NoCo Maker Faire: Exactly What I Imagined a Maker Faire to Be!

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I really, really wanted my son to reach out to the R2 unit and say, “Help me Obi-Wan, you’re my only hope.” But he didn’t. Oh well. This R2 unit was built and operated by the Mountain States R2 Builders. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

This past weekend my family and I made a two-hour trek up I-25 to Loveland, Colorado, for the state’s first-ever NoCo (Northern Colorado) Mini Maker Faire. This event was set up in a repurposed Agilent Technologies factory on the south side of the city. This factory environment was absolutely perfect for the Faire…despite there being no indoor restrooms. But there were plenty of portable toilets outside!

Portable toilets aside, and after spending about 10 minutes in the wrong line, our family made it into the Faire just after 10am and we were overwhelmed with all the booths to choose from!

Note: I’d like to apologize for the poor quality pictures. I’m convinced my iPhone camera got messed up when I upgraded to iOS7.

I loved the small size of this Faire. There were just over 150 exhibits, and the vast majority of them were local to Colorado and Wyoming. Activities for all ages were in abundance, and everybody was so friendly. The kids, my husband, and I were able to ask many questions and all were answered enthusiastically. I truly felt welcomed and we learned quite a bit, not to mentioned fueled our imaginations.

My husband’s interest in 3D printing for model railroading meant that he was keeping his eyes out for 3D printing vendors and demonstrations. There were many to choose from, including several live demonstrations, so Dave could see a printer in action up-close and personal. He enjoyed seeing those.

My sons enjoyed the numerous robots walking along among the guests, and we arrived early enough for them to enjoy several hands-on demonstrations. For example, a booth from XYZ Bot from Denver had hands-on demonstrations of their two flagship products: Fritz and the Rubber Band Machine Gun (RBmG). If you’re interested in buying an RBmG of your very own, check out their Kickstarter campaign. My youngest son got to check out both products and was very impressed.

My youngest son enjoyed playing with Fritz: A Robotic Puppet, which specializes in facial expressions. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
My youngest son enjoyed playing with Fritz: A Robotic Puppet, which specializes in facial expressions. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
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He then tried out the Rubber Band Machine Gun. He reports that it was sighted a bit high, which is why he didn’t hit any of the cups. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Down at one end of the exhibit hall, Boulder’s SparkFun Electronics dominated the area. A line was growing, so I hurried my sons over there to see what was so popular.

It turned out SparkFun had about 30 soldering stations set up and guests could assemble one of their basic kits. There were three to choose from, and between the four of us in my family, we assembled each of the choices. I saw children as young as five years old sitting at the soldering stations. With a lot of help from parents and SparkFun employees, even these young children could make a WeevilEye of their very own.

We spent a lot of time with SparkFun and I had a great time talking to the employees as well. Each one I talked to seemed to love working for the company, and I even got some information on taking a tour of their Boulder facility (which they offer every Friday).

Parents helping kids make great things! In this case, my husband is helping my youngest son solder together a photo-sensitive light-up bug. This was at the SparkFun area. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Parents helping kids make great things! In this case, my husband is helping my youngest son solder together a photosensitive light-up bug. This was at the SparkFun area. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

My family enjoyed many other exhibits that covered everything from Lego to fiber arts. Numerous makerspaces and hackerspaces from throughout the area were represented also.

My youngest son saw an exhibit where you could build a fairy garden. He was excited to do this, so we checked it out. Fiona’s Fairy Gardens sold small kits for $20 that included three plants, a couple of little structures, and all of the planting materials and decorative rocks. We had a wonderful time setting it up.

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My youngest son assembling his fairy garden. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
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The finished product — he did most of this work himself. He is so proud of his work, as am I. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

The Northern Colorado Weavers Guild had a large area set up that including several spinning wheels for making yarn, and assorted looms to demonstrate weaving. I got to try out a spinning wheel myself, while my youngest son checked out a Mayan-style loom.

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I twisted some thread into yarn with this spinning wheel. It wasn’t easy and I wholeheartedly admire those who do this routinely. Photo: Dave Vollmer.

The last activity we spent time with was the Cardboard Challenge. This was something I wish we had spent time with earlier in the event. By the time we made time to make something with the piles of cardboard several of the accessories had been exhausted—including scissors, tape, and hinges. We still made do with what we had and came up with some silly concoctions. This Instagram photo shows some of the other creations.

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A cardboard shirt, anyone? Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Finally, we were treated with a GeekMom meetup! Whoo hoo! I am always excited to meet the other GeekMom writers and I’m tickled pink to now live only an hour from GeekMom Judy.

We're looking at Judy's son's camera here. Photo: Dave Vollmer.
We’re looking at Judy’s son’s camera here. Photo: Dave Vollmer.

To conclude, my family and I had a wonderful day in Loveland! We highly encourage anyone in a community with a Maker Faire or Mini Maker Faire to make the trip. It’s worth it!

I was provided complimentary adult and child tickets for this event.

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Patricia Vollmer is the proud mother of two emerging geek sons, ages 12 & 14. She serves part time as a meteorologist with the Air Force Reserve and is currently assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Patricia blogs about her family's nomadic military life at Ground Control to Major Mom. Home is always where the Air Force sends her family, which for now is in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hobbies include running, despite no one chasing her, sharing her love for Disney and Star Wars, and exploring the world with her boys. Ask her why the sky is blue at your own risk.