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San Mateo Maker Faire 2016 Was Amazing

May 24, 2016
By Stephen Thomforde
Squid Tentacles, each mechanically operated independently by a spinning wheel

This past weekend was Maker Faire 2016 and I went to see "The Greatest Show And Tell on Earth". Suffice it to say, it was well worth the trip.

There are a number of sculptures scattered throughout the Faire, including a massive squid. The tentacles slowly sway and spin each completely independently. They are controlled by hand cranked wheels each operated from one corner of the fence—no electricity required.

One of the main attractions was the Ariel Sports League. This group has developed the sport of drone racing. Competitors wear full head sets and use remotes to control flying drones around a winding course. I’ve heard this sport compared to the pod racing from Star Wars, and that characterization is spot on in my estimation.

Robot Petting Zoo

The fair grounds have several large warehouse buildings filled with an endless variety of booths. One entire warehouse was devoted to hands-on kids crafts. Activities ranged from a homemade soccer ball return to a Minecraft booth. Kids were encouraged to test out all the different projects and see what they could create. The common theme here and throughout Maker Faire was inspiring creativity and new ideas through craft and technology.

Much of the outside Faire was used for bigger booths such as the one staffed by Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy. This sub-division of Dos Pueblos High School gives a limited number of high school students a 4-year, science / engineering focused education. These high school seniors created modular STEM education exhibits that they could bring to various schools, shows, and faires.

Another such group was Cyclecide. The “heavy pedal bike rodeo” came fully equipped with bicycle powered theme park rides and unusually engineered bikes. These bikes varied from tricycles with free spinning back wheels (easy to lose control), bikes with reversed turning (you turn the handle bars one way and the wheel turns the opposite), to bikes with hinged frames (the frame had an extra pivot point below the seat). All these bikes were available for people to try in a big arena. It reinforced how ingenious the modern bicycle really is.

The pedal power potential

There were a number of other groups showing off the power of bicycles. Some groups demonstrated how much power could be generated. One of the main performance stages was hooked up to 26 bikes that powered the stage through pedaling. Other groups demonstrated a bikes potential output through LED’s attached to the frame.

The rest of the Faire was bursting with fascinating exhibits that ranged from electronic midi guitars to a device that printed pancakes in any shape imaginable. The Maker Faire and the greater maker movement is an incredible example of the ingenuity and creativity that can be amplified with Science and Technology.