Maker Faire: Like Jarts but Bigger!

This is Ian’s brother, Steve, filling in while Ian tries to figure out how to get the wifi back in service.

I’m looking forward to joining the family in New York for Ian’s birthday. I’m on the red-eye from SFO to JFK Thursday night.

This will be my first Jartacular, so I warmed up this weekend by attending the second annual Maker Faire at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds, an unusual event, in these litigious times, where they throw caution to the wind and invite everyone to “Void your warranty, violate a user agreement, fry a circuit, blow a fuse, poke an eye out!”

The fairgrounds are just down the hill from my new home in the hills of Belmont on the San Francisco peninsula. As I cruised down Highway 92, I could see the Collings Foundation B-17, coincidentally visiting Moffett on a national tour, growling low over the crowd.

I parked my charming 1982 diesel Rabbit in the lot with the tiki bar art car and headed for the modified fire trucks that actually belch fire!

A little farther on was a two-seat ferris wheel, propelled by the pedaling riders themselves. The chains and sprockets are open, inviting flying limbs and fingers. As I arrived, the clown operator held the swinging arm still, so a young girl could scramble down the superstructure from the second seat high above. An even younger boy scaled the homemade steel contraption to take her place, all under the smiling eyes of their suprisingly sanguine parents.

It’s good to know there are still kids in the world being raised by people who aren’t afraid of a little adventure.

Next was a merry-go-round where the parents sit in the middle pedaling, as their kids fly around the outside in seats suspended by carabiners and cargo straps. A girl of about 4 years old, her blond hair flying, wearing a pink dress and pink sequined pumps, wore an uncertain smile as she spun faster and faster, her eyes finally rolling around in their sockets. She’ll be talking about this when she’s 40.

Next was the life-sized Mousetrap game, where bowling balls roll and fly and trip the trigger on a two-ton block held aloft by a homemade crane to crush plywood cheese. Clowns that looked suspiciously like San Francisco artists, with their ponytails and goatees, ran around setting the traps and loading the bowling balls. A large, rather worried-looking gentleman tended the crane. Two of the crew were bustiered woman, one of them playing a one-man band for the crowd until things were set up, the other, the fiance of the artist, played the part of the mouse, complete with a long, fuzzy gray tail. When everything was ready, a clown came to the crowd just next to me to explain that this bowling ball would be flying just there, so if it missed the cornucopia up above, their job was to catch it as if flies out of the game. A young girl picked from the crowd wound the first crank, and the bowling balls began to roll. The first two triggers misfired, but the clowns poked the mechanism with sticks to get things rolling again. Finally a bowling ball fell into a bathtub suspended high above the game and then dropped through the “drain” onto a trigger below. That caused the skeleton to dive onto a platform, releasing the hook on the crane and dropping the block with a satisfying thud and a poof of plywood splintered cheese.

A zillion do-it-yourself projects populated the exhibit halls, using computers, air, fire, art, music, and static electricity to make lights dance, robots battle, lightning arc, and hair stand on end.

I spoke to the artist who creates digital clocks from anachronistic parts. We shared stories of the times we blew up projects.

Back outside, I dodged kids recklessly riding borrowed wooden bicycles. One was a unicycle stabilized by a trailing 2-by-4, so that those of us who believe unicycles violate the laws of physics can finally have the experience of riding one.

After several hours, I still wasn’t sure I had seen everything, but I felt it was time to eat a corn dog and then be on my way. As I dieseled back up the hill, I resolved to build more projects and void more warranties this year, so I won’t feel like such a square at next years Maker Faire.

Now it’s off to the Jartacular!

0 thoughts on “Maker Faire: Like Jarts but Bigger!

  1. xuxE

    oh i was so sad i had to miss this, i really wanted to bring the kids. do you get “make” magazine? very cool, same sort of idea as the makers faire.

  2. summer

    Hey Sean!
    The merry go round and ferris wheel an and all the rest of it is CYCLECIDE. I’m in it. I was there. Running the carousel and the Cyclofuge (the one with swings). Damn!
    Anyway, thanks for the mention but see if you can use our name next time. (wink) Ian’s blog’s way more popular than mine, and Cyclecide needs publicity. We want to go to Robodock next…


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