Friday, September 27, 2013

DIY or Bust! My Experience at Maker Faire 2013 in NYC

This guy re-purposed an old radio and mike into a karaoke machine!
Last weekend, Mr. Hippo and I went to the big World Maker Faire 2013 in NYC! What is the Maker Faire? According to their Website, it's "a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement" sponsored by Make Magazine

A rocket at the New York Hall of Science
Did you know there was a movement? I didn't! They call the movement "a tech-influenced DIY community." They focus on all kinds of innovation. Now you all know I like to try making new things. You've all seen my jewelry, the hand-decorated bibs and diaper bike I made for a baby shower, and one of Mr. Hippo's first homemade cat scratchers. I am not sure my creations are science or tech-influenced, but hey I LOVE seeing the science part of crafting (like mixing resin for my pendants!) and cooking, and Mr. Hippo IS a scientist, so I figured we would enjoy it!  The only downside to the Faire (other than being out in Queens, hehe) is that it was a bit expensive: $30 for one-day adult admission if you bought tickets online before the Faire. The whole thing goes on in and around the New York Hall of Science, which is a great hands-on science museum. 

I was worried it would be too tech-y and not include the type of thing I usually do, but when we got there and saw the "craftacular" section, I was relieved. I wish I'd taken some pictures for you; it was a section of pretty 'normal' crafts - tshirts, homemade jam, homemade jewelry, fiber and fiber crafts. Some (but not all) had a geeky bent, like the Periodically Inspired shirts and onesies, with phrases like "genius baby" spelled out in elements from the periodic table. WoolBuddy had a table about needle felting, including a huge 10-foot felted dinosaur! How cool is this guy? I've recently started needle felting and I can't imagine all the stabbing it took to make him! 

A home-made drop spindle and lovely soft wool roving
Inside the Hall of Science there was a whole needle craft section, including people giving quick lessons in crochet, cross-stich, and spinning! What luck for me, I have been wanting to learn to spin yarn on a drop spindle for ages, and Mr. Hippo and I both got a chance to try it out! (Gotta love a guy who isn't afraid to take a spinning lesson, right?) I wish I'd taken a picture of people spinning, but my hands were very full. Here is a pic of the homemade spindle they gave us (made with old CDs and a wooden dowel) and a little roving we bought to experiment with.

We also got a chance to make a 'puzzle feeder' for our cats out of cardboard! It's shaped like a little mouse with holes, and they have to bat it around to get the food out. (Those of you with sharp eyes may notice that Mr. Hippo and I put ours together inside-out because we got ahead of the instructions. oops.) That activity was sponsored by Purina One and they have plenty of inexpensive DIY ideas for puzzle feeders and some other cat projects on their website! Check out this video of Gromek using the puzzle feeder (and Peanut mostly getting in the way):

The coolest crafty thing (for me) was definitely the woman making glass beads, right there in front of everyone! She was selling beadmaking/glassworking classes, I think - definitely one of my dream DIY things to try!

On the other end of the spectrum, there were some very high tech exhibits. It was fun watching all of the 3-D printing displays, but that kind of thing is out of my price range! The cost of tools (and a lack of space) can be a barrier to trying new crafts, but the Maker movement has a solution for this, too. The people at Make magazine encourages the creation of "Maker Spaces," which offer communal workshop spaces, sometimes memberships, the use of tools that you might not want to buy yourself, and sometimes classes. (For example, check out Artisan's Asylum in Massachusetts, which offers classes, space and tools for metalworking, woodworking, bike repair, etc. Or look at the kid-friendly maker space at the NY Hall of Science! Find a maker space near you in this 
directory of maker spaces.

Metro card robot dog
There were tons of DIY computer projects using the Raspberry Pi (a tiny credit card sized computer), some of which are the kind of thing you can do at home without too many tools. If you google Raspberry Pi projects, you can find a ton of projects with it. Mr Hippo is in the middle of making a DIY nintendo emulator in an old Nintendo case with his! There were also a lot of robots and electronics projects, ranging from really small and simple (like a kid-friendly robot bug kit) to more complex (like the musical instruments below!) 

This guy made his own electronic instruments from all kinds of random objects
Check out this guy with the home-made electronic musical instruments! The materials I identified included a knife, a tennis racket, a few hockey sticks,reel-to-reel tape or film (I think), and some kind of shovel! Wow. And yes, they all actually played. 

Check out this short video of him playing a knife!

A few of the "Little Bits" pieces people were experimenting with at the Faire
Another exciting thing about the Faire was the focus on including kids. I love the idea of teaching kids to try making things themselves, I always loved hands-on craft or science projects as a kid. It's fun, sometimes saves money, and it's a great way to learn about science, technology, or problem-solving! There were a lot of kits for sale at the Maker Faire and there were plenty of simpler learning projects shown for the kids and for the lower-tech adults (like me!) I personally lean towards the ones that seem as thought they would be more creativity-friendly and allow for more tweaking (instead of the "here are your instructions and this is what you will make" single-project types) One of my favorites of these was "Little Bits" which I would describe as being sort of like electronics Legos.  Like Legos, in that they are easy to snap together in multiple ways and make different things, but instead of building blocks, they are different parts of circuits: different types of switches, fans, light sensors, LED lights, motors, and of course power input. It is great for beginners because there is no soldering required. I think you could make almost anything with these little guys and some fabric or maybe legos and your imagination (or the projects on their website)! 

Does this sound like your kind of thing? It seems like there's something for almost everyone. If you like DIY or just watching other people DIT (do-it-themselves?) I highly recommend attending something like this. There is another Faire in the Bay Area. There are also independent mini maker faires and there might be one near you. And don't forget to check out this directory of maker spaces, these seem like a great way to learn new crafts without investing in all of the tools yourself first! 

What do you think you'd enjoy seeing at the Maker Faire? What kinds of 'making' or crafts do you want to try next? Please share your thoughts in the comments!


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