It’s been a week since Maker Faire Atlanta ended, and I’ve finally had a chance to sit down and go through my stack of business cards, brochures, and photos and ponder what I saw, the people I met, and the fun hands-on activities that were available. As with every Maker Faire I’ve ever attended, I always walk away with information overload and at least half a dozen new projects to consider tackling.
Below you’ll find some photos and notes and websites for some of the things I saw and people I visited with, but this is by no means comprehensive. For every photo I took, there were a dozen I missed. For every maker I chatted up, there were a dozen who were swamped with visitors and all I could do was just listen. I had a great time, and so did my wife and two boys… both of whom couldn’t make up their minds most of the time about which activities they wished to try next. Special thanks to some of those individuals or businesses below who took the time to chat with me or provide my children with a solid reason to look forward to next year.
John and Frederick are two graduates of Georgia Tech, and they had a very cool gadget called FIXD which they created that communicates your car’s internal codes to your phone via an app and Bluetooth. It also has built-in maintenance reminders and can handle tracking multiple vehicles. You can find out more about their invention at www.FIXDapp.com.
Pete Ballard chatted with me about his invention called Thirst Mate. What I loved seeing was his display showing previous versions and how the product improved (via 3D printing) over time. It’s a very cool little object — screw in three empty soda bottles (12oz to 2 liter) and the thing floats in the water while holding your drink. They’ve got some deals in place to have these in stores soon, so be on the lookout. Follow them on Twitter – @thirstmate.
Sponsored by The Children’s School (www.thechildrensschool.com), this year’s MFA had a dedicated area for kids of all ages with dozens of hands-on projects tucked inside the Decatur High School gymnasium. Kids could build their own night light, tinker with LEGOs and similar building materials, decorate a chef’s hat, help build furniture, examine 3D printers, learn about nano materials by creating a bookmark with water and nail polish, and much more.
My boys enjoyed decorating their own cupcakes, a fun area run by Chef Kimberly Bryant. She owns Kiddie Kakes (www.kiddiekakesparties.com) and had a friendly crew who let the kids go crazy covering their cupcakes with their choice of icing and then toppings. Of course, they got to eat it right afterwards.
Another fun activity in the Innovators Playground area was back for the fourth year, run by a friend of mine named Fred. Fred’s a STEM teacher, and once again brought his CNC-cut plywood track along with all the materials for kids to build their own racers and decorate them. Both my boys made their own vehicles and raced them over and over again. There were times when this area was so packed with kids laughing and whooping you couldn’t hear yourself speak. With glue guns, stickers, washers (for wheels) and other fun items to make cars, every kid had a chance to create a custom car and then tinker with it to get it perfect.
I wrote about a local artist named Woody for a recent Make: magazine — Woody makes these amazing hand-cranked wooden dioramas, and he was back again this year to show off his latest creations. When Woody is commissioned to create a diorama, he interviews the subject (or gathers info from family) and creates something unique that represents one or more key events (such as a career or achievement). One of his new dioramas this year was an oversized box (shown below) representing the original Ford assembly line. When you turn the crank, the people move and you can see the cams beneath them turn and bounce them up and down, hanging parts revolve around the box on a line above the workers’ heads, and the assembly line moves, too. It was commissioned by a well-known Ford family member, and Woody brought the prototype that he built. Amazing stuff — www.woodyjones.com.
Sumo Robot League
I got a chance to visit with the two Erics of Sumo Robot League. These guys have a nice little customized Sumo robot kit they sell alone with the rules for running a Sumo Robot League. Kids were always swarming their booth to take control of the little robots on the little circular arena. I admired the design, including the custom circuit board they designed that incorporated all the electronics in a single place. You can get more info at www.sumorobotleague.com.
Specific Love Creations
I got to the Maker Faire Atlanta event about half an hour before it officially opened, and had a chance to walk around and scout out booths and other areas. One of the booths that caught my eye immediately was a bunch of unique toys made from PVC, including a rubber-band firing gattling gun among other items. Seriously, check out their YouTube page to see all their various PVC creations. I loved the train whistle, sword, and crossbow. Amazing stuff.
I Like To Make Stuff
Bob Clagett returned again this year to show off his creations and share his numerous How To videos he posts on YouTube. Seriously… take a look. I’m already working on upgrading my boys’ closets based on the work he does in his How To Improve a Closet for Kids tutorial. Find out more about Bob and his tutorials at www.iliketomakestuff.com and please spread the word so Bob can keep making great videos.
I saw lots of Makerspaces represented, and a few that I had the chance to talk with included SparkMacon from Central Georgia (sparkmacon.com), Maven Makers from Savannah (mavenmakers.com) and Decatur Makers (decaturmakers.org). The makerspace I’m involved with is The Maker Station from Marietta (themakerstation.com) and I even got to see the president, Jay D., driving his Jurassic Park racer during the Power Racers event.
What else did I see? I loved the giant Rocket Photo Booth, and getting a tour of the STEAM Truck, a portable makerspace was fun, too. My boys got to watch a blacksmith take roofing nails and heat them up and pound them into mini swords that he sold for $1.00. The Giant Jenga was fun to watch and play, and there were more 3D printers than I could count. My boys played with a Jello-controlled piano, made their own paper, and learned how screen printing works. Home Depot was there, giving kids and parents an area to build some free projects together, and Husky tools was letting kids get hands-on with air wrenches and a tool demo.
The weather on Saturday was on and off rainy, but Sunday was great… cloudy but the rain held back. It did appear that some exhibitors may have cancelled coming due to the forecast of bad weather, but those exhibitors who did show… THANK YOU! It was an outstanding two days of show and tell, and I’m already looking forward to next year.