Lots to See, But More Importantly Do, at Maker Faire

Photo by Patrick GiblinMore than 80,000 people descended on San Mateo in California’s Silicon Valley this weekend for the fifth annual Maker Faire, the world’s largest DIY — or Do-It-Yourself — festival.

There were rocket ships and robots, steampunked pianos, model trains, a Lego city, electric fireflies, a neuron-shaped fire sculpture and a pyrotechnic art piece that looked like a fire engine shooting flames into the air.

Everywhere strange vehicles zoomed by — electric cupcake cars, a giant giraffe robot, bicycles in every shape and size imaginable. (Much of the focus of these projects, and at the faire more generally, was on alternative energy.)

A life size Mousetrap game, complete with an interactive kinetic sculpture on a 6,500 square foot game board, drew huge crowds.

Photo by Patrick Giblin

But people flock to Maker Faire to do more than just observe. (After all, this is DIY.) So festival-goers — like the author and her two sons — rolled up their sleeves and got busy. There were opportunities to weld, solder, mill and knit.

The DIY phenomenon is attracting renewed interest these days, in part because the idea of making and fixing things (instead of just buying new things) is back in vogue, or, at least, being reconsidered by a new generation who were growing up just as many of the hands-on trades began to decline in America. (See Jeffrey Brown’s conversation with author Matthew Crawford, who wrote “Shop Class as Soul Craft”.)

In response to this growing popularity, the Maker Faire is expanding to other parts of the country. There’s a call for DIY entries in Detroit and New York, where similar events will be held later this yeat.

Dale Dougherty, the executive director of Maker Faire and the founder and publisher of Make magazine, a periodical devoted to DYI projects of all kinds, talked to KQED about this year’s event.

Click on our slide show to hear part of that interview:

Maker Faire Slide show

All Photos Courtesy Of: Patrick Giblin and Christine Rosakranse.

Editor’s Note: KQED’s QUEST also profiled the Maker Faire in 2007. Click here for that video.