Maker Faire highlights

Maker Faire? Wasn’t that last weekend? Well, yes, it was, but finals start this week and I’m so swamped that I usually don’t get around to eating Monday’s lunch until Wednesday night. Hence, this post about the highlights of the Maker Faire. Read on for giraffe-bots, difference engines, Throwies, and more!

Egg plotter

Bruce Shapiro specializes in a field of art he calls “motion control.” In some sense, it’s the intersection of sculpture and robotics, except that his creations are to play what most robots are to work. Here we have a plotter that uses eggs as an output medium. (He blows the contents out of the eggs first, having learned this by messy experience.) His work reminds me of touring factories or the like when I was a kid and just being fascinated at how these machines got things done. Indeed, the coffee shop I’m in right now has a roaster in a prominent place, and I expect I’d be watching it with that same fascination if it were running.

I’ve actually known about Shapiro for longer than I realized, as he made Pipedream I, in the lobby of the Science Museum of Minnesota. Have a look at his site; it’s not as cool as seeing the actual machines operating, but it’s a trip nonetheless.

Babbage engine

The Robinsons exhibited their Difference Engine, a model of Babbage’s mechanical computing device made from Meccano, the Erector Set‘s cooler European cousin. This was one of the most popular exhibits at the Faire, and was basically thronged with people for the entire weekend. It computes polynomials with wonderful clicky sounds.

Trampoline Simon game

Unfortunately I don’t have a link for this project, but it’s a Simon game modified to use trampolines for controllers instead of the buttons. Excellent idea–the only flaw was that most of the people playing it were kids, and they weren’t heavy enough to make the switches work. (In fairness, most people wouldn’t have foreseen this, Simon being something of an 80s thing.) I managed to get a pretty decent game going, but it took a lot out of me really quickly.

Giant giraffe-bot

Another thing without a link and with a somewhat suboptimal picture, but it was too cool not to post. This giant giraffe-bot thing walks. It’s not going to run down AT-ATs anytime soon, but a four-meter-tall human-carrying robot commands a great deal of attention.

Bathsheba Grossman and her sculptures

Bathsheba Grossman makes sculptures using 3-D printing technology that would be impossible with other methods. An exchange:

Bystander: Wow, that’s cool!

Bathsheba: If I could find anything more cool, I’d do that instead.

Jeremy Fitzhardinge's Constellation project

Constellation, by Jeremy Fitzhardinge, was another big hit. It was installed in a room with a lot of sound-and-light projects. The idea here is that it takes live video and superimposes stars and lines over them that interact with the environment. It’s not terribly easy to describe, but the pictures at the link give a bit of an idea. The crowd of people behind the blue inflatable couch on the right are all playing with it.

There were many other wonderful things there, like the Graffiti Research Lab‘s nifty and cute LED Throwies, some people playing Segway polo, and no fewer than two Spacewar games. Honestly, how can you go wrong at an event so dorky that two different people brought Spacewar games? My friends who went with me and I were bouncing around like five-year-olds who just drank three Cokes. Hooray!

2 Comments so far

  1. Aaron (unregistered) on April 29th, 2006 @ 6:48 pm

    Bystander: Wow, that’s cool!
    Bathsheba: If I could find anything more cool, I’d do that instead.

    Best. Quote. Ever.

  2. violet (unregistered) on April 29th, 2006 @ 8:19 pm

    great wrapup!

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