Chattanooga Mini Maker Faire celebrates making things as play
In classic superhero fashion, it turns out disruptive technologies have a secret origin. Applying new tech to old tricks isn‘t just about changing the world and translating a personal lightbulb-over-the-head moment into major bank. Sometimes, it starts out as nerdy, MacGyver-y fun.
Chattanooga‘s second Mini Maker Faire—Sept. 19, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at First Tennessee Pavilion, with free admission this year and 75 exhibitors—is a day-long celebration of “making.” So what does that modest word mean when it’s elevated to the nametag of something like a movement?
“Mini Maker Faire is a one-day celebration of creativity, ingenuity and the spirit of making in the community,” says organizer Graham Bredemeyer, a 3-D printing consultant who came to Chattanooga for last year’s Gig Tank and decided to stay awhile. “It’s a big show-and-tell for the community for people who like to make...anything really.”
Yeah, but make what, exactly? Come on, help us out here.
“It’s typically things you think about making with your hands, mostly physical things,” he offers. “Occasionally software does get thrown in there, but it’s usually software that’s entangled with something physical. It’s also just the idea that you can make anything you can imagine and promoting the idea of making as a form of play. The idea that it shouldn’t be this big scary thing to go out and make something.”
The idea of a maker space came out of Germany in the 1980s, according to Bredemeyer: a place where people who want to create stuff can use all manner of tools they couldn’t afford to buy. Since then, making has become a movement, with hundreds of maker spaces and fab labs throughout the world.
Maker spaces tend to be something like a machine shop, says Bredemeyer, with industrial equipment like lathes, welding and even metal forging tools. Fab labs (“fab” is short for fabrication) are a bit less industrial, featuring basic CNC machines (computer controllers), laser cutters, vinyl cutters and 3-D printers—all of which might also be found in maker spaces, but maybe in more heavy-duty configurations.
Chattanooga has the 4th Floor maker space at the Public Library. ChatLab, which is looking for new space after its South Broad location was flooded, was sort of like a shared garage where makers pooled their tools and sometimes chipped in and bought new ones together.
Bredemeyer touts the economic development potential of making: “I think we’ll see more and more hardware-based startups happen because of the culture of making in the city.”
But there’s also a lot of fun to be had: “The Mini Maker Faire is focused more on promoting the culture of people who are actually going to go and build things, showing why it’s cool to do that, why it’s interesting and fun. Turning them into rock stars for a day doesn’t hurt, either,” he says.
Home-grown makers include Electron Soda, a battery-powered Van de Graf generator (generating static electricity that makes your hair stand up) made with PVC pipes and a Coke can. Its creator is only 11 years old.
Tech Town will have a maze for Lego robots. There will also be battling robots, and Tennessee Tech will show cars made by students, including one that runs on chemicals. GigTank 2015 winner Branch Technologies will show off wall sections created by its 3-D printer robotic arm. R2 Builders will show hand-made R2D2 replicas. Assistive Technologies will show off 3-D printed prosthetics for children.
Last year’s fire tornado will return in a new configuration that makes fire flow like water. The Creative Discovery Museum will show kids how to turn a selfie into a custom-made pillow, allowing them to sleep on their own faces. EtsyNooga will teach people how to set up a good Etsy shop online to sell what they make.
The people who make EPB’s Christmas window displays will demonstrate how they make them. You can also share your idea for a maker-themed Christmas window, and one lucky winner will get to see their window dream come true this Christmas.
There’s even an out-of-town headliner, called Eepy Bird. Remember the Mento-in-Diet-Coke trick? These guys became YouTube-famous for videos of Diet Coke and Mentos fountain displays, and they’ll be doing it here.
“Five hundred and forty liters of Coke are going to go up into the sky during the course of Mini Maker Faire,” says Bredemeyer.
Rich Bailey is a professional writer, editor and (sometimes) PR consultant. He covers local technology for The Pulse and blogs about it at CircleChattanooga.com. He splits his time between Chattanooga and Brooklyn.