Maker Exploration Continues …

The Maker Faire in San Francisco was more Fairish than the one in Newcastle UK. Doesn’t the context of weather make a difference … cold and grey in the UK,  San Francisco a warm sunny day.

I think the context and the different natures of the country, state, county in which they were set has a bearing on the character of the Maker Faire. The San Mateo Event Centre was a completely different context to the Newcastle Centre for Life. The very fact that the Newcastle Maker Faire was within the context of the Museum organized by the Museum staff gave it a more rigid, academically, geekie contolled feel. The Government Agenda was definitely underpinning most of what was on display.

Even the food in Newcastle was bland and cafeteria style, although mass produced in San Mateo the food was presented with flair and flavor the smells of the turkey legs on the BBQ, the corn husks, the burgers burning, the spicy Poboys sizzling mingled and floating on the breeze sating the olefactory sensations and adding to the atmosphere of the day.

Thumping music, explosions, fizzes, hissing, questioning, screaming, peels of laughter everywhere.

The startup tent was absolutely jammed the whole time. Filled with hopefuls both of selling ideas and riding the wave of the next new thing.

At the San Mateo Events Centre it felt like a more people powered grass roots driven event. It was like a real faire with the people / the Makers at its centre. The Faire was organised by a very slick core of public relations people led by the Make Team there were lots of Maker products available for sale and the brand was everywhere but one had the feel that it was real. The Show has huge sponsorship and the PR lady is very smart about the placement of media materials.

Only the photos can reveal the vast array of Makers present. In the Newcastle UK Faire the overwhelming focus was on 3D printing, Coding, Soldering, Electronics, Robotics with little recognition of the ‘softer’ making such as baking, knitting, sewing etc. The softer side of making was very obvious at the San Francisco Maker Faire. The main difference in what I’ll call the hard Maker stuff between the Newcastle Faire and San Mateo was the absence of the hardcore coding of games, notably Minecraft.

The commonalities of both Maker Faires was the excitement at doing stuff with your hands and mind working together to Make something. That something didn’t have to be earth shatteringly amazing but the sense of achievement and the pride was evident in the faces of young and old alike. The teacher/makers everywhere got as big a buzz out of helping others learn ‘how to’ as they did showing off what they can do. Passion, pride, excitement a sense of purpose sharing, perseverance, focus, fun, colourful, creative, thoughtful and respectful are just some of the words that come to mind. Five favourite things at the Maker Faire 2014.

Moving onto the demographics, as I observed them.  Many families with children between the ages of 5 and 12. Caucasian, Chinese Asian, Indian Sub Continent American very few Afro-American or Hispanic. The data collected from the San Francisco Maker Faire over the years reveals 49% of the attendees are children aged between 5 and 13.

The absolute highlight of both Faires for me was Junktopia, and it was at the San Francisco Faire. It is the brainchild of a mother and her incredibly clever 12 year old son. She loves the “hands on” making of imaginary worlds and he is an absolute wonder with computer graphics and animation . . . a beautiful and a brilliant family team.

I did love BinBot at the Newcastle Maker Faire. And just for a bit of fun gave a great mentos and coke


Didn’t see Gary Stager at the Faire but he had been very busy presenting to important people at Maker Con and the INTEL Day (not what people imagined it might be from what I heard).

So what is my view now about the Maker Movement. In the UK it is driven from the top down and in the USA it is driven from the bottom up even to the point where Obama is having a Maker Faire at the Whitehouse for 80 Invited Makers. The Makers in the USA are pleased that the Government is taking them seriously but a little perturbed about how it might be re-invented by Government to serve their purposes.

What did I bring back from the Maker Faire? A 3D Printer of course! It is in bits for Tom from Lithgow High School to construct and master. Can’t wait!!

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