Joe Desposito's Blog

Maker Faire a Breeding Ground for Future EEs and MEs

I finally made it to my first Maker Faire this past weekend and was quite surprised at the turnout and activities. Somehow I had in my head that Maker Faire would be more like a ham fest or small trade show. But Maker Faire is more like a county fair. The New York City version of the fair is held on the spacious grounds of the Hall of Science in Queens, N.Y., part of Flushing Meadows Corona Park where you can still see vestiges of the 1964 World’s Fair.

Maker Faire is a family event, so lots of youngsters were eagerly participating in the events at the fair. On the electronics side, companies like SparkFun Electronics and Radio Shack had their own tents. Both companies were giving away electronic kits and letting the kids and adults sit down at soldering stations to put the kits together. If you came to the fair not already proficient in soldering, there was a class you could attend to develop your skills. Both boys and girls were taking advantage of the largesse of these companies. I saw one girl using red goggles to protect her eyes while soldering—very fashionable.

One of the big trends at the show was 3-D printing. There were all sorts of printers producing parts, statues and other 3-D pieces. Besides the equipment, companies like Shapeways were touting their services. A fellow at their station told me that if I could create a part with 3-D software, they could make it. Just send them the file.

Another trend was laser printing. Here, it seemed like companies like Epilogue Laser were inviting you to start your own laser engraving business. They showed lots of examples of the possibilities, by my favorite was a dragon etched on the back of an iPhone, kind of like a mobile tattoo.

The Arduino open-source electronics prototyping platform also garnered a lot of attention, mostly from the adults at the show. Presentations were given during the day on various facets of the platform, which packed a large tent with seating for over 100 people.

Mechanical brilliance was also on display at the fair. When I first arrived, I saw kids riding around on all kinds of bicycle/tricycle type contraptions, with wheels going every which way—very challenging to drive as far as I could tell. For pure entertainment, there was a life-size Mousetrap game and a medieval-type launcher that sent plastic bottles of water sailing a great distance through the air. 

Of course there were robots at the fair. One was a giant fire-breathing dragon made from recyclable parts as far as I could tell. There were lots of smaller ones on display, too.

Maker Faire does not only cater to electronic and mechanical activities. The fair also contains sections on arts and crafts and green living. I was able to convince my wife to attend by telling her that one of the sponsors was Martha Stewart Living. Our social media person, Jackie Cross, also made it to the show with her friend, all the way from New Jersey, to take pictures and encourage attendees to check us out on social media.

The weather cooperated by producing a beautiful cool and sunny day, which made the fair atmosphere even more inviting. Of course, there was lots of food like you would expect at any county fair. The longest line was for the Asian hot dogs. You can view some of the photos we took at the fair on our Electronic Design Facebook page. If you were at the fair and happen to see your photo, please feel free to tag it. And don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook.

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