MAKER FAIRE IS TOO MUCH
By Gareth Branwyn
Editor’s Note: MAKE Technical Advisory Board member
Gareth Branwyn and his son, Blake, ran the Mousey the
Junkbot Workshop in the MAKE area at Maker Faire. The fol-
lowing excerpt from Gareth’s blog, streettech.com, captures
his experience at the Bay Area Maker Faire in May 2007.
funny. Mister Jalopy is full of hilaritas.
One of the things that really struck me about the
Faire was the impressive diversity of the attendees.
The MAKE ethos really does appeal to an extremely
broad range of people. The staggering diversity and
EVERYTHING AT MAKER FAIRE IS creativity on display were also evident in the vehicles
cranked to 11: the size of the event, the that freely circulated throughout the fairgrounds.
creativity of what’s being presented, the excite- It was the most insane, and insanely great, fleet
ment of the fairgoers, the diversity of the people of conveyances I’ve ever seen: all manner of odd
who show up. So, you end up on 11. I heard that vehicles, from electric bikes and cars, to pedaled
this jacked amperage was experienced by both recumbents, homemade Segways, a solar-powered
fairgoers and presenters alike. The common chant motorcycle, and a guy riding a motorized unicycle
went something like: “This is so awesome. I love it! while holding a regular unicycle in front of him. And
There’s too much! I’ll never get to see it all.” then there was the chariot pulled by a Roman cen-
As workshop presenters, Blake and I saw little turion robot, and a covered wagon pulled by two
of the Faire. The first day, we did open-ended robotic horses. It was all so surreal, so ethereal,
workshops, selling Mousey parts bundles and then so like a dream, if your dreams were scripted by
helping people build them at workstations we’d set Salvador Dali and Rube Goldberg.
up. That was probably the most tired I’ve ever been At dinner on the first night, Mark Frauenfelder
in my life. The second day, we ran three one-hour and I were talking about the continued, cancerous
workshops. That gave us some time to wander growth of the American monoculture, as it spreads
around and see some of the Faire. across the planet like the chocolate pudding blob
Our Mousey workshops went very well. We from a 1950s sci-fi horror flick. There are few
created two parts bundles (put together by the regional differences anymore, little local color. The
fine folks at Solarbotics [and still available at cyberneticist Gregory Bateson is famous for saying
store.makezine.com]). We made a quicker, easier “information is difference,” and “information is
“car kit,” but ended up only selling three of them. difference that makes a difference.” That’s what’s so
Everyone bought the full Mousey, and a surprising scary about our planet-invading monoculture. No
number of people actually sat down and started the difference? No information.
build right there in the MAKE area. People were at The beauty of the Maker Faire is that it’s about
the workstations for several hours. My favorite was crazy, almost fractal, levels of difference. So many
a woman who saw the mousebots, really liked them, people came up to me, looked at my project, which
and said: “You know what? This is really out of my turns a useless analog mouse into a light-seeking
comfort zone, but I’m going to do it anyway. I think robot, and were giddy, almost drunk, with excite-
I need to challenge myself more.” And she bought ment, over all of the monocultural boxes that they
a parts bundle, chose an old mouse, sat down, and saw transcended at booth after booth. “There are
dove right in. There were a lot of kids with their so many innovative ideas here!” they enthused.
parents, moms and dads alike, working together, “I can’t get over all of the ingenuity, the creativity!”
which was nice to see. “How did you ever even think up such a thing?”
Other highlights of the show for me were Mister And on and on.
Jalopy’s talk and his Urban Guerrilla Movie House So, in conclusion: run for your lives! And run to
on wheels (to build your own, see page 48). the next Maker Faire, if you can.
One of my new favorite words is hilaritas, which
means “profoundly good-natured, full of mirth.”
It’s more than being friendly, more than being
The next Maker Faire is Oct. 20– 21, 2007 in Austin, Texas,
at the Travis County Exposition Center and Fairgrounds.
10 Make: Volume 11