Creative compulsion – Maker Faire celebrates 10th year (video)

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Over 100,000 tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors gathered for the 10th annual Bay Area Maker Faire in San Mateo. Photo by Xochitl Bernadette Moreno.

By Shawn Gaynor

The Maker Faire celebrated its 10th year this past weekend at the San Mateo County Event Center, once again bringing together and inspiring people who are driven by a compulsion to create and innovate.

Though the Bay Area Maker Faire remains the largest Maker event, drawing over 100,000 attendees, the concept has spread with 119 independently-produced Mini and 14 Featured Maker Faires taking place this year.

“There is something very important here I think and it is getting recognized,” said MAKE Magazine and Maker Faire founder Dale Dougherty. “It's important in terms of the economy, it's important in terms of the culture, its important in terms of our future – how do we view ourselves as producer and not just consumers? How do we see ourselves a creating that future and not just consuming?”

What started in 2006 with MAKE Magazine pulling together some 100 DIY creators to exhibit their work in the Bay Area, grew into an international movement that pulls together: tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors into a social network that buzzes with creativity.

Walk thought the gates into the Faire and one is immediately immersed in a world where science fiction and Victorian era past meet. A man pedals by on an impossibly tall bicycle, his top hat and jacket alight with multicolored LED lights. He pedals a lap around a 20 foot tall mechanical solar system, ducking planets as large as washing machines whirling away on metal arms. At its center a sun, steel, jagged and rusty, burning in a propane powered inferno.

One more lap and he disappears behind a copper plated art car turned submarine called The Nautilus; its round windows working apertures, growing and shrinking like the pupils of a giant squid. As soon as the tall bike disappears it is replaced by two giant cupcakes, three feet tall and motorized on wheels chasing each other through the crowd, each driver's head poking above the icing, clad in flight goggles and helmets topped with a towering birthday candle. A few more steps, though a door and drones are battling each other in some kind of aerial smash up derby, while robotic spiders are rushing around under foot nimbly dodging bypassers.

The event is more a trip to the Land of the Misfit Toys than Disney Land. And everybody there wants you (yes, actually YOU) to join in the fun. Makers Faire is all about creating participation. The Makers are friendly; they are curious. They want to tell you their ideas, to show you their experiments, and hear about yours.

What in the world is going on here? Who created all of this cool stuff? How did this all happen?

The answer, for the most part, it that everyday people did. The Bay Area event now draws in some 1,000 makers who present their arts, crafts, and innovations. No wonder it has become know as “the world's largest show and tell.” The Maker Movement is based on a DIY (do it yourself) ethic that challenges each of us to produce innovations and re-imagine how we meld technology and art to creatively face the problems of world. Oh, and they like to have fun doing it.

“DIY as we kind of define it, doesn't mean that you actually do it yourself, but the motivation has to come from you to start something. To initiate something,” explained Dougherty. “What's so fascinating is whether its a hobby or a project, once you start doing it and start talking to people about it, they become interested and they become allies and teammate and collaborators in it.

The idea is spreading.

“One of the things that I'm excited about is that it's not just something happening in California, or here in the United States, but it is happening all around the world,” said Make Media CEO Greg Brockway.

Recently Cairo, Egypt held its first Maker Faire. Seoul, Tokyo, Rome and Berlin all hold large Maker events. A map of smaller events shows its worldwide reach and popularity.

In just 10 years the Maker Movement has sprouted innovations across a fantastical assortment of arts and technology – it boggles the mind: 3D printing, drones and wearable hybrids of technology and fashion are just a few areas where makers have been creating the future together.

“I think a lot of people want to be doing something that is important. Sometimes they are able to do that in a job or school, but a lot of times they're not. If you think of something like open source software, people contribute to it not because they are getting paid, but because its important.”

Bring those people together is the focus of Maker Faire's mission. The archetype of home inventor as 1950's basement workshop recluse is gone. MAKE has replaced that with a vibrant culture of creative exchange. After 10 years of helping create that physical space and broader virtual community for innovative minds to meet, Dougherty is still animated with a contagiously giddy delight.

"There are lots of passionate people in the world, and when you put them together it creates an energy that you can feel."

To learn more about Maker Faire events and get involved in the Make Movement visit http://makerfaire.com/

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