They came by the tens of thousands with stars in their eyes, not to see some superstar rock-band, but to participate in Maker Faire 2014, the Greatest Show and Tell on Earth.
The event was so jam-packed by the start time of 10 AM, attendees were spilling off of freeways and into over-flow parking lots twenty minutes away, piling into shuttles just to get to the Faire.
And what did they find when they got there? Burning Man flaming sculptures like Pulpo Mecanico, rolling cupcake cars, solar cookers, lock pickers, drones, more drones, all manner of 3D printing and lots and lots of robotics and even some 3D Printed Robotics.
An off-shoot of Make Magazine that was founded in 2005 the Faire has captured the imaginations of people from all walks of life by giving them something physical to do and to create in a world that has become increasingly virtual, digital and distant.
The confluence of cultural trends that the Maker Faire capitalizes on are almost too numerable to mention. Everything from an ever-growing DIY movement, the rise of crafting among millennials, and the shrinking size of processors all merge to begin to explain how over 120,000 Makers descended on an old fairground to talk about circuit boards and macramé.
Next to a Radio Shack booth offering lessons in soldering (a necessity for any Maker worth their salt) was the Intel booth featuring multiple Galileo projects, circuitry manicures and the pertinent call to action, “What will you make?”
One attendee who truly embodied the Maker spirit was Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich who in his spare time when not thinking about creating a Galileo powered alarm systems with his daughter, recently completed a two year rebuild of a 1974 Land Cruiser.
After talking about how fun the Maker community is, with its emphasis on making stuff whether that be mechanical, yarn or other, Krzanich was asked what kind of robotic creature he would most like to make.
What followed was the kind of answer you might expect from a lifetime engineer,
“If I was going to make a robot I would make it look like a spider,” he said. “It’s one of the most stable platforms. You could even put suction cups on its feet and have it walk up walls. That would be pretty fun.”
Thrilled with being at Maker Faire, he outlined how he thinks Intel can work with the Maker community.
“To me the real thing about the Maker community is to make a product like Edison that’s small and powerful,” he said.
“With that power you can either make it really simple so the average person can use it and it’s small. Or the expert can open it up and use all of its power. I think we can make some great products together. I think we can use feedback to make better and better products each year.”
Beyond the sheer joy of making that permeated the entirety of the Faire, is a sub-theme of youth and learning.
Carlos Montesino a researcher at Intel Labs who ran a magic wand demo to the delight of some of the youngest makers at the Faire was clear about this goal.
“What really pushes me to do what I do is, how can I have impact?,” he said. “And when you use technology to produce happiness in people that makes it all worthwhile.”
Montesino shared that Intel was at the Faire to inspire and help grow the community, and nowhere was that success more evident than in the amazing bug-dropper developed by 14 year-old Schuyler St. Leger, the son of an Intel employee.
When you listen to Schuyler rattle off how his Python talked to his Arduino with confidence, sophistication and wit you not only feel inspired, you feel like the future may just be in some pretty safe and stable hands. The hands of the young maker.
Even Krzanich had to marvel at Schuyler’s amazing bug-dropper.
And of course, there were Zombies.
More Maker Faire eye candy from day one and day two: