Last weekend, I went to my first Maker Faire! Maker Faires, known as “The Greatest Show and Tell on Earth”, are events hosted or sponsored by Make Magazine where Makers gather to show off what they are working on. There are generally a small number of “Flagship Maker Faires” (hosted in San Francisco, Detroit, and NYC), and several “Mini Maker Faires” held in various cities around the world annually.
maker sign

The Maker Faire I went to was the Hampton Roads Maker Faire (Facebook) in Norfolk, Virginia. This Faire took place at the Norfolk Scope, a large arena that has a 10,000 sq. ft. exhibition hall.

I asked John to "Walk casually!" for the pictureI asked John to “Walk casually!” for this picture of the Scope arena

When my friends at [carrythewhat?] replications told me they were going to have a table at the Faire, I jumped at the opportunity to join them! After a speedy (15 hour!!!!!) drive from Florida to Virginia, I was ready to see what the fuss over Maker Faires was all about.

Our booth!Our table!

There were a TON of amazing exhibits, and the level of enthusiasm from all the makers is difficult to overstate.

Beau Turner from the 757 Makerspace was buzzing around all day, and was extremely helpful in getting everyone set up, and generally raising the enthusiasm levels of everyone present. The 757 Makerspace booth was really cool, with multiple 3D printers and laser-cut rockets present. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of their booth, but rest assured, it was awesome.

The Warped Wheel & Shuttle had multiple looms set-up, with members spinning yarn and offering live demonstrations. After watching multiple people use one of the larger looms, I built up the courage to try it myself. It requires coordination and quick reflexes! Both feet are used to move the mechanical loom, and both hands are used to feed new yarn into the loom.

Operating the loomOperating the loom

I got to try out an Oculus Rift, which was something I’ve been excited about for a while. It was a weird experience, and I had to sit down after a few seconds. I found myself leaning into turns a little too much on the flight simulator they had loaded up, and had to stop after a few minutes.

Jordan using an Oculus Rift with a tablet controllerJordan using an Oculus Rift with a tablet controller

RGB-123 was there, showing off a table that appeared to have been wired to run a constant simulation of the Game of Life.

LED tableLED table


I was asked to speak on a panel discussing 3D printing basics in the small conference room by Beau Turner from the 757 Makerspace. Joining me were two representatives from ShopBot, a company that manufactures CNC machines that can also double as 3D printers! Really cool stuff, they had a demonstration running out in the main room. They talked about laser cutters and CNC machines, which are topics I don’t really know much about, so I learned a lot from them.

A ShopBot CNC with the 3D printer head attachment.A ShopBot CNC with the 3D printer head attachment.

The discussion was a lot of fun; there were a lot of interesting questions brought up by the attendees. I brought the InMoov arm that I have been working with me to the discussion, and used it to describe a few 3D printing concepts. I talked about different materials (ABS vs. PLA, water-soluble support filament, laywood, etc) and their various pros and cons. Another important thing I wanted to stress was the Open-Source movement, and how Open-Source Non-Commercial hardware is important to the Maker community. I’m not sure how well I did describing the concepts, but I believed I covered all the basics. After the talk, some people came up and asked me questions about the InMoov arm, and the InMoov project in general. After about 15 minutes or so, I wandered back out to the floor to look at more stuff.

Explaining the acetone welding processExplaining the acetone welding process

The Tidewater Alliance Mandolorian Mercs were showing off their incredibly detailed cosplay armor. They are a group that does appearances and events for charity in the Norfolk, Virginia area. In addition to two tables with various individual pieces of armor, there were several people in full costume patrolling the Maker Faire. Very cool stuff; I was impressed with the fine attention to detail in their costumes!

They take the 'No Touching' rule very seriouslyThey take the ‘No Touching’ rule very seriously

I also met Rick at the Northside Makers booth. He had an experiment set up where you would put on a pair of glasses that had been taped over and equipped with LEDs, and had headphones that played some sort of binaural beats. Despite knowing that these LEDs were red, when the tones shifted, the colors I saw through my eyelids turned to grey and blue; an experience I can’t really explain. Really cool stuff! They also had a Thing-O-Matic 3D printer set up, as well as a Ruby guitar amplifier that was playing some cool video game music.

Note the glasses on the tableRick from Northside Makers showing off his glasses

The Treequencer by North Street Labs was another attention-getter. It is a large welded structure that approximates the shape of a tree, with limbs dangling over anyone walking near it. There is a proximity sensor that will play change the pitch of the tone as you approach it. As a result, walking near it will cause it to “go off”, making a neat little song as you try and figure out how to control it.

Cyndi playing the TreequencerCyndi playing the Treequencer

In addition to all this, there was a bio-hackerspace that used open-source hardware, a floating blimp, a giant bike, a massive solar-thermal energy collector, an electric robot that launched basketballs, and much, much more. If you ever get a chance to check out one of these events, I would HIGHLY recommend it. Tons of fun!

POSTSCRIPT: If I got anybody’s name/information wrong, feel free to send me a message! I did my best to link everyone correctly, but I’m fine with fixing links!