/robotics/material hackers that call themselves makers have a clear representant in Make: magazine, and one of the publication’s staples is organizing the Maker Faire. Self-described as “the greatest show (and tell) on earth — a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement”, it spread into local events such as the Toronto Mini Maker Faire, which I attended today.
It is a very entry-level/family event. The appeal is mostly for those who have never seen or heard about, say, 3D printers or Arduinos. In addition, it is also extremely focused on children. All activities and a great deal of the exibitions targeted younger audiences and those who have no previous exposure to this kind of thing.
Of course it doesn’t mean older and more experienced geeks should stay away, as there are lots of activities in different areas. I was eager to have some fun at lock picking table, but it was too crowded. To make things worse, the rain pretty much packed everyone inside of Whychwood Barns, demanding quite some patience for the most sought-after activities. Maybe next time.
The highlight that made my ticket worth its price was Brian Luptak’s talk on his 3D Printed Chocolate experiment. I (mistakenly) thought it was pretty much a simple replacing of injected plastic with some sort of chocolate goo, but the science and labor involved in making it work are quite complex and interesting. We could not see the machine in action (or try the chocolate, which “tastes really good”, in his words) because the laser used is not appropriate for non-lab environments, but the hardware and some of the chocolate was on display.
There is space for organizational improvement: the lack of a second microphone made it impossible even for speakers to listen to audience questions (and there were many). There was only a single TV screen - I was lucky/wise enough to get a good spot, but I’m sure lots of people could not see the slides at all. It beats me how people that can hack such complicated technologies could not solve these mundane problems.
Anyway, if you believe science and family go together, I highly recommend facing the drizzle and checking out the second (and last) day. Tickets can be purchased online or at the event, and a couple of hours should be enough to see all the tables and engage in one or two activities. Talks are very short (20 min), so it’s worth checking the talk schedule as well. And, of course, make a lot of stuff afterwards!