‘Maker Faire’ enchants would-be tinkerers and artisans

See some of the fascinating exhibits that took place at this first-of-its-kind event – highlighting everything from the high-tech to the imagined ‘steampunk’ …

People interested in the idea of “making things” flock to the inaugural Mini Maker Faire, held in East Portland.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For two days, the north parking lot at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) was turned into an “idea bazaar” with exhibits, talks, demonstrations, and performances – bridging arts, crafts, science, and engineering.

The thousands of people who entered the gates to explore Portland’s first annual “Mini Maker Faire” on September 15 and 16 weren’t disappointed when they saw that this event lived up to its promotion.

Makers Melani Banks and Jesse Banks show the electromagnetic motion machine that the creator said “came to my mind, and I worked on it until I came up with a way to share my vision”.

“We call it ‘The greatest show-and-tell on earth!’” exclaimed OMSI Events Manager Andrea Middleton.

“We have more than 100 ‘makers’ here [a term coined by Dale Dougherty, editor-in-chief of MAKE Magazine, and originator of the Maker Faire], showcasing their projects. It’s a celebration of people who want to create things by themselves, and also in collaboration with others.”

It’s called a “Mini Maker Faire”, Middleton explained, because the Portland event is a scaled down version of the annual “World Maker Faire”, which this year was held in the New York Hall of Science, Queens, NY, on the last weekend in September.

In addition to many hands-on “Maker” exhibits, OMSI staff held workshops that taught basic skills, like soldering.

Ed Sobey, “Global Evangelist for Creative Learning”, speaks about topics in his book, Unscrewed – while his helper John Weigant disassembles computer parts.

Maker Faire’s mission is to entertain, inform, connect, and inspire Makers and aspiring Makers, Middleton added.

The dizzying arrays of Maker displays ranged from FIRST Robotics demonstrations, to crafters of steampunk accessories; from working 3-D “printers”, to comic book illustrators; and from model rocket builders, to hand-made canoe crafters.

“I can’t imagine anyone who’s interesting in making something with their own hands not finding something of interest,” Middleton grinned. “We’re seeing tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, artists, science club members, and students – all enjoying this fair.”

In addition to the exhibits, demonstrations by experts their Innovation Stage were interspersed throughout the event.

Local artist Simran Gleason shows off one of his art pieces – the design of which is based on the Hilbert Curve.

Showing how he blends craft work with artistry to make unique copper-pipe furniture was Brentwood-Darlington-based exhibitor Simran Gleason.

“These works utilize the Hilbert Curve, named after David Hilbert who developed the space-filling fractal curve pattern in 1895,” explained Gleason. “After making a stereo stand, I started looking for my next project, and it grew from there over the last two years.”

This display of “Kinetic Creatures” captures the attention of Jacob Gallagher and Ada Gallagher.

At another exhibit, young Makers Jacob Gallagher and his sister Ada looked with fascination at corrugated cardboard animals called Kinetic Creatures – created from kits now being manufactured by a Kickstarter-funded start-up company in North Portland – slowly amble before their eyes.

With its success, look for OMSI to host another Mini Maker Faire late next summer.

Every half-hour, guests gather along the river as OMSI staff launched watermelons, pumpkins, and sealed gallon water jugs high into the air and a hundred yards downrange, with their giant 20’ tall trebuchet (gravity-operated sling-shot).

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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