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Technology and art captivate at Mini Maker Faire

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Giant robotic spiders, bacon curers knitters and quilters may not seem to have a lot in common, but all these, and more, were present at the first Vancouver Mini Maker Faire recently.

The faire, which took place at the Great Northern Way campus June 24-25, was a “celebration of making, crafting, Do-It-Yourself, tinkering, hacking and sharing”, according to organizers. It was based on similar faires held in California, Detroit, New York and Ghana. The largest maker faire, in San Francisco, attracts 90,000 people annually.

Not only did the “makers” show off their creations, but, true to the maker ethos, they invited faire-goers to make things as well -- such as model airplanes, electroluminscent bike kits, flashing LED lights (I made one and it works!) and wind-driven sculptures.

“Maker” culture grew out of the DIY movement and is based on the principle that ordinary people, given access to knowledge, skills and technology, can and will create extraordinary things. A maker can be any person or group who invents, designs, and/or builds objects or information systems with the goal of learning, teaching, inspiring or improving the state of the world.

There was a heavy emphasis on robots and engineering at the faire, with battling giant spider robots, pyrotechnics, and robots racing on tracks or skittering across the floor. But the faire also included quilters, knitters, textile artists and craftspeople of all kinds showing off their furniture, cedar sculptures, skinned Furbeys and other creations. 

Makers were both young and old, and a full list of all the makers and their projects can be found at http://makerfaire.ca/makers/

They included students from Emily Carr University, the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology alone was represented by three student groups: grad students Josh and Karen Tanenbaum (click here for a video interview with Josh), who showed off two projects; a Reading Glove, which allowed faire-goers to participate in a World War II spy thriller set in Algiers, and Captain Chronomek, a “steampunk” time traveller; the Point Locus team of undergrads, who demonstrated their touch-based system for the visually impaired to navigate outdoor spaces; and Matt Lockyer, who was on hand with his Tangible Interaction project.

Josh Tanenbaum

Though the faire was billed as a “mini” faire, the only difference between it and the better-known world faires (such as the one in San Francisco) is that it is entirely locally run and features local makers only, according to the organizers.

David Barter, Point Locus project manager.

As for me, I learned how to make my own bacon and, after an hour of fumbling with a soldering iron, I was very proud to produce a working blinking LED medallion. I’ll pin it proudly to my messenger bag -- showing everybody that I too am a Maker.

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