What the heck IS Maker Faire?

Ever since we announced the Portland Mini Maker Faire, the two responses I most often get are "YES, finally!" and "What the heck IS a Maker Faire?" Folks who have been to a Maker Faire in the past or even just heard reports know Portland is a great town to host one, and sure enough nearly all the makers we're showcasing this weekend are from the Pacific Northwest. But those who haven't heard of Maker Faire may need a little background. Part of the reason OMSI wanted to host the first Mini Maker Faire in Portland is to introduce this one of a kind event, as well as the growing “Maker Movement,” to a wider community.

The problem is, Maker Faire defies easy explanations. It is truly one of those events you need to experience to understand. I have made several attempts in the past few weeks, but they all seem to miss something. It's kind of like a science fair, but there are no judges. It's kind of like Burning Man, but family-friendly and way less dusty. It's kind of like a craft show, but the crafters are more important than the crafted. It's kind of like a Renaissance Faire, but instead of playing in the past, you're glimpsing the future.

Defining Maker Faire is tough, simply because of the variety. In the same event, you'll see teens using 3D printers to create objects from digital designs, as well as amateur scholars recreating the tools and techniques of Renaissance martial arts. Primitive skills experts are just yards away from the researchers at Intel. There's cool stuff everywhere, but more important is that the people who made the cool stuff are right there, describing the process they used to make it. That is what's really on display at Maker Faire, the ideas, passion, frustration, and triumph of the Makers, and that is not easy to describe in words.

Maker Faire is part of a growing “Maker Movement” sweeping schools, libraries, garages, and museums around the world. Technology has made it easier than ever to share ideas, and to make those ideas a reality. At the same time, people are moving away from the disposable, consumer culture of the past few decades. Policy makers see it as a way to revive American innovation, and educators see it as a new way of teaching and learning. Admittedly, the movement is more of a revival than a revolution. Humans are makers by nature, and Maker Faire is a two-day reminder of that.

I could describe each of the nearly 100 things that we'll feature this weekend, but that probably won't inspire you to go try something new yourself. More importantly, it won't give you the resilience to keep trying when something fails the first time. That can only come by hearing stories and exchanging ideas with others. I can't tell you what to expect, because the event defies expectations. You need to experience it yourself because there's no way to know what will catch your imagination. So grab some friends or family, and your camera, and come check it out. Be sure to stop by the OMSI booth to see some of our latest creations if you do!




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