TypewriterFrom The Urbach Letter December 2012

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Report from the NYC Maker Faire 2012

At the site of the 1964-65 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows Queens, there's an annual gathering of Makers: a diverse group of creative tinkerers, builders, geeks, performance artists, and visionary thinkers, and hordes of people curious about it all. The Maker Faire is a celebration of Maker culture and a forum for sharing ideas, inventions, and other strange constructions. Of course I was there!

This is the third report I've written on the weekend-long event. For background, here are links to the 2011 Report and the 2010 Report.

OK, it was interesting and a whole lot of fun. I had a fabulous time (and got enough ideas for several newsletters). But why should you care? Maybe you should care for the same reason I go: to gain exposure to random people, things, and experiences that challenge you to think differently. (And it's fun. Did I mention it's fun?)

It's really easy to fall into a rut and a routine with our jobs and tasks. But "the way it's been done" is not always the way it should be done! To improve, it's often necessary to challenge the conventional wisdom. The second reason you should seek to understand Maker culture is to catch a glimpse of the future. I'll return to that second reason next month with an article about a coming paradigm shift that will absolutely affect your life in a positive way. But now, I'm just going to share with you some of the clever ideas and fun stuff I encountered in my Maker Faire travels.

(Click to Enlarge Photos)

Whittled Down Caravan

The Whittled Down Caravan was hand built by Libby Reinish and Tristan Chambers as an experiment in affordable portable housing. Their canvas-topped caravan cost $1500 to build but still includes solar electricity, a kitchen, living area and a bed. Libby and Tristan took their covered wagon on a cross country pilgrimage from Santa Fe New Mexico to Massachusetts, towing it behind a small four-cylinder sedan. More details and construction photos are on their sustainable living blog, Whittleddown.

Dueling Mechanical Bulls

The maniacs from The Madagascar Institute (whose motto is "Fear is Never Boring") brought their homemade Dueling Mechanical Bulls, which allow two riders to compete "Mano-a-Mano, Taurus-a-Taurus for the title of WINNER and LOSER, like a truly American carnival ride should." Sorry I don't have video of this to show you.

Coke & Mentos

You've seen the videos of Coke bottles erupting after a Mentos is dropped in. Well, Steven Voltz and Fritz Grobe have taken it to a whole 'nother level with their Coke Zero & Mentos Fountain show. Details are here, or just watch the show for yourself:

Coke Mentos (2:15)

Katy Perry Unicorn

What can you say about a carousel horse that's been transformed into a one-of-a-kind performance art object that shoots Greek fire out its horn and dispenses beer from a strategically placed spigot while being surrounded by a gyrating band of Katy Perry impersonators? "Katy Perry the Unicorn" began as an offbeat wedding present created by Makers Kat and Jesse Green. The back story is here.

Katy Perry Unicorn (0:41)

The Hunt for Red September

Red Bull Creation is a competitive event which "invites inventors, makers and hackers to create the future." Twelve teams were chosen to build, tinker and engineer around the theme "Game of Games" which was announced at the beginning of the three day long event. Each team created a tangible game that can be played in a public space. High scoring teams were invited to participate in final rounds at Maker Faire 2012. The entries were really impressive. My favorite was the robotic submarine simulator game,The Hunt for Red September, Built by 21 Jigawatts.


Another wild Red Bull Creation, and one you'd never get me on, was Centrifury. Built by North Street Labs, Centrifury pits two contestants against one another and centrifugal force. The description: "After strapping in, you hold down a button in unison with your opponent. Once the game begins, Centrifury rapidly builds speed. As the game progresses, you experience higher and higher G-forces, making it more challenging as you fight to hold down the button. Whoever can hold on the longest wins."

Centrifury (0:20)

Happy Fun Ball

Cool guy builder Robert Marshall from Ann Arbor Michigan constructed this "Truncated Icosahedron" and placed it upon a spinning base. There were a long line of kids who couldn't wait to climb inside and be spun around. I observed a pool of liquid underneath but I'm not sure what that was. Some things are better not known...

Happy Fun Ball (0:06)


Billed as "One part installation, one part chill out space, one part high-energy dance floor," DomeStar is a spherical LED environment that "invites guests to dance their blinkin' faces off, then to lie down and look up as the complex visualizations warp, twist, shatter and throb around them, enveloping partygoers in a comforting aura of complex energy." DomeStar was located in the Hall of Science's Great Hall along with many other incredible light-up installations.

Dome Star (0:11)

Crafting & Arts

It wasn't all techy stuff at the Maker Faire. There was plenty of participation art and crafting going on too. Young ladies were especially engaged in creating beautiful and functional items at various stations throughout the Faire.

Crafting (0:24)

Acme Flea Circus

The Acme Flea Circus is an authentic Victorian-style flea circus. Ringmaster Adam Gertsacov presents "The Most Miniscule Show on Earth!" A posted sign warns "No Dogs Allowed."

Flea Circus (0:41)

Sneak Preview of Next Month's Issue

Extra bonus points if you know what these things are:

Sneak Preview (0:23)

I hope you enjoyed this random walk through Maker Faire NYC 2012. I'll have more focused material for you next issue.



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