Louisville got to show off a bit of smarts and creativity Saturday, September 28 with the first annual Mini Maker Faire. "Makers" are folks who tinker, hack, and create. They're "Do-it-yourselfers" and have been amassing a worldwide movement complete with spaces to work in and festivals to show off their creations. The projects range from home improvement and sewing costumes to robotic creations and software development. They are folks who like to make stuff, and a whole community has risen up around it.
Human ingenuity and problem solving were displayed alongside creativity in the tents and booths showing off things like robots, modified power tools or toys, solutions for sustainability, and games like "Alien Autopsy", which was a life size game similar to Operation.
The festival shut down several blocks of Market Street, featuring bands and artist booths alongside the Maker Faire. The power tool races took up a rather large area and drew a lot of interest. Two long wooden tracks were surrounded by metal fencing to keep the audience at a safe distance as makers plopped down their modified power tools and raced them side by side to the cheers of the audience. Louisville maker space members John Simpson, Bob Setree, and Gary Flipsart all took home new Bosch power tools from Ohio Power Tools, who has been hosting such races for five years in Columbus, Ohio.
A large group of Watermelons were gathered to the side of the track but left unattended and dejected. They were gathered to show off the LVL1 project "Mind Over Melon"(which lets you use brain wave activity to make them explode), but it was not working. The inner workings had become clogged with Melon Juice. It is sadly being retired from service after years of faithful duty.
Visitors couldn't be too disappointed, though. There were plenty of other interesting demonstrations afoot! LVL1 member Joe Pugh showed off his robotic pony, Butterscotch, which breathes fire as its head turns side to side, operated by a Wi remote. Jose Cabrera (also known as The Director of Legal Evil) showed off his Pi computer, housed in an old Playskool toy, and Paul Faget won a "Best of Show" ribbon for his plasma operated speaker and also displayed a moving sculpture: a heart made of gears that turn and rotate in and out of.
Butterscotch, The Fire Breathing Pony:
Some projects were better viewed indoors and they were placed in the local Speed building (a satellite building for the Speed Art Museum while it undergoes renovations). Makers Christopher Cprek and others showed the public how 3D printers operate and one maker had spools of plastic for sale. Robots on wheels raced around while a robotics team showed off robots that shoot basketballs or fling frisbees. Light sculptures and projects featuring LED lighting were also on display. One was a large sculpture with strings suspended vertically made by Joe Pugh and Tyler Martin. Light was projected onto them, making interesting animations.
Some family favorites included:
"Whack a Shark" by Brian Wagner, a game where people whacked a plush shark with foam noodles and watched the box light up.
"Alien Autopsy" by Sara Adrienne Elders, Justin Taylor, J.J. Haws, Ben Hibben, Danielle Blank, Brennan Chesley, Gary Flipsart, Dan Everhart, Joseph Clagg, and Jose Cabrera. Visitors used metal forceps to reach into openings in an alien to retrieve items modelled after popular science fiction shows (like a small tardis).
"Wax Colonel Sanders" by Joseph Clagg and Will Russell. A lifelike wax figure of Colonel Sanders (of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame) zipped around the festival on a remote controlled hover round wheelchair, amusing and terrifying guests.
"Burnie, The fire truck" by team leader Cherith Herdt, and members Joe Pugh, Tim Miller, Aaron VerDow, Jose Cabrera, and Jen Smith. This team completely restored a Power Wheels firetruck with a paintjob and new blinking lights. It featured LED lights with covers that were designed by Cherith and then printed on a 3D printer before being added to the restoration.
The Young Makers booth: Children had plenty of areas to tinker, tear things apart, build, and try out inventions. There were Lego tables and an area where they could build little vehicles to race on a track.
"The Device" by Newton's Attic. A roller coaster looking contraption that moves a strapped in individual up and down a track.
As if all that isn't enough to inspire awe, there was a Sound fountain, solar panels, and robots galore.
The Why Louisville store spilled out from their shop into the streets with oddities, featuring a truck with plenty of posable figures and a carnival wheel to win prizes with. I won an exciting pair of vampire teeth and wore them in the pictures I had taken in the Magnolia Photo Booth van: a modified Volkswagen Van, which lures people in to pose for photos that are then printed and distributed through a slot in the back door.
With so much going on, the public was engaged in fantastic ways as Makers excitedly shared the logistics behind their projects and groups like the University of Louisville Rocket Team fielded questions like "Will these blow up?" or "Are you sending these to North Korea"?
I'd say the first Louisville Mini Maker Faire was a resounding success, and I'm thrilled to watch how it helps Louisville's Making Community grow and evolve in coming years.