Make and Learn
By Donald Christiansen
The Fifth Annual World Maker
Faire was held this year at the site of the 1939
and 1964 World’s Fairs in Flushing, Corona Park,
N.Y. I attended as part of a group sponsored by
The Maker Faire is a concept of
Dale Dougherty, who is also the publisher of the
DIY magazine, MAKE. The first Maker Faire
was held in 2006, and 100 were held worldwide in
2013. Today, most are independently organized by
communities, museums, and libraries, and
licensed by Maker Faire. Each event is a
carnival-like demonstration of innovation and
creativity by participants of all ages and at
all levels of complexity, and often helps
inspire hands-on STEM programs in local school
systems. Participants can be individuals,
groups, or associations.
This year’s two-day World Maker
Faire was held at the New York Hall of Science
(built as part of the 1964 World’s Fair) and on
the grounds of the adjoining Space Park, with
some 600 exhibitor/makers participating. Intel,
Radio Shack, LEGO, Disney, Texas Instruments,
Toyota, Ford, Microsoft, and Meccano were among
the more than thirty corporate sponsors.
I found it impossible to visit
all of the exhibits and events that I hoped to
see. Here are just a few.
Soon after the gates, opened a
crowd gathered around a 1984 Volvo. It was not
easy to determine the make and model as the
exterior was covered with catfish, bass, trout,
and lobsters. And they were singing (yes, the
fish and lobsters!) a classical Italian opera.
At appropriate points a lobster would arise from
among the lobster chorus arranged on the hood to
belt out a solo. In all, some 250
computer-controlled singing and dancing fish,
collectively titled the Sashimi Tabernacle
Choir, were led by an energetic lobster
conductor. Richard Carter and John Schroeter
began the project in 2001 and have upgraded it
several times since. Six different bracket
designs were used to mount the modified Billy
Bass, which were disassembled and rewired. Some
five miles of wire lead to the trunk, which
houses computers plus batteries for both the
stereo and the performing fish. By 2003, Billy
Bass Superstar had become available. A pair of
them were purchased and reworked to produce a
male and a female soloist, each under separate
computer control, who can now rise, wiggle, and
sing from the roof of the Volvo.
The Puppet Phactory was my next
stop. Here kid-friendly toys were made from
junkable items—disposable electronics, bicycle
and vacuum cleaner parts, for example.
Next came the Tick Tock Croc, a
several-yards-long articulated crocodile
propelled by bicycles hidden within.
In another display, artists
exploited e-waste to produce artwork, including
a large sculpture of Manhattan Island.
Experts at the Fix-It Village provided
demonstrations on how to fix various electronic
Adults and kids alike were busy
learning how to solder in the Radio Shack
section of the Maker Shed.
The 3D Printer Village showed off
the work of several entrepreneurs, including a
life-size printed robot. The “Strati,” a
drivable 3D printed car built by Local Motors
with the aid of Oak Ridge National Laboratories,
was on display. Parts of its carbon-fiber hood
and interior had been “subtractively machined.”
Its total time to print was given as 44 hours.
At the entrance to the Hall of
Science, youngsters were invited to frolic on a
large illuminated grid designed by Willow Glen
Makers of San Jose. Depending on where the kids
stepped, the grid’s colors and patterns would
change accordingly. An operator could switch to
alternate circuitry to provide surprising new
patterns, and was prepared to discuss the
circuitry with interested adults.
Among several speakers during
the event were Herb Deutsch, co-inventor of the
Moog Synthesizer; James Adam, director of
engineering at Raspberry Pi; and David Miller,
NASA’s chief technologist. I sat in on a session
led by Chris Peterson, assistant director of
admissions at MIT, who described a new program
at MIT in which students seeking admittance are
invited to submit a report on a “maker” project
they have undertaken and completed. Whereas
fewer than 8 percent of those applying to MIT
are accepted, in the case of those submitting
maker reports, over 11 percent are accepted.
Peterson reported with some disappointment that
only 15 percent of the maker project reports
were submitted by females, although the
percentage of female students at MIT is far
As closing time neared, I
hurried to view the power race track, a
life-size mousetrap, a game of drones, the
circus warehouse, and robot row. I vowed to plan
my agenda more carefully next year!
Meanwhile, if you attended this
Maker Faire (or others) as a participant-maker
or as a visitor, your comments are welcome.
Hall of Science-1964 World’s Fair
The Year of 100 Maker Faires
The Sashimi Tabernacle Choir
Lynch, T.W., “The Maker Movement
Makes Its Mark”
Barajarin, T., “Why The Maker
Movement Is Important to America’s Future”
Christiansen is the former
editor and publisher of IEEE Spectrum and
an independent publishing consultant. He is a
Fellow of the IEEE. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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