I’m not at the Faire. I’m home in my stuffy, humid home office in Virginia, wishing I was in Detroit, hanging out with my maker peeps and knocking back the Tschunks. But from this distance, scanning Flickr, FB, Twitter, etc. for signs of Motor City maker life, I’m getting certain impressions of what’s going on there. And one thing fairgoers seem to be getting a huge kick out of is the Power Racing Series, put on by the Chicago-based hackerspace Pumping Station: One. What is the PRS? The above pics should tell you most of what you need to know, but here’s a snippet from their website:
Why Am I Reading This?
You are an ambitious and aspiring Hacker/Maker/Whats-a-space that feels the need to go to Maker Faire only to make an impression with the public by “competing” with other Hackerspaces in tiny, heavily modified child’s toy cars.
Wait, What is This?
The Power Racing Series (PPPRS) is an event where Hacker/Whateverspaces turn those toys cars that everyone wanted but only stupid Brad from down the street owned (even though everyone hated him), into highly competitive sort-of racing machines. Teams are allowed quite a few liberties (motors, batteries) but we also made a few restrictions so you masochistic engineers can pleasurably cry yourselves to sleep at night. You have $500 to do this with (aside from safety equipment, cause we don’t want to mop you up either). You also compete in three events, and you’ll have to do more than just drive fast (re: be entertaining) to win points. After all, it’s not like we want an actual race to break out. Oh and it is rather unsafe, so you’ll sign a waiver. You built it, so we knew you’d understand
From yesterday’s tweets, and some of the pics, it looked like they had a grand ol’ (teeny-tiny) time. Today, there’s a final qualifying round at 9:45am-10:30am, and at 1-3pm, there’s the Finale: The Endurance Race.
How Aggressive Can We Be?
Let’s be reasonable here, we act the way you act. If you want to rough it up, beat and bang, we’ll bring some hurt. If you continue to throw a fit on the field, we’ll make you drive Americar from last year’s Team Unicorn USA. Americar is a Little Tikes Hummer H2 painted red white and blue, goes slower than your grandma reading a take-out menu and blasts Born in the USA. In MIDI. Don’t make us use Americar.
Twitpic image from today, spotted on @jonrjohnston’s Twitter feed
One of the things I love about Maker Faire (and MAKE and Make: Television and everything else we do) is the relative mainstreaming we offer to creative weirdness. There’s always an element of fringe creativity and over-the-top whimsical invention at the Faires, makers who don’t paint inside recognizable lines — they march to their own drummer ’cause they are their own drummer — and they made the drum (and it’s unlike any you’ve ever seen or heard).
Maker Faire itself doesn’t fit into any neat category. It’s a “DIY festival,” but it’s also an inventors and science fair, an art exhibition, a hackers convention, a free-for-all cosplay outing, a strange music festival, and lots more. But best of all, it’s a place where people who aren’t afraid to dream up “unique” ideas and give them form have a place to show off their stuff, a place where they are welcomed and respected. Sure there are giggles, and eye-rolls, and “what the heck is THAT!?” questioning points and stares. But in the context of the Faire, most people seem to give the stranger creations some respectful slack; they seem to intuitively understand that, to get a MakerBot, or an Arduino, or a Detroit 2.0, things like… well… like the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir and the Pumpkin Embalmer need to happen, too. As Stewart Brand once said (paraphrase): “You have to look at the edges to figure out where the middle is going.”
Born on this date in 1923 in the Pittsburgh suburb of New Kensington, Stephanie Louise Kwolek (Wikipedia) graduated from what is now known as Carnegie Mellon University in 1946. She would go on, starting in 1964, to discover the remarkable properties of paraphenylene terephtalamide polymers, research which would culminate in 1971 with the advent of Kevlar (Wikipedia), an entirely new field of polymer chemistry, and the countless remarkable applications thereof we now enjoy. Today Dr. Kwolek is 87. Happy Birthday!
Phil Shapiro (Takoma Park, Md.) sent us this video of solar cookers being built and deployed by villagers in Darfur. Amazing to think what impact some cardboard and foil material can have on the health and well-being of tens of thousands of people. [Thanks, Phil!]
It wouldn’t be DEtroit without vats of molten metal as bright as the sun pouring and spitting into molds. Poet, painter, photographer, sculptor (AND bartender), Joe Sandor, is providing the hellfire at this weekend’s Maker Faire Detroit. Joe’s actually from Chicago, but we won’t hold that against him. Tonight, at 7pm, he’ll be at the Lost Arts stage, doing a live iron pour using creations from the earlier Scratch Block Workshop. Fresh-baked cannonballs on sale, too!
Joe has a great piece in the latest issue of MAKE, called “Slag Social: The art and community of the DIY iron pour.” From the pictures in the article, it looks like a lot of fun, really hot, sweaty fun.
MAKE Volume 23, Gadgets
This special issue is devoted to machines that do delightful and surprising things. In it, we show you how to make a miniature electronic Whac-a-Mole arcade game, a tiny but mighty see-through audio amp, a magic mirror that contains an animated soothsayer, a self-balancing one-wheeled Gyrocar, and the Most Useless Machine (as seen on The Colbert Report!). Plus we go behind the scenes and show you how Intellectual Ventures made their incredible laser targeting mosquito zapper — yes, it’s real, and you wish you had one for your patio barbecue. All this and much, much more.
One of my favorite features of Maker Faire Bay Area was the Maker Shed soldering merit badges and the Learn to Solder tent. It looks like it’s a similar hit in Detroit. Marc de Vinck shares this great Maker Faire moment:
Marc (asking a kid): “Did you learn to solder? Was it fun?”
Kid: “Yeah! Mom, I want solder for Christmas.”
Hear that, Santa? The kids want solder for Christmas!
Do YOU know how to solder yet? It’s a lot easier than you think. We have tons of resources here on MAKE to get you started. Here are a few:
You may remember Mike Gould and his awesome laser lunchboxes from his project article in MAKE Volume 20. Mike is at Maker Faire Detroit, talking about lunchbox lasers and performing laser shows as the Illuminatus Laser Light Opera. Check out his website for more information on building your own laser lunchbox.
The rest of Mike’s schedule at the Faire:
Sat: 4:30-5pm — Anderson Theater: Illuminatus 2.1 Laser Lightshow
Sun: 10-10:30am, 12-12:30pm, 2:30-3pm, 4:30-5pm — Anderson Theater: Illuminatus 2.1 Laser Lightshow; 1-2pm — Make Demo Stage: Laser Lunch Box Demo
Sterylite6000 is a large and somewhat unusual robot. Originally it was designed to use only six servos. This worked resonably well, but did not get good ground clearance on the back legs. Not it has four servos, one added to each ankle. So now it is big, fast, and can cover very rough ground. It weighs almost 11 lbs, which is pretty heavy for a walking robot.
Another unusual feature of Sterylite6000 is that its frame is a plastic shoebox. It gets its name from the plastic maker, plus “6000″ because it originally had six servos. Another unusual feature is that it gets its ground clearance from two really stron robozone servos mounted on either side. For sensors, Sterylite6000 has a compass to help it go a particular direction.
Sterylite won second place in the walker challenge at Robogames in 2010.