Maker Faire/Inventing the Future in a Carnival of Delights, #mf09


There were whirlygigs and whatchamacallits and inspiration abounding.  Lots of eyes on the sky, with softer, more mellower play play play.  And definitely not the crowds expected.  Last year, 65,000 attended, this year felt healthy but light.  Less lines, more fun.  If you’re thinking of going, go.  The price is right, even discounted at Radio Shack, and there is more than a full day of activity left for tomorrow.

Before you even enter the grounds you are greeted by the famous Doggie Diner casts of Doggies.  Then just beyond the gates are the Cupcakes, with hoops for sale and for hula-ing, an Electric Giraffe, a Lego Car, the O’Reilly Chill Lounge with coloring tables and animal crackers, and the ultimate mini golf course that magically shrinks balls and resizes them throughout the course.  When you enter the food court lawn, look for the hypnotic rides like the Whirl-a-Rator, well worth the wait if there is a line. Bring lots of cash, the paella and knish will have you returning for more.   Beyond the rides are the life size Mousetrap, crowded always, the Boiler Bar Theater, a walk-though must, head left and find fire sculptures, a steam train and the Diet Coke & Mentos fountain show (repeats Sunday 4pm), head right and wind up in the Dark Room with Bright Lights, and Battle Ships.  You could spend the entire day with activities there but head back to the main building, passing another food court, and beyond to Expo Hall where you’ll find a spectacular lightning show (audience gasps can be heard on the hour), the Long Now clock, LSE Blue Rain, a light sculpture created from #mf09 tweets, an elaborate Lego train town, the Exploratorium tinker toy wall and other brain teasers, gadgets to assemble, crafts to make, all for free.  The least crowded women’s room is also in this building behind the Science Stage.  Behind the Expo building are all sorts of outdoor contraptions. 

Back in the main building there is the screening room, which today premiered Mousetrap to Mars, the Demo Stage, where YouTube star KipKay will be again tomorrow.  Stage A is also in this building in the way back and luckily, was on-hand to capture all the genius onstage today, because when Twitter and TwitPic froze, I had to absorb it all ole skool.  Here are the highlights:

Dan Werthimer, Director, Serendip SETI Program
5 million people have downloaded the screensaver to help SETI in the search for ET.  The heavens are too vast for one tiny entity to do it alone.  But together, mankind can pool together spare computing power to detect life on other planets.  The concept referred to as distributed computing on the edge reflects the message of our time.  Connections make us stronger, together we conquer, divided we fall.  And as the skies get noisier, the window of opportunity to hear something out there is closing.  So its worth checking out.  If you’re computer spots the wiggly or dimming planet, your name goes on the discovery, just like in Deep Impact.  5th – 8th graders can learn more about it including details on the Kepler mission and recent exosolar findings through the Lawrence Hall of Science Messages from Space curriculum.  

Esther Dyson, Cosmonaut and not the author of Adventures of a Space Tourist
Just back from Star City, Esther Dyson looks fantastic:  relaxed, happy, breezy, glowing.  Funny what time in Siberia can do for a type-A American iconoclast.  The trip cost more than the average spa getaway, $3 million, but seems worth it.  When asked why she did it, she replied, all paraphrased, “Ya know, when you want to learn French, you live in France for a summer..well, I wanted to learn Space, so I plunked down a chunk of change, and that’s how I became a space tourist, almost.”  At a cost of $40 million, she never made it to space, but that wasn’t the goal anyway.  “I not only know how to say in Russian, where is the food, but I also know how to say my face mask has malfunctioned.”  She treated us to her Flickr slideshow of the babushkas that cared for the swimming pool and the astronauts who cooked her food.  Go check it out at  She was so incredibly funny, I begged her to write the book. “Naaaah,” she replied, “ask me again in ten years.”  

Phil McKinney, VP CTO, HP Personal Systems Group
Still laughing from Esther’s talk, and preoccupied with saving seats for Mark Seiden of Yahoo! as the room started to fill for Adam Savage, I nearly missed the HP commercial on stage.  And when I finally tuned back in, Phil McKinney was talking about the creative economy and imparting valuable principles of marketing.  “The woman is always right.  Eventhough I head up all of PC, I make it a point to drop in on retail monthly to look, listen and learn my customers wants, needs, values, behavior.  For example, a couple is in Best Buy looking at TVs.  He’s taken by the 50″ and all its specs.  She stands back and says it won’t match the furniture.  Who wins.  She does.  They get it home and its not working.  The damn thing gets three strikes.  The first time, she’s not happy.  The second time, she’s getting mad, the third time, its going back.  Men will beat it into submission.  So the woman is the higher bar for adoption.”  Just fascinating.  Really hope got Phil’s talk too.  Then Phil appealed to the makers in the crowd, and said HP is here supporting Maker Faire, because you the makers are the future.  Note most revolutionary patents are not from companies but from individual inventors or small businesses.  If you have a brilliant idea, HP wants to hear about it. Email”  Wow, really.  I felt like I was in the early chapters of iWoz.  Then he showed photos of the legendary garage and urged us to listen to the Killer Innovations podcasts.  I was totally sold and I’m a Mac.

Adam Savage, Co-Host, Mythbusters
By now, thousands of tweens had filed in, sitting on the floor crisscross applesauce grinning ear to ear.  You would have thought it was the second coming of Steve Jobs.  
 Mark Seiden and his friend returned with a huge bowl of chicken teriyaki and offered me some…because that’s just the type of place Maker Faire is.  And then, Adam Savage, the darling of Discovery, took the stage and the crowd roared in excitement as he told the trials and tribulations of colossal failures he had in his career, and how they made him the man he was today.  He told of his time on Star Wars, as an art director who become consumed by his singular vision, and of his dad who was always comforting and taught him in the faced on failure, the only thing you can do is apologize and learn from your mistakes.  It was quite moving.  Then the kids asked questions. Starry-eyed one after the other asked how he blew things up and what stores he bought his explosives from.  One angelic eight year old asked him why he said blowing up boilers was his favorite when he said on TV blowing up Sparky the Robot was his favorite.  You could tell this little guy was on the verve of disillusionment.  Adam said he was so sorry and explained how he’s given to hyperbole.  Then, like the pied piper, Adam Savage led his minions to the autograph table.  I asked his team why no merchandise or books, they’d sell like hot cakes.  Why no fan list.   They said he just wants to spend time with the kids.  What a guy!   (Watch the video here)

Chris Anderson, Editor, Wired, Author, The Long Tail, Free
Last for me was Chris Anderson, now pilot and promoter of UAVs, who delighted the audience with a slideshow of his sub-$1000 spy plane mythbusting and mapping the Google campus. “Look! The Google pool has no logo, Google just photoshopped that in.” Oooh, the audience responded.  Then he told how one day he and his kids were flying the plane around when it went down into a secured area at LBL. Security had to get a fire truck to hose it out of a tree, filed an incident report and it was written up in the newspaper.  Then he told us how to always fly below 400 feet, within line of sight and never compromise national security.  One cool feature is the plane has an auto-return that brings it home if its gone too far.  He also talked about started kids out on blimps as a safe way to play around with nexgen robotics.  All this and more at  Chris Anderson is so prolific, during the talk it was easy to forget all the other revolutions he’s involved with.  He closed by letting us know that Free will be out on July 6, and it will be free along with The Long Tail on Kindle for 2 weeks, free on e-readers for 1 weeks, and free forever on his website.

As I walked out, R2D2 and Robbie the Robot (Lost in Space) were hanging out, catching up, shooting the breeze, and Lindz’s Electric Giraffe was giving kids their dream rides.  What a hero!  Maker Faire, it only comes around once a year.  Treat yourself tomorrow if you can.

One Response to “Maker Faire/Inventing the Future in a Carnival of Delights, #mf09”

  1. Nice post!

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