Maker Faire UK, Newcastle

Busy Maker Faire UK
Maker Faire main hall – there were several other rooms…

On 12-13th March the third Maker Faire UK took place at Newcastle’s Centre for Life as part of their Science Week. I have no idea what it’s like to visit an American Maker Faire and I *boggle* at what the sheer scale of their events must be like as I hear that about 80 thousand people visit them! But, what I do know is that the UK Maker Faire is one of the best technology and science events you can ever visit in the UK. Why? It’s because Maker Faire is all about getting to participate and have fun, whether it be playing with sound, solder, a pinhole camera, bacteria, making a pie or knitting a neuron, the visitor gets to experience tech and science first hand, it’s participatory and not a sitting back and watching experience.

Maker Faire
The Room of 29 Things stand

This year, Maker Faire UK was twice the size as last year and if I remember correctly last year was twice as big as the first. I must say I’m pleased that Maker Faire UK has grown so quickly over the last two years and aroused so much interest, as technology and science certainly has the best toys. But seriously, it’s a brilliant way to encourage and nurture fledgling (and not so fledgling) interest in these subjects, I remember science certainly wasn’t so much fun when I was at skool and it’s also really, really important to encourage engineers and scientists of the future for all sorts of reasons. Finally, I’m also pleased it grew in size enough not to be in a chilly marquee, as I remember how chilly it was for the first Maker Faire UK 😉

Space Science
Space Science ladies showing kids some fun stuff

I had my own stall this year, a bit of an undertaking as previously I’d been on the BBC R&D stand, but I enthusiastically set out with two trolleys, a rucksack and two bags (a slight mare to steer all that lot of ones own is an understatement) but I managed to make it to Newcastle for Friday set up day. I took three interactive LilyPad Arduino interactive sound artworks: Twinkle Tartiflette, I ❤ 0X0 and Twinkle Starduino, plus a selection of my electroluminescent wearables, including the Neon-Victoriana Queen outfit and crown.

Me at Maker Faire UK
Me and some of my electroluminescant / microcontroller wearables

My stand at Maker Faire
Sideways look at my stand

Hats off and huge thanks to the organisers and all the makers and hackers who put on such an inspiring show. I’ve tried to compile a list of inspirations, but as I was on my stand just about the whole show (except for running out to get lunch), I didn’t really get to view the rest of the show but I reckon my hacking heros Mitch Altman and Jimmie Rodgers must have helped a couple of thousand peeps have a go at soldering a blinking LED badge and the London Hackspacers (there were several other UK Hackspaces represented too) got up to mischief with Brightarcs’ tesla coils! At lunchtime I peered over the atrium to see tons of people having fun with Jam Jar and Curiosity Collective’s toys. Next to me were the Room of Things 29 with Bubblino and other exciting hacks, and on the other side Clockwork Zeppelin were inspiring people with their Steampunk jewellery workshop. I also saw my former BBC R&D colleagues totally busy with all their fab toys and could barely view Lush Project’s Lunar Lander and Bicycle Pong for players queuing up.

Maker Faire UK
Curiosity Collective

For a taste of some of what was on show, here’s my little vidjo, it’s in no way comprehensive because I was busy on my stall most of the time and yes, there’s a lot of images of my work 😉

A few thousand people came through the doors and I saw a queue wiggling nearly all the way to the entrance to the Centre for Life. A good percentage of the attendants were kids and I hope this event has inspired a fair few to nag their families to let them have a hack at something fun. Plus, there were many artists and hobbyists looking for tips and tricks, and I got asked a huge amount about where I buy my EL-wire and Arduino kit.

Mitch soldering at Maker Faire UK
Mitch Altman & Jimmie Rodgers, doing a bit of soldering prep

The following quote says something quite magical about Maker Faire UK; during Saturday evening dinner @Oomlout declared “It’s our two year anniversary – it’s two years since we all met” – it’s true, Maker Faire UK has brought together some brilliant people who were previously working disparately and who now stay in touch all year and help each other out with ideas, solutions and bits of kit – I’ve made some wonderful friends and co-conspiritors \(*v*)/

Mitch Altman sums it all up with “At Noisebridge Hackspace, SF, we have one rule ‘Be excellent to each other'” and I think the Makers and Hackers of the UK and beyond certainly are!

Oomlout stocks at Maker Faire UK
Oomlout stocks

PS, now that Oomlout’s crazy impresario has his new laser cutter I vote we make an Arduino catapult for the Oomlout stocks and have them in the Centre for Life courtyard – I’d pay to toss a tomato!

Twinkle Starduino – my interactive musical artwork

My stand at Maker Faire UK
I ❤ 0X0 – Interactive & musical game