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A Community of Makers


A couple of weekends ago I had the amazing opportunity to participate as an exhibitor at Maker Faire Bay Area. I had heard a whole lot about the event, but had never been. Recently my kids have gotten really into watching Adam Savage's videos on Tested.com's YouTube site (I'll admit it - I like watching them too!) I have a special place in my heart for Adam Savage. We've spent many an hour watching Mythbusters being awed and amused by their experiments. So being given this chance to visit San Francisco on a work trip where I could participate in an event with Adam and his Tested.com team was something I was very excited for.

I'll delve into the details in a later post, but the reason I was able to participate in Maker Faire was due to being involved with an awesome kid's app for iPad called Get Qurious. It's a creative combination of science and art, education and fun, augmented reality and hands on creation. I was in charge of developing and illustrating several craft projects for their products. So the team called me in to run the crafting portion of the Get Qurious booth.

I didn't really know what to expect at Maker Faire. I'm a regular comic con attendee in Seattle, but Maker Faire itself seemed like a special kind of different. All I knew was that everything from cooking demonstrations to virtual reality and everything in between would be on site. But what that wou.ld look like, I had no idea.

My first evening in San Francisco I decided to attend the Maker Faire After Dark event at the Exploratorium. The Exploratorium is an amazing science museum for all ages, with a plethora of hands on learning and behind the scenes peeks. I'd been to the Exploratorium on a prior trip to the city, but it had changed locations since my visit. This was all going to be brand new. The museum is currently housed on the waterfront in an old wharf building San Francisco with a beautiful view of the bay. It is massive and filled to the brim with amazing things to explore. For this evening event there were some Maker Faire participants on hand with their craft to share. A remote control robot mouse that scurried to and fro between everyone's legs. A man who "drew" pictures with a sewing machine. Boxes you could wear on your head and view the world in another way through a magnifying lens affixed to the front. Weird, organic, lighted structures that were animated to some degree. So much creativity, imagination, and color was present. It was overwhelming!

First and foremost, however, I noted all the conversations happening. All the interacting between people, most of whom were likely strangers. Everyone was welcoming, friendly and excited to share their passion. This became the overarching theme of my weekend.

Maker Faire itself was located in San Mateo, about 20 miles south of San Francisco, so after navigating public transit, I made my way down for my three day weekend of adventure. I grabbed my credentials at the gates and headed inside. During my weekend I unfortunately didn't have unlimited time to explore, but I did manage to see just about everything.

There were several themes to the things I saw at there. Vehicles. Machines. Crafts. Modern technology. Vintage technology. Art. Costumes. It was mindblowing, really. The variety and creativity was so much to take in. But what really stuck with me was the community that was brought together by this event. Families with children of all ages, single people wandering, groups of friends, people paired up. Everyone from every walk of life was present. And they were all engaged. All entertained. All learning and conversing and sharing and bonding and constructing and making. Every single booth at Maker Faire was staffed with friendly people eager to share their creations. Not necessarily for commerce, either. Most of the exhibitors were there purely to share what they've made. It really was the Greatest Show (& Tell) on Earth!

I think outside of my favorite creations, that I've posted photos of here, my favorite bit was seeing my nerd hero Adam Savage present his annual Sunday Sermon. He spoke to a theme I also saw, and have mentioned here: sharing. I highly recommend viewing the video. He is so inspirational, and I think it's because, yes, he's famous and has a lot of resources, but really? He's just a normal guy, making stuff, and getting excited about it, just like everyone else.

Meanwhile, in August, Seattle hosts their own Mini Maker Faire. I'll be taking my family. Next year? We might all go back down to San Francisco to visit the big one. It was totally worth it.


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