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At Maker Faire, art and technology merge to give us a glimpse at the future

By Ric Herrero

Headshot_RAH_MMMF copyThe fourth annual World Maker Faire was held in Queens, NY, this past weekend. For two days, over 70,000 people showed up to meet some 700 makers whose projects ranged from quadcopter drones and 3D printed toys, to solar powered robots and sensor-based gadgets that can wire your entire home and garden to the Internet. The Faire also featured a full outdoor bazaar with artisans selling hand-made clothing, jewelry and home goods, plus circus acrobats, musicians, a life-sized version of the Mouse Trap board game, a Coke and Mentos geyser show, and lots, I mean lots, of rockets.

Think Science Fair-meets-County Fair-meets-Burning Man-meets-Renegade, and you’re only halfway there. Maker Faire is a family-friendly celebration of DIY creativity, resourcefulness and invention, with the kind of “gee-whiz” energy you likely haven’t felt since you first visited Tomorrowland as a kid.

The World Maker Faire in New York is second in size only to the original Maker Faire, which was first held in San Mateo, CA and in 2013 celebrated its eighth annual show with some 900 makers and 120,000 people in attendance. Detroit, Kansas City, Newcastle (UK), Rome and Tokyo are the home of “featured” 2013 Maker Faires (200+ makers), and community-driven, independently organized Mini Maker Faires are now being produced around the United States and the world—including right here in Miami.

Though far from mainstream, the popularity of Maker Faires has surged in recent years for several reasons, not limited to the following:

  • * They're fun interactive events that make kids (and adults) excited about crafting, circuit electronics, and soldering. “I want to make a robot and take it home!” I overheard one little girl tell her dad in a voice that made you believe they weren’t going home that day without a new friend in tow.
  • * They explore cutting-edge trends in education, science, tech and design. At World Maker Faire, I saw panels discussing the re-emergence of hands-on STEM education at American schools, the rise of design labs and makerspaces, and how wearable computing, sensor-driven and big data, social networks, and location apps are ushering in a hyper-personalized future where we will be increasingly able to communicate with every physical object around us.
  • * They provide a wonderful opportunity to meet local tech and design talent at the ground floor. It’s no wonder that companies like Disney, Google, Intel, Ford, Toyota and Autodesk are sponsoring Faires around the world. Over the past 8 years, several cutting edge products have debuted at the Faires, including the Arduino and Raspberry Pi microcontrollers so popular in engineering classes these days, commercial 3D printers such as the Makerbot Replicator, and countless Etsy shops. 

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The first Miami Mini Maker Faire (of which I’m proud to be a producer), will take place on November 16th in Wynwood and will feature both established and emerging regional makers specializing in DIY technology, arts and crafts, including hardware hacking, 3D printing, robotics, handmade goods, urban manufacturing and farming, alternative energy, apparel, artistic performances, craft food and drink, and educational workshops and installations.

Miami has a long tradition of DIY ingenuity and tinkering. Many who have arrived at our shores came with some technical or artisan skill, yet for decades found little opportunity to put their skills to professional use. Recently, as jobs have become scarcer, makers young and old have taken the entrepreneurial route and started their own businesses making things, or using technology to hack traditionally “non-tech” goods into something new, while others still practice their skills as a hobby. However, these talented individuals have yet to coalesce around a “maker movement” as many others have in major cities around the world.

The Miami Mini Maker Faire provides these makers with a unique opportunity to show what they have made and to share what they have learned with their community at large. It will to help foster a sustainable maker culture in our region, and will serve as a bellwether for how far we’ve come as a creative community, and how far we have yet to go.

I strongly encourage any makers who wish to exhibit their work or DIY projects at the Miami Mini Maker Faire to complete our online application by September 30th at www.makerfairemiami.com.

Ric Herrero is co-founder of MIAMade, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering a sustainable maker culture in the Great Miami area, and producer of the Miami Mini Maker Faire.

The photo of Ric Herrero is by Catalina Ayubi.


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