Last weekend we went to Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science. This was a repeat visit for us, and I wondered if we would see anything new or just a repeat of last year. Good news: lots of new things and we all had a great time.
The Faire has gotten a lot of coverage so I won’t even try to be comprehensive here. This year I felt much better organized. The Android Maker Faire app was a big help, though a bit incomplete, and crowd control was better. We successfully hit some of the classic shows like Arc Attack and the Life-size Mousetrap. As always though, the true finds came from just wandering around.
Things that caught my eye:
- An Arduino-controlled sous-vide kit for only $80
- Shapeways, a 3-D printing service. Send them a file, and they’ll print it for you. Or, buy objects from other designers. You can skip this and buy your own 3-D printer of course, but they are finicky and most end-products still look like cheap plastic to me. Shapeways allows for metal and high-end effects.
- Scratch, a programming language for kids developed at MIT. Laurel really wants to learn how to program. I brought her to a demo of this and could hardly tear her away later. It is a graphical programming environment and easy to use.
- New Arduino developments presented by Massimo Banzi, head of the Arduino team. He outlined future boards, the release of Arduino 1.0, and new IDEs in progress.
- Crowdsourcing UAVs. DARPA wants you to design a drone, and win $100k in the process. There’s a lot more to this and if I had any experience at all in this area, I’d be doing it — it looks like a blast.
- Hacking autism, a community project to make software that allows autistic children to communicate better and have an improved quality of life. Anyone can participate, either with ideas or apps. See their site for more details. They are holding a hackathon in Cupertino on October 10 (I think).
- Kinect hacking. Microsoft uses this controller to detect body position for games without joysticks. Hackers have found many, many other uses for this powerful and relatively inexpensive tool. At first Microsoft opposed the idea, but after many open source kits were released Microsoft even put out their own SDK (though I recommend you don’t use it, their legal restrictions are severe; use the other options). The Turtlebot, which I’ve been thinking about getting, has a Kinect as its main sensor.
No chariot races, nearly naked people, or Martha Stewart this year. I missed them.
I was inspired enough by all this to sign up for some things at home. There is a fabrication lab about an hour from my home, which has a ShopBot router, a CNC milling machine, a UPrint 3-D printer, Roland Vinyl cutter, Epilog laser cutter and a variety of design software. After taking a class, anyone can use the machines. I’m signed up for it next Monday. On Thursday and Friday, I’ll be learning another type of craft: sewing. It’s 12 hours worth of instruction, so I assume we will get a fairly thorough grounding. I’ve used needle and thread before many times, but never a sewing machine. If this goes well I’ll get one for me and the kids.
Our pictures from the Faire: Maker Faire NY 2011 photo album.