Saturday, April 12, 2014

Seattle Mini Maker Faire March 2014

Standing next to a favourite badguy of mine,
Daleks from Doctor Who, outside EMP.
I took Harrison, my oldest, with me to the Mini Maker Faire at the EMP Museum in downtown Seattle on March 22, 2014. The EMP Museum is located in the Seattle City Center area, next to the Space Needle. The EMP stands for Experience Music Project but I think it equally fits the moniker Entertainment, Music and Pop Culture.

I took Harrison along since I thought we would find some fun projects, 3D Printers, and lots of robotics which would interest him. Robotics, 3D Printers, and self made niche electronic gadgets I think will become a mainstream obsession for non-geeks and as such I want to introduce my boys to this world before it becomes mainstream. I want them to be on the front edge of thinking about the future, what is possible with new technology, and what they might want to do with it.

Harrison checking out 3D Printed Gears
The 3D Printers were out in force and the first booth we came along was from Microsoft and they had a lot of puzzles and fun projects that showed off the power of 3D Printing. Puzzles and gears that are only possible with 3D Printers were very cool to see, touch, and try out.

One thing we encourage with our boys is to be fearless when they have questions. If they want to know something or need something they must speak up so they can learn more or be heard. This came out at the Maker Faire has Harrison asked questions about everything. How long does the printer take? What is this? What type of metal is this? Can you print metal? What's a mold? Can I play with it?

During one session about Big Art installations the artist asked about how many people we thought it took to create a Big Art installation. Harrison was the first to shout out an answer. I could not be prouder to see my son express an interest in others work, engage with them, and seek out more knowledge.

Cyvasse set from Ill Gotten Games
Being at an event like this, I soon felt like I was talking to my people. You know, the feeling you get when everyone at an event is kinda buzzed on the cool stuff going on around them. Everyone you talk too is more geeking than you in some way, but maybe less geeky in your own way. That was this event.

I talked to the gang at Ill Gotten Games about their Kickstarter for Wayfarer, their interpretation of the Game of Thrones chess style game Cyvasse which you can freely download and print if you have a 3D Printer, and their Pocket Tactics Game. Speaking with Arian Croft was a blast. He is into a lot of similar gaming and 3D Printer projects that interest me but which I have not started. Any day someone says to me, "Do you know the old boardgame Space Hulk?" I know I have found my people. I still have my copy awaiting the day I will bring it out and introduce my boys to the world of Space Marines and Aliens (Think Aliens the movie).

Motorized Skateboard built by 12yr old
We also got to talk to a kid, maybe 12, who while on a visit to a Standford lab, was introduced to motorization of skateboards. The guy in the lab gave him a hasty printout of the parts, told him the basics, and sent him off. For about $350 this kid went home, bought the skateboard and parts and built his own motorized skateboard. He was fun to talk to. You can see that he did this himself, his parents were beaming, and he has lots of ideas for improvements. I have a photo of the specs as well. It does not look too hard to build but I am not the skateboarder. I also can not see me flying down the road at 20 MPH on a skateboard. The boys on the other hand will love to do this project in a couple years.

There were also a lot of booths for various maker or maker-esque companies, events, etc. I learned that an idea I had (nothing is unique, someone already thought of it and probably did it) to create a kids maker birthday/party company that introduces kids to electronics, making, and similar activities was started several years ago. They operate in Seattle and have things like Lego battles where the kids build Lego bots that then joust. They teach electronics, do day and week long camps, and of course birthdays and such. It's great to see businesses like this popup and offer a totally different type of camp/birthday experience for kids. As a parent I have found it really amazing at the wealth of opportunities that we can offer our kids today.
Harrison trying out Space Invaders, He had trouble with
the old style joystick, but Dad showed him the ropes.

We also got to try out a couple old home arcade systems at the Computer Museum booth. This was fun and a very popular booth. They had a late model Pong that included many additional modes and style of play including 2-player that the original home Pong system did not include. That was hard but popular.

Harrison found the old joystick for Space Invaders on the Atari a little hard to use. He was not used to the fact he needed to really crank it left/right and mash the fire button. It may have seen better days but I remember plenty of joysticks that had "issues" like this.

Harrison and I have been big fans of 3D printers and Harrison wanted to see what each had printed. While he took in a bunch of stuff included rubber joke hammers and more solid plastic hammers at one table I found a man who had CNCed a steel Drobo guitar. He had it tuned to Open-D and asked if I could play. I played the slide song Country Blues #1 from Taj Mahal on it and it was fun to play. It was super cool to play a truly handcrafted guitar. He also let me know it was too insanely expensive/time consuming to make and he would never part with it. Sad face.

In the end, it was great to get out to see the faire and meet a lot of fun people who are passionate about creating like I am. If you get a chance to go to a Maker Faire and you are any bit geeky then you'd enjoy it. Bringing Harrison was a success, he is now trying to figure out how to get enough money to buy a 3D Printer so he can print the toys and games he saw.

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