MakerFaire – Day One

makerfaire octopusToday, I went to MakerFaire for the first time. A two day event organized by Make Magazine and located at the San Mateo Event Center, MakerFaire is rather like the country fair of your technological dreams.

And far more fun than the state fair: this event features Arduino-powered robots, animatronic giant animals, flaming sculptures, and battle drones instead of butter art and depressed looking show rabbits. Burning Man devotees turn out in force for this with their work, and you’ll regularly be passed by a six year old riding a mechanical trilobite, or a bored looking teenager steering around in a felted, moveable, blue cupcake. It’s everything you ever imagined about California gloriously confirmed. Well, the good things about California.

It's armor for your cat!
It’s armor for your cat!

Steampunk cosplayers look regretful in the sun in their tight leather corsets, some guy is making the rounds with a robotic parrot obviously cannibalized from an errant Furby, and every other person seems to have engineered some strange LED arrangement with their hat.

cardboard bot

It takes a remarkably long time to see everything — my feet were aching by the end of the day, but it was worth it, as I took in robotic ship battles, the organic food and farming section, an endless array of 3D-printer startups, and an extremely alluring DIY shop where I (today) managed to talk myself out of buying anything. It’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had in a convention setting.

Further, I liked the vibe. Everyone was in a good mood, curious, and thoroughly enjoying spending a good day utterly geeking out over everything in sight. Lots of women in evidence too, both manning booths with their projects and checking out the show. If you’re looking for a geek event that does a good job of actually including everybody, this is it.

battle droneI went to MakerFaire thanks to the crew behind Game of Drones,which was able to get some friends and associates into the show for free. Game of Drones, as the title may hint, makes ruggedized UAV airframes that are suitable for unholy aerial battle.

The Game of Drones team had a big show at MakerFaire, running one-on-one battles every hour. The turn out was impressive: hundreds of people staring, transfixed, as small flying robots did their best to kill one another, or at least knock each other out of commission.

barbie dream quad

Everyone snaps their heads around when we hear the tell-tale buzzsaw noise of imminent drone death. It’s a ton of fun. I did not subject my Phantom and its camera gimbal to the tender embrace of the battlefield, but I’m hoping to get my hands on one of these ruggedized airframes in the near future.

netting-deathsThe netting around the battle arena served its purpose of protecting the many, many spectators that came to watch the action, but had the side-effect of capturing drones like so many hapless bluefin tuna. A big PVC tube with a knife stuck on the end had to be deployed. More than a few times.

Here’s a grab-bag of images from the first day of MakerFaire. Coming back tomorrow….

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