BY JOSHUA SCHECHTER
Special to Silicon Hills News
A family-oriented day of discovery, imagination and inventiveness, the Faire offered a chance for people to show off their skills and learn from one another. Maker Faire aims to entertain, inform, and connect the community of Makers in Austin and surrounding areas.
The makers ranged from tech aficionados to off-the-grid types, from educators to inventors to garage tinkerers of all ages and backgrounds. The Faire focused on human resourcefulness, eclipsed, perhaps, only by passion and love of invention and creation.
The event appeared to be geared generally for children. Austin Tinkering School had tables of computer components for young children to take apart and reassemble. ATX Hackerspace gave soldering lessons to guide middle schoolers to create an LED bat. Kimberley Varney of www.thefoundery.org (sponsor of the Atlanta Mini Maker Faire) highlighted Maker Scouts, a kind of boy/girl scouts for junior makers, opening up ‘troops’ in Austin and San Antonio imminently. The FIRST Robotics teams showed off their student built robots, tossing frisbees and performing other attention-grabbing achievements.
The Sustainable Village showcased resourceful and green ways of living and nourishing personal and community lifecycle. Unfortunately, it didn’t have anything new or particularly innovative – especially for a city like Austin which has such a vibrant and vocal eco community.
On the commercial side of the maker movement, a bazaar of tinkerers and crafters peddled some interesting gadgets, gizmos, arduinos, and other do-it-yourself circuit boards and accessories. With all the hype around low-cost 3D printing (Staples now sells them online and soon in their stores), and hacker spaces, maker spaces and fab labs popping up everywhere, there appears to be a great opportunity in the maker community for commercialization of their hobbies. Very few entrepreneurs are capitalizing on this prospect…with a few notable exceptions:
- KRAFTWURX – On demand 3D printing in 70 materials at 116 production facilities worldwide. From platinum to gold to plastics to fire-glazed ceramics, Kraftwurx can turn any 3D idea into reality.
- Seasoned app developers Chaotic Moon Studios, are doing some innovative stuff in their labs. Their Smarter Cart shopping cart uses Xbox Kinect technology, a Windows 8 voice controlled tablet and a Parallax Eddie drive system to not only follow you around the store, but recommend specials and warn you about food allergies and preferences. Once adopted by retailers, it will make your checkout a snap, too.
- TechShop is a maker’s dream come true, and the Austin area is lucky enough to have one of six nationwide. Part fabrication and prototyping studio, part hackerspace and part learning center, TechShop has an entire collection of tools: Laser cutters, plastics and electronics labs, a machine shop, a wood shop, a metal working shop, a textiles department, welding stations and a waterjet cutter. They train you and give you access to design software, and over $1 million worth of equipment.
I was asked if it was worth the drive up from San Antonio with Sunday traffic? My answer: A resounding 011110010110010101110011 (“yes” in binary).