This year was Buffalo’s first-ever Mini Maker Faire, on March 1, 2014. I was able to visit the Buffalo Museum of Science to check it out.
Buffalo isn’t a huge deal for anyone in the Toronto area to get to - it’s a bit over an hour’s drive, unless traffic is horrible. Given my lack of a vehicle, I took advantage of the fact that some family wanted to go on a shopping trip - cross border shopping is a big thing in Southern Ontario - to go on this excursion. My dad came along for the Faire as well - he’d been to the Detroit Faire before, so he has some Maker Faire experience.
The museum itself was fairly close to the Peace Bridge - about a fifteen minute drive. The rest of our party was going shopping, so we didn’t brave the parking situation.
Standard Maker Faire disclaimer applies: I didn’t see everything. I didn’t take photos of everything. And since this Faire happened about six months ago, odds are some details are a bit fuzzy in my mind.
Having said that, I was pretty impressed at the number of Makers at this Faire - there were a few dozen all told, which is a lot for a first-time Faire. Here are some highlights:
North Ridge Fan Force and Phantom Droid Works
Phantom Droid Works was showing off an astromech designated R2-D2. I honestly never get tired of seeing the different ways people have come up with to build their own droids - every Maker Faire has one or two. This droid had live video coming back from inside it, which is something I haven’t seen a lot of before.
Phantom Droid Works was there with the North Ridge Fan Force, I believe, who had members in costume, as well as a Robot B-9 from Lost In Space.
Toothpick World had a whole bunch of scale models built from toothpicks. Models included the USS Nimitz, the White House, The Coliseum, Stonehenge, Space Needle and many others. Everything’s to the same scale - 1:164 - and Stan Munro, the builder, had displays on how to do what he did.
Bridge Building Workshop
A workshop was set up for kids to build bridges, and test them. The test jig looked both deadly and incredibly fun.
Ayerware Publishing had a huge range of stuff, including CNC stuff - plans for machines, electronics, and such - and the Digital Pillow, which is a temperature-controlled pillow. He had a couple other inventions on the table that I didn’t get to, but cool stuff all around.
Vader Systems was showing off a metal 3D printer. That’s “prints metal”, not “is made of metal”. Sadly it wasn’t working when we went by - they had had a heating element issue earlier in the day, so it couldn’t extrude then. I’m interested to see more of this one, though.
ORD Solutions was present showing off their MH3000 5-colour 3D printer. It’s really good to see these guys getting around to all the Faires around, and their product is definitely looking good.
Buffalo Lab had a big, well-lit table showing a bunch of member creations. I didn’t get any photos of anything, but there were some 3D printers on display. Vader Systems came out of Buffalo Lab from what I recall.
Caveman Glass, by Jason Dedrich, had a booth showing some live glassblowing. Lots of heat in this area, but also a lot of really nice looking glass objects on display. He also didn’t inhale near as I can tell, which is good.
I’m not sure who this was, as there doesn’t appear to be a supporting website. But this booth had electric cars built from scratch. As in wood, wire, chunks of steel and magnets, wheels, rubber bands and batteries. No pre-built motors. There was some documentaion on how to build them, and a track to race them. This was a lot of fun.
I don’t know where these bots are from, but they were being shown off by students who built them. They competed in Robogames 2013.
Jeff Poblocki is an Educational Techology Consultant that was part of the group showing the robots above, but he was also showing off a Bluetooth game controller he’d made. This thing was really cool - built from some Adafruit parts, including two Bluefruits, and some LiPo charg controller / voltage regulator stuff. The Bluefruits interfaced to HDMI sockets that were wired to carry not video, but signals from the indvidual buttons in game controllers. This way, just by wiring an HDMI cable into an NES, SNES, Genesis or whatever controller, it can be hooked up to an emulator on his Mac Mini. A very slick setup, and the 3D printed NES enclosure for the whole thing was a damned nice touch.
Epilog Laser was demonstrating one of their smaller lasers by cutting out and engraving rulers for people at the Faire.
Sylvatica builds a variety of terrariums. All different shapes and sizes, including a couple built into lamp bases.
Maker Junior from Ottawa had a booth, but I didn’t get around to checking them out. Have to keep an eye out for them next time - I’ve missed them at a couple Faires so far.
After looking over the exhibits in the Faire, we had a chance to look around the museum. This is a really good museum - they’ve got a little Makerspace called Makeshift set up, with 3D printer, vacuum former, drill press, compound mitre saw and hand tools. The space had plenty of tables to run workshops - in fact while we were there, they were running the learn-to-solder workshop in that area.
Also while we were there, I talked to the guy in charge of the lab about doing soldering badges for them. Apparently I like committing to new things. Still need to get back to him…
There was an exhibit on nanotechnology called Nano that discussed advances in nanotechnology and where they can be found. My favourite part of this exhibit, though, was the Build Your Own Nanotube area. This wasn’t nano-scale, needless to say, but I want one of these sets. Maybe my first 3D-printing project…
The museum also has something called an OmniGlobe that shows various datasets on a spherical projection surface. What can it project? Ocean temperatures, satellite photos of Earth, images of other planets and moons - basically anything you can visualize on a globe. This is an awesome way to visualize data about Earth, and reminded me a lot of the Earth program from Snow Crash.
There was a hydroelectric simulator - I think it was part of the Our Wonderful Earth exhibit. The simulator lets you simulate power generating stations on both the Canadian and American sides of Niagara Falls. You can control how open the intakes are on each side, and how many generators are running, and see how they interact on both sides - if you’re getting enough water / generating enough power, and if you’re diverting enough / too much water.
The In Motion exhibit had all sorts of various kinetic experiments - an aerodynamics simulator using a projector and a camera, a Gravity demonstration using various tubes and wheels, and a bunch of different air jets and tubes blowing foam balls around. This is an area where you’re likely to get hit with a Nerf ball.
This was a really good Faire, especially considering it’s their first year. I’ll have to work to convince the other guys to exhibit next year - maybe not the pinball machine, but we’ve got plenty of other stuff that would be cool to show. Whether we exhibit or not, can’t wait for the next one!