Here’s What You Missed at Maker Faire Detroit

highlights from 2013 Maker Faire Detroit

I was lucky enough to visit two of the major Maker Faires in the U.S. this year and will provide some highlights for Made + Remade. If you are in the know, you have probably heard of Maker Faires and Mini-Maker Faires. The event series is self-proclaimed as the “Greatest Show and Tell on Earth.” For someone who has visited a number of the faires across the country and was a huge fan of childhood show and tells, I can attest that this is an accurate statement.

I live in Detroit and have helped with the event for the four years it has been hosted here. This was the first year that I didn’t submit a project to the faire and, instead, just enjoyed it. I was provided with such a different perspective because of it.

Made + Remade was nice enough to help send me to the NYC event too. The other big event is in San Mateo, California, and my fellow bloggers Tiffany, Michele and Hannah attended there. Each year, more and more of the world is getting involved. London, Tokyo and Rome are some of the major international locations. The event gets bigger and bigger each year with nearly 100 Mini-Maker Faires in cities all over the globe! (Though mostly in the U.S.)

My recap will be separated into two posts: Detroit and NYC. We will also follow-up with some of the more extraordinary makers throughout the year. The events are so large that it’s challenge for us to cover every aspect. If you attended the event and we missed something, please leave us a comment and share with the group.

Detroit Maker Faire

The event is hosted each year at the end of July and held at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. This year’s date had the double honor of being Henry Ford’s 150th birthday.

My friend Tom Shea was hired by the Henry Ford Museum to document the event. With his fancy slow-mo camera, he captured this amazing footage. Not a Maker Faire has gone by that I am not amazed that someone could built X (fill in the X with any number of projects) in their backyard and free time. On top of that, most of the exhibits are from local makers. Maker Faire not only takes up one of the main parking lots of the museum but it also is distributed through the inside as well. Auditoriums and stages are programmed with demonstrations and music throughout the day.

There are roughly 5 sections of the faire but everything is largely mixed together: in the museum, Maker/Hackerspaces & Schools, Racetrack & Merch, Performance Groups and Arts & Crafts.

In the Museum

One of the biggest attractions inside is always the light based exhibits. You see lots of lasers, LEDs and projectors in all manner of interactive and cool projects. Here we can see the Hypnocube by Gene Foulk. He also has made it out to the NYC Maker Faire.

What kid wouldn’t want to have his own paraglider simulator? Mark Deseck and team put together this amazing project that you can find out more about at their website.

John Sugg, featured in this pre-Maker Faire video from The Henry Ford, is a master of making cabinet or arcade games. Here we see his Pong set-up as well as his Dart Board game. He is also a member of i3 Detroit, the local Hackerspace in the Detroit area.

Compuware, Detroit area computer software company, hosted a Hack-A-Thon inside the museum. Here we can see teams trying to break the code.

Lego is a huge part of Maker Faires and FIRST Robotics of Michigan put on this demonstration of their Lego Robots.

Some of the original makers were those who experimented with HAM radio. While the hobby isn’t as big as it used to be, there is still a die-hard group out there. I have my technician certificate but admit I haven’t done much with it. Here we can see a member of the local radio group hard at work turning his equipment.

Race Track & Merch

Moving outside, there is a lot more action as they aren’t limited to ceiling heights or the threat of damaging some of the priceless artifacts in the Museum. One of the biggest events every year is the Power Wheels Racing Series. This event is thrown by one of my good friends Jim Burke. Each year, groups from around the country compete. My hackerspace (i3 Detroit) has won a few years but the competition gets better and better each year. The concept is to take a kids’ Power Wheels car and tweak it with no more than $500 worth of gear to go as fast (safely?) as possible. It is not unheard of for cars to go faster than 25 MPH. With each year, more and more races are added. Year one was just Detroit, but now it travels the U.S. I got a lot more pictures in NYC so you’ll see those in my next post.

It wouldn’t be an event at The Henry Ford without classic vehicles. Here is one of Henry Ford’s first inventions: the Quadricycle. Every so often, the team would take it out for a spin. Unfortunately, visitors could not ride it because it’s over 100 years old.

Cool vehicles are not limited to the old stuff. Here is a beautifully scaled down version of a Star Wars X-Wing starfighter. I’ll save you from the extensive Star Wars knowledge I have saved in my brain (they don’t call me a nerd for nothing), but needless to say, they did a great job.

Maker/Hackerspaces & Schools

Attending the faire and want to do more in you community? Check out the Schools and Maker/Hackerspaces section. Here you can see both kids and adults showing off their projects as well as get information for groups in your area. i3 Detroit was represented along with Omnicorp Detroit, FIRST Robotics, TechShop Detroit (right around the corner from the faire), Maker Works and probably 30 more groups.

Josh Bacon and Roger Slykhouse put together the Lake in a Box. It’s a small lake (bowl of water) that fire shoots out of. It’s pretty great. While I am not positive, I think it is a play off of the Michigan Burning Man meetup, Lakes of Fire.

Matt Oehrlien, President of i3 Detroit, wanted to show off the Laminair Flow concept of fluid physics. If you have been to Las Vegas, you have seen the great fountains that shoot water through the air with no bubbles or choppy water. By making the nozzle just right, you make those smooth jets.

Circuit bending is a great way to explore technology. Piko Piko Detroit showed off what could be done with some simple circuits and different pieces of tech gear such as a Gameboy.

Performance Groups

Maker Faire is as much about talent as it is about actually making something. The performance area showcased people with their unique skills and abilities. The Weird Sisters is a local performance group that has perfected the art of aerials, which frequently involves giant silk banners and trapeze-like equipment.

Maker Faire is also about pop culture. Cosplay (costume play), especially of the Sci-Fi genre, has worked its way into the event. Here we can see a group of Star Wars costumers.

Fire arts is always a big hit. Gon Kirin is a giant mobile fire-breathing monster that can transport a small army of individuals and, I believe, also has a bar. The sculpture is even more impressive at night with its EL wire.

A combo makers/performers group is the Circus Amongus Team. The group teaches classic circus skills and is available for parties and events. This giant bicycle was made from scratch and is always a crowd pleaser.

Arts & Crafts

Michigan loves cars and showing them off with your unique style is something special. Melanie Harris’s Tiki Car combines a number of mediums to make for a very pimped-out ride.

Last but not lease is the craft faire. A selection of some of the top crafters in Michigan show off their creations, which you can buy and take home for yourself. This year DIYpsi curated the event and did a great job.

I love going to the faire every year and really enjoy seeing how the faire has grown over the four years it’s been in Detroit. Can’t wait until year five!

Next post we will look at he NYC Maker Faire. It’s the same age as Detroit’s but brings in a whole other coast of people.

2 Responses

  1. Millie judd says:

    Too bad you didn't come to our needle arts zone. I would have happily taught u to knit. Maybe next year.

  2. Scott McBride says:

    I don't doubt that FIRST robotics was there, and showing off some of their great FIRST Lego League robotics, that picture is actually of the WASPS team that participated in Lawrence Tech University ROBOFEST competition. Spent about 30 minutes talking with the team. Great work. http://youtu.be/Z_BiuyW7XV0

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About Nick Britsky 

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I am a digital account executive by day and seeker of new skills by night. Maker Faires are my passion, and I have built projects ranging from giant Twinkie cars ...

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