This weekend Emily and I visited MakerFaire UK 2011 in Newcastle. What fun! You need a MakerFaire to see such a wide (and crazy) collection of electronic and mechanical hackery along with soldering tables that anyone (kids too) can interact with. We went up representing BuildBrighton (our local Hacker Space) and to do some research for the upcoming Brighton MakerFaires.
We took up our Social Microprinter to print #mfuk tweets along with the face-tracking Headroid and a bunch of Emily’s past robots. Sadly Headroid blew a servo (cunningly worked around with some StarBucks cardboard and a 9v battery) but soldiered on with the remaining servo. Here’s MakerFaire in 30 seconds:
There were several Tesla Coils playing music, later they were hacked by the London Hackerspace with a Kinect so kids could do ‘Evil Genius’ poses with lightning coming up behind them (thanks Russ for the photo):
Here’s the London Hackerspace crew’s Evil Genius Simulator video:
It was interesting to see so many 3D printers – I counted 4 designs over 7 tables (the repeated ones being RepRaps and MakerBots). Overall the quality of the printed results wasn’t brilliant but it begins to look interesting. I had an interesting chat with Jean Marc of eMakerShop about his previewed printer, it seems that tolerances and the analogue nature of extruded plastic will pose interesting quality challenges in the coming years. Jean Marc believes that basic printers could be assembled for just a few hundred pounds shortly.
Almost everyone used white plastic and pretty much there was nothing you could walk away with – I’m hoping someone starts to print fun/useful novelties for the next MakerFaire rather than hinges and geometric shapes.
Inevitably there were Daleks with voice boxes, these had to compete with the loud Tesla Coils and the bashing/crashing of the robot wars arena!
The ‘build stuff’ table was constantly full with 30-40 people (many parents with kids) soldering various Mitch Altman kits:
This cool device lets ball bearings run through a set of circuits (5 in this case) where the ball’s journey is decided by ‘flip flop’ mechanical switches. At the bottom of the run a worm gear drives the balls up a chute, they fall out of the top and begin their descent again:
Nick Sayers of Brighton was there with his estate agent sign art, inside the ‘igloo’ was rather warm but everyone seemed to enjoy clambering around it.
I loved the 3D lunar lander simulator (see it in the ‘MakerFaire in 30 seconds’ video above) – it is a full sized cabinet with a lunar lander on strings, you control its descent and motion and have to try to land it softly. The queue was so huge I didn’t get to try it!
Lots of other HackerSpaces from the UK were present and I got to (finally) meet Jonty, Russ and others of the London Hackerspace (hi guys!). They led the evening drinking expeditions with involved far to much of the local brew.
I definitely recommend the event – traveling up from London by plane and getting a last minute hotel cost under £300 (a bit pricey – we’ll book in advance next time) and the experience and beery networking was great.
Down here in Brighton we’re hoping to run a small MakerFaire later this year and a larger one is planned for next year. There’s no central point of contact yet but I’d suggest keeping an eye on the BuildBrighton blog for future details. I posted thoughts on the event into BuildBrighton’s mailing list.
Ian applies Data Science as an AI/Data Scientist for companies in Mor Consulting, founded the image and text annotation API Annotate.io, co-authored SocialTies, programs Python, authored The Screencasting Handbook, lives in London and is a consumer of fine coffees.