From The Urbach Letter –
Maker Faire NYC 2011
The Maker Faire returned to New York last month, bringing back an eclectic mix of art, technology, and culture. The Faire is something you really ought to experience for yourself, but I’ll do my best to relate some highlights for you. If you’ve never heard of this event, I refer you back to my October 2010 Report from the Maker Faire in which I described it as a “Strange combination of a geekfest, Burning Man, TED Conference, and medieval faire.”
But before we go any further, you may be asking yourself, “Why should I care about this?” You should care/go because events like this one will absolutely get your mental gears turning. When you immerse yourself in an environment of new ideas, creativity, cool gadgets, artistry, and “different” people, you’ll come away with benefits that are hard to predict but often profound. No matter what you do for a living or what you study, you’ll gain advantage by engaging in a bit of random thinking and unplanned interaction every now and then. Besides, it’s tremendous fun.
First stop was a Life Size Mousetrap game, the 25-ton brainchild of “fun-gineer” Mark Perez. It is literally the classic board game of our collective youth brought to life – complete with dancing mice and a vaudevillian-style road show featuring Esmerelda Strange on the accordion. Check the video to see how this Rube Goldbergian contraption/kinetic sculpture initiates a chain reaction that culminates by dropping a 4000 pound bank safe 30 feet onto a (junk) car.
[Note: Click pictures to enlarge them in your browser.]
Next we came to an on-site fabrication area set up by the Bamboo Bike Studio (of Red Hook Brooklyn and San Francisco). These folks run workshops that teach you how to build your own bamboo-frame bicycle from scratch. The frames are actually quite high performance, surprisingly light and stiff. Principals of the firm recently helped start a factory in Ghana. They also sponsor outreach programs to interest and engage young people in bicycle engineering, fabrication, and environmental design.
PVC pipe is an inexpensive, versatile, and durable building material, but most structures constructed from pipe and fittings are linear and IMO rather ugly. Now the guys at PVC Bendit have perfected the proper heating tools and fixtures to soften the pipe and allow the creation of beautiful, sculptural, and functional structures, like this fantastic cooling spray tunnel, being enjoyed by youngsters on a warm autumn Saturday.
Singing Dancing Car
At the Maker Faire you’ll also encounter a wide variety of things with no apparent reason to exist except for their unusualness and raw out-of-the-box entertainment value. A prime example would be the “Sashimi Tabernacle Choir,” a drivable car completely encrusted with animatronic sea life performing choreographed “dance” numbers to popular show tunes.
Another musical curiosity was a trio of MIDI-controlled robot drummers banging out some really solid “organic” sounds.
Last year at the Maker Faire, I concentrated on the practical and functional things on display. This time I was drawn more to the fantastical, impractical, and fun exhibits. Our day was capped off by GonKiRin, a 60 foot long, three story high, fire-breathing dragon sculpture and kinetic playground. Built on the frame of a 1963 dump truck, largely from reclaimed materials, GonKiRin has a variety of places for kids and dogs to perch and shoots 10 foot fireballs out her nose!
This has been just a brief sampler of the hundreds of interesting things seen at the 2011 Maker Faire. I hope it’s motivated you to attend the 2012 Faire and experience it all for yourself.
(c) Copyright 2002-2011 Victor Urbach
This article may be reprinted with permission and attribution