Review of the 3rd Annual New York Maker Faire

Play with giant tinker toys,
Try your hand at looming your own clothes,
Robots that don’t have to stay dry,
Robots that can learn to fly,
Robots that are made from trash,
Bicycles with wings that flash.

This weekend, I went to the World Maker Faire in Queens and I wanted to share some of the great things that I saw there. I’m not going to be able to talk about everything, but I wanted to cover two major trends that I saw that encompass several projects.

One trend that I think is interesting is the focus on making your own toys. With awesome tools like laser cutters, 3D printers, robotics toolkist, or even just scissors and tape, it is becoming more and more possible to make amazing toys without a manufacturer in the loop. Before Lego, the world was your construction toy. I think we can get back there soon, as things like laser cutters become more affordable. Online communities like letsmakerobots and aeroquad and real-life communities like hackert0wn are going to help this happen. While you wait for the hardware to get to your house, try this out — make you own marble maze roller coaster with nothing but a printer, scissors, and tape!

Biomodd uses the excess heat created by a computer to heat a small vegetable greenhouse.

The second trend that I thought was fascinating was the focus on connecting with the natural world. I often think of computing as an indoor activity that is clean and inorganic, but a number of inventors and artists at this event considered places where nature and technology intersect. As just a few examples, a project from T4D Lab uses low-cost sensors to help a grower understand and improve the production of food. Guerrilla Gardening is more a movement and community than a technology, but is a great example of leveraging technology to connect people who care about nature. But my favorite was probably Biomodd — a project focused on highlighting a symbiotic relationships between plants and computers. Cool stuff!

On a final note, his event exemplified my favorite thing about the Maker culture. It brought together artists, crafts-people, scientists, and engineers. In the process of breaking through disciplinary boundaries, it also broke through the boundaries and stereotypes of gender. It was great to see both girls and boys try their hand at making robots and weaving using a loom. I’ll definitely be coming back next year!

P.S. If I talked about your work here and you don’t think that it’s linked or discussed properly, let me know so that we can work together to make it right.