The 10th Annual Maker Faire took place May 16-17 in San Mateo. Dubbed the world's largest show and tell, the event provides inventors, artists, engineers, designers and makers from all over the world with the opportunity to display their creations.
At the San Mateo Event Center a herd of homemade R2D2 androids beep-boop-beep across the floor. Outside large metal sculptures spew fire. A giant lego city sits across from the “Game of Drones” arena, where drone operators try to knock each other’s robot from the air as spectators cheer. There’s a village of steampunk vendors in corsets and top-hats with ray guns and special goggles.
The venue is packed with oddities and wonders, including an epic masking tape city built by Danny Scheible, one of several makers from the Sacramento region.
Scheible is the originator of the art form called Tapigami. This is his fourth year at Maker Faire. Scheible has received nine editor’s choice awards and two educator’s choice awards for his previous installations.
“My job is to make individuals strong through encouraging them to interact with the physical world and realize they can manipulate it into beauty and thus create change - once your realize you can create change you realize nothing’s in your way, except yourself,” he says.
“[Tape] has the most potential than any other material in the world,” says Scheible. “The strength of the material itself combined with the complexity of the textures you can get, plus the accessibility … you don’t have to be any particular place to work with it gives you the most freedom and flexibility.”
Makers are drawn to Maker Faire for different reasons. For Scheible the venue aligns with his motto: “touch the art.”
“I’m an artist and I create culture and Maker Faire is on the cutting edge of culture,” explains Scheible. “There are 200,000 people over a weekend who see it, it’s hard to beat that in any art gallery or any museum. People are here and ready to learn and engage, everyone’s coming to make something and we provide an outlet for that.”
Along with the giant tape city installation, Scheible and his team are teaching classes on creating basic shapes out of tape.
Another Sacramento maker at the fair is Ana Manzano, owner and creator of Ana Apple (the clothing line for children) and The Green House (a creative children’s space). At her booth she sells clothes and offers free, felt left-overs for crafting into finger puppets.
“I call it a big kids science fair,” Manzano says of Maker Faire. “It’s anything and everything creativity and geek. It’s such an inspiring place there’s just this creative pulse that’s here. I always return back to the studio really inspired.”
She says Maker Faire helps her get ideas for projects to bring back to The Green House, which provides classes and activities for children. She says being at the fair also helps her come up with new designs for her clothes line.
“I get to interact with kids first hand and show them what we’re all about and really introduce the program on a really big scale,” says Manzano. “It’s really cool to be on that kind of a stage and share our message.”
Across the fairgrounds in what is known as the Dark Room, another team from Sacramento runs a laser maze for attendees.
“[It’s] called Prism Challenge. You navigate through the lasers, get a glowing orb at the end and try and make it back in the quickest time possible, breaking the fewest lasers,” explains Emma Fletcher, an engineer and maker with a company called Rocket Department.
Last year the team brought their award-winning invention, a machine to mix cereal and pour milk, controlled by a smartphone app. This year’s laser maze was originally built for the TBD music festival last year.
The fastest time through the maze at TBD was four seconds, turned in by a parkour master (military obstacle course specialist). It takes most people around a minute.
“It’s a great opportunity to show off awesome stuff,” Fletcher says about coming to Maker Faire. “You’re here next to the biggest companies that are out there. Google’s here, Intel’s here, and we’re here with our stuff. Make Magazine doesn’t discriminate, whether you’re small or big.”
Make Magazine was started back in 2005 by Dale Dougherty. It tells the stories of regular folk making exceptional things. Dougherty says it occurred to him that it might be fun to get all these people together - and Maker Faire was born. Since then the Faire has grown in size and complexity. Now more than 200 take place around the world.
The Bay Area Faire gets applications from 1,200 makers each year. Some 400 are turned down due to space limitations. Organizers say they have about 50% new makers from year to year.
“This is somewhere between Disneyland and Burning Man,” Dougherty says.
He attributes some of the success of the movement to local “makerspaces,” which provide aspiring makers a place to build out and test ideas.
Fletcher and her Rocket Department team do some work out of a makerspace in Sacramento called Hacker Lab. It hosts competitive app building weekends known as hackathons and provides a space with tools where people can build prototypes and learn new skills.
“It’s really tight knit and super accepting,” says Fletcher about the maker scene in Sacramento. “I moved to Sacramento about two years ago and I just showed up at Hacker Lab and people just started showing me around.”
Fletcher says people invited her to welding classes and showed her the laser cutters. That helped her get connected with the team that became Rocket Department.
Dougherty says for Make Magazine and Maker Faire the mission has always been to inspire and develop makers.
Manzano wants to inspire children through making. Schieble wants to motivate people to pick up some masking tape and see what they can create. Fletcher and Rocket Department want to have fun and share their creations.
All of these Sacramento makers found a space and a place at this year's Maker Faire.